It is New Year's Eve as I write from my home in Delaware. I am listening to the coverage of the New Year celebrations around the world as we move into the 21st century. I am praising God that many of the problems that have been predicted concerning Y2K have not occurred. I am also looking forward to the new century and the year 2000.
Last month I promised to share the exciting news I have recently received concerning Ura's vision and his visit to America. As I began to gather the information, I realize that I have more than enough good news for this newsletter, but I will begin this month and continue the story in future letters.
The vision God gave me concerning His plan for Ura to visit America began quietly and simply when I first met Ura in February of 1997. God brought him into our lives through Andrey, a young Russian man we met at the Baptist Student Center in Khabarovsk. Joyce and I were immediately drawn to Pastor Ura during our first meeting in our home. The vision God had given Ura for his tiny church included home Bible study and he asked Joyce and I to visit his church and begin the studies.
For eighteen months, during my entire stay in Russia, Pastor Ura became my shepherd and the tiny congregation of his "Full Gospel Church" became my church family. Each Sunday evening as I sat in the sanctuary of that little church, God prepared my heart with a quiet peace to hear His word through the ears and voice of Andrey, who sat behind me and translated the message God had given Ura that week. It is impossible for me to explain the impact those messages have had on my life, but I know I have been dramatically changed in my heart and my soul. As Ura shared the vision God had given him to serve the orphans and the homeless of Khabarovsk, I remember my strong desire to share the inspiring words of this young Russian pastor with American Christians everywhere.
I left Khabarovsk, Russia in July of 1998 but I continued to correspond with Russian and American friends in the city. It was in August or September of 1998 when I felt God encouraging me tell Ura about the desires of my heart. At that time, I wrote Andrey and asked him to mention the vision that would not go away, the vision that Ura would come and speak to Christians in America. I asked him to ask Ura to pray about the thoughts and dreams I was experiencing.
Everything has evolved slowly, prayerfully, but surely since then. I cannot say that I have had any surprises because I have had no expectations of my own. But, I never ceased to be amazed as God worked out His plans. I continued to pray and write about Ura's ministry in Khabarovsk and I continued to ask God what my role should be in this mission. God consistently planted seeds of thought in my heart and as it seemed appropriate, I wrote and asked Andrey to share the thoughts with Ura. Most times, to the amazement of Andrey and to me, my thoughts and Ura's thoughts would reach Andrey for translation at the same time. Always, God confirmed my thoughts as He gave the same thoughts to Ura.
I have shared this vision with you as it evolved, but I would like to use the rest of this letter to put it all together. As I began to look back over the events concerning this mission, I realized again how marvelously God works through ordinary people like you and me. Here's the story:
I received a letter from Ura which he sent through Elizabeth to share with our churches in America. It spoke of the vision God had given him for the ministry God had chosen for Khabarovsk. I shared this letter with you as I began to write again. This vision speaks of a church for 10,000 which God has chosen Ura to pastor. This vision continues to be revealed as God moves Ura and his congregation to minister to the orphans and the homeless of Khabarovsk. Part of the vision includes the building of centers to house the homeless and the orphaned.
In a friendly letter to Andrey, I mentioned an idea that had begun while I was in Khabarovsk concerning Ura visiting America and sharing his vision for the homeless and orphaned in our churches. At this time I had been home for six months and hadn't begun to continue writing my newsletter yet. But, I knew I was to begin writing again and that I needed to share Ura's vision with everyone I knew.
I had a pancreatitis attack and found myself in the hospital for several weeks. During my recovery, God spoke to me clearly about the desire I had for Ura to visit our country. My church had already encouraged me to begin writing again and I shared Ura's vision concerning the homeless and orphans with all of you.
Andrey wrote me a short letter in which he expressed his concern that my desire for Ura to visit America was an impossible dream. In answer to his reaction concerning my belief that Ura would come to America, I wrote:
Dear Andrey, "As for my vision concerning Ura and his visit to America, it is still very real in my spirit, but I don't have any details. I am sending a newsletter to about 400 Americans and many are touched by Ura's vision for his church. Some people are sending prayers and support for his ministry and many are touched by his faith. I can only say that what seems impossible for mankind is possible for God and so it still seems very real to me that many people in America will help to bring Ura here so he can share God's message with us in our churches.
God does work in mysterious ways, but He works in His own time. I only know that God has put the idea in my mind and on my heart and he will tell me what to do and when to do it. Please ask Ura to pray about this vision of mine and let me know how he feels about it. God will also work through Ura if this is God's will and not just my desires. Ura will understand what I am saying."
I sent a copy of my newsletter to the Mission Society for United Methodists in which I explained the vision I had received and asked if the Society was interested in helping to bring Ura to America or in helping to send the news to churches in America.
I received a letter from Ura through Andrey which I have shared in a previous newsletter. Here is part of it:
Dear Charlene, Hello, Recently, I went to a conference in Moscow and God spoke strongly in my heart. Now, I know that He has a plan to use me not only in Russia, but in all the world. It is hard to believe and imagine, but I now know that this is God's plan. For several nights the Holy Spirit touched me strongly and He showed me what I must speak about in the churches of your country. I believe that God wants me to tell about the vision I received and the personal experience that He leads me through.
God told me that I would receive donations as I share Acts 10:4 which says, "Cornelius stared at him in fear. 'What is it, Lord?' he asked. The angel answered, 'Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.'"
For any gifts I receive, I must develop two missions:
1. The children without parents and,
2. The homeless people.
There will be a strong sermon appealing to the needs of the people in our country. The sermon will be named, "Mercy is Greater than Judgment" from the scripture, James 2: 12-13: "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!"
I am ready to preach in two to three churches per day with breaks of one or two days per week."
With Love, Pastor Uri
I wrote the following to Andrey:
Dear Andrey, "It has been so long since I have written you about Yura's trip to America, but I have been thinking about it almost every day. Please contact Ura for me and let him know that I am ready to write a letter of invitation for him and a translator if he will give me the information I need. We must begin with the work for the Visas before we can work on scheduling here.
I will need to know who is coming and how long they intend to stay. Perhaps you could suggest that you could come with him to translate. It would be good for Ura to have someone with him so he can relax and have conversation in Russian while he is here. It would also be good for me to see you again."
Within a few days I received a letter from Andrey. In part it reads:
Dear Charlene, It is really amazing to see how you and Ura think and speak about the same things absolutely simultaneously! Today, while I was downloading my e-mails, I had some time when I couldn't do anything else on the computer and so, I was reading the letter Ura brought to me for me to translate and send to you. When the downloading was finished I was surprised to see, among the other e-mails, the one from you and it is about the same topic! Tonight I will pass to Ura all your questions about the letter of invitation.
Actually, Ura already asked me (this Sunday) whether I would go with him to America as an interpreter.
WOW! You won't believe this! Imagine, I am typing this letter and somebody enters the room, and I hear the familiar calm soft voice behind my back (the door is behind my back). I turned my head. It was Ura! It was as if he knew that I've received your letter just twenty minutes ago!. Seems to me that he came to read what you wrote and I translated it right away. Now, I can finally start to translate the letter to you from Ura."
Here's part of the letter from Ura:
Hello Dear Charlene, Please forgive me for the long silence. Thank you for your love toward us and for the work you do to help our ministry to exist. I am sure that God will bless you.
The main reason for my silence was the absence of any specific picture in my mind. First of all, I wouldn't like to do anything without being sure how to do this work of God. Today, the picture begins to become more clear and that is how I understand that God is beginning to work with us. So you can be sure that everything will go much faster. I think it would be better to come to America in June. It would be good to get a 6 month visa so there is plenty of time to plan.
I know for sure that God wants to use me to build something for the people who are cold and don't have anything to eat. Let's go forward. The financial harvest is God's miracle and He has shown me that the miracle will be revealed according to the measure we ourselves define. God defines the work we need to do, but the volume, the size or the amount of it we have to define by ourselves according to the amount of our faith.
I'd like to prepare something (maybe photos) for every member of the churches I visit. It may be a folded postcard with a verse from the Bible and a request to pray for the House of Mercy that God is directing us to build here in Khabarovsk. Of course I understand that we need to print many of them ... 100,000 or even more.
I would like to have the names of all who give to the House of Mercy. I would also like them to write their most important prayer requests, those which have not been answered by God yet. I am sure that God wants to start a wonderful new service for the people who open their hearts to this mission. I want to be able to pray for each of them.
I decided to take Andrey as an interpreter - he has been very open for me in all my requests and conditions for the work. And, as you know, he is professional in his business.
Dear Charlene, Thank you for everything. We love you very much. I am in a hurry to send this letter and am waiting for your reply."
With love, Pastor Uri
I sent a letter to Ura with the following words:
Dear Ura, I was so happy to hear from you. I think of you and your family daily. You are in my prayers as you continue to be God's servant in Russia. I knew you were praying for God's guidance concerning the visit to America and I knew you would write when you were sure of God's leading. I knew as you prayed that God would direct your decisions and it is exciting to hear how He is leading you concerning the mission to our country. God's timing is always perfect. It is my impatience that is always imperfect. I am learning to lean upon Him day by day and as I learn to do this, He gives me much peace.
I am also filled with joy to know that you have asked Andrey to come as an interpreter. Andrey and I have kept in touch since I left Khabarovsk and he can share with you that I have felt that it was God's plan that he should come with you. I continually pray for Andrey and his mother and they are a part of my heart. I consider them as my family even though many miles separate us.
I sent a second letter to the Mission Society for United Methodists telling them that Ura was planning to come to America in June of 2000. I again asked if they would like to help in any way. I asked them to pray about this vision. Within a few days, I received a letter from Frank Decker in which he expressed his pleasure concerning Ura's trip to America. He offered the help of the Mission Society as well as the help of the team in Khabarovsk. This was really an answer to prayer. I continued to hear God asking me to keep the Mission Society informed as to what was happening, but I personally felt that I was not going to have much support. Again, I was wrong and I am so happy that I followed the guidance of God rather than react to my own feelings.
The rest of this continuing story involves the Mission Society and a pastor from California. I will begin next month's newsletter with more information about Ura's visit.
Please continue to pray about Ura's visit to America and all it involves. Specifically, please pray about obtaining the visas for Ura and Andrey. This will be a very delicate and difficult procedure because neither Ura or Andrey have anything in Russia to convince the American Consulate that they do intend to go back when the visa expires. Many young men acquire tourist visas and never leave our country. Only prayer and God's intervention will make the visas obtainable. But, if this is God's will, all will be accomplished.
Before closing, I want to let you know that Lena is still working with the infant orphans of the city of Khabarovsk. I received a letter from her recently and she asked me to tell you the following:
Hello, My Dear Charlene, Merry Christmas to you and a Happy New Year! Thank you very much for your concern about the babies and for the money people are sending for them. I still go to the hospital and feel peace in my heart because I see that the babies are in good hands even though poverty is still seen.
I am very excited about the boy I wrote about with water on the brain. His Russian name is Igor and he has been adopted recently. His name is now Nathaniel. Since his birth he was struggling to stay alive and thanks to the medication we bought with donations, he became much better. His legs and muscles are too weak to sit and to stand up but I hope he will be fine. He started bubbling and is so cute! He has a loving family now, a mom and dad who will take care of him and help him to be strong and healthy.
It continues to be my pleasure to continue to tell the story of God's work in Khabarovsk. Please pray about Ura's visit and continue to pray for the helpless and homeless in Russia. Some of you may be moved to send a gift to be used in the orphanages or for Ura's vision to the homeless and the orphans of the city. If so, please make your checks payable to Fishburn UMC and tell us how God is directing the gift to be used.
In His Love,
Fishburn United Methodist Church
1215 Fishburn Road
Hershey, PA 17033
Andrey's web page in English: http://get.to/faith