Time for Action
A report from the Euro-Asia Division president
The territory of the Euro-Asia Division (ESD) of the General Conference covers a huge area, comprising 11 time zones, 13 countries, a total population of 330 million, represented by more than 200 indigenous peoples, who practice Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, paganism, or atheism, and most of whom are influenced by a secular worldview.
The 7-7-7 initiative of the world church that called for members to be united in morning and evening prayers has become a great blessing. In our division it was a starting point for every member to:
- devote at least seven minutes to Bible study each day
- devote at least seven minutes to sharing the good news each day
- intercede with God for at least seven people
find seven reasons each day for expressing gratitude to God
May 15, 2013, was a starting date of a period of “777 Days of Continuous Evangelism” that lasted until the opening of the sixtieth session of the General Conference.
In order to encourage as many missionaries as possible, the church has organized and conducted several congresses: for pastors, elders, and youth, each attracting more than 2,000 participants.
Mission to the Cities programs started in two capitals, Kiev and Moscow, to cover eventually all nine unions and 33 conferences, missions, and mission fields.
In October 2013 a school of evangelism was launched in Kiev to train pastors, Bible teachers, and medical missionaries. The One Year in Ministry program facilitated the training of youth missionary teams. The acquired knowledge was directly put into practice. Missionaries shared the good news on streets and squares, in shopping malls, and other public places.
At one time the Euro-Asia Division territory was considered one of the most inaccessible for preaching the gospel. But “God’s word is not chained” (2 Tim. 2:9).
In the late 1980s the Lord opened the Kremlin Palace of Congresses in Moscow. Evangelist Mark Finley preached the three angels’ messages, which resulted in thousands of baptisms. Today the Lord again offers unique opportunities. In Kiev, Ukraine, and in Moscow, Russia, Hope Channel has obtained a government television license, opening the way to reach millions of potential viewers.
From Criminal to the Lord’s Witness
Seven of 13 ESD countries are dominated by Islam and belong to the 10/40 window. It is not safe to preach the gospel there, even in church buildings. Adventist preachers and missionaries have frequently been expelled from those countries. Under the circumstances, personal witnessing is the most appropriate method of evangelism, especially if heard from the lips of indigenous people.
Malik Ashirov, leader of a group from Kazakhstan, is an ethnic Uighur. He openly practices Christianity. In spite of his relatively young age, he spent more than 15 years in prison. While serving one of his sentences, he heard about Jesus from an Adventist pastor.
On August 9, 2000, prison guards brought Ashirov from his cell, and he was released on parole. His fellow prisoners and prison guards witnessed Ashirov’s baptism, something they had never seen before.
The Lord changed Malik’s life. After being discharged from prison, Malik married. A daughter and son were born to him and his wife. People often see him with a Bible in his hand. Christian witnessing has become his purpose in life.
Winds of Intolerance
In six ESD countries most people are affiliated with the Orthodox Church. Protestant churches are often perceived as foreign, while the dominant Orthodox Church creates a number of problems.
In some countries the law allows believers to worship or preach the gospel only in buildings dedicated for that purpose. Therefore, having prayer houses is our only chance to witness. Thanks to the efforts of lay members and ministers, and with the support of the world church, dozens of new chapels and centers of influence have been built.
Lay members and pastors in the Republic of Belarus recently realized the nearly impossible. In just 45 working days they built with their own hands a four-story building as a center of influence in the city of Minsk. The walls of this new building were raised right before our eyes, a witness of faithful and dedicated labor.
Seventh-day Adventist Education
We have 25 schools offering Christian education in the Euro-Asia Division.
Until recently, our church was not permitted to operate its own schools. But once offered such a possibility, we realized that we lacked premises suitable for teaching and learning activities. With so many persons who wished to study at Adventist schools, we wasted no time. In response to this challenge, administrators of the Western Ukrainian and Bukovinskaya conferences of the Ukrainian Union Conference made an unusual decision: they left their offices in Lvov and Chernovtsy to accommodate classrooms there.
Winds of War
While we were rejoicing at our successes in preaching the gospel in Ukraine, nobody could have foreseen the cascade of political events leading to a war, with hundreds of thousands of refugees and forced migrants, and with beautiful cities and settlements turned to rubble.
In order to alleviate suffering and afford consolation to those suffering, Adventists in Ukraine initiated and mounted the Eastern Angel campaign.
The point of the project was to acquire food and medicines for the needy, injured, and aggrieved persons, as well as to contribute to restoring war-damaged buildings. Pastors and lay members formed repair crews and set off to work in eastern Ukraine.
At the same time, our believers in Russia cared for those who fled from the horrors of war. Refugees were settled in chapels and private apartments. Soup kitchens and food pantries were organized, thus following God’s precept: “To share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter” (Isa. 58:7).
The church has continued its ministry in war-torn areas. Time and again shells have burst near prayer houses, resulting in death and destruction. But as soon as the sound of gunfire goes silent, singing and prayers can be heard again. Adventist chapels are literally islands of hope in this cruel, crazy world.
While some chapels have been damaged, so far not a single church member has been killed within the zone of conflict. We praise the Lord and express our deep gratitude to the leaders of the world church, to all divisions, and particularly to the Inter-American and Inter-European divisions, which supported us and lent a helping hand.
Youth Involved in Mission
Apart from its direct function, the church’s social ministry helps young Adventists to see their own mission and display their virtues.
Young people initiate social events in church cafés, organizing charity concerts and environmental actions, rendering assistance to those who are elderly and sick, thus acquiring new friends for Jesus and strengthening their faith.
This is also evidenced by the energy of young people who competed in “The World of the Bible,” which was organized at all administrative levels, from local conference to division. The winner with the best knowledge of the Holy Scripture was Tatyana Krashevskaya, from Ukraine.
New Russian Bible Translation
The Bible is not only the source of knowledge—it is also the Word of Life. In order to get the Bible message to as many as possible, the Bible Translation Institute, based at our Zaokski Theological Seminary, was established in the ESD under the guidance of Mikhail Petrovich Kulakov more than 20 years ago. Today the formidable task of translating the Bible into contemporary Russian has been completed, and several thousand copies have been printed.
Literature Distributed as “the Leaves of Autumn”
One more project was the distribution of a missionary book, The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White.
Mikhail Oskola, a senior high school student, was among many who participated in this project. In one year Oskala distributed more than 5,000 copies of the book!
A total of 1.9 million copies of The Great Controversy, mainly full-sized books, have been distributed in the Euro-Asia Division.
During the past five years some 100 million print publications have become tools for proclaiming the good news.
Our Lord said to His disciples: “You will receive power . . . ; and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The Kamchatka Peninsula can qualify as “the ends of the earth.” This land of volcanoes and geysers is surrounded by frigid seas. Fewer than 300,000 persons populate the three towns and several settlements. But the Lord keeps them in mind, and also sends His messengers here.
Two literature evangelists, Yulia and Taisia, had long nurtured a dream to visit a corner of Russia yet unreached by missionaries, to bear witness of Christ’s love and His soon return.
Relying upon God’s promises, and seeking guidance in prayer, they took to the road. They packed light, except for boxes of books that were loaded into a minivan. These missionaries covered long distances—by foot, bus, or hitchhiking—during a year and a half.
In late autumn, when most of the books had been distributed, Yulia and Taisia found themselves in Kozyrevsk, a fishing village about 300 miles (500 kilometers) from the nearest town. The village had just about 1,000 residents.
To their surprise, they found a group of people thirsty for the truth. On finishing their work and leaving the village, Yulia and Taisia received a letter from their new friends, who asked them to return. And although winter had already come, these two women hit the road again. Through snowfall and blizzards, they had to walk through snowbanks, with snow halfway up their legs.
However, their commitment to spreading the Word of God surmounted any obstacles. Throughout the village, those who wished to study the Bible came to a small house in which the two women stayed. After a while they invited a pastor. Five people were baptized. Thus an Adventist company was planted in a small fishing village.
In many such remote areas, disconnected from civilization, people do not have access to satellite television, Internet, or even electricity. Native people—Aleutians, Komis, Evenkis, Khantys, Mansis, Nenets, Chukchis, and others—also need the saving message of Jesus that can alter their lives for the better and make them part of God’s global family. Pray for us!
The Time Has Come for Action
We thank and praise God for the path we have walked. Having faith in His soon coming, we are reaching up, reaching across, and reaching out to the inhabitants of remote settlements and large cities. People of the extreme north and Siberia, Caucasus and Afghanistan, Central Asia and Far East, are waiting for God’s messengers. In order to accomplish this mission, the church is seeking the power of the Spirit of God through earnest prayer and decisive commitment. The time has come for action.