Wirkkala, Orval: Mission Trip to Russia. Where He Leads 1/2001.
Acts 3:6-8 -Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee: In the name of....

Greetings of God' s peace. Grace, mercy and peace be to all this day and always as we continue towards our heavenly home, trusting only in the merits of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Brother Andy Tumberg and I recently returned from a two week trip to Russia during which we visited four different locations: Pervomaisky ( 100 miles south of Moscow), Rzhev (90 miles northwest of Mos- cow), Kingisepp (Jaama, 50 miles southwest of St. Petersburg), and Yekaterinburg (east of the Ural Mountains).

After arriving in Moscow, we were met by our translator (Michael Krupinov) who had arranged all our travel plans and was with us during our stay in Russia. Our first stop was in Pervomaisky where we spent time with several families that had been contacted before on previous mission trips. There were many questions asked, with a lot of discussion centered around the Word of God in these meetings. Due to a misunderstanding, the service that was to be held in a civic center was held in our hotel room with 21 people in attendance. That evening we were again gathered in the same room for a long period of questions from the people in that area who really seem to be eager to hear more of the love and grace of God in Christ Jesus. It was a wonderful time, as we felt the power of the Spirit leading and guiding us in and through His Holy Word.

We then took the train to Rzhev where we spent most of the time discussing with the small congregation the possibility of obtaining a church building suitable for their needs. We spent one evening at their small church house where a service was held with 20 people in attendance. It again was encouraging to discuss the Word of God with them and to sing praises to our Heavenly Father together .

We left Rzhev for Kingisepp where there is an established congregation that is supported by the Finnish people. We spent a couple of wonderful days there with a service at the church and visitations at various homes. We were able to spend a lot of time discussing Christianity with individuals on a one on one basis. One day was spent traveling throughout the countryside to a nursing home (rare in Russia), a kindergarten, and an orphanage, where the Word of God is taught to the people. It was quite an inspiration to see the dedication of two young women from Finland who have learned the Russian language and are living in Russia, and, on almost a daily basis, are bringing God's Word to these remote and poor areas. It was also during this trip that we were able to share the love and grace of God towards sinners with our taxi driver. To Andy and I, it was amazing how people were so interested in hearing the Word of God. The taxi driver was given a Bible, and he was very happy to receive it.  

Our last stop was in Yekaterinburg where Dennis Hilman and his famlily are currently serving in the Lord's vineyard. Dennis was not here at this time as he was in America for his mother's funeral, but we were welcomed by Birgitta and the rest of Dennis' congregation. We were privileged to go to the women's prison in Nizhni- Tagil where Dennis goes on monthly basis and where the Word has taken root by faith in many of the women there. It was a joy to share with them the love that is in Christ and also join with them in the singing of many songs in their native tongue.

We also went to the Pelikan Center where there are many handicapped children who are cared for by their parents. There is not much help from the government with these children, so almost all assistance is dependent on outside sources. The women at the center are very skilled at making articles out of cloth and yarn that they sell to help in the care of their children. Here, Dennis also brings the message of the Gospel on a regular basis, which the people are very thankful for. They talked of the hope that now is theirs because of the wonderful Word of Christ.

Sunday morning there was a service at the room that they rent in a large building. Many of the congregation paid tribute to Mrs. Hilman, and they sang "The Love of God" after the service in memory of her. After the service, everyone gathered around the table for tea. It was interest- ing and encouraging as people shared their thoughts and prayers as we sat around the table. They have a custom in this congregation of passing a plastic fish from one to another, sharing their thoughts with everyone as the fish is held in one's hands. In the evenings, we spent the time at Dennis and Birgitta's apartment, also drinking tea and having fellowship with one another, knowing that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all !.1nrigl1teousness. Here again, it was beautiful to hear the testimonies of the work of grace in the hearts of these believers in Christ. Fellowship in Yekaterinburg. The verses that were quoted at the beginning of this article were first and foremost in our hearts and minds as we traveled. The poverty is so great in this land that we recognized that even if one was extremely wealthy, natural gifts would quickly be exhausted as one distributed them. As I awoke from sleep one nigl1t and the verses from the Book of Acts came to mind, it seemed to be the revelation of the Spirit, assuring and reminding us of the importance of us all continuing to seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, knowing and trusting then that He will take care of our natural needs, This does not mean that we should ignore the natural needs of anyone, but that we should remember to be mostly concerned about the needs of the eternal soul. Of course, most importantly, our Father wanted to remind us of our need to entrust the planting and watering of His Gospel to Him, knowing that we have been given this treasure in earthen vessels, that the power and excellency may be of Him and not of man.

We believers in Christ have been given the greatest blessing that ever can be received here in the time of grace -life forever. As we think on this, may the Lord continue to reveal the preciousness and sweetness of His grace unto us through His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And may we trust only in His merit, knowing that the righteousness of faith is pleasing in the eyes of our Father. Surely this is motivation enough, that as he has loved us eternally, we then out of a thankful heart love one another, even throughout the entire world.

In the peace and love of God.