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Bashkortostan, April 2015

From the diary of a familiar “stranger”

We stopped at the Catholic Center "Don Bosco", in Oktyabrsky in the suburbs of Moscow. There we’ve been living and working for 2 days. There were brothers and sisters, 16 people, in general from Moscow and Kostroma. The main ministers were: David (USA), Yuri (Ukraine), Rose (Kyrgyzstan), Zaky (Latvia).

The main theme was "Mobilization of the ministry in the Islamic world." All present were Slavs, one of them - Sergei, active Orthodox, became a good friend for me. He appeared to be open to the Gospel. I remembered him because when I said: "What's your wife, modest, and always in the shade." He answered: "It is true our wives are modest and they are not like the wives of Protestants who jumb ahead their husbands."

I also remembered brother David’s phrase: "I grew up on a cornfield, and I did not like Muslim nations. But by believing in Jesus Christ, I saw that their women buy paper and pencils for their children, and I wanted even to become homeless for being among them and preaching the Gospel to them."

One couple from Kostroma has responded to the ministry calling with all responsibility and understanding of the situation. The place of the future service was chosen in Aslan Bob village, where live just Uzbeks.

Before leaving, we had an additional corrective conversation with Yuri and David about what to do next? Thank God, the work was not in vain.

In Ufa we met and got acquainted with our brother Nail Ayupov, who had a ministry as a Baptist Elder Presbyter in Bashkortostan, with whom we had agreed earlier all my trips to the Republic.

In Ufa, I visited Christian the local Community on Chernyshevsky street, where a minister is our brother Sergey Dyatlik. Specially for this evening members of the community who profess Jesus Christ as Lord, but in the past professed Islam brought together. All of them were dressed in Muslim national clothes, that looked impressive, and the worship was conducted in Tatar traditions. Surprisingly, this service have been held for the first time. According to brother Sergei there is about 40 % of Tatars and Bashkirs in their Slavic community. The meeting went very well, brothers and sisters expanded their vision for the ministry among the indigenous people. It was nice to see that the pastor and the church were facing the other peoples. Praise God! Afterwards we met with brother Sergei Dyatlik at the meeting dedicated to the service of indigenous peoples in Neftekamsk (Pastor Viktor Plet).

Then I with brother Nail went to Blagoveshchensk and visited a service in the local church, where he works as a presbyter. It was a joy to see among the parishioners Tatars, although the bulk were Slavs. There I shared thoughts, why it is important to spread the Gospel among Tatars and Bashkirs, and that word was close and understandable to them.

The next city was Davlekanovo, where the presbyter is brother Farid, unfortunately, I did not write down his name, perhaps in view of the prevailing culture and habits. We have visited the local community in Davlekanovo, where the majority were Chuvash, and there was one Bashkir. The meeting was very alive, as they were active young brothers, aged around 25, who asked questions, they felt comfortable with Jesus Christ, and it was their surrounding. And I realized that this church had future, even though it was small. I tried to show the importance of serving peoples professing Islam, and this word was received with understanding and ... with the charisma.

I’ll especially mark the meeting in Salavat. We were met at the station and taken to the Bashkir family, where the mistress was in the hospital. And in order to adequately meet us, she asked to leave the hospital and put not only hands, but also the heart, to take strangers, and then her husband took her back to the hospital. That was amazing for me. More I was impressed with the fact that they were all Bashkirs and they all believed in Isa Masih (Jesus). Usually (in the family), one believes in Isa and the other does not, but this family professed Isa completely. Then there was a meeting, it was something! There were not only Tatars and Bashkirs, but there was one Russian young brother (Vladimir), who spoke fluent Tatar, at first I even doubted that he was Russian. He willingly goes to the national meetings. What else was wonderful in Salavat? There I met a purebred Latvian Christian from Latvia (Livani city). What else was amazing is to see that the presbyter of the Church Viktor Fungi loves what he does. He said that about 50% of the parishioners are Tatars. Brother Victor invited me to visit them again and said that they were willing to pay my to travel expenses, and I was pleasantly surprised about that. I went out very encouraged.

There were many meetings in Ufa, where God gave me the opportunity to see and communicate with relatives, some of whom I had not seen for about 43 years.

From Ufa I and brother Farit went to Neftekamsk on the north of the country. In Neftekamsk service run for 2 days and brother Viktor (presbyter) asked to continue it for some more time, but due to the current situation, I could not go for more. It was a fruitful ministry, where active participants in service were not only Slavs, but also Chuvash and Tatars. We did not fit at the time of meetings, and presbyters willingly violated the schedule and traditions. They were open to novelty. And it was great.

I’ve been working for so many years and only on this trip I came to the conclusion or understanding that the work of an evangelist is:

  1. The road, you do not know and you do not know where it leads. Railway stations, mainly "Soviet", with a specific smell, homeless people, beggars and police. The police, who is not always friendly, they somehow humiliates you, sometimes rummage in your things, asking questions, but for whom you pray after that, realizing that they are doing thier job. Asphalt, rural dirt road, where sometimes "going" by feet because of the rain, or sinking in mud, pushing the car or looking for a tractor to rescue the car. Dogs in the street and cats in the house. Suitcase in hand, and a backpack on the back, however the Lord said not to take bags and so on, and maybe they are not needed? Entering the house, you’re praying: "God bless my entrance into this house and my emergence from it." And sometimes you go on these roads again and consciously hoping that in this area the church may arise. It happens that there is no one nearby and it’s just the road, the Lord Jesus Christ and you, and then you start to shout songs, loud, loud, remembering that you do not have a hearing, and for this reason you’re silencent during the church meeting. But how easy, it is incomparably easy, when you talk with your brother, realizing that you are not alone and that you are not strange, and that there’re the two of you. However, sometimes there are thoughts, if not stupid person you are? After all you don’t have to go somewhere and you can say the Word somewhere nearby, next to the house. Why all this? I remember the words of the brothers, who say, "Zaky-tumbleweed." At home your family and children are waiting for you, kids grow and their growth does not stall at the time of your absence.
  2. The bed, in which you had never slept, and which is sometimes short. And sometimes with a breastfed child screaming in the next room or a snore... of the brother sleeping on the floor, who gave his guest a better place. Sometimes you sleep on the couch, sometimes on a luxurious bed, sometimes on the floor, and sometimes children of the owners of the house are going to school early in the morning, geting out of their room through the window, not to wake the stranger.
  3. Food that you’ve never eaten or drunk and you’re not used to, there may be different procedures for the submission of food on the table. And sometimes you use pills such as "Mezim Forte" to avoid heartburn, and sometimes eat with the fear that once again will come this unfortunate heartburn. Sometimes you fed up above your head, and sometimes sit with the desire to eat. Rejoice, seeing the smiling faces of housekeepers. This scarcity of food does not matter, because you realise that you're at home of your dears. You would like to bestow gifts, that my wife put in the suitcase, to all and you realize that this is a very small thing, but how much you get from the Lord through these open people. And you want everything and everyone to remember.
  4. Almost always sleepless nights, because talks dragged past midnight. And pity for why we should go to bed?! Sometimes there is no time to shave, wash, sometimes you’re cold and sleep in a sweater. Night baths where conversation continue for so long that the hostess came to the door of the changing room and shout "Are you still alive there?" 
    But always and everywhere there are people who are waiting for something new, looking for answers to questions, seeking the truth and finding it in Jesus Christ, and that’s why they are happy. And you're happy, happy to aee this wonders and you think that no one would have such happiness. Glory to our Lord Jesus Christ! What happiness is to belong to Christ and to do what He did and His disciples did, and to remember that you're not the first, and to hope that you are not the last.
    During this trip I realized how hard is to preach to relatives, worrying that you’ve said too little or too much, and you do not know where this line is.
    I saw that there is a chronic shortage of laborers who could preach the Wisdom to indigenous peoples. They know the Gospel, but they do not have practical skills and do not take into account the cultural specificities. That’s why they spread Baptistm in Slavic-American tradition and don’t see national churches.
    I’ve realised more the importance and value of prayer, and the value of relationships with God and neighbor.
    There is no national churches, but there are nationals who go to the Slavic communities, having lost their identity, and not knowing how to recover it.
    Tatars and Bashkirs speak mixed language (mother language, mixed with Russian), including those who believe in Christ.
    Nail agreed on training brothers and sisters in the Eurasian Missionary College in Kazan, where students are taught the theory and practical ministry skills.
    Brothers and sisters, pray and wish me to come back to them in Bashkortostan and teaching them.

Yours in Him, Zaky

Pray for:

Pray about the situation in eastern Ukraine;

Pray for wisdom and fear of God for the new government in Ukraine;

• Pray for God's mercy for the whole Ukrainian people;

Pray for the situation in Ukraine to solve the conflict in a peaceful way;

• Thank God for the blessings of holding Christian camps, excursions, and trips throughout the summer in different cities of Ukraine 

• About missionary work among Muslims in Central Asia and among Crimean Tatars in Ukraine;

• About the orphans ministry and graduates of orphanages in Rivne region;

• About preaching the gospel to the Christian teachers through the pedagogical magazine “Word to the Teacher”;

• About the students of Rivne Bible College and the School of Biblical preaching “Word of Grace” so that they can apply their knowledge in their churches.

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