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November 2001 - January 2002

International “Commuting”

Back in September, we bought a new apartment in Oryol, Russia. The builders promised that it would be finished by the end of December, but the realtors told us to expect delays of at least a few months. Work is in progress, but we probably won’t be able to move in until March, at the earliest.

I travel back and forth from Kiev to Oryol, spending about 4 days a week in Russia. This allows me to monitor the ongoing construction work, and to start church planting activities in the village of Narishkino, 20 kilometers from Oryol. I temporarily rented a one-room apartment in Oryol so I have a place to stay while I’m there. One of the kids always comes along as a partner.

Narishkino has a small local newspaper called “New Life”, which is delivered to over 75% of the homes every week. I asked the editor if we could run an ad about the new Baptist church we want to start. She was very hesitant, and asked for a few weeks to think it over and consult with her superiors. Finally, she reluctantly agreed, but she told me that even her superiors were afraid to actually give her permission. I am finding that Russians seem much less confident about their freedom than Ukrainians are. Our ad said:

Wouldn’t you like to know more about God, the Bible, and eternal life? The Word of God has the answers to all questions about your family, business, and personal life. We would like to start a new Baptist church in Narishkino, where people can study the Bible. If you are interested, please send us a letter. We are prepared to meet with you, to give you a Bible, and to answer your questions, especially the most important question: “How can I know that I will go to Heaven after I die?” –Missionary Don Ossewaarde, PO Box --, Oryol

After three weeks, the editor told me that she received some trouble from somebody about the ad, and she is no longer willing to run it in the paper. She is apparently afraid of losing her job. I did receive some written responses, so we are thankful for that.

We are handing out hundreds of gospel tracts on the streets and from house to house. People can tell that I am a foreigner, and many are reluctant to listen to talk about religion. They often say, “We’re not Baptist - we are Christians” (they mean Orthodox) or “That faith is not ‘ours’.” Some think all foreign religions are cults. Pray that we will have an open door to the hearts of the people here. We would like to have some evangelistic meetings in the spring. People often respond well to a public meeting, but they are much more hesitant one-on-one.

I am trying to find a meeting place. There are rooms in the public culture hall, the youth center, and the library, but the “culture administrator” down at city hall firmly told me that she will not allow me to rent any public buildings. She said, “We have enough Baptists in our region, and we don’t need any more!” We will probably need to use a house or apartment for the new church.

I met the town bookkeeper while trying to rent an apartment, and she has become a good friend. She has worked in city government for 40 years. Everyone knows and respects her. I have explained the Gospel to her several times, but she does not understand yet. She says that she is too old to change, but she promises to come when we start having meetings. Pray that Maria Matfeyevna will be saved.

We took a few days in January for a holiday family vacation in Slovakia, where we learned to ski in the mountains. Everyone had a great time of refreshment.

In the service of the King,
Don Ossewaarde