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January - February 2015
Sanctions against Russia may be having a financial impact, but I was very surprised to find my favorite Reese’s peanut butter cups for the first time at the grocery store right here in Oryol, Russia. Needless to say, I bought a generous supply. Then, I went to Moscow to meet a friend at the airport, and there in the city I found genuine Krispy Kreme donuts! Also in Moscow, I found a popular American hamburger place called Shake Shack, which is very good. Russians still like American food!
I replaced the wallpaper in the kitchen at the church. It looks much nicer now. We always have fellowship with tea and sweets after our services, so the kitchen is a very important place.
Television news in Russia is very anti-American these days. A recent news report told about some Ukrainian soldiers who were recently killed in the conflict in Ukraine. Some of these soldiers were carrying audio players, which contained sermons supplied by a Baptist ministry in America. The report implied that America is using Baptist missionaries to influence Ukrainians to fight against Russia. The TV report showed how the Baptist preacher said in his sermon, "If you die, you will go to heaven". We understand what he means by that, but it was presented on television as if Baptists are like terrorists who promise paradise to those who die for the faith. I think most Russians see that this is just propaganda, but keep us in your prayers. We still feel safe, and there is still no evident hostility in our area.
It seems that we have lost Sergei, whom I led to Christ and baptized a few years ago. Just before the New Year’s holiday, he tried to start an argument about political questions concerning Ukraine and America. I could tell it came directly from something he saw on television. I wouldn't argue with him, but one of our men gave him a few sharp words before I stopped it and changed the subject. Sergei has not been back since then, and he was very faithful before that. Pray that he will see past the propaganda and come back to our services.
One of Russia’s most prominent political opposition leaders, Boris Nemtsov, was murdered on the street by unknown assassins in Moscow at the end of February. He had been organizing a public protest against the government’s policies toward Ukraine. His death is having a chilling effect on those who would criticize the government. I have been very careful to keep politics out of our church services. I just preach the Bible! These are troubled times, but we know that Jesus Christ will soon return to take his bride away. Keep looking up!
In the service of the King,