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Ust-Katav, where there are seven Christadelphians
We had been on a number of CBM visits to Russia and Belarus before, so we were already familiar with several of the two hundred or so brothers and sisters there. However, by living in Moscow from July 2000 to August 2001, we were able to strengthen existing friendships, to meet lots of new faces, and to baptise a few more in Jesus' name. We engaged in some preaching work - billing, placing newspaper advertisements, sending out correspondence courses, and talking to contacts - as well as visiting many isolated brothers and sisters to offer them fellowship and support.
It was a very refreshing experience to spend a year away from the established Christadelphian life that we have in the UK, and to live in an area where groups of believers are still forming their patterns of worship. We learned the importance of fellowship, and saw how our brothers and sisters crave the friendship and support of others who believe the same as them. They have no desire to meet with other 'Christians'. They want to be with those who have found the truth. Because of this, some brothers and sisters spend hours each week preaching or billing in the hope of converting others.
One example of a keen preacher like this is Sister Nina who lives in Ust-Katav in the Ural mountains. Although she is not young, she says she has billed every single house or flat in her sprawling town. There are now seven Christadelphians there. Only one of the other six was baptised in response to an advert; the others are all family members of these two sisters, introduced to the gospel by their personal witness.
The Scriptures are full of examples of families who had a shared faith in the God of Israel. Think of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; or Amram, Jochebed and their children; or Zechariah, Elizabeth and John. God's people were taught that their religion was to be at the centre of family life: "Do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." (Deuteronomy 4:9)
There are no ecclesial halls in Russia; there is not even a CBM office or flat. For a whole year, we met with brothers and sisters in their homes, sitting on their beds or around their kitchen tables. This situation is very different from the main church in the country - the Russian Orthodox Church. They have huge ornately decorated buildings with onion-shaped domes; priests with long beards and golden robes who swing incense while choirs chant; and icons that are cherished and kissed. In contrast, our Russian brothers and sisters told us how they value the simplicity and sincerity of worshipping God as closely as they can to the first century pattern. Sister Elena, who was baptised in January 2001 in Omsk, wrote: "I had always imagined that I would be baptised in the church, which I had decided had the truth, but in the end, it came to it that I was baptised by Brothers Rinat and Duncan in an oil barrel in my own home. I realise the significance of this: that my home is the true 'church' which I was seeking all along." Her little "true church" has now grown to a membership of two, because we baptised her mother, Galina, in July.
We came back from Russia with a renewed determination to make sure that our personal service and ecclesial worship are not polluted by tradition and outward show, but that we try to do what God really requires of us.
Iain and Anna MacDonald
|"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation." (Mark 16:15)|