Adventist Mission Helps
Siberians Find Hope

Church workers active in one of planet’s most remote spots

BY HANS OLSON
, communication projects manager, Office of Adventist Mission, reporting from Suzhensk, Siberia, Russia

OOKING OUT the car window I saw what seemed like endless Siberian grasslands punctuated with small groves of trees. Now and then a small town rose on the landscape. The casual driver might pass through these towns without giving them a second thought. They might never know the struggles people face in these towns as they seek peace in their lives. They might never realize the great mission fields that exist in these towns; I certainly didn’t at first.

FINDING HOPE IN SIBERIA: Evgeniy and Angela (far left of the back row) are the leaders of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Kemerovo, Russia. Pictured here are some of the people currently going through the program.
I was on my way to visit an unusual Global Mission pioneer, Alexander. Now 25 years old, Alexander started doing drugs at 14. “I’ve sort of tried everything,” he said. When he wasn’t doing drugs, he drank—a lot. About a year prior to our meeting, Alexander ran into an old friend who suggested that it was time for Alexander to change his life. His friend told him about a drug rehabilitation center in the nearby town of Tishek. “It changed my life,” Alexander said.

At the rehabilitation center Alexander started studying the Bible daily. For the first time in his life he was learning about the Bible and God. While at the center Alexander accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. When Alexander went to the center there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. However, because he was in the center, he was able to work out an agreement with the local prosecutor to have the charges dropped; Alexander praises God for this. He looks at it as a second chance to make a difference in the world. “I want to dedicate my life to God and help people like myself,” said Alexander.

Global Mission has since started a second rehabilitation center, similar to the one where Alexander stayed, in the nearby town of Suzhensk, about an hour’s drive away. Over time Alexander had established himself as a leader at the Tishek center, and now he was asked to become a pioneer and run the new center himself. He readily agreed.

When I met Alexander he had been at the new center for about three months. It was obvious he had his work cut out for him. He and three other men were living in a house donated to the local Adventist church. Run-down and out-of-date, the house needed major renovations to turn it into a proper center. Alexander says he didn’t mind taking on the additional challenge of fixing up the house. He uses the manual labor as part of the program for the three men.

Alexander says it is important to have a place for people such as him and the other men to go. A place for people who’ve hit rock bottom in their lives and are looking for a way out, a place for people such as Sergei. Sergei was basically living in a train station—his life ravaged by drugs and alcohol—when someone invited him to come to the center in Tishek. He says, “I just couldn’t even imagine how I could do anything without vodka.”

Sergei had asked another religious organization to help him, but they turned him away, saying, “You’ll scare good people away if we let you stay here.” When he went to the Tishek center, he found a place where he was accepted, a place where he found friends and found God. Since that center was bursting at the seams, he was invited to move over to the new center with Alexander.

CHURCH NEARBY: The rehabilitation center is located next to an Adventist church in Kemerovo, Russia. Most people who are in the program worship with the local congregation each Sabbath.
Another man at the new center, Yuri, was so dependent on alcohol that he was usually drunk and was constantly being arrested for getting into fistfights. He couldn’t keep a job. For years relatives and close friends let him live with them. Eventually he wore out his welcome, as he continued to drink. He was living in an apartment building hallway when he happened upon an Adventist church one day. “I didn’t know anything about Adventists when I saw the church,” said Yuri, “but I felt impressed to knock on the door.”

The church caretaker opened the door. She told Yuri that a rehabilitation center was opening in Suzhensk, which happened to be just across the river from where Yuri was living. She called the center and made all the arrangements for him. She even gave Yuri the fare to take the ferry to the center.

The first few days of rehabilitation were hard, said Yuri. He didn’t know how to study the Bible or pray. Alexander showed him how, and bit by bit, Yuri found God. As he grew closer to God, he discovered that he no longer needed the cigarettes he smoked every day. Yuri is not an Adventist yet, but Alexander hopes that Yuri will be baptized one day.

Sasha, the third man of the trio at the Suzhensk center, was abandoned as an infant and ended up in an orphanage. He apprenticed to become a plasterer/painter. However, before he could finish he lost his job as a night watchman and couldn’t afford to rent an apartment anymore. He had nowhere to go and ended up as a vagrant, going from town to town, drinking, smoking, and doing drugs along the way. At first he was looking for his parents, but he eventually gave up. One day someone found him passed out under a tree in town.

They said, “What are you doing here?”

“I asked them, ‘Where can I go?’” said Sasha.

They told him to go to the Adventist church and see if someone could help him. He did and ended up at the new center with Alexander.

These three men, and Alexander, demonstrated to me that people need to meet a loving God in Siberia, that Global Mission needs more centers and pioneers to meet the deep physical and spiritual needs of people not just here, but around the world. Please pray with me for Alexander and the other some 3,000 pioneers working daily to tell the world about God.

To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s worldwide frontline mission program, visit www.Global-Mission.org.






 
Exclude PDF Files

Copyright © 2017, Adventist Review. All rights reserved worldwide. Online Editor: Carlos Medley.
SiteMap. Powered by SimpleUpdates.com © 2002-2017. User Login / Customize.