By: Gregory Greve
It has been close to a year since I was last in Russia which, for me, has been much too long a time to be away from this vast, wonderful country which has become so much a part of my life and heart. As many of you know, I had some difficulties with the Immigration department in one of the Russian republics here last summer and was told not to come back to Russia without a "religious" visa for the next time I was in Russia. I didn't know how difficult and time consuming getting that particular religious visa was going to be, but by our Father's grace, after much time, prayer and expense, I am now in Russia for the 19th time since I first began to travel here for our Foreign Mission over 11 years ago.
I began my trip in the Tula region and hit the road running, holding a service together with Pastor Vitaly Prasolov in Bogoroditzk with Russians of German/Lutheran heritage. It's truly encouraging to see the Lord continuing to work in this city and among these people. I also spoke at the regular Sunday service for the Ingrian Lutheran Church and later visited the old age home and then met and spoke to a new bunch of boys in the local detention centre. The boys listened very attentively to me for over half an hour, which, I suspect, is about the maximum a person can hold their attention. It's really precious when you see how the boys listen so intently. These boys live in difficult circumstances to say the least.. Lord only knows for sure what effect His word will have in their hearts and lives.
From the Tula/Moscow region I flew to Ekaterinburg in the Ural mountains of Siberia Asia where I am sitting now in a wifi cafe with, for the first time since I left home, a bit of time to spend writing this trip update to you and answering other of my mail. I have been here in this city for 6 days visiting many people and holding services. This evening Brother Misha Ustjuzhanin and I will leave here and travel by train to the Chuvashian and Mari El Republics in the lower Urals. I hope to meet and connect with many brothers, sisters, friends, and with many of the university students whom I've become acquainted with over the last couple of years in those areas. I will also, by God's grace, speak to many new university classes/students while I am there. As it is for us at home, bringing the gospel to government run facilities is always a sensitive matter, so please pray the Lord helps me to do this with wisdom and sensitivity.
Holding services for the German Lutheran Russians in Bogoroditzk
Me and sister Anna with gifts given to us by one of the ladies from the German Lutheran group.
Anna translates for me when I serve in the Tula and Moscow regions
Visiting sister Valentina in a convalescent centre. Valentina is perpetually optimistic despite the fact that she can not move or see. When I came into her room, I put my arms around her and whispered into her ear
"Valentina, do you know me?" It was so precious to see her smile widely and say my name with such tenderness. She is one of my favourite people.
Pastor Vitaly Praslov holds Communion Service for the Lutheran Church in Schekino
Ilya, Svetlana and Anna - Young members of the Schekino Lutheran Church
Ministering at the Boy's Detention Centre in Pervomaisky - I began to come to this detention Centre about 9 years ago and have spoken to many, many groups of boys since.
Holding services in Garagka, a village near Ekaterinburg - Babyuska and Marat
Babyshka, Nadia and Misha
Holding services in Belayarka village with Marina and her family. Marina found grace to repent last summer when she attended one of our village services. This winter she and her children were baptized when Brian Niemitalo and Misha Krupinov visited them. In the photo: Alexi & Marina with their five children and friend Vova -
Zhenya, Daria, Natasha - Marina's daughters who were baptized last winter
Zhenya with one of the twins boys in their family - Vova in the background
14 year old Daria (Dasha) with her pet gerbil
Katya has enthusiastically been attending our services since I met her last summer here in Ekaterinburg.
Daniel and Misha, long time friends and brothers in Christ who help me with the village ministry.
Brother and sister, Kostya and Nona Rib (back right) arranged a visit for us to this orphanage in Ekaterinburg.
This was my first visit here and it went really well. Pray the Lord will open this place to us for many future visits and, by His grace, to a more intensive spiritual ministry.
One of the many pictures I have taken of our dear and beautiful brother Sasha Melencheko over the years. Sasha died two weeks ago in a car accident.
Holding a "9 day" memorial service with family and friends for Sasha in their village. I spoke at this service and also read aloud a letter Dennis Hilman wrote. Sasha was a long time member of our Lutheran church in Ekaterinburg
Sasha's father, Vasily (dark suit - hand to face) and mother, Ludmila (red coat) can be seen in the centre of the photo.