One of the most inspiring turnarounds I've seen in recent years in the heart of a young minister on the mission field has taken place in Omsk, thanks in great part to spiritual and material support from the Greater Eurasian Mission Society contributors in the US, and to great cooperation and partnership between churches in Eurasia.
Misha Pavstiuk moved his young family (above) from Novosibirsk to Omsk in 2010. During the next three years in the full-time ministry, Misha says, "I felt a lot of doubt about whether or not I was called to be in the ministry." Consumed by worries, frustrations, lack of results, Misha began to be in a personal crisis of wondering who he was and why he was in the ministry. "I just wanted to be a simple disciple again, to just be able to come to church and enjoy life -- listen to the sermon, sing, and go home. I was feeling like, I have so many problems, I am just exhausted all the time. I really lost faith. I felt a deep burden in my heart. I didn't want to set any kind of goal for the church at all."
In 2013, Dima and Elya Belanov, region leaders in the Novosibirsk church, entered into a discipling relationship with Misha and his wife Nastya. Misha says, "I went and prayed with Dima a lot. I cried. I told him, I don’t know who I am, I lost my moorings. We had a lot of deep, open, honest conversations."
It took a couple of years before there were really any measurable changes in the church. Then, in 2016 and 2017, the Novosibirsk church sent mission teams of young people to serve in Omsk. (Below left is the 2016 group, 2017 on the right) They lived in apartments that were rented by the Novosibirsk church and their expenses were paid for by Novosibirsk.
The 2016 mission team met three people on the streets of Omsk, who eventually were baptized. Sadly, two of these are not currently faithful to the fellowship, but one woman student, Tanya, who was baptized a year and a half after being met by the team, is doing great:
Tanya is 20 years old, and was raised in an orphanage.
After the two mission teams came to Omsk, the teens in the church were revived. "We don't feel alone anymore!" they said. Misha began to get a vision for what God could do, but was feeling like he and his wife desperately needed more help. Thanks to an unplanned, unbudgeted, generous contribution, orchestrated by Tim Sherrill and the Heartland churches, a young married couple from the church in Novosibirsk was asked to move to Omsk to help:
Dima and Teona went into the ministry as interns for the first time in Omsk, in the middle of January 2018. They have baptized two women so far this year.
They invited one of the women on the street, whose name is Sasha. She didn't really want to think about God, but it happened that there was a master-class in dance going on at church, and she was interested in coming to that. She loved the atmosphere and the fellowship and eventually she agreed to study the Bible. She studied the Bible for six weeks and was baptized into Christ. (Sasha is pictured below, with Dima and Teona, at her baptism)
Another woman found the church in Omsk through the internet. When they called her back, in response to her e mail to the church website, the woman said, "My husband isn't interested in coming." They said, "Bring him along anyway!" She did, and they both studied the Bible, and now, both husband and wife are united in Christ in the church in Omsk!
When you talk to Misha Pavstiuk today, he seems like a totally different person from the Misha we met and talked with only a couple of years ago. What had been an expression of doubt and fear has been replaced by a constant twinkle in his eye, a lot of excitement and animation and energy as he speaks, and he is full of plans and dreams and faith. What made the difference? Misha would say it was God working through their relationship with Dima and Elya Belanov, and these three things:
Answers to important questions: Who am I and why am I here ? I hadn't been asking myself those questions before at all. It gives direction to everything. I lived in inertia in Novosibirsk. Does God need me in any kind of role? What difference does it make? When I really had to have conviction about those things to keep me going in Omsk, I realized that I didn't have any faith about what God could do or wanted to do with me. I had to find it.
I met Andy Fleming in 2015 in Novosibirsk and we talked about simple Christian truths. For example, It's impossible to live without faith, it's impossible to please God without faith. I understood that for a long time I lived without faith and tried to find meaning through something else. Professional hobbies – photography…then I understood the most important is faith, eternal life, the source of life to the full.
I asked the brothers to give me a time limit, and we would pray: if we didn’t have any baptisms in Omsk in 6 months, then I would take that as a sign from God that he didn't want me in the ministry. On the next to last day of the 6 months, a guy got baptized! Three months had gone by, half the time limit, and I had only found one guy who had only gotten to the third study. Andy said to me at that time, "what are you worried about? Relax and enjoy your life. If someone gets baptized… or not…everything’s ok. Either way, you'll know God's will." At the five-month mark, nothing had happened. There was one month left. I was thinking, nothing’s going to happen. Then, in the next few days, a guy showed up at church, who had been to church 12 years before and had never gotten baptized. We studied the Bible, and he became the person to become a Christian within that 6-month period. I never felt God so closely before! I felt like God said to me: Dear friend. I love you. I am with you. Relax. Trust me. I am with you. I tried before so much in my own strength, and here I realized : God is the one who would make things happen.
So much of this story would not have taken place without the prayers and financial mission support of the disciples who give to Eurasian Missions. The conversation with Andy Fleming would not have taken place in Novosibirsk; the mission teams would not have been sent; and Dima and Teona would not have moved to Omsk to help as ministry interns. These baptisms most likely would not have taken place, and who knows whether or not Misha and Nastya would have found the faith to remain in Omsk. Thank you so much for your prayers and support -- they matter very much to the churches in Eurasia!