Thanks to the generosity of special contribution donations from disciples in North America, the small church of 42 disciples plus their 15 children in Tbilisi, Georgia, now has a safe, reliable, attractive place to meet for worship -- they are so encouraged that God has answered their prayers!
Georgia had been one of the 15 nations which made up the USSR, prior to its dissolution in 1991. In this video, Yuri Sokolkin, evangelist for the church in St. Petersburg, Russia, shares a bit of the history of one of the oldest Christian nations on earth.
The lead couple in Tbilisi is Misha and Eka Matitaishvili, both Georgian nationals. Misha is fluent in German and Russian in addition to his native Georgian. When plans were being made to send a mission team to Tbilisi (for the second time -- a first attempt had been thwarted by the outbreak of civil war), Misha, who had been converted to Christ in Germany, had no problem leaving behind the promise of a much more comfortable European lifestyle for the hope of helping to plant a strong church of disciples in his beloved home country. Eka was one of the first baptisms in Tbilisi. She and Misha have an adopted son, Luke, 17, who is also a baptized disciple.
In April 2018, Eka (facing camera, in photo above) was thrilled to be able to participate in the Eurasian churches' leadership conference (above), which took place over three days in Moscow. Eka had been unable to get a visa to visit disciples in Russia for fifteen years! Finally the political situation has changed such that Georgian citizens can once again secure a tourist visa to Russia. The St. Petersburg (Russia) church has had the responsibility for oversight of Tbilisi during these years, which means that Eka only met her mentors face to face when they were able to travel to Georgia.
Eka shared a personal story of good news and answered prayer that encouraged us all deeply. For the past fifteen years, Eka has been praying consistently for her many relatives, that someone would come to Christ from her extended family. Nothing seemed to be happening. In the last year, she decided to take a step of faith and made a decision to approach each person in her extended family with this request: "Please give me one hour of your time. I need to share something very important with you about God and his plan for our lives." Eka had been following this plan, with no great success. She felt like she would travel to visit a family member in a distant village, spend the entire day working in the vegetable garden with them, and be allowed the hour she requested only at the very end of the day after dinner when everyone was ready for bed and in no mood to engage. Meanwhile, out of the blue one day, Eka received a phone call from an unknown number. A woman she did not know on the other end of the phone said, "Eka, do you remember me? ... Twenty years ago, in Tashkent" -- in another city, in another country -- "you invited me on the street to study the Bible and to come to church with you. You came to my house..." Eka really couldn't remember this woman until she mentioned that she had a son named Jesus. This was very unusual name, and Eka remembered that this woman had called out the window for her son to come home to dinner while she had been visiting at her home. Marina, the woman on the phone, had not been interested in pursuing study of the Bible at that time. Fifteen years passed, after which she happened to move away from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and came to live in Tbilisi, Georgia. All those years later, Marina had not forgotten Misha and Eka. She began to attend different church services in Tbilisi. In each church she visited, she asked the people there, "Do you know a couple called Misha and Eka?" and described them. Finally, after a few years, a woman in one of the churches she had attended irregularly approached her after service and gave her a piece of paper, on which was written Eka's name and phone number. "I'm pretty sure this is the person that you're looking for," she said. (That woman had attended church with the disciples in Tbilisi at some point but had not continued to worship there.) Marina took the piece of paper and called Eka -- who by now had remembered Marina and her son, Jesus! They met up and began to study the Bible. Marina was baptized and is now a member of the Tbilisi church of Christ. During the process of studying with her, Eka discovered that their mothers share the same little Georgian village as their home town -- it turns out that Eka and Marina are blood relatives and Marina (pictured below in a shopping mall in Tbilisi) is an answer to Eka's specific prayer for her extended family!