It all Began Thirty Years Ago Today
Tammy Fleming -- Kiev, Ukraine
One of the ICOC's most inspiring missionary efforts, The Moscow church of Christ celebrates thirty years since its planting today. The photo below was taken on Sunday, July 14th, 1991, just minutes before the first official worship service in the former Soviet Union began.
Most of these young missionaries were Americans; most of the team was between 19 and 25 years old. There were five citizens of Soviet Bloc countries and three more of the Americans who could basically converse in Ru
Two hundred and sixty-eight people came to the first service thirty years ago today. Aivars -- the tallest in the photo, above, and our youngest Christian, having been baptized only in May -- brought forty people to church that day. We know from the response cards everyone filled out. We had church every night the next week, teaching a different first principles' lesson each night, following up with our new friends during the day to talk individually about the study. Thirty-one people were baptized in the first thirty-one days.
As the year turned in January the church was six hundred members. In April 1992 we had four baptisms in one day; and then in May we had over fifty in one day!
In the summer of 1992 we sent out three mission teams to St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, and Kiev. Of the eighty small group leaders we had been training in Moscow, we sent out forty on these three new teams.
After two years., these missionaries in the photo above and the people they met had baptized two thousand people. The Moscow church was 1500 members. By mid-1995, Moscow and her plantings were almost 7000 members.
The churches couldn't sustain this pace with a leadership model that only included an Evangelist and Women's Ministry Leader. We needed to diversify roles and build teams. We appointed lay leaders, shepherding couples who were to serve alongside full-time ministers, and volunteer financial committees in each region. There were big brothers and big sisters for every preteen who turned nine and entered the "Tigers" (they chose that name themselves). We began to pray and plan for elders and teachers and deacons to be appointed. When Andy and I were asked to leave Moscow for Los Angeles in 1999, the Moscow church was over 3000 members; the number of disciples including Moscow's plantings had reached 11,500.
So many people's prayers, sacrifices, phone calls, gifts, visits, and support of all kinds have sustained us and have inspired us all to this day. If you have every prayed for the Moscow church or any of the Russian-speaking churches -- from the bottom of our hearts : thank you.
The Moscow miracles were made possible by God working through so many people and churches cooperating together and supporting one another: Stockholm. New York. Boston. Los Angeles. Toronto. Copenhagen. Oslo. Helsinki. Tallinn. Riga. Kiev. Chicago. Texas and the Heartland churches. The Canadian churches. Africa. The Philippines. Hong Kong. H.O.P.E. Worldwide. San Francisco. Kansas City. And more. We are forever grateful! Thank you!
Here's a picture of a reunion of the Moscow Mission Team at the tenth anniversary in 2001.
There were huge plans for an exciting thirtieth anniversary celebration this month for the church in Moscow, with conferences and events flanking the big weekend. Unfortunately the Russian Federation is experiencing its worst wave of COVID-19 illnesses since the beginning of the pandemic. With deaths and illnesses multiplying among our brothers and sisters, and lockdown protocols coming back in place, everything had to be cancelled.
You can view the recording of the online celebration worship service here: https://youtu.be/-_hXUhWacfk
Cue The Scorpions' Winds of Change (1990), and everybody -- sing along!
Follow the Moskva*
Down to Gorky Park
listening to the winds of change...
Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
...we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
*the Moskva is a river that winds through the center of Moscow. Gorky Park is to Moscow what Central Park is to New York City.