From Russia, with Hope
Marti Wibbels, MS, LMHC
Today’s guest writer is Andre Furmanov, a Russian pastor who became a Christian in 1987, while studying English philology and translation at Leningrad State University. Now serving as lead pastor of Vyborg Christian Church in Russia, Andre focuses on making disciples, missions and family discipleship. With their three daughters, Emily, Erika, and Elsie, Andre and his wife Nadya initiated homeschooling in their area. During this season of international uncertainty, Andre, Nadya, and their daughters continue serving in ministry together, bringing hope and healing to people throughout Russia and the world.
“We are hoping you are safe and sound in this time of global crisis. It looks like the whole world is shut down, except for Russia. Yes, there are definite limitations, but generally our country seems to be doing better than the rest of the world. Even the more up-to-date maps of the virus situation serve as a good reminder of Russia's well-being.
Recently, I had my friends from America ask me about what Russia’s secret was. I am afraid there is no secret—everything is simpler and plainer than one could imagine. The situation is too predictable; history is repeating itself. Russia is keeping quiet on the virus issue (as it does so often on various social, economic or political issues), pretending that it’s either not a problem or that we have it under control. The real truth about COVID-19 won’t be made public until after the vote on Putin’s constitutional amendments on April 22nd. Outwardly the country and the nation appear to be different, but at its core, little has changed.
Once again, Russians now find themselves locked inside the country—the borders closed. We cannot even cross the border to Finland, which is only about 30 minutes’ drive from where we live. Our closest northern neighbor seems to be worlds away!
My attitude might seem a little negative, and to you, I might sound depressed, but let me put it all in perspective—NO COMPLAINTS and NO FRETTING about anything—on the contrary, we are excited about what is going on.
This morning, prompted by a friend, I read Isaiah 26:20-21. Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer. While we might feel a little puzzled about what is going on, nothing comes as a surprise for the Lord.
Pastoring my flock here in Vyborg, Russia, I just finished preaching through Revelation in January. Those lessons from the very last book of the Bible are the ones we as a church, are practically applying right now; they are SO relevant.
We are more than sure that God is in total control of the situation worldwide! We are exactly where He placed us and where He intends us to be at this very time and age. For this we are grateful and with this we are fully content.
Anything can happen! We may live a number of years and serve Him to the best of our God-given abilities OR we may die tomorrow. The future is in God’s hands—all we want and need is to be ready, continuing in faith, rejoicing in peace, which surpasses all understanding. Russia IS such a dark and gloomy place spiritually, but no matter how sad and dreary it might be, or how many lies we are continuously being told by the powers that be, we know the truth! No matter how much the enemies of the cross try to suppress our freedoms, the truth has firmly and irreversibly set us free and is continuing to do so every single day, as we dwell ON and IN it.
Life under quarantine: our church began online services which my family and I broadcast from our apartment. While nothing will and should ever replace face-to-face fellowship, we are confident that these things have been allowed to help us rehearse for even harder times that are ahead. We will not be caught by surprise when the “storm” breaks out but know what to do and how to do it under even more strenuous circumstances.
The Lord is so good, and His timing is perfect As 2 Corinthians 4:6-10 explains, For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."