Russia’s beautiful cathedrals and magnificent art evidence a culture that once valued Christianity. But many years of atheistic communism resulted in a decimated church and the dwindling of the Russian people’s faith.
This is the challenge and opportunity for Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI) to bring the compelling message of the Prince of Peace to Russian-speaking people through media.
“For many years the gospel was not freely available in the Eastern Bloc communist states,” notes Russian ministry leader Rev. Sergei Sosedkin.
“Even today, biblical teaching is not so widely available. In larger cities, churches are competing with the god of consumerism. In many smaller rural communities, there are no churches.”
Vera, a faithful listener from rural southern Russia, writes: “I was born in 1930, just two months after my father was executed because of his faith in Jesus Christ. My mother and three children were exiled to Siberia, where I grew up in very difficult conditions. . . . I am [now] a grandmother. We don’t have a church in our community, and I really miss the fellowship with believers. Thank you for your wonderful Christian messages. It is very comforting to realize that you love and care about me.”
Today both consumerism and poverty present new challenges for evangelism in Eastern Europe and North Central Asia. But how can the church effectively reach such diverse audiences?
Sosedkin says, “Preach the Word of God in ways that are practical, applicable, dynamic, and urgent for all.” And, he adds, “To reach a country as vast as my homeland requires the use of mass media.”
For some the message comes by radio broadcast. Others log on to the BTGMI Russian website to read messages or ask questions about God’s Word. Still others receive printed materials that help disciple them in the Christian faith.
As people in Russia respond to messages of God’s grace, they desire to become more deeply rooted in the Christian faith. Discipleship teams offer answers to their questions, provide resources for learning more about the Bible, and, when possible, connect them with a local church.
Mikhail Nevolin provides a follow-up ministry in St. Petersburg with listeners from around the world, and Sergey Khudiev manages Internet follow-up from Moscow. (See “Snapshots of Lives Transformed.”)
“We are blessed to work with gifted Russian administrators who effectively help seekers grow in the Christian faith,” says Rev. Bob Heerspink, director of Back to God Ministries International.
“Indigenous ministry teams are delivering culturally relevant teaching in the language of the heart to those who need evangelism and discipleship.”
Your support enables Back to God Ministries International to reach people like Tanya, a 15-year-old Russian girl who found the BTGMI website while surfing the Internet on a school computer. Intrigued, she e-mailed questions about Christianity. The Russia team corresponded with her over a lengthy period of time, and Tanya became a Christian.
Please pray that God will continue to use this ministry to bring the message of Jesus to Russian-speaking people.
Snapshots of Lives Transformed
Mikhail Nevolin: Called to Communicate for Christ
Mikhail Nevolin came to know the Lord through Christian radio in the early 1990s. While serving as a radio operator on a Russian merchant ship, Nevolin listened to the Russian translation of The Back to God Hour over shortwave radio. The program helped to disciple him in his newfound faith.
Nevolin began corresponding with Sergei Sosedkin, who at that time was working from station HCJB in Quito, Ecuador. Nevolin would mail letters to Sosedkin from various seaports. He told Sosedkin that he rebroadcast the program on the ship’s radio network for his fellow seamen.
Nevolin went on to earn a degree in theology and communications from St. Petersburg Christian University and began to work for MIRT, a Christian publisher that now partners with Back to God Ministries International. And Sosedkin, after attending Reformed Bible College and graduating from Calvin Theological Seminary, became Russian ministry leader for BTGMI.
Nevolin and Sosedkin finally met in 2001 at a Christian book fair where they were each promoting their ministries. Nevolin was excited to meet the person God used to disciple him. And Sosedkin saw God’s hand in leading him to connect with Nevolin, the very person the media ministry needed to help with follow-up and discipleship ministries in Russia.
Nevolin, who is well-respected throughout the Christian community, oversees the Russian follow-up ministry, working in cooperation with Christian Reformed World Missions. He also hosts radio programs, is an accomplished writer, and sits on the boards of several Christian publications.
Sergey Khudiev: A New Voice in the Russian Church
Nearly 73 percent of Russian-speaking people claim affiliation with the traditional Russian Orthodox Church.
Sanctioned by the government, the church enjoys certain advantages, but a believer’s faith life consists mainly of traditional rituals: visiting church to pray and light candles. But some in the Orthodox Church are experiencing a new awakening.
Sergey Khudiev, a committed Christian and a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, partners with Back to God Ministries International by writing a weekly column on the Russian-language website www.kBogu.ru.
That ministry has expanded to an ongoing online dialogue between Khudiev and seekers who write asking questions about the Christian faith. His understanding of the Russian culture gives him a unique credibility with people searching for a deeper faith.
Khudiev also hosts a live call-in radio broadcast that gives listeners an opportunity to ask questions about current issues. The recent conflict in Georgia opened doors for listeners to hear words of hope and peace found only in Jesus Christ. (See story “Responding to Conflict.”)
Nikolai: From Communist to Christian
Nikolai’s father was a committed communist, but Nikolai had many questions that communist ideology could not answer. At night he would scan radio stations, looking for something to which he could anchor his life.
One night Nikolai came across the BTGMI Russian program Vozvraschenie k Bogu (Return to God). Through this program Nikolai became a Christian, and a follow-up team helped him find a local church.
Nikolai often visits the program’s website, www.kBogu.ru, for the discipleship materials available there. He also shared his testimony on the website for others to read and learn how his life was transformed by Jesus Christ.
Tatyana: Coming Home to Christ
Tatyana is a 19-year-old college student from Central Asia. Living far from home with no friends or relatives nearby, she often felt lonely.
Tatyana contacted Back to God Ministries International and said, “Once I was scanning the radio bands for no particular reason, and I heard a very unusual broadcast. It was a program about Jesus Christ.”
She had discovered Vozvraschenie k Bogu (Return to God). Intrigued, she used a pencil to mark the station’s spot on her radio. She eventually wrote to the program’s follow-up center and requested a Bible. The team also helped her locate a nearby church, where she started worshiping.
Tatyana, no longer lonely, wrote: “I’m so grateful to God for this wonderful gift, your Russian ministry. Your programs are God’s reply to my prayers!”
Thanks to your support, God’s Word is being proclaimed in Russia and people are responding to the message of salvation.
BTGMI at a Glance
Back to God Ministries International’s mission is to tell people about the gospel of Jesus Christ and disciple believers through use of the media. Last year it received responses from people in 190 countries.
The media ministry, formerly known as The Back to God Hour, started 69 years ago with a radio program of the same name broadcast on one station. Today BTGMI produces 46 radio programs in nine languages broadcast on 1,689 stations worldwide.
Back to God Ministries International also produces TV programs in three languages and has 23 websites in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
Almost 22,000 subscribers receive a daily text-message devotional in Japan and Indonesia, and each month more than 300,000 callers in Brazil phone in to hear a daily devotional message.
BTGMI distributes more than 4.5 million daily devotionals in five languages annually. It also partners with the Korean Ministry Council to produce a Korean-English devotional. Daily devotionals are available online in eight languages.
BTGMI provides discipleship resources for millions of people each year who contact its websites or reach out to staff in more than 50 international follow-up centers.
Many churches scheduled an offering for BTGMI on Dec. 7. You can also support this work through online donations (email@example.com) or by mailing your gift to Back to God Ministries International, 6555 West College Dr., Palos Heights, IL 60463. In Canada send donations to P.O. Box 5070, STN LCD 1, Burlington, ON L7R 3Y8.
Russia-Georgia to Conflict
The recent conflict between Russia and Georgia highlights centuries of ethnic and political tensions in the region. Wherever one stands on this issue, it’s important to remember the Christian brothers and sisters whose lives were greatly affected by the military action.
The Russia-Georgia conflict is deeply rooted in ethnic and political issues, with propaganda warfare waged on both sides. Some secular media outlets seek to dehumanize the other side as the “enemy” and “pure evil.”
But in both countries there are Christians who “grieve the fact that our friendship is dying,” wrote Rev. Vitaly Vlasenko, a prominent evangelical leader from Russia.
“We believe we must rise above the fray, look deeper, and denounce war for what it is: a satanic expression of hatred. How can we [evangelical Christians] who once lived in the Soviet sphere become a great force for peace?”
Back to God Ministries International’s Russian-language programs air on stations throughout Eastern Europe, including an FM station in North Ossetia, Russia. During the conflict in August, Sergey Khudiev (see “Snapshots of Lives Transformed”), who hosts a live call-in program, was confronted head-on with this issue.
Khudiev addressed listeners by reminding people on both sides of the conflict of their roots in the gospel. “Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace,” he told them. “We need to return to the truth of the gospel. There is a need for forgiveness and peace. We do not trust in weapons. . . . We all need to live as Christ’s people.”
Khudiev reported that many evangelical Christians in the area are carrying out their witness by helping refugees. Church buildings were turned into refugee camps, with displaced people sleeping in the sanctuaries.
We ask for your prayers for the brothers and sisters involved in conflicts between Russia and Georgia, that all may come to know and proclaim the Prince of Peace.
—Rev. Sergei Sosedkin is Russian-language
ministry director for Back to God Ministries International.
Russian Outreach at a Glance
The Russian-language mission of Back to God Ministries International reaches people through
six culturally relevant radio programs reaching more than 275 million Russian-speaking people worldwide.
leadership training seminars through local churches and Christian universities.
partnerships with Christian Reformed World Missions, Russian evangelical churches and universities, and Christian publishers to provide follow-up and discipleship.
a pilot text-messaging ministry that enables BTGMI to communicate with Russian listeners.
In addition, an interactive website at www.kBogu.ru encourages listeners to ask questions, share testimonies, and find stations that carry BTGMI broadcasts. The site reaches an average of 5,390 people each month and is consistently the first or second site listed when web searchers type the Russian keyword for “God.”
Many people who are researching culturally relevant topics are led to one of BTGMI’s biblically based transcripts or blog discussions on that topic. A significant number of Russian immigrants in North America also find the ministry’s website when they seeking to connect to their native language—and in the process discover the gospel message.