Saturday, January 31, 2009

Spiritual Gifts, Fruit of the Spirit, and a Banya

Today Mark McManus led a seminar on Spritual Gifts and the Fruits of the Spirit. There were about 50 people or so in attendance at the seminar. From 10am-4pm Mark led the group through several passages and conversations about Spiritual gifts (including a spiritual gifts assessment) and how the Holy Spirit uses them in our lives. He also talked about the difference between Spiritual Gifts and the Fruit of the Spirit, and why it is important to know that they are different.

During the time we were able to meet with several different Russians from all over the region of Udmurtia, as people came in to attend. Over lunch I got to talk with Sasha and Alexander about the conference. They said that it was a great theme and one that is much needed here. Sasha asked many questions about spiritual gifts and I was able to share with him some thoughts, it was a great time.

After the seminar we went with two of the Russian Baptist brothers to the Banya. The Banya is a great place to unwind, discuss a variety of topics and get clean all at the same time. It was a great time to deepen the friendship with these brothers in Christ and to relax after a long day at the seminar.

We are leaving tomorrow afternoon on a train back to Moscow, but before we leave Marc and I will be speaking at a church in a small town about an hour outside of the city. We will be covering the Spiritual Gifts and Fruits of the Spirit with the group of believers. We were asked today to come and speak there because there were no members of that church at the conference yesterday or today. Please pray that God would speak through us tomorrow morning as we deliver His word.

This trip has been a great time to spend with friends here in Izhevsk and to praise God with them about the ministry that is going on.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Why Udmurtia? Why Now?

The ongoing adventures of Team Engage Russia continue this weekend with a visit to Izhevsk, the capital of the Republic of Udmurtia.  

Some of you might remember that almost two years ago the Udmurt people were featured by the IMB as part of an International Day of Prayer.  The Udmurt people were first engaged by Southern Baptists by our "Senior Missionary", Tim.  And today, there is a thriving partnership between Stateside churches and the Russian Baptist churches here in Udmurtia.  In fact, the efforts to engage the Udmurts have resulted not only in partnerships between churches, but this spring two new IMB missionary couples will arrive to begin their work among the Udmurt people.

So, why are we in Udmurtia?  And, why now?  For the next three weekends we will be traveling to different cities to profile different people who have become partners with our field missionaries and with local believers to engage the unreached of Russia.  And, while you would expect that these people would have a lot in common, the one thing we have found is there are very few things they have in common... except the desire to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, the Engage Russia team thought it would be a good idea to profile a couple of these partners, not to highlight their similarities but to call attention to their differences.

When trying to answer the question, "What kind of person does it take to become a missions partner in Russia?" the answer is simple. It takes all kinds.  It takes retired school teachers, businessmen, housewives, and pastors.  And, it is not just individuals that can be the partners.  It can be Sunday School classes, churches, associations.

The bottom line is this.  Russia is a huge country.  It spans nearly half the world -- 11 time zones, and has a population of 140 million people.  Today, we have around 80 missionary units in the country, which means that if the work were left solely to field missionaries, each would be responsible for reaching almost 2 million people.  

Partnerships are essential to engaging the unreached people of Russia.  Won't you begin to pray, even now, about how God wants you to respond to His call?  Won't you begin to think about how you can help Engage Russia?


We arrived in Izhevsk today at 11:30am Moscow Time. We were met by an entourage of friends who took us to eat and then to our hotel. Jack and Mark (missions volunteers) are starting their seminar on Spiritual Gifts tonight at Resurrection Church. Please join us in prayer for those in attendance that they would hear God's voice through all of this, also for us as we capture this time in film and video.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


We are leaving today for Izhevsk and to document some of the ministry of volunteers from America. We will have more info posted throughout the trip as to what is going on.

We appreciate your prayers along the journey as they carry us through so much.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I have posted some pictures.
Check them out on facebook

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Search Continues . . .

Last week I posted a blog entitled ‘In Search of the Khanti’. A week later I must admit that the search was more difficult than I thought it would be and that it did not result in what I thought it would.

This past week we learned much about the Khanti. We visited a Khanti ‘trading post’ type town north of Surgut. In the local museum we learned about the lifestyle and religion of the people that call this region there home. We attended a house church in the town with four Khanti ladies in attendance. We worshipped together in Russian but were blessed to hear praise songs in Khanti as well.

We travelled to the capital of the region, Khanti-Mansisk. There we visited an outdoor park dedicated to Khanti culture and lifestyle. We took a tour of another local museum and learned much more, thanks to the English speaking tour-guide.

But even after all we learned, all we saw and all we experienced, the search for the Khanti continues. Scattered throughout remote villages and camps, separated from civilization by oil fields, man made boundaries, and extreme weather conditions, ministry to the Khanti cannot be ‘come and listen’, it must be ‘go and tell.’

Jesus said He came to seek and to save the lost. Today He continues to seek out the Khanti, and so do we.

Would you join us in the search? Would your join us in praying for the local outreach to the Khanti in the trading post town of Russinskaya? Would you consider coming and partnering with the local believers in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with the Khanti people of Siberia?

S’Bogum from Siberia
Tim for Team Engage Russia

Friday, January 23, 2009

Two roads diverged in a wood, and we took the one less traveled

Last night Jimmy wrote a little bit about some of the frustrations and roadblocks that we have faced during this trip to Northwestern Siberia. And, he was not over-exaggerating. I told a friend yesterday that I am having a greater appreciation for the passages in the book of Acts where Luke writes that they wanted to go to some places, but the spirit would not allow them. That is a little taste of what things have been like over the past few days.

However, today was different. Two days ago we decided that we would fly from our "home base" here in Surgut to the "neighboring" city of Khanti-Mansisk, which is the cultural capital of the Khanti people. So, after just three (very short) hours of sleep, we headed for the airport at 4:30 this morning in the hopes of gathering some more information about the Khanti.

The unfortunate news is that due to sub-zero temperatures this week and logistical problems, we still have not been able to make an excursion to where the Khanti reindeer herders are. Part of that problem lies in the fact that each year they must migrate their herds further and further away from the Ob River area because each year the oil companies expand their territory into areas which have traditionally been occupied by the Khanti, which makes them harder to find, and even more difficult to get to once you do find them.

However, the good news is that our researcher, Sarah, was able to send us some information about a national park in Khanti-Mansisk which portrays life in a Khanti village, much like Colonial Williamsburg in America.

As you might expect, the park "Torum-Maa" was for all practical purposes closed. As a matter of a fact, the park was deserted except for a couple who came out of a log cabin long enough to tell us to wander around the park and enjoy ourselves. However, short of spending time with the reindeer herders themselves, this was an answer to our prayers. We had free rein of the park, which was nestled into the wooded side of a mountain coved in about two feet of snow. It really was breathtakingly beautiful. And, in addition, there were examples of a number of Khanti buildings, "Chums" (which are like teepees), and sacred sites, including totem poles. We were able to shoot video at our leisure (which means that Marc could take 30 or so times to say the script correctly), and we had a rare opportunity to enjoy God's creation in Northwest Siberia.

Those couple of hours alone, would have caused me to say that it was a good day and worth the loss of sleep to get there. But our good fortune did not end in the woods. After lunch at at local cafe to fill our bellies and warm our limbs we decided to stop at one more museum dedicated to Khanti life. This time we were able to have an English-speaking guide, Natasha, who not only gave us a multitude of information about Khanti life, but agreed to do so on-camera. Of course, we will share more about Khanti life and culture in upcoming posts and in the finished videos.

Then it was back to the airport for the 40-minute return flight to Surgut and an evening of downloading, updating and posting. And, I must admit, our spirits are much lighter tonight than they have been in previous nights. Please pray for us tomorrow as we finish writing scripts, record voice-overs and start to assemble the information we have into the Engage Russia packages. And, we are still praying that God would make a way for us to spend a day with the Khanti herders. Maybe tomorrow will be that day.

Blessings from Siberia,
Marc (for the team)

handling the unforseen

There is a saying among the Khanti people, "if you plan for a day, pack for a week; if you plan for an hour, pack for 2 days." I think they are on to something because they are stressing the idea of being prepared, expecting that something will always happen.

I could write story after story of how that has been the theme of our week. It seems like the plans we had before coming out here have been blown away in the wind (or frozen in the cold). We have had numerous hindrances and have struggled to get the content that we have wanted to get.

There is a lot of spiritual warfare I am sure as it seems that the people we are looking for or the places we are trying to get are always a step ahead of us. We have chased a few rabbit trails which have turned out to yield very little if any information, we have not been able to gather nearly the amount of material that we need; but in all of this we must confess that God is at work out here.

Yesterday we had planned to go to two villages, Russinskaya and Federovskaya, but as Marc was walking out to go to a bank across the street from our hotel in the morning, he got bit by a German Shepherd. Although the bite was not bad, there were some punctures and abrasions so we as a team felt it was best to go ahead and see a doctor and just have it checked out. We knew that this would jeopardize our journey to the two villages, but we gave this over to the Lord and did what we knew was best. Marc was able to see a doctor rather quickly and had no problems. They cleaned out the wounds and gave him some medicine and sent him back. We were able to leave for the villages this afternoon and were only delayed by about an hour and a half.

We got to Russinskaya and went to a Khanti museum where we learned more about Khanti culture and lifestyles. While there we were also able to be apart of a gathering of believers. The village does not have a Baptist church and therefore they meet in an apartment. We got to hear their stories, hear their struggles, pray with them, encourage them, eat with them, and in the end we left feeling like we had achieved something. We were able to meet with some Khanti people which definitely made our night, but I think there was so much more to it than just this. We left Russinskaya and traveled to Federovskaya where we were able to be apart of another group and do the same.

Thinking back, I would not have planned the trip this way or thought that these things would have happened. I can't explain why these things have happened or why it seems the focus of the trip is constantly shifting, I (we) can only continue to focus on God and keep our trust in Him. As we are faced with the unforseen things that come up, we can rest knowing that God is in control, an that He has gone ahead of us along this journey.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stories on the side

Anytime you are working on a project you will always come across stories that on their own are great pieces, but they don't necessarily fit into your project. You would be crazy to just drop these and move on but yet you don't want to spend too much time highlighting them as they can distract you from the real task, the project that someone has given you the responsibility to complete. But I would like to take a few minutes to share with you one of these such stories.

Many years ago a man was brought out to Siberia and imprisoned in a labor camp under the Soviet government all because of his faith. He was sent to a location in Northwest Siberia which in the 60's would become known as the city of Surgut. This man's prayer during his imprisonment was that someday there would be a Baptist church started here.

In 1990 Sergey Kubato moved from Ukraine to Surgut to help start the Baptist church of Surgut. We have had the privilege of spending a lot of time with Sergey this week as he has helped us with transportation and directions, as well as contacts regarding the Khanti people group. He has given of his own time and energy to help us. Last night we got the opportunity to be apart of his church's mid-week bible study. Pastor Sergey introduced us and talked briefly about our trip there, he then invited Tim to speak and share. Tim was able to share his testimony and passion for missions.

We have had a great time with Sergey over the past few days and are thankful for all the help that he has been able to provide regarding us getting to meet with the Khanti people group of Northwest Siberia.

Daaaaa Bear!

"But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn't treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand." ~Romans 1:19-25 (The Message)

This afternoon I bought something for myself that I have been wanting since I started my Engage Russia tour -- a hand-carved bear made out of wood. I thought about these verses a lot as I purchased it because the bear is a prominent symbol in Khanti folklore.

According to Khanti legend, God (known as Numi Torum) can only be addressed through his seven sons and daughters. However it was Torum's youngest son who holds the highest position in Khanti religious life because he was sent to earth in the form of a bear. While the Khanti don't actively hunt bears, they will kill them when they are encountered. And, after a bear is killed, a multi-day ceremony is held which narrates the story of the bear in song and dance.

Hummm....does some of this sound familiar? A relationship with God can only be reached through his son... who was sent to earth?

And, while these are fascinating stories and legends. How much more fascinating would it be to hear stories of the Khanti people learning about God's true son who was sent to earth just so we can have a relationship with the God of the universe?

As we continue to explore ways to make contact with the nomadic Khanti tribes, please pray that very soon we will have partnerships between churches in America and Khanti tribsemen who will work to spread the good news of Jesus Christ among this people of Russia.

Marc (for Team Engage Russia)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We found the Khanti??

We thought we had found the Khanti this afternoon. However, it turns out they look a lot like Marc and Tim.

Baby it's cold outside

So today we ventured out into Surgut to explore. It's amazing just how fast you can go from being warm to painfully cold. I know that there are many variables that contribute to what is "cold" to a person as well as everyone having a different opinion of what is cold. But I can tell you that when the temperature outside is -30 degrees C (roughly -22 F) there are no longer any questions as to how much moisture is in there air, whether the sun is shining or not or anything else for that matter, it's just freezing cold.

In the event that you have never experienced the bitter cold of -30 degrees, I will attempt to describe it. We have found that the first response after the first few breaths of this sweet, crisp, freezing air hits your lungs is to cough. I'm not sure on the purpose of the coughing but it has become somewhat amusing for us. Upon your first breath your nose hairs freeze. This could be one of the weirdest feelings to experience. During the day you begin to get cold after about 30 min. whereas tonight it only took about 10 min before we were hurting. You can be dressed warm and layered and such but it seems that to some degree you will be cold, it just depends on how long you will tolerate being cold.

The bottom line is that it's freezing cold here. I laugh as the guys were telling me to write something up on the fact that it's so cold here. I mean we are northern Siberia, what were they expecting. But what is really funny is that the whole purpose of the trip is to spend time out in the Khanti villages. Today we learned that this will involve us walking and hiking, ie. being out in the cold for long periods of time (in the cold).

Hopefully we will survive and not freeze to death over the course of the next few days, and in the meantime get some great interviews and contacts.

Standing In An Answer to Prayer

One of the bonuses of a “fact-finding” trip like the ones we take are the many side-stories that we come across on the way. In just our first day here, we have found that our trip to Surgut is no different and it is always exciting to hear how God has moved among people, regardless of where in the world you are.

Tonight while at the Baptist Church in Surgut we met the Senior Pastor’s brother-in-law Victor, who grew up in Ukraine, but who now lives in Surgut. And, every day that Victor comes to the church he is reminded of the fact that God is faithful and answers prayer. You see, during the Communist era, Victor’s grandfather was sent from Ukraine to a work camp in Surgut because of his faith. During that time he prayed that God would start a church in Surgut. And today, the church where we met Victor has more than 250 regular attendees.

Now, decades later, Victor has a similar prayer: that churches will be started among the Khanti people of northwestern Siberia. Won’t you join Victor in praising God for what he has done, and ask that new churches be started among the Khanti?

For the Engage Russia Team

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Search of the Khanti

We arrived in Surgut this morning just after 4am and were met at the airport by Senior Pastor, Sergei Kubata who took us to our hotel to get settled into our home-away-from-home for the week.
After a couple of hours of much-needed rest we met at the church for a light supper and learned much about the work here among the Khanti. Of the 20,000 Khanti there are only about 70 believers – that’s 4-thousandths of a percent! They are scattered throughout the region mixed-in with Russians in different churches and groups. Right now there are no Khanti churches.
A difficulty of reaching the Khanti, we learned, is their semi-nomadic lifestyle. We are hoping to visit a reindeer herd while we are here. As we are told, the problem is that this time of year the herders are deep in the forests far from any roads or civilization. We are looking for some snowmobiles, and permission to go out into the forest, but even then, the temperature is to the point that reliability is a real concern. It is minus 30 Celsius (or minus 22 F). And even if we can find the snowmobiles, and someone to take us, there is no way of knowing where to look for the groups, they could be anywhere. How do you plant churches among a field that is constantly on the move across the frozen tundra?
We don’t know either!
Pray for the work among the Khanti. Pray for the local Baptists as they reach out to the Khanti. Pray for our trip Thursday to the village of Ruskinskaya, a modern day trading post for the Khanti.
Tim for Team Engage Russia

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Khanti-Mansian Call

No, it wasn't a vision. In this case it was a Senior Pastor saying "Come over to Surgut to help us."

Several months ago, Pastor Sergei Kubata came to our IMB offices here in Moscow. He came with Pastor Alexander Popov from Udmurtia. We have had a stateside church partnership with Udmurtia for a few years already, and the two had been talking.

"Can you find us a partnership like the one with the Udmurt?"
"We need help reaching the Khanti people in our area."

As we talked, Pastor Sergei shared about their church planting efforts among the people group of 20,000. Scattered throughout the region in remote villages, the Khanti have had little or no chance to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Russian Baptist churches have one Russian missionary trying to reach them.

They have asked for our help.

This week's trip is designed to learn more; more about the Khanti and more about the efforts to get the Gospel to them. We are hoping and praying that what we see, what we learn, and what we experience, will lead to a partnership between some of YOU and the Khanti People of Russia.

Follow this Blog, sign up for our Twitter, and join us through your prayers as we follow the Khanti-Mansian Call!

Tim for Team Engage Russia

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Engage Russia Now Twittering

The Engage Russia Team has now began Twittering!
What is twitter and how does it work?
I am not quite sure how to answer that, but basically it is another internet based communication tool for updating others about what you are doing, when you are actually doing it.
For example - next week Marc, Tim and Jimmy will be traveling to Surgut, Russia to learn more about the work among the Khanti People of Russia. During their trip they will be posting on this blog daily (depending on internet capabilities) AND Twittering every few hours, using Marc's iphone.
There is a box on the right hand site of this blog site that will be updated with frequent, shorter updates about where we are, what we are doing, who we are talking to, etc. in almost real time.
Following us on twitter will be like being there on the trip with us, almost.
So, follow the blog, the twitter, the upcoming website, as we together continue to ENGAGE RUSSIA!
Tim for the Engage Russia Team