Dear friends and everyone who was praying for us at the time of our trip, here is a short overview:
I want to start by saying that our Lord is wonderful and very merciful. We could sense His presence throughout the entire trip. It is so great to know that you are not on your own!
The mission trip began in Odessa, Ukraine, where a few guys from our team and I were buying supplies for the children’s camps, such as sports equipment, crafts and gifts for the kids. When the rest of the team arrived in Odessa from Chisinau, Moldova, we left for Russia. It is a 24 hour train ride from Odessa to Moscow, so we tried to get as comfortable as possible in our Ukrainian train while we were waiting for customs; we were very concerned because we had more than 20 big suitcases with supplies and musical instruments. We even had one huge, inflatable boat for the local church in Salekhard, Russia. Well, our Lord took care of that problem, so the next day we arrived in Moscow, where we were going to transfer to the next train which would take us to the very end of the Russian Northern Railroad. It was a 48 hour ride, in a train filled with very different people. This was the first opportunity that we had to witness, even though one person kept saying that we were just pretending to be missionaries, and in reality we are really American spies! Once we came to the town of Labytnangi, we had to board a ferry that took us across the wide part of the Ob’ river. On the other side of the river, the pastor of the local Salekhard church, and some of his congregation picked us up and took us to the church where we would be lodging n between our trips to the remote towns.
The first trip that we took was to the little fishing village – 100 miles south of Salekhard. A boat was the only way to get there so, we got into the Soviet-era, speed boat called ‘’Meteor’’ and arrived to the village called Shuryishkaryi. After a short prayer on the river pier, Paul and I went to the village administration to get permission to hold a children’s day camp and a series of concerts for the youth. It was a full 5 days that we spent there and the children were filled with joy, laughter and love! During this time 50-60 kids were coming daily for the camp and the same number of youth for the concerts and movie nights. Every day, the Word of God was presented by pastor Anatoliy, who was there with us the entire time. So, our Lord definitely gave us a chance to plant seeds of His Word! On the day of our departure, we were facing one small, but at the same time, major problem. We discovered that “Meteor” wasn’t as fast as we thought. After waiting for about an hour on the wet and windy pier, we found out that it’s not going to come at all that day. So, we began to pray and when the prayer was finished, we noticed a big fishing ship boat coming toward the pier. After a little conversation with the captain, we were on board, traveling about 20 miles an hour, but still moving! So, in the middle of the not so dark polar night, we were back in Salekhard and the next morning we could worship our Lord with the local church!
Another town we went to was called Harp (Meaning: Aurora from the Nenets language). In Harp we were able to use a small, one bedroom apartment for our ministry and lodging. In the daytime, the living room was used as the classroom, in the evening it was a movie theatre and at night, it was a bedroom for all of the guys. The administration of this little town was very friendly towards us, so they even aired advertising about our concerts on their local television channel. Obviously, we were shocked with the Lord’s provision and care for us! We had a chance to play and sing on some of the biggest stages; however, we were not allowed to preach from the stage. Nevertheless, we could tell people that we are Christians and we could invite them for our Bible study after the concert. The next couple of nights we had up to forty people in this small apartment and the Lord used this time for spreading His Word among the young people of this town. By the Lord’s great Love, we were rewarded with seeing some of the results of our humble work even today. After the concerts, and fellowship in Harp, a lot of those young people whom we met then, are now visiting Bible study on a regular basis. Praise the Lord for His blessings and don’t forget that there is a great need for prayer about this place, and those people!
After another 3 days of traveling, we arrived back in Odessa, Ukraine and we had a chance to visit some churches in the city and even play and speak at the central Baptist church, praying that the Spirit of the Lord will touch the hearts of people for the ministry in Yamal, (the end of the Earth!)
Once again, thank you for your support and prayers! It’s good to be home, but we are eager to serve our Lord more! Igor Shepyeta