Seventh-day Adventists took a boat cruise to share health tips in central Russia — and the boat’s captain quit smoking.
Children wrote letters about the Ten Commandments to give away on Russian streets.
Evangelistic meetings gave power tools to people whose homes were damaged in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine.
These are among the innovative ways that church members are sharing the gospel across the Adventist Church’s Euro-Asia Division, a territory covering much of the former Soviet Union, in an effort to jump-start membership growth, which is largely flat.
Local church leaders are hoping to make a major difference through Total Member Involvement, a world church initiative that encourages each of the 20 million Adventists worldwide to actively proclaim Jesus’ soon coming.
“It’s a challenging territory, but God is working through Total Member Involvement,” said Michael Kaminskiy, president of the Euro-Asia Division.
Sailing and Letter-Writing
Ivan Velgosha, president of the West Russian Union, whose territory includes Moscow, told division year-end meetings in Moscow how 11 Adventist health professionals went on a two-week boat cruise to ancient Russian cities on the Volga River in September.
The trip, which followed a popular tourist route, was organized by a Russian nongovernmental health organization and offered free health services to people at every stop. The Adventists, who were invited to participate, shared basic health principles about water, sunshine, exercise, and rest, as well as stop-smoking classes.
The boat’s captain, who smoked heavily, attended five of the classes.
“He smoked so much that there was always a cloud of smoke around him,” Velgosha said.
By the end of the trip, he had stopped smoking and made the boat a smoke-free zone. On the last day, the Adventists presented him with a book about healthy living and told him that Jesus could help him never smoke again.
More than a month after the trip, the captain still hasn’t smoked, Velgosha said.
In the city of Nizhny Novgorod, schoolchildren shared their love for God by writing letters about His law. One child wrote, “We need to remember the third commandment so we don’t say bad words about God.” Another child wrote, “If people stopped stealing, we would be the richest country in the world.” The children spent five days passing out the handwritten letters on city streets.
A total of 540 people were baptized in the past 12 months in the West Russian Union, which has 26,600 members. This compares with 525 baptisms over the previous 12-month period.
Power Tools and a Festival
In eastern Ukraine, church members have found that free drawings for power drills are drawing men to evangelistic meetings. Women were coming to the meetings, but the number of men in attendance sharply increased when churches began to advertise the power drills, said Stanislav Nosov, president of the Ukrainian Union Conference.
“Men need tools to repair homes damaged in the conflict,” he said in an interview.
Daily drawings were held at two-week evangelistic meetings conducted in several towns in eastern Ukraine this month. Winners chose between a drill and a set of pots, while anyone who attended seven meetings in a row received a food package with macaroni, sugar, milk, and other basic items. About 500 people attended the meetings, and 30 were baptized.
Nosov also said Adventists participated in a festival of 300,000 people in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, providing free medical services, concerts, and information about the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
Across Ukraine, 1,186 people were baptized in the past 12 months, compared to 1,155 people in the previous year. About 47,600 Adventists live in Ukraine, more than any other country in the division.
A Story from Belarus
In all, the Euro-Asia Division recorded 2,670 baptisms in the past 12 months, a slight increase from 2,604 baptisms in the previous 12-month period. The division has nearly 111,000 members.
Church members are working hard to spread the gospel, but the challenges are large, said Victor Alekseenko, executive secretary of the Euro-Asia Division.
He described the determined efforts of the 150 members of an Adventist church in Gomel, Belarus. Over the past year, they organized three evangelistic series, four health expos, music concerts, a relief program for the elderly and needy, and three Christmas programs for 800 people. The result: many new friends and 11 baptisms.
“You have to work hard to nurture members and reach out to the community,” Alekseenko said.
Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson, who is attending the division year-end meetings, encouraged local church leaders to pray daily for humility, unity, and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
“Every day you have to ask God to open a way for mission,” he said.
He read Joel 2:28, which says, “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh” (NKJV).
“I believe that God is preparing His people for the latter rain,” Wilson said. “When it happens, you will not be able to keep up.”