by David Sisler

Although CNN didn't let you know, I was in Moscow with President Bill Clinton. Well, not actually with him, as a member of his entourage, but my plane did land there the same day as Air Force One.

This was an interesting trip. Through the hard work and generous giving of some big-hearted believers from several local churches, I was able to take 10 cases of toys to Samara. The toys were distributed between two orphanages and the church that I serve in that city.

It was an awesome moment, watching those precious young people playing with more toys than they had ever even seen before.

Government officials from Samara met me at Shermetyevah International Air Port and loaded the toys into cars for what should have been a 15 hour trip. I flew on to Samara. The morning of the fourth day, they toys were not in Samara and the drivers had not phoned in.

Later that day the men and their cargo arrived. When I met with the lead driver, I told him we were afraid that they had been intercepted by the Russian Mafia. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Not the Mafia. The police. In Russia, it is the same thing."

One of the things I was eager to discussed was their recent elections.

My friends were unanimously disappointed when first Yegor Gaidar and then Boris Fyodorov withdrew from Russia's economic struggles. The instant insantity concerning the ruble's fall could be directly linked to their resignations. With the ruble stable for the last six months and inflation steady at 12 percent, many Russians see only uncertainty ahead.

Russians with whom I spoke, both inside and outside of the government were astonished by the way the western media has played to Alexander Zhiranovsky. Without exception, everyone who commented to me called him a joke or a crackpot. They described his victory at the polls as a message sent to Boris Yeltsin and nothing more (similar, I suppose, to America's most recent third party candidate). They predict at the next election he will be hardly noticed by the voters.

When I go to Samara, my main concern is to spend time with Pastor Vladimir Chemerev, the leaders who serve with him, and the members of Maranatha Christian Center. This time I asked the pastor a philosophical question: "What is the greatest needs of the Church in Russia today?"

Vladimir replied, "There are two things. Teach us how to maintain unity in the church. And teach us how to apply Biblical family values to the life of our nation."

Then with an impish smile he said, "What are the greatest needs of the Church in America today?"

I replied, "We need to learn how to maintain unity in the church. And we need to learn how to apply Biblical family values to the life of our nation."

When I arrived back home in Augusta, there was an unusual letter waiting for me. I recognized from the handwriting on the envelope that the author was a Russian--it is a very identifiable style of cursive writing.

The letter was from Marina Russkova, a teenager I met last summer in Volgagrad. Without realizing she spoke any English, I had prayed for her according to the promptings I felt from the Lord. When I said, "Amen," she said, "Thank you. Those were the things that were in my heart."

I introduced her to a young woman from Samara who had been following Jesus for about a year and the two talked long into the night. The next evening, Marina was again at the crusade. She said she was coming to America, so I gave her my business card and asked her to call me or write to me when she arrived.

She wrote, "Hi, David! Probably you are wondering who is writing you now. Well, I think it won't be hard for you to remember that Russian girl from Volgagrad, when you came there as a missionary. I don't even know from what to begin, but the only thing I can say, when I go back to Russia I will tell all of my friends about Jesus Christ. You were the first person who opened to me the way of learning about God."

Marina continued, "I am really thankful to all of you American people who come to our country. My family are now Christians and I have changed so much."

"Faith," she said, "makes your life a lot easier because you know that you always, no matter what, will have one friend named Jesus. Thank you so much for telling me about Him."

Marina addressed her thanksgiving to me, but everyone who has given money, or medicine, or toys, everyone who has prayed, everyone who has asked to hear about what God is doing in Russia, is included in her gratitude.

On behalf of Marina, here is one more line from her letter. "Thank you very, very much for everything you do for us."

Marina, you are very welcome. You said to me, "America is a very blessed country. Almost all people there believe in God, and I feel so sorry about Russians who do not." It is past time for your nation to become personally acquainted with the God who has so richly blessed us. I just wish as many of us believed in God and His Son as your growing faith imagines.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 1-8-94

Copyright 1994 by David Sisler

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