MISSION TO VOLGAGRAD
by David Sisler
For three months during the summer of 1993 I was the missionary pastor of Maranatha Christian Center in Samara, Russia. This column is an excerpt from my daily journal, written while I lived and worked in that city of 1.5 million.
Together with four members of Maranatha Christian Center I flew to Volgagrad on a noisy twin engine airplane to assist in an evangelistic crusade. The flight was smooth and thankfully, uneventful. It was interesting, however, looking at the landing gear on the plane. The left tire had tread. The right tire was completely smooth.
Going to Volgagrad (briefly named Stalingrad), I thought about why we Americans are here. We are workers in a harvest field called Russia. God has called us to help harvest the crop faithful Russians have been planting for 70 years. This is not our revival, it is theirs. And I suspect that it is not so much our prayers which has brought on the harvest, but theirs. In secret, underground churches all over this nation, believers have been praying – year after year – for an old fashioned outpouring of God's Spirit. And God has answered their prayers!
The second morning we hired a taxi to take us to "Mamayev Kyrgan," a complex of giant statues commemorating the heroism of the Battle of Stalingrad. At the top of a long hill, towering more than 100 feet in the air is the statue, "Motherland," or "Mother Russia." My friends call her "Big Mother."
As we started up the steps that would eventually lead to Big Mother, I bought a rose to lay at the eternal flame which commemorates the dead of Stalingrad. A marble hand, thrusting from the floor, holds a lighted torch. Thirty-four panels line the circular walls and list the names of Russia's honored dead.
Several years ago, my brother, Kyle, and I visited a similar monument to America's fallen heroes – the Black Wall, the Vietnam War Memorial. We had been joking and laughing, catching up on eight or ten months of separation. As we walked up to the first panel we became very quiet. We walked past the names of 50,000 who gave their live for America and both of us freely and unashamedly wiped away tears.
I had that same feeling as I laid a beautiful red rose at the base of the eternal flame in Volgagrad.
A large book lays open in the Hall of the Soldier's Glory. Here visitors may write their comments. One said, "God, keep the peace." And I thought of the peace of Jesus, the peace that passes all understanding.
Thank you, God, for tearing down the Iron Curtain, so that we may point Russian men and women through another curtain – this one torn from top to bottom, opening the way in the Holy of Holies, into Your very presence. We come, the writer of Hebrews said, through another veil, that is, to say, His flesh. God has opened Russia to a new peace, and a new and living way!
Each night of the crusade we invited people to come up on stage so that we could pray for their needs. It is an almost indescribable feeling to hold the hands of someone you do not know, whose language you do not speak, who have known the peace of Jesus for less than ten minutes and to pray for their needs.
One of the people for whom I prayed was a teenaged girl. I felt impressed to pray against all of the temptations that face a teenager in the world today. I prayed for strength for her to live close to her new-found Savior. And I prayed that she would have courage to witness to her friends.
When I opened my eyes, I smiled at her and said, "Slavo Bogu" – Praise God. In accented English she replied, "Thank you for that prayer. You prayed the things that were in my heart."
That's God, for you!
I introduced her to Lena Borisenka, a 19 year old young woman from Samara who is exploring the adventures of life with Jesus. The two young believers talked for a long time.
Copyright 1993, 2000 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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