2007 Russian Mission Trip
The following are some stories from our 2007 mission
trip to Dimitrovgrad, Russia with East-West Ministries International.
Our trips involve both evangelism and humanitarian
work. We bring both Bibles and health supplies. Here are some of
the stories from our 2007 trip to Dimitrovgrad, Russia. I am praying
that some day, some of the Russians we have met will come to America
Please feel free to comment
on our blog about any of the stories you read here.
Peter's Mom | Natasha
and Benjamin | Sharing With Teens | Oregon
I've been traveling to Russia on mission trips for
three years. This past May I went to the city of Dimitrovgrad for
the second time. Dimitrovgrad is located about 1,000 kilometers
SE of Moscow. We travel by train. It's about an 18 hour overnight
train ride from Moscow to Dimitrovgrad.
We have two main objectives for mission trips; to
spread the good news about Jesus Christ and to serve the people
of Russia. The story of Peter's mom shows how evangelism and service
The best way to meet people in Dimitrovgrad is to
go out on the sidewalks and talk to people. Few people have cars.
Most people walk to get where they need to go. It's easier to meet
people this way than you might think. An American is a rare sight
in Dimitrovgrad. Starting a conversation is as easy as walking up
to someone and saying, "Hi, I'm an American." (In general
Russians are very friendly and hospitable.)
To swing the conversation to spiritual topics I ask
people what they think happens when they die. This leads right into
a discussion of our being sinners in need of a Savior.
I met Peter's mom late on Wednesday afternoon. I wanted
to talk to one more person before finishing for the day. I introduced
myself to a lady carrying two shopping bags and asked her what she
thought happens after we die. Her answer was, "I know exactly
what happens, because my father died two days ago."
She was not a Christian. Neither she nor her father
knew about Jesus Christ. The thought flashed through my mind that
I was about to tell her that her father was in hell. I was going
to tell her we are all sinners and without Jesus Christ we are heading
for hell. I expected this would make her angry at me. I was scared.
This was not a conversation I wanted to have, but I had no choice.
All I could do was to trust in the Holy Spirit.
We talked about sin. We talked about how we all have
lied, stolen, used God's name inappropriately and broken all of
God's Ten Commandments. We talked about how when we break the law
we must pay the penalty, and in this case that penalty is hell
then suddenly she got excited and started talking fast in Russia.
The only words I could make out were "cowboy Steve".
What was going on? Why was she so excited?
My translator explained that this woman had just recognized me. In
Dimitrovgrad I am known as "Cowboy Steve" because I wear
a cowboy hat and big silver belt buckle. It turns out this lady was
Peter's mom. Peter is a boy in the orphanage we visit every year.
We bring the children clothes, hygiene supplies, vitamins, toys and
we spend parts of three days playing with the kids and visiting their
classes. One of the things I do is to take photos of each child, print
them on a portable printer I bring to the orphanage, and give each
child a picture. Peter's mom had recognized me from the photo I had
given Peter the previous year.
Peter and "Cowboy" Steve.
Peter is wearing Steve's hat, and is
holding the pictures I made for him this year.
In Russian most children are not in orphanages because
they have no parents. They are in an orphanage because their parents
are financially unable to take care of their children. Peter's mom
was so poor that she could not buy food and clothing for Peter.
She was so grateful for what we had done for the orphanage, and
for Peter, that she welcomed us with open arms. We talked some more
on the sidewalk and she came to our evening meetings. The Holy Spirit
had brought us together so that Peter's mom heard the good news
about Jesus Christ several times that week. Our service at the orphanage
opened the door for Peter's mom to hear, for the first time, about
God's grace and how Jesus Christ paid the penalty we owe for breaking
"For it is by grace you
have been saved, through faithand this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast."
Natasha and Grandfather Benjamin
My mission trips to Dimitrovgrad, Russia are supported by individuals
who want to be a part of missions through prayer and financial support.
This is not a trip supported by a church or that represents a specific
church or denomination. My trips are supported by all of God's people
who want to see His good news spread to all nations and people.
The Lord has given us all different spiritual gifts. Some are called
to go. Others are called to provide for the needs of those who are
going. This year I had received enough donations to pay for the
trip by the end of April. But then something strange happened. Over
$750 was donated in the last week before I left. Why had the Lord
provided this extra money? What was I supposed to do with it? Russia
is a cash economy, so I took the money with me in cash (new $20
bills) and waited for the Lord to show me how it should be used.
This is the story about one of the children who was helped.
Natasha was twelve years old this year. Natasha's father left her
mother before Natasha was born. Her mother abandoned her and disappeared
right after she was born. Natasha lives with her Grandfather Benjamin
who is very old and lives on a pension of $100 a month. The average
income in Russia is $400 per month, so Benjamin is very poor. Poor
beyond what we can imagine. He pays his rent and they eat a very
basic diet. Natasha had one set of old clothes and no toys.
But there is more to Natasha's story.
Heavy drinking is common in Russia and Natashas mother was
a very heavy drinker while she was pregnant with Natasha. As a result
Natasha was born with some birth defects. Natasha has no right arm.
The fingers on her left hand are fused together into two clumps.
She has no shin bones or kneesher feet are attached to her
legs where her knees normally would be. She is about three feet
Because of her birth defects the other children made fun of her
and she wasn't able to go to school. So a teacher comes from the
orphanage twice a week to give her lessons. She is an intelligent
young lady, with a bright smile, who learns quickly.
The Dimitrovgrad church is a small church. There are about 25 Christians
in this city of 100,000 people. Pastor Pavel had visited Natasha
last Christmas, but there was little he could do to help. Neither
he nor his church has any money and there is little food to share.
This past May two members of our mission team visited Natasha and
Grandfather Benjamin. When a team member asked Natasha what one
thing she would like to have, Natasha pointed to a picture of a
doll in an old magazine. Using the money the Lord had provided we
purchased clothing for Natasha, and found the exact doll Natasha
had pointed out. Now Natasha has some good clothes to wear... and
she has a toy... and she knows there are people who love her...
and she has heard that God loves her.
In addition to the gifts provided in May, we left Pastor Pavel
with money he can use throughout the year. This will not only allow
him to help Natasha and Grandfather Benjamin, but will provide opportunities
for Pastor Pavel to visit them and share the good news about Jesus
Christ and his love for Natasha and Benjamin.
No one knows how many other children like Natasha there are in
Dimitrovgrad. Pastor Pavel says there are many more than he is able
to even visit. Because of the last minute money the Lord provided,
Pastor Pavel now has a small budget he will use to help as many
as he can. And maybe next year (2008) we can do a little more.
Please be praying for Natasha and her grandfather Benjamin.
November 2007 - The Latest News About Natasha: As the result
of a suggestion from an employee at Shriner's Hospital in Springfield,
Massachusetts, we are trying to arrange for Natasha to be treated
at the Shriner's Hospital. Treatment would be free. However, before
they can consider her application we need to find a family she can
live with in the Springfield area. Please be praying that a family
will be found. We hope that many, many people will be praying for
An Old Guy Sharing the Good News With Russian Teenagers
I'm 56 years old. The question running through my mind was: How
do I share the gospel with 300 to 400 teenagers, in an unfamiliar
city in Russia at 10:00 at night, who are hanging out in small groups
drinking beer and vodka in a city plaza, some are drunk and some
are in gangs, and I dont speak their language?
The answer: the LORD said share the gospel, so we share the gospel
and trust in His protection.
A typical day on a mission trip to Russia involves different activities
for different people. Some do street witnessing, others may visit
an orphanage, play soccer with teenageers, visit Christian churches,
share a meal with Russians, hug babies, help at a hospital, talk
to students, visit families in their homes or hand out tickets to
a Christian film. The mission team leaders try to use the gifts
the Lord has given each person in the best possible ways. The day
usually starts at 10:00 AM following daily devotions, and typically
ends around 9:30 PM following an evening concert and meeting for
the vans were returning us to our hotel at the end of our first
day (Monday), we passed a plaza that was filled with hundreds of
teenagers. I wondered what was going on. The plaza was about a block
from the hotel. So instead of going to bed I grabbed a sack of 90
copies of the Gospel of John and some Russian gospel tracts and
headed for the plaza.
I speak just enough Russian to say, Hello. My name is
Steve. I am an American. I dont speak Russian. It
turned out that was good enough.
Id guess some of the kids were as young as 14. They were
hanging out in groups of six to ten kids
one-third girls and
and usually passing around a two-liter bottle
of beer. I wasnt sure what to do, so Id walk up to a
group of kids, say the few Russian words I knew and hand each person
a gospel tract and a copy of the Gospel of John.
They always accepted the tract and the Gospel, and typically were
excited to meet an American. A few knew a little English and typically
would ask me, What are you doing here? With a lot of
hand signs, my limited Russian and their limited English, we managed
to talk a little, with my explaining the gospel as best I could.
The next night a team member, who is also named Steve, joined me
and we shared the Gospel with another 50 or 60 kids, until we were
too tired to continue talking. As we left the plaza two older Russian
men, who spoke some English, offered to walk us back to our hotel.
They explained that during the day they worked as security guards
and we should be concerned about what they called the Little
Mafia. We talked in front of the hotel for a while and we
finally understood they were telling us there were a lot of teen
gangs in the area.
Steve and I talked it over and decided we were not going to worry
about the Little Mafia. God would protect us. We returned to the
plaza the next night (Wednesday) and I went alone on the fourth
evening (Thursday) because Steve was busy visiting a Russian family.
We handed out tracts and spoke with 50 to 60 kids each night. They
all were interested in talking. Some asked for our autographs. Some
wanted to take pictures with us. And I only saw one person throw
away the literature we gave them.
Friday was a particularly hard day. It was our final big push before
we left Dimitrovgrad. Everyone was tired. When I got back to the
hotel room at 10:00 PM I did not feel like going to the plaza again.
I was too tired and worn out. I said a prayer*, Lord, if you
want me to go out tonight, send someone to go with me. Otherwise
Im going to bed. I didnt expect an answer to that
prayer. I figured it would be a good excuse for not going. I could
say God didnt answer my prayer and that was a sign He did
not want me to go. I started getting ready for bed. Ten seconds
later, knock, knock, knock at my door. It was Steve.
Are you ready to go? he asked.
We had run out of the Gospel of John and had only a few tracts
left. But the Lord led each of us to get involved in a long conversation
with a group of 10-15 kids. Steve was talking about creation with
his group and I was talking with my group about America, what I
thought about Dimitrovgrad and how I had come to Dimitrovgrad to
share the good news about Jesus Christ. I was offered beer many
times, a prostitute at least once and one of the kids tried calling
my wife in Oregon on his cell phone, but got our answering machine.
It wasnt part of our planned agenda, but through Gods
strength and grace, for five nights Russian teenagers who had never
heard about Jesus, had a chance to read about or hear the Gospel
the good news about how God loves them so much that He sent His
only son Jesus to die on the cross, paying the penalty they owe
for their having disobeyed God (sin), so they might join Him in
And there is salvation in no one
else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given
among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12
Please be praying for these teenagers in Dimitrovgrad, Russia.
* This type of prayer is not Biblical. Saying
a prayer with the expectation of not getting an answer... and thus
getting the "answer" I wanted is not a good thing to do.
I should not have done this. That God did answer my prayer is a
blessing. That He overlooked my sin in praying this way, and answered
my prayer anyway, demonstrates His love and forgiveness.
How Much Is A Quarter Worth?
Sometimes we have plans, but God has something better in mind.
I first met the kids at the orphanage during my trip to Dimitrovgrad
in May 2006. Each year we bring them as many supplies as we can.
Things such as soap, underwear, toothpaste, vitamins, socks, first
aid supplies and small toys. But I wanted to bring something special
a special souvenir from America. It would have to
be small, lightweight and easy to carry on the plane. And Id
need to be able to afford to get about 120 of them.
I came up with the idea of bringing Oregon quarters. This is the
U.S. quarter from 2005 with a picture of Oregons Crater Lake
National Park on the back.
Collecting 120 Oregon quarters was more difficult than I anticipated.
I asked all my family, friends and supporters to collect them for
me. But I was falling far short of the number needed until my son
devised a method of getting vending machines to give him all the
Oregon quarters they had. In about two hours he purchased one soda
and collected more than 60 Oregon quarters from vending machines.
I left for Russia with about 130 Oregon quarters in my saddlebags.
Plan A was to include the Oregon quarters in the gift
bags we made up for each child. But the ladies putting the bags together
forgot to put the quarters in the bags.
The girl in the center is holding
up her Oregon quarter.
Each year we take pictures of the kids and give them copies of
the pictures. Plan B was to hand out the quarters when
we gave the kids their photos. But the photo printer wasnt
working and not all of the pictures were not ready to give to the
When visiting the orphanage we were told that we could play with
the kids; talk about their school or our homes in America; sing
songs; and bring them gifts. But we were not supposed to pray with
them or share about Jesus on an individual basis, unless they asked
a question that led to such a discussion. No sharing of the gospel.
Plan A and plan B for handing out the quarters
had not worked out. But God had His own plan.
I had no choice, we just had to go ahead and hand out the quarters.
We called the kids together and my translator and I stood on a picnic
table. I described the gift that I was about to give them, including
the words included on every U.S. quarter
In God We Trust.
What do these words mean? What are we trusting God to do? As believers
we are trusting that God has paid the penalty we owe for breaking
Gods laws. We have disobeyed God and as a result we owe the
penalty for disobeying God. That penalty is death, what we call
hell. The only way we can avoid the penalty is if we can find someone
to substitute for us
to pay our penalty on our behalf. Jesus
Christ did that when he died on the cross. If we repent and trust
that Jesus Christ has paid our penalty, accepting Gods free
gift, we are free from the penalty of sin and will join God in heaven.
God had provided a way to share the Gospel with the teachers and
kids in the orphanage. What is the value of a quarter? A quarter
may have resulted in someones eternal salvation, and there
is nothing more valuable than that.
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom
of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.
The Oregon quarters were also very popular with the teenagers who
gather in a Dimitrovgrad plaza every evening. So I am once again
collecting Oregon quarters for my 2008 trip. Your help would be
greatly appreciated. If you find some Oregon quarters send them
to us at: Move To Assurance, P.O. Box 974, Tualatin, OR 97062.
It will be a blessing to us. Thank you.