Pastor Zhenya lives in Siberia where he pastors a small congregation. He recounts the first full meeting as a church body after a period of several weeks kept apart by sickness, illness, and extreme cold. Read the full report below:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Thank you for your prayers for us. And thank Christ for His mercy to us, for His care, and for leading us, if I may say so, through the valley of the shadow of death. Where we are located in Russia is quite remote. This protects us in some ways from sickness and disease. However, in the last month of 2020 and the first month of this year, we had a wave of sickness and severe cold that prevented us from gathering as a church. We have mostly succeeded in meeting in the last several months, but wisdom demanded we refrain for a time. On the last Sunday of January, our small church finally gathered in full strength. I do not know how to express gratitude for the re-gathering of the saints. As their pastor, I pray and yearn for them earnestly to walk closer with the Lord and grow in their knowledge of Him. The grace and mercy of God seemed to be so evident in our midst as we spoke to one another, as I preached, and as we prayed as a congregation.
Some of us have just recovered from serious illnesses during our time apart. Ill or not, everyone missed one another, eager to huddle again in our joint place of worship. We dedicated this Sunday morning to worshipping, thanking, and praising our Lord for His special care and provision in our lives. Our Sunday meeting usually begins with a half-hour prayer service. However, this Sunday, everything went in a different direction. Before we began our time of prayer, one of our older women, who was very seriously ill with her unbelieving husband, asked for permission to talk about how God recently worked in her life. She told the account of while still caring for her husband, she found comfort in the Lord. She told the congregation of her boldness in witnessing to the medical staff in the hospital and the patients around her husband about God. However, she also admitted to grumbling and dissatisfaction regarding her circumstances. On Christmas night, she and her husband were moved to another room, which was not as comfortable as the old one. There were a lot of people in it and there was no artificial ventilation device to assist her husband’s breathing. She began to murmur in her heart, and then suddenly remembered that it was on this night that we often commemorate our Savior being born. She recounted her memory of our Savior not being born in the palace, but in a stable with animals. “Is it worth worrying about the conditions in which I find myself,” she thought, “if the Lord Himself was born in a barn?”. She repented of her displeasure, and almost immediately a ventilator was rolled up to their bed. Everything she told us caused our hearts to be filled with admiration for our Father and gratitude for His deeds.
Others, inspired by this sister’s confidence in the Lord and vulnerability admitting her sin, spoke up, one after another, testifying of the Lord’s provision. Some spoke of having need for more heat during this harsh winter. They recounted circumstances the Lord used to fill their every need. One family reported of a robbery where many valuables were stolen, but how the Lord gave cause to rejoice rather than to grumble. After each story, we as a body felt more and more the closeness of our Father, seeing the hand and care of the Great Shepherd for this small herd. Our hearts were filled with joy and gratitude, and all this was expressed in our joint worship, admiration, praise, and praise of our Father as we moved into a time of prayer and then on to the preaching. This is how God worked in our lives, and this is how He worked in our humbled congregation. After all these testimonies of God’s faithfulness, who would deny the individual, special the Living God has for his sheep? God is alive! He’s close to us! We can see His hand! We thank him for everything!