That one, simple, short word stamped in red across our Russian religious visa application last summer packed a punch.
My heart for sharing the gospel with the Russian people has been steadily growing for more than six years.
Getting into the country is half the battle. In order to do any sort of evangelism in Russia, you have to have a religious visa, sponsored by a government official, that allows you to preach in approved locations. Shawn has visited and preached a few times before, but his visa had expired. (Read about one of his adventures in Russia in this blog post.)
God has given both of us a burden for Russia. For me, this desire was ignited further a few years ago when I read about the famous British missionary Hudson Taylor and the vision he had in 1889. He was in the middle of a sermon when he suddenly stopped preaching, stood silently, and closed his eyes. When he opened them, he said this:
“I have seen a vision. I saw in this vision a great war that will encompass the whole world. I saw this war recess and then start again, actually being two wars. After this, I saw much unrest and revolts that will affect many nations. I saw in some places spiritual awakenings. In Russia, I saw there will come a general all-encompassing, national spiritual awakening so great that there could never be another like it. From Russia, I saw the awakening spread to many European countries. Then I saw an all-out wakening, followed by the coming of Christ.” (Renewlife.ru)
We had concrete plans for reaching the Russian people. Big plans. Shawn was scheduled to speak at the national youth conference in Crimea, at several different churches in Moscow, and host a Go & Tell evangelism workshop for local pastors. We’ve been developing relationships with local pastors to expand outreach.
All of these plans were utterly dependent on receiving a visa that would allow us to preach.
We were heartbroken as we called the churches to tell them we were not coming. In that desperately sad moment, we wondered if we would ever go back to Russia or if denied was the reality for our hearts’ desire to see Russia saved. Was it going to come about in a different way? Via different channels? And with different people?
Why had God given me this desire for Russia if we couldn’t even get into the country?
Though we were disheartened to miss the trip we had planned, we couldn’t give up. The burden was too great. By faith, we applied again.
And God worked a miracle. 3 months later, not only were both of our visas approved for one visit, but we were granted visas allowing religious entry for an entire year! Our minds and hearts were bursting with vision and hope for Russia in the coming 365 days.
And, as always, God’s timing is perfect. Since then we’ve had the privilege to go to St. Petersburg twice, people are getting saved, and God is opening doors and creating opportunities for reaching people we couldn’t have dreamed of.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this story. I can’t wait to tell you about all of the amazing things happening in Russia.