Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! This winter we have a lot of snow! Almost every day it snows! We have had snowy winters for the last three years. It reminds me of my childhood when we had to shovel snow and make snowmen!
This is Pastor Valery Hryhoryk! Your global worker in Belarus! Why have I begun my newsletter in such a strange manner? I am sure you know who I am, however it is always good to remind ourselves who a global worker is. He or she is a person that is sent and supported by the interested party. The Lord said that we need to make disciples in all nations. Belarus is one of them. This country has difficult conditions for ministry and remains hostile to Christ.
This is what the US Department of State Report on International Religious Freedom in Belarus says:
Minority religious groups continue to have difficulty registering; some groups remain reluctant to apply for registration, due to fear of harassment and punishment. (All unregistered religious activity is prohibited).
The government continues surveillance on minority religious groups of various Protestant denominations, especially those it labeled “foreign” or “cults.” Religious groups remain cautious about proselytizing and distributing religious materials due to what they say is the general atmosphere of intimidation and fear of punishment. Orthodox literature remains available countrywide. Belarus Orthodox Church (the mainstream Church in Belarus) remains able to proselytize freely and, unlike other religious groups, continues to participate in government-sponsored public events such as rallies without the need to seek prior approval from authorities.
A catholic priest from Soligorsk was recently banned from his congregation after having served there for 20 years. The authorities banned him without any explanation. Please pray for the freedom of religion in Belarus!
Now to the news…
Our Christmas service in the garage went very well and, as always, we had the opportunity to invite friends and relatives who do not know the Lord. They listened to the Word of God and we prayed that the seed of faith would be planted in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. We had representatives from the congregations of Polotsk, Orsha, Mazolovo and Vitebsk.
The children received their traditional present, a box of sweets! After the service, there was a concert and a shared meal. Please give thanks to the Lord for our opportunity to gather and celebrate the Lord’s birthday. All the gatherings in the garage are illegal and can be stopped at any time. I was especially pleased to see Kate, the girl who formerly played in our band. We’ve prayed for her in the past. I was happy to see how the Lord is working on her faith. Praise the Lord!
We are responsible for God’s creation around us. The Bible says that nature suffered because of man’s sin. In our country, we have many homeless animals. You can see homeless dogs and cats almost everywhere. They live on the streets, in the basements of multi-storey buildings where they can find food (people feed them) and where it is warm. People can be very cruel and throw little kittens and puppies in the street. So, we held a rescue operation. Three kittens were rescued from cold and hunger. We had a lot of trouble catching them beause they were scared and did not trust anyone. However, they were caught and delivered to the Vet Academy of Vitebsk.
We produced a video to be shared on social media encouraging people to treat God’s creation well — to look after the animals and to feed the birds that have difficulty finding food in the winter. Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to remind our people that they are responsible for God’s creation.
We continue to preach the Gospel through music. This ministry is extremely effective. We became good friend with the Vitebsk Cultural Centre and we support them in their projects. The contemporary music in Russian is very shallow and promotes destructive behaviour, drugs, alcohol and sex. There is almost no alternative to this. The most vulnerable layer is the youth. Vitebsk Cultural Centre is a state cultural organization that has access to mass media and television. This month we participated in the concert called “Good Songs” in which we performed spiritual songs.
Please thank the Lord for the opportunity to preach the Gospel and to fight for good through music. Also, praise the Lord for sending us Andrey, our new solo guitarist. He is a good man and a good musician.
A another big event was the recording of a song called Christmas Star. The song was put on social media and the radio. The song was recorded with the help of a professional singer from Filarmonia (a state concert organization), Julietta Tarachan. Thank you, Lord!
Please pray for the distribution of Christian literature.It is important for a book to get into the hands of a reader! We had a big delivery of books to the Koltushi seminary of Ingrian Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg. The seminary is a good place to start as far as distribution is concerned. The books are valuable for the students and also for everyone who visits the seminary for all kinds of educational occasions. The director of the seminar, Ivan Laptev, was pleased to receive the books. We are planning a big book delivery to Grodno, where we have the only Lutheran church building standing and functioning as a Lutheran church. However, the building is not owned by the congregation. The government just lets the Lutherans use it for services.
Support of the Ministry in the City of Polotsk
There is a congregation in Polotsk, a city 100 km away from Vitebsk. BLMF offers support to the congregation. We hold seminars and services together. Currently, we have many independent Lutheran congregations in Belarus who need help and support. Please pray for such support to continue and develop. It is so vital to have God’s light in different parts of Belarus so they are prepared when the right time comes to register a Lutheran national church body.
Please continue to pray for the youth work in Vitebsk and Orsha.
It is a very important ministry, a continuation of the summer Bible camps. Please pray for the building project of a permanent building in Dolsha so that we can hold Bible events not just in the summer but in in all four seasons.This project is vital for the future of the Lutheran church in Belarus.
Please give thanks to God with us for the theological seminar that took place in Vitebsk.
Christian education is greatly needed for the young Lutheran church in Belarus. Our teacher was Valery Volodin, a former teacher at Koltushi Lutheran Seminary, St. Petersburg, Russia.
NEW MINISTRY START
For two year we have been praying for the children’s projects. They are a great responsibility and also a great blessing. We’ve contacted the administration of the rehabilitation centre for handicapped children in Vitebsk. The children that are kept there are handicapped children with all kinds of mental disorders.
We need God’s wisdom on how to help these children and, more over, their parents as they are the most vulnerable. Please pray for this project. We invite all of you for whom the Lord touches your heart to join us. We agreed to shoot a video about the centre to let people know how they can be involved.
At the end of this newsletter, I would ask you to pray for Ludmila, our new parishioner. Ludmila is a teacher of Belorussian language and her husband thinks she has become caught in a sect. The Lutheran church in Belarus is being treated by the majority of people as a sect. So, people who attend the Lutheran services are viewed as sectarians and traitors of the traditional Orthodox church. Lord, have mercy!
Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord is great and my mission in Belarus continues in the year 2019! Without your faithful support, this mission would not be possible. Please pray for new partners in this ministry as the tasks are great. On behalf of Belarus Lutherans I wish you abundant blessings from our Lord for this new 2019 year! May you know His grace and wisdom in everything you do!
Pastor Valery Hryhoryk
*For more information about Pastor Valery’s work or to partner with him today, please visit: Pastor Valery Hryhoryk – EEMN.