Ministry in the Smallest of Places – Victoriya’s Story
In 2022 graduated Moscow Theological Seminary, bachelor of Theology. I serve orphans, children from large families, children and adults with disabilities, as well as a in a nursing home.
My ministry to children began immediately after my baptism in 2005. I lived in Minsk at that time and we had a labour team with whom we visited various places of social institutions where we could work hard. We did repairs, painted walls and applied drawings, made landscapes and much more. So we went to children’s centers for disabled children in other cities in Belarus. We helped physically during the day, and in the evening we talked with children, sang songs and told them about Jesus Christ. It was a time of good deeds and it has always been to my liking.
In 2009, I moved to Moscow and I also wanted to have communication with children who have no parents or are disabled or have cancer. When I see them, I want to tell them so much that the Heavenly Father loves them, that they are not alone in their suffering.
My team and I started the service of the puppet theater, with which we began to visit orphanages. We showed a performance that was based on a story from the Bible or on parables, talked about God’s love for every person, drew a parallel to today how we can apply it in our lives, talked about Christian holidays such as the Nativity of Jesus Christ and Easter, what they mean to us today. After the performance, we were allowed to spend time with the children. We drank tea with the kids and talked and tried to exchange contacts so that they always knew that they had support in our person. This is how we still communicate with some people. Sometimes we can invite them to our Christian camps or meetings, sometimes they invite us to their events so that we can be there and support them at contests or competitions. Some of them have already grown up and go to church on their own, and we still maintain relationships and meetings with some of them.
Mother of three, Lydia Ratnikova, is a recent student in the master’s program of Christian Education, and tells us of her journey of achieving her dream to become a Sunday school teacher.
Since childhood, I had always wanted to be a teacher. I grew up in an unbelieving family and my closest friends were books. When I was 10 years old, my mother first learned about God. We went to church and the world of Christian literature, including the Children’s Bible opened up to me. I was learning so much and everything I learned about God fascinated me, although sometimes I was doubtful, Still, it was a great joy to visit Sunday school for the first time. I went every Sunday, kept notebooks neatly, memorized Bible verses, studied Bible stories, and it was so amazing to me that I decided that when I grew up, I would become a Sunday school teacher.
When I was 12 years old, I turned to God with tears. It was no longer a superficial faith but a serious conversion; nor was it a fiery sermon that prompted me to repent but rather, the simple words of the faithful preacher during the common prayer. I was baptized a few years later and continued going to Sunday school which only fueled my desire to have the opportunity to someday teach children the Word of God.
In 2000, I was invited to be one of the mentors at a Bible camp for unchurched children who had troubled backgrounds. Thrilled by this opportunity, I excitedly threw myself into this work, attending all the planning meetings and was intently focused on preparing materials. This work impacted me deeply. I had seen firsthand how important this camp was because it established positive relations with the children, giving them hope. I felt a huge responsibility to be a great Bible learner so I could be a great Bible teacher. I also wanted to be a role model for the children to help guide them in the Christian life, and to learn more methods of reaching more children.
At that time, I was a student at Moscow Pedagogical University, studying to be a philologist. I knew a lot about pedagogy and accordingly, the camp organizers asked me to conduct lessons for the whole Bible camp. What a challenge! It’s one thing to conduct lessons among Christian children, and quite another to teach teenagers from the street. To prepare, every morning I went to pray in a wheat field and asked the Lord to help give me the right words for these troubled teens. I am thankful for that amazing experience and I knew God would help me.
Sometime thereafter, I married and took a break as the joy and busyness of marriage and having children mandated that I take a step back from this work for about five years. I loved my family life but after our third child came, I thought perhaps my Sunday school service was over and my heart ached. However, the Lord always has his own plans. After my five-year break, I learned that there was a great need for a high school-level Sunday school teacher, so I immediately stepped into that gap. It was a blessing from God to me!
I have now been serving in this church for eight years creating lessons and curricula, as well as preparing programs for holidays. A year and a half ago, the church leaders asked me to hold a seminar to teach other Sunday school workers the methods and materials I had been using. I was quite nervous about this request and knew I needed help in systematically teaching others, but was not sure where to find that help.
The answer was to study at Moscow Theological Seminary (MTS). In 2022, I entered their master’s program of Christian education taking courses in, among other things, Sunday school methods, how to train others, and creating entire Sunday school programs. I was very grateful for this and the detailed coursework they offered, specifically the in-depth instruction on how Bible teachers can find different approaches for different types of students in Christian education.
In September 2023, I became the director of the Sunday school, always staying mindful of how important it is to reach all types of children and sow the truth in their hearts.
MTS Student – Alexey In His Own Words
Alexey is a preacher, youth leader, librarian in the city of Cherkessk (a city in the south of Russia with a population of about 127 thousand people).
Once, during my second year of study, I was on the bus home to Cherkessk when a troubled man climbed on board. He was dirty, swollen, and smelling foul. I began to pray for him. I felt a prompting to give him a pocket New Testament. All around him people were indignant, pushing him out of the aisle and trying to get him off the bus. But the man behaved meekly and humbly. When he got on board, he seemed to understand that he was a misfit. So, to be sure he would not disturb or contaminate anyone, he kept to himself, ignoring the unpleasantness of the other passengers. His entire demeanor impressed me.
I struggled. Somehow, it felt so untimely. I held back, ashamed to give him the New Testament as the public watched. I knew I should say something, but I didn’t. He left before I could give him the book.
For the remainder of my long journey on the bus, I prayed for him and wept.
I am sharing this because in our learning atmosphere at the seminary we talk with each other and tell stories from our ministry life. It is helpful to review these moments and think about how even failed opportunities can teach us. Before I studied with my friends in the seminary, this man on the bus would not have attracted my attention even for a moment. I would not have considered giving him the Gospel. But I do now.
That will not happen again.
My seminary training also helps bring discipline into my life. Before, I was never disciplined. I lived as I wanted. I ate when I wanted. I did not think about anyone but myself. Study has helped me discipline myself and take responsibility.
Today, the church has encouraged me to be involved in the educational process in our community. Our church library was recently restored and stocked with books. A long time ago, it was destroyed beyond repair. But my wife and I rebuilt it – from scratch.
From time to time, we travel into the city with our young people. We partner with the Gideons to distribute New Testaments and postcards and to greet residents on holidays.
In our own neighborhood in the summer, we go to the park between services almost every Sunday with our young people and families up to 50 years old.
We stay until late talking to people, testifying about the goodness and Good News of God.
(Translated from Russian)
Worship Service in Cherkessk