For the past 7 years I have been involved in ministry with the Union of Evangelical Churches (UECB) – what we usually call the Russian Baptist Union – through Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) who are located in Rockford, IL.
It all began while fellowshipping with a number of like-minded pastors in Michigan and hearing from SGA’s president, Bob Provost. He told us of the opportunity before us, to help train pastors and missionaries in Russia through year-long Strategic Bible Institutes (SBI’s) in a variety of locations in Russia.
We as pastors all looked at each other and said, “What’s stopping us as a coalition of churches from hosting an SBI?” We then went to our church families, sought their input with the vision and soon we were planning an SBI at Grace Church in Kirovo-Chepetsk, Kirov, Russia. For the next two years we continued to partner with SGA in hosting an SBI in Krasnodar, Russia.
When I moved from Michigan to Castro Valley First Baptist Church in California, I quickly found a like-minded group of pastors/churches that had a burden for Russia. They are called the Northern California Antioch Initiative and are working specifically with the UECB in the land of Bashkortostan, Russia. I have had the privilege of visiting Ufa, the main city of Bashkortostan, twice; Once with my associate pastor, Don Ott, in November of 2005, and again with Pastor Matthew Blevins and a team of six in January of 2007.
Our main focus is the training of the national pastors through quarterly seminary classes taught by American Pastors. Each class lasts a week, but there is always ministry going on over the weekends.
I have a big love for the people and the churches of Russia. They are genuine in their faith, passionate about serving God, simple in their outlook and are a refreshing reminder that we have become complex in our Christianity.
The leader of the Baptist Union in Bashkortostan is Piotr Zhuk. He looks rather intimidating, but he is like a warm and friendly teddy bear.
The classes usually run about 25-30 in attendance and represent both pastors and deacons from all over the region of Bashkortostan. In total, Piotr estimates that there may be only 1000 Christians in this region.