In October 2014, the EWI team held a training conference for Russian national instructors, the first ever of its kind. While planning the event, selection of the city for the training was a matter of some debate. Although many factors attracted us to the city we chose, initially we hesitated, concerned that our host church might be indifferent to the question of ministry to Muslims. After all, that region is in the agricultural heartland of southwestern Russia, far removed from the country’s Islamic lands. (Picture something analogous to the state of Iowa)
In the end, we decided to put this concern aside. Our main objective was to train national instructors. The evening lectures our trainees would teach for the hosting church was an auxiliary part of our strategy, simply to give our future instructors practice in public speaking.
You can imagine our surprise when, the week before our arrival, we began receiving messages from the church’s pastor asking us to increase the number of presentations to the local congregation. Apparently, God was moving, growing interest and excitement ahead of our coming. When we arrived that Sunday, we enjoyed fellowship with the church during the evening service, being warmly received by that body.
On Monday evening, 37 church members came to hear our national instructors deliver their first lessons, listening intently for two hours as four trainees each taught a 30-minute lesson. When we dismissed for the evening, many came forward to talk further with our instructors.
We stood by and listened as two women from the church’s evangelism team exclaimed, “This seminar is just like a miracle to us!” Seeing our look of surprise, they went on to explain, “Just a few days ago we were doing evangelism in a part of town where there are some large construction projects. One of the homes we visited in that neighborhood was filled with men and women from Central Asia, living here temporarily to work at the construction site. Seeing that they were Asians and Muslims, we expected them to send us away, but they invited us in and seemed really interested to hear the message of Jesus.”
The women went on to share about their interaction but ended their story saying, “We realized that we need to know more about Islam in order to tell these people the good news about Jesus more clearly!” After a pause for wide smiles, they added, “And your seminar coming to our city is like an answer to our prayers!”
During the following three days, the evening seminars grew to 40 attendees and was typified by strong audience attention. This church body now hopes to host further EWI training at its regional youth rally and is also praying about sending a short-term team to assist missionary efforts in one of Russia’s Muslim regions.