A Miracle of God's Protection

Churches under God's wings.

Olga Murga is the Shepherdess Coordinator for the Euro-Asia Division. She translates and publishes the Shepherdess International Journal in Russia each quarter.

Many years ago, in 1974, there lived a young pastor and his Family in a small town in Siberia. Their little house was located near the bank of the Ob River. Their street's name was Priobskaya, which means "close to Ob."

Though the pastor had 160 members in his fold, the local officials refused to recognize the fact that there was an active Seventh-day Adventist church in the town. From time to time, the members of the church would prepare a special document listing twenty members of the church in order to register the church and make all its activities legal.

In Moscow, Ukraine, Tub, and some other places many churches had been officially registered. To be registered a church had to have at least twenty members, and per­mission from the official in charge of religion. Once officially regis­tered, and even though there were some regulations and strict control, a church could then operate legally.

The believers of this city did not want to break any laws, so they asked the officials to register their church. Perhaps because their children did not go to school on Saturday, or perhaps because the officials wanted to keep Siberia atheistic, the requests were ignored.

But life went on. The work in the church was organized through small groups. Church services took place in private homes, sometimes in little apartments. Every Sabbath there were church services in eight different locations. There were eight group-leaders. They were young men and women, sincere and brave. They did not call themselves "dea­cons," but each of them did the work that was usually done by an expe­rienced deacon. They organized church services, preached sermons, and prayed for new members for the church.

Because the church was not registered, meetings had to be kept secret. This presented a problem because group times and places had to be constantly changed in order to prevent the officials from dis­covering when and where the church members met.

Employment also presented a problem. Every citizen had to officially hold a job. If they did not, they could be taken to court and sent to jail. Church employees had to find other "official" jobs to prevent being sent to court. These employees looked for part-time jobs so they could have time to devote to their church jobs. The part-time jobs were for low-paying positions such as janitors and yard workers. Most people considered these jobs to be demeaning and felt only "good-for-nothing" folks would lower themselves to do such menial tasks. When the community members saw the intelligence, dignity and good manners of the Christians at those jobs, they were surprised and asked, "How can you stand a job as low as this one?"

The believers were will­ing to sacrifice everything to keep the church commu­nity alive. They constantly attempted to add new mem­bers and each year every group prepared for five to six new baptisms. Thirty to 35 people were baptized annually; a number that was considered very impressive in 1974. The Moscow churches annually baptized about 15 people while the churches in Tula had an annual baptismal rate of three to five people. Clearly the Lord was working in that small village in Siberia.

The pastor and his family, including his two little children, always asked God to keep their little gatherings secret for they knew that if they were caught, a case could be started against the pastor and he could be arrested. The enemies of God worked hard to catch the pastor in such an activity. Though there were spies and some dishonest people in the church, the officials never could find church members holding a church service. God protected the pastor and his family.

One early Sabbath morning the pastor and his wife prepared to go to church. Fortunately the wife looked out a window before opening the door. Through the window of the house across the street, she saw a man furiously pointing at their house and banging the table. She called her husband. "Well," he said, "looks like they are going to try to catch us today. Let's leave the kids at home with their grandmother." 

The pastor and his wife decided to change their travel plans. Instead of going to the bus stop, they decided to go to the train station. As they left the house, they heard the sound of the neigh­bor's door opening. They started walking faster. A young man with a blue bag followed them. As they entered the train station, they saw the train leaving. The couple ran to catch the train. God gave them the strength to catch up with the last car and hop in. As the doors closed behind them, they looked to see the young man standing in the station with a look of anger and disappointment on his face. The young couple bowed their heads in quiet prayer to thank God.

Because they wanted to protect the security of the church, the couple decided not to go to the church service. They got off at the next stop and went walking in the woods. They knew their church was safe, but they wondered what was happening at home.

When the spies realized they had failed in their attempt to find the church service, they turned their anger toward those at the pastor's home. The men broke the front door and rushed into the house. The pastor's mother-in-law was there, holding the hands of the two little  grandchildren. Angrily the spies asked her, "Where is your son-in-law? Give us his passport!" The grandmother tried to keep calm. She gathered all the strength she had and said, "It was not necessary to break the door. It is cold and I have two children in the house. I don't know where my son-in-law is and

I don't have his passport." The persecutors knew that it was true that often those who stayed at home did not know where the church services took place. The men left the house, cursing. Fortu­nately they did not feel like fighting with an old woman and two helpless children.

Later that night the pastor and his wife came home. They fixed the door and thanked God that their family was unharmed.

The following Sunday was Election Day. The pastor's wife ran into the neighbor. Fle was a little drunk, and he said to her, "There were motorcycles at every street corner yesterday to look for you. Where did you and your husband disappear? Everyone is amazed that you could not be found!" The young pastor and his wife were astonished to find out that the officials had been trying to catch them every Sabbath! For seven years they had held church services every Sabbath, and not once had they been caught. It was then that they realized how fully God had protected them. They had lived through seven years of intense and dangerous times without ever being caught. Clearly their churches were truly "under God's wings."

Olga Murga is the Shepherdess Coordinator for the Euro-Asia Division. She translates and publishes the Shepherdess International Journal in Russia each quarter.