By Will Hall, Message Editor
MINSK, Belarus (LBM) – Albert and Olga Melnichuck are typical Belarusians in their experiences with the deep despair that grips the people of this former republic of the former Soviet Union, but also in their life-changing transformation after encountering the Gospel.
The middle-aged Belokonevs were caught in an ever tightening downward spiral in life, according to Andrew Ryzhkov, founder of the Byelorussian Mission ministry, who told their story to the Baptist Message.
“He was a drunk because of a stressful job, always dealing with death, and the economy went down,” Ryzhkov described. “His wife was constantly complaining and their marriage was falling apart.
“But in the midst of all this turmoil, they came to the local church during our team’s most recent visit, and received Bibles we were distributing [Good and Evil Illustrated Bible], and they became curious,” he observed.
Ryzhkov said the couple reached out to him and his wife, Inna, and asked to meet at a coffee shop to answer their questions.
“We began meeting them, and they were asking about some of the things they were reading in their Bibles. We explained the stories and shared how these pointed to Christ, and we shared about Him,” Ryzhkov said, describing the couple’s growing eagerness as they continued to get together for coffee or tea and to talk.
“The wife was born again, first,” Ryzhkov shared, “then the husband. We learned after returning to the United States that the youngest of their three boys, the two oldest in high school, is now a Christian, too.”
BIBLE AS EVANGELISM TOOL
Jeff Ingram, adult ministry strategist for Louisiana Baptists, and one of the leaders of the Belarus ministry effort, said the story of the Belokonevs reflects the openness among Belarusians to the hope represented in the Gospel.
Ingram also made particular mention of the Good and Evil Illustrated Bible, published in a graphic novel format (comic strip panels), as an effective evangelism tool.
“This Bible has had a tremendous impact in sharing the Gospel with Belarusians,” he said. “Four in 10, or nearly 43 percent, of those who receive one, surrender their hearts and lives to Christ.”
Ryzhkov said Louisiana Baptists can make a difference in Belarus by donating these Bibles, at $10 per copy, or participating in one of several ministry in-country efforts this fall.
“There will be a regular trip, September 11-20, to conduct evangelism with local churches; a construction project, September 10-20, to help build chapels for congregations; a business conference, September 16-25, to train business leaders in leadership and management and share Christ; and, a conference, September 21-22, to strengthen families in the church and in the community.”
“We have heard from people with the International Mission Board that there is more openness to the Spirit of God among Belarusians than they have witnessed in the last 15 years,” he said. “Louisiana Baptists enjoy a special relationship with the pastors and congregations in this heavily atheistic and agnostic country.
“More and more people are coming to Christ and church membership is increasing,” he said. “Eight years of distributing the Bible is working to soften the hearts of the people and to help the evangelicals there to better understand the Gospel. I think God is preparing the country for some type of revival in the near future.
Ingram told the Baptist Message that Louisiana Baptists can help by donating just one Bible or one copy of “Experiencing God,” the popular Henry Blackaby study that has been translated into Russian. But he also emphasized there is still time to join one of the mission efforts planned for this fall.
“I’m going September 10,” Ingram declared. “We can still sign up people who are willing to go and disciple pastors and to teach church members how to use the literature to reach the lost.
Donate copies of the Good and Evil Illustrated Bible via ByelorussianMission.org. Fall events are listed on ByelorussianMission.org/calendar. Learn how to participate in one of these mission efforts by email to TommyMiddleton@BAGBR.org.