Russia Trip Report
Last year, I’ve been given the opportunity to minister in England, by the Grace of God where I, Constantin Lupancu, met a Romanian church formed by a group of youth and pastured by youth pastor, Corneliu Nistor. I noticed something very interesting thing; when the majority of missionaries were led to mission fields in the western countries, Corneliu’s heart was led to do missions in the eastern countries (especially Russia). A team of Romanians from London, Chicago, Canada, and Republic of Moldova ministered in Russia. The mission group consists of:
- John Tibu & Constantin Lupancu – (Chicago)
- Andrei Caniuca – (Canada)
- Corneliu Nistor, Ioan Popa, Ionut Vaipan, Dorin Piscuc, Vlavius Circiu, Gabriel Dumitrescu, Ivan Moroz, Ilie Adrian Rotariu, Danut Visan, Gheorghe Boja, Cosmin Gheorghe Berciu & Victor Serban – (London)
- Nicolae Maistriuc & Andrei Berezovsky – (Republic of Moldova)
We met on April 22nd, Sunday, at the Moscow airport, Sheremetyevo for the first time. We took a 9 hour flight from Moscow to Vladivastok (far eastern part of Russia), in the evening and arrived Monday morning, April 23rd, being welcomed by youth leader Sasha of Nahotka Church, also our coordinator. The name Vladivastok means ‘Owner of the East’. Vladivastok is the largest Pacific port of Russia. The Vladivastok climate seems to be calmer than expected, even with the Pacific front and Siberian front extending from the Arctic Ocean.
From Vladivastok our coordinator drove us by a minibus to another city Nahotka, about 200 km away. Nahotka is the farthest eastern city in Russia. We were now 15 hours ahead of Chicago time. We saw the billboard that said “Russia starts from here” close to the Japanese Sea. The Christian brothers here welcomed us with love and kindness. Here the episcope, Nicolae, our host for this trip, made our mission plan. We grouped up two teams and we accommodated into apartments in the city for the efficiency of the mission.
Tuesday, April 24th, we began our mission at the church in Nahotka where we had two hours of prayer and John Tibu, Danut Visan, and Ionut Vaipan gave messages of exhortation to the church of 80 members present that morning. After the service, we went to the grocery store where we purchased goods to prepare for about 500 packages (200 for orphanages, 100 for nursing homes for the elderly, and 200 for children from church).
One group from our mission visited a very poor family of eight children with sick parents, this afternoon. The city’s City Hall, donated an old house to this family but the family was never able to do any home improvements. The children were living in very unhealthy conditions. A part of the mission group voluntarily improved two rooms at absolutely no cost to the family for materials or labor. Our host, Nicolae took us to the city’s cemetery where his wife was buried in March 2006 due to cancer. In this cemetery, Episcope Nicolae showed us the graves of over 150 youth that died due to drugs and gang related deaths in 2006 alone. From a city with a population of 200,000, it is an alarming rate.
After the communist party was abolished, Russia was introduced to new various types of drugs that weren’t banned. This caused countless youth to be victimized by opium, marijuana, heroine, cocaine, meth, all sorts of narcotics, and chemicals. Today there are many youth dependant on such drugs, and a lot of them die. True Christians have opened rehab centers in Nahotka for these lost youth, which are like an island in the middle of the rough ocean waves. A brother from the church had a testimony where a drug addicted gang member came into their church in fear of those who sought to kill him. He asked the church to pray for his life and so they did. He came back to testify to the church that all of those who tried to kill him, were dead only two weeks since. We can realize what the Russian youth is facing nowadays.
We had fellowship with the church and had seafood for lunch and something very specific was also served; a plant that grows up to 4 meters at the bottom of the Japanese Sea, and is used for medicine purposes. At night we had a youth service where almost the entire church was present (approx. 300 members). We sang in Romanian whilst they sang in Russian. Ilie Rotariu preached from Luke 24 (On the Road to Emmaus). Constantin Lupancu preached from Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 & 12:1 (Remember Your Creator While Young). It was a wonderful night.
Wednesday, April 25th began early in the morning with a Russian breakfast. We went to church at 9 o’clock where we started another time of devotion and prayer to God. Brothers John Tibu and Ioan Popa exhorted us and the other members in prayer for special purpose. We prepared our packages for the nursing homes we visited that afternoon. The director of this nursing home, former officer who fought in Afghanistan and Cecenia War, welcomed us to bring good news of encouragement to the elderly. We held a service for about an hour of singing and preaching the Word of God. Corneliu Nistor and Constantin Lupancu gave messages of hope and prayed for them. Many lives were touched and they claimed they do not want to spend eternity in hell, but chose to receive Jesus Christ and be with Him in heaven for eternity. After that, we distributed the packages of good and bed covers to them.
After we were served lunch, we went to the city orphanage of Nahotka, which is located somewhere close to the Japanese Sea. There were about 200 children. We sang a few songs to them and John Tibu delivered a message according to their understanding, titled “David and Goliath”. We then prayed for them and asked God to bless them in their lives. Children were very attentive and they proclaimed their love for Jesus Christ, who is their only hope. These innocent children live in this orphanage as they would in a prison. Most of them came into this world as a result of sinful love and abandoned by their teenage mothers who couldn’t nurture and raise them. I can still remember their innocent faces and I said, “If God didn’t have mercy of these souls, they could’ve become trapped in the abyss of the Russian society without a positive future.” They were full of joy as we gave them the packaged goods.
On our way to the church, we stopped at a Presbyterian church, which was founded by a South Korean pastor, where we were welcomed with joy. We didn’t spend much time there and sang only two songs. At night, we came back to the church in Nahotka. Corneliu Nistor preached the message from Genesis 6:14-22 as an analogy with “The Ark of Noah being illustrated as the Church of Jesus Christ.” The entire congregation rejoiced and made the commitment for holiness and purity. Many songs were sung in both Russian and Romanian languages.
On Thursday, April 26th, we started our time of devotion with Ionut Vaipan, John Tibu, Danut Visan exhorting in a time of prayer and devotion for about two hours in the church of Nahotka where brothers and sisters would come to the morning service. We had a wonderful time of fellowship; some local members even took some time off work to be present. After this service, we went to the city where we purchased goods for one hundred widows and needy families. We purchased about 300 kg of sugar, 300 kg of flour, macaroni, tea, potatoes, salami, butter, and chocolate. We rented a truck and delivered these goods personally to those families in need and widows. People don’t have a place to work because many factories were closed down after 1990 when the communist party fell. Children lived in very bad conditions (houses with mold, filthy air, etc). Some of the brothers finished rehabbing the rooms in the home with eight children. They were rejoicing because they have a healthier place to live in. After we shared the goods, we came back to the church to organize our next schedule for the following days.
On Friday, April 27th, our hosts Nicolae and Sasha arrived with two minivans. A team of nine embarked in two vans and headed towards Siberia, Taiga to minister in other villages and cities. The second team ministered in the villages and cities close to Nahotka. We traveled by minivan 600 km that day to the city of Dalirecinsc about 10 km away from the border of China. We arrived around 6pm and we stopped only at one restaurant where we had lunch and we asked the waitresses if we can pray for them. They were surprised and accepted our request. They commented that the majority of their customers were very vulgar with them and it was the first time when anyone asked to pray for them. We also gave them bibles. When we arrived to Dalirecinsc, about 65 were waiting for us at the church. The group was formed by Constantin Lupancu, Corneliu Nistor, Ioan Popa, Ionut Vaipan, Dorin Piscuc, Vlavius Circiu, Gabriel Dumitrescu, and Ivan Moroz. We sang songs, and Constantin Lupancu ministered with the message from Acts 2, “The Holy Spirit Comes Suddenly at Pentecost” and Corneliu Nistor ministered with the message from John 5;1-7 “The Jerusalem Gates”. We prayed for the sick and there was an awesome presence of God. People were very happy and joyful being visited by foreigners who financially helped the needy. After, we covered two benches together with a mattress, and there we slept for the night. Where we ministered, we also rested and praised the Lord for that day.
On Saturday, April 28th, we woke up early morning and began our day with a hearty breakfast and a devotional prayer asking God to remain with us. Here in Dalirecinsc, we met a deacon named Sasha who is the leader of city church. He has a family of eleven children and his wife descends from a Jewish family. They are very committed to the Lord and sacrifice a lot of time to His service. Brother Sasha joined us as we reached other Siberian villages and cities. After traveling north for another 500 km by the Chinese border, we arrived in the city Khabarovsk, the capital of Vladivastok region, close to the Amur River. The road was swampy and forest like on either side throughout the majority of the trip. Army bases, hangars, and bunkers were in these forests along the way. The city was also built around army bases because it is located close to the borders of China, North Korea, and Japan. We toured the city where we saw the rail station and rail road which were built on the bones of workers that died during the construction according to the locals. We ministered to a church of about one hundred people. Gabriel Dumitrescu, Ioan Popa, and Corneliu Nistor brought messages of encouragement. The other team members sang and prayed for special purposes. We blessed their needy families financially, with the money we brought together. We rested where we ministered for the night on the benches once again. We thanked the Lord for being with us and using us to bring joy to those families.
Sunday, April 29th, we awoke around 8 a.m. and we headed to Birabijan, a city of Hebrew people. During the Stalin regime, he departed the Hebrews from Transinistria and left them in the swampy ground here in Siberia. The Hebrews built the city which is Birabijan. This happened in many places in throughout Siberia, where people from different regions in Russia were forced to leave and populate Siberia, the vague, swampy, forest like taiga. Unfortunately, the weak and elderly did not survive these cruel conditions, but the younger and stronger, built homes and villages. Similar cases happened with people from Republic of Moldova being transferred by force to Siberia where they built a village called Moldoveanca. We arrived at the church around 11:30 a.m. where we met Hebrews from Ukraine. Ivan Moroz, Constantin Lupancu, and Corneliu Nistor ministered from the Word of God. After the service, we had fellowship with the people from the city. Here we met and elderly brother which worked in the area for many years. He was persecuted for Christ but God assisted him with many signs and miracles. The local brothers confirmed all of which the elder testified. A brother from the Siberian taiga came to meet us in the Birabijan church. Brother Nicolae, our host, donated his car to this brother for ministry use in the 10 churches which he ministers. Our group donated $10,000 to brother Nicolae for another vehicle to be used in his ministry to 54 churches, where he is episcope. Brother Nicolae, who is a widow with 7 children, broke up in tears when he received our donation for the new car. He said “It is a river of blessings for me and my ministry.” We visited the city Birabijan and we saw the Hebrew menorah, the seven-branched lamp stand built from the money of Ariel Sharon; former leader of Israel. He promised the people he would come to the inauguration of the menorah but became sick in that time and couldn’t attend. A train from Bagadan (north of Siberia) arrived in the train station of Birabijan which was destined to travel eight days to Ukraine. It is very horrible to travel for so long on any train such as this one. In downtown of Birabijan, the Hebrew synagogue was built near the Vladimir Lenin statue. At night, we backtracked to Khabarovsk where we slept again on the benches.
Monday, April 30th, we left early morning to Amurscaia, a city about 400 km on roads through forests where we saw only army bases. We arrived in Amurscaia early evening. Amurscaia is a city built on the bench of the Amur River. It used to be a flourishing city because people had jobs in army factories where they built weapons. But now it is partially deserted because the factories were shut down after the fall of the communist regime. About sixty people attended the church and they were very glad because we were the first foreigners to ever come to their church since they could remember. Gabriel Dumitrescu, Ioan Popa, ministered that night. We realized that a lot of elderly people were in a deep need of financial help. So we gladly responded to their needs and offered them help. We rested for the night in an apartment in the city. We gave praise to the Lord for that day.
Tuesday, May 1st, we left in the morning towards Dalirerinsc through the deep Siberian taiga. We arrived in Dalirerinsc around 10:40 p.m. at the church and we rested for the night in the benches of the church in Dalirerinsc.
Wednesday, May 2nd, we went to another village called Slavo Gospodo which means ‘Praised the Lord’ in Russian. Here we heard a testimony that the Christians were deported from other parts of Russia where one of the worst prisons for Christians and politicians existed. The forests near Slavo Gospodo are full of bears, tigers, and a venomous insect which was spread by the Japanese during World War II to paralyze the soldiers hiding in those forests. This insects venom has no antidote as of yet. We stopped at one family for a few minutes for lunch and continued our way through the taiga and rich mountains. We arrived at one village located on a beautiful mountain plateau, far from other villages, and very isolated from society. A lot of people from the village came to see us and to hear the good news of salvation. The sheriff’s wife, among others that attended the service, surrendered their life to Jesus Christ that afternoon. We gave the needy a lovely offer in the name of Jesus Christ and left that beautiful village and headed back to Dalirerinsc. We arrived late in the night and slept again on the church benches giving praise to the Lord for the day.
Thursday, May 3rd, we departed early in the morning from Dalirerinsc towards Nahotka. On hour way to Nahotka we stopped at military city Fochina, near the Japanese Sea, where we met with the other group. The second group ministered in a church in Fochina. The church was actually an apartment building where many gathered that you couldn’t find a place to sit. Since it was so crowded we planned to stay only for a very short time and continued our way to Nahotka. When we arrived in Nahotka, we were met by a Romanian brother, Viero Alexandro, who moved there with his family seven years ago from Republic of Moldova. He was glad that he could speak the same language as us. He invited us to come to his city, Artema, 50 km north of Vladivastok and 120 km from Nahotka. Constantin Lupancu decided to visit his family that night. Serioja, a Russian brother, drove us with his car to Artema, where he spent the night.
Friday, May 4th, I met the Viero family and they were all very pleased and happy to finally meet a Romanian person, being far from their native country for so long. In the afternoon, I went with brother Viero to tour Vladivastok city. At night, I had a meeting at the local church in Artema. There were about 35 Russian-speaking people and I ministered to them for about an hour as brother Viero translated to them in Russian. I spoke to them about the difference between the Pentecost event and the Pentecost experience. At the end, I prayed for them and they sent greetings to the brothers in our mission and in the USA.
Saturday, May 5th, I returned back to Nahotka where we held the Chaplaincy Training Seminar for the purpose of provoking, motivating, and inspiring the Russian youth, adults, and elderly to practice evangelism and discipleship in prisons, orphanages, nursing homes, etc. Brother John Tibu spoke about the importance of the preparation of the servants in the Word of God. They were about 65 people present and we handed them a certification of completion issued by Chaplains of Christ International. We did not have access to minister in the prisons because the Russian government issued a law against foreigners ministering in prisons. We believe that this seminar will put a fire and passion in the hearts of the Russian Christians to do the duty they are called for by Jesus Christ. The Russian people asked us many questions about the evangelism we are doing. They desired to participate, since they admitted they had once abandoned their passion for the lost souls some time ago. They stated that we revived them. In their church yard, there lay a very large container of hundreds of hundreds of bibles and other Christian material that was ignored for a long time. We exhorted them to get rid of them by means of giving it to the hungry souls. Corneliu Nistor prayed for all the participants and blessed them in the name of Jesus Christ.
Sunday, May 6th, we had a time of prayer and teaching in the morning at Nahotka church. Brother John Tibu preached from Psalm 133, “Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church”. Ilie Rotariu preached from Joshua 23:1-16, “Joshua’s Farewell to the Leaders”. Corneliu Nistor preached from Mark 10:17-31, “The Rich Young Man”. Brother Nicolae Maistriuc (Colea) translated into Russian. Three souls decided to give their life to Jesus Christ. We attended their youth service in the afternoon where youth from Nahotka and surrounding villages were present. Victor Serban and Constantin Lupancu bridged the gap between generations as they passed their experience with God to the new generation. Corneliu Nistor exhorted the people to choose the best model for your life (Jesus Christ). We ended the service in prayer for the youth, and were treated with a departure meal.
Monday, May 7th, we woke up around 5 a.m. and departed towards the Vladivastok airport. We flew to Moscow about 9 hours with Air Vladivastok airline. In Moscow the group from England took the British airline as we took the Lufthansa airline towards Frankfurt/Main, Germany where we spent the night in a hotel. There we finally rested in beds after sleeping on benches and floors for 15 days, it felt good and we praised the Lord.
Tuesday, May 8th, we embarked an 8-hour flight from Frankfurt to Chicago at 10a.m. and arrived at 12p.m. on the same day.
We praised the Lord our God for protecting us and our families and bringing us safely home with a wonderful testimony from the Far East to share with others here in the West. Let us pray for the despised, neglected, and ignored by civilization and not by God.