Mission Work in Russia Becoming All But Impossible

Post a Comment » Written on October 22nd, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (October 22, 2008) – Leonid Regheta, Evangelical Covenant Church project missionary to Russia, says barriers that the country has put up to evangelism are forcing his family to consider other ministry.

Russia has kicked out hundreds of missionaries, most of them evangelicals, Regheta says. “Russia has developed the idea that Russians should be Orthodox.”

The country now gives one-year visas, but church workers can stay only for three months before having to leave for three months, Regheta says. They can return after that, but only for another three months. “You can still visit Russia, but you can’t live there.”

That schedule is proving too disruptive for his family, which includes his wife, Leanna, and three children. They have lived in St. Petersburg, where they coordinated Covenant missions and developed relationships with other church leaders. Leonid also taught at Saint Petersburg Christian University.

“We’ve worked so hard to help the spiritual life of Russia,” he says, his frustration with the current situation readily apparent. He notes that the number of congregations the denomination has worked with has grown from 50 to 2,000 since 1990.

“The Orthodox Church feels threatened,” says Regheta, adding that is not the case for everyone. He has developed positive relationships with some church leaders and was welcomed by “progressive Orthodox clergy” and the bishop of the region.

Evangelism in the country requires a long period of developing relationships, even at odd hours, Regheta says. “If you want to bring someone to Christ, you have to drink tea with them until 3 a.m.,” he explains, noting that he has done so on many occasions as he gained people’s trust.

Russia’s decision to make missionary work more difficult may wind up benefiting the local churches, Regheta says. “It is good for the young evangelical churches because now it is forcing them to grow and care for others.”

He adds, “We need to partner with them to help them help themselves.”

The Reghetas are using this year as home assignment while they consider their options. Among the options they are considering is working in countries such as Ukraine and Estonia or serving as an associate pastor of missions in the United States.

Leanna, a Russian citizen, gained her American citizenship earlier this month.

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