Sports Creates Pathway to Share Gospel in Russia

Post a Comment » Written on December 9th, 2009     
Filed under: News
ASBEST, RUSSIA (December 9, 2009) – A historic meeting in 2006 between the Mission Covenant Church of Sweden (MCCS) and the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) has led to stronger outreach in Russia, a country that has continued to tighten restrictions on evangelism.

Soccer oneThroughout the past year, members of both denominations have preached in the country and organized the first Christian soccer camp in the Urals.

In March, John Kerl and Leonid Regheta of the ECC, along with Goran Holmberg and Tomas Hammer of MCCS and Keith Tungseth of Breakthrough Partners, ministered together in Moscow, St Petersburg, and the Urals. Deeper relationships were formed even as the representatives from the churches preached to and taught pastors and lay leaders.

In August, 130 children and teenagers participated in the first Christian soccer camp, which was held in the city of Asbest. Some students traveled up to nine hours to participate.

With the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014, many churches are using sports to reach young people and promote healthy living, says Regheta, an ECC project missionary to Russia. Sport teams are established by the churches to participate in the local tournaments all around the country as one of the outreach methods.

“The sports camp in Asbest has created an extremely high level of enthusiasm among children, youth and even our children and youth pastors,” notes Alexei Kobelev, senior pastor of Love of Christ Church.

Soccer twoThe work done through ministries such as sports camps is increasingly important as Russia cracks down on evangelistic ministry overall, says Regheta. That crackdown led Regheta and his wife, Leanna, who had lived in Russia on visas, to consider whether to continue their ministry to Russia.

The country now gives one-year visas, but church workers can stay only for three months before having to leave for three months. They can return after that, but only for another three months. Living in the country is no longer allowed.

The missionary couple now lives in Texas and leads a U.S.-based project that enables Regheta to travel back to Russia to build on previous ministry while enabling him to work with Russian immigrants here. The project was approved during the 2009 ECC Annual Meeting and will run two years. Click here to visit the Regheta’s website.

Regheta also is promoting the work of Christian Radio for Russia (CRFR) a ministry supported by 20 Covenant churches, that has been hindered in its evangelistic and discipleship work by the country’s policies and worsening economic situation. The radio station continues to broadcast across the country 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but had to lay off four employees recently.

“Most Covenanters don’t realize how extensive our outreach is, or how we are fulfilling the dream set out by the Annual Meeting in 1993 to reach Russia for Christ,” says Dan Johnson, president of Christian Radio for Russia (CRFR) which operates New Life Radio.

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