Russia: Preaching in Kharkov

By James Johnson

Bruce Hudson and James John-son met in Moscow on 18 August 1992 for what was a preaching experience they will long remember. Our hosts met us at the airport and made arrangements for the train trip to Kharkov. That was another experience that will not be soon forgotten, but we arrived in Kharkov and our local hosts were there to meet us. We spent the mornings studying Russian and the afternoons preaching, studying and writing.

Since we requested that our hosts not separate us they put us in an apartment by ourselves where we had to shop, cook and clean for our-selves. We managed this for about two weeks when they moved us into an apartment with our host who had a large apartment that we could share. Our Russian hosts arranged to print some copies of lesson one for a Bible correspondence course that we had obtained masters of from Steve Wallace. They also got us advertisements in the newspaper and on two local TV stations. We used these media as a means to advertise for a gospel meeting.

When the night of the meeting arrived, I was quite apprehensive as there was no church at all in Kharkov, and I did not know if any would attend. We were pleased that the Lord provided about 15 people at our first meeting. I spoke through an interpreter for about an hour and answered questions for about another hour. This indicated the great interest that prevails throughout the former Soviet Union about things religious. We had good questions throughout our meetings.

We met one who appeared to be either from an indigenous church of the Lord or left from the Russian restoration movement that was forced underground following the 1917 revolution. We did not find any-thing that we disagreed on regarding the work and organization of the church. There were several Baptists that attended who approved of our teaching on morals and doctrine until we got to baptism, and they choked on that. We had no baptisms, but there were three to five who attended the meeting who would have probably been baptized if we had been able to stay longer. We also got an appointment to speak at a school which was held during the day as a result of our speaking at the meeting.

The school at which we spoke on the last day of our stay in Kharkov was one of the high points of the meeting and one that I will long remember. It turned out that the “school” was one for junior KGB trainees. It was ironic that only the year before their senior compatriots were arresting people for importing Bibles and teaching non-state approved religion, and we spoke to them and handed out Bibles freely. Truly the Lord opened a door for us in that city.

Another point of great interest to me occurred at one of our numerous speaking engagements at local schools. In the particular classroom in which we spoke that afternoon, I noted with great irony that the Bible was being taught in the same class-room in which a bust of Lenin hung over the preacher’s head. I took a photo of this startling contrast and it is one that I will always treasure. It reminded me that Satan has made it impossible to even read the Bible in American public schools and there we were in a former “forbidden” city preaching the gospel in a former atheist classroom. It was an irony comparable to the French Bible Society printing the Bible in the very home of the atheist Voltaire less than 50 years after his death.

During our stay we also had the chance to speak with Christians in Kiev. There is a small but active group there which has good potential. We spoke briefly at the services there. We also spoke to men in Dniepropetrovsk regarding the gospel, and they expressed interest in hearing more. One man rode a bus 8 hours to come and speak with us for 2 hours and then took a bus 8 hours back.

When we left Kharkov a number of people met with us at the train station. Even though we had been there only five short weeks there were tears shed as we left because they knew there would be none who would be able to teach them the sincere gospel of Christ in our absence. There were six to ten people who were excellent prospects for the gospel that we taught in our brief visit there and we just barely scratched the surface. From what I could gather talking to brethren and denominational missionaries visiting there, the whole former Soviet Union is like that.

We spent two days in Moscow where we had a chance to meet briefly with Phil Morgan, Greg Gwin, John Smith, Steve Brewer, and Tom-my Porch who were there preaching and teaching during that time. They also experienced great success in this vast land, and their results are reported elsewhere.

The fields are indeed white unto harvest. Pray ye the Lord of harvest that he will send forth reapers unto the harvest.

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 4, p. 15
February 18, 1993