Coming of Age Picnic

Lyoha and Dima, roasting the main course.

Our church, “Christ’s Love”, is celebrating her eighteenth year. She is a young lass, full of youth, vibrance! A bright and beautiful light in a city who needs one. Don’t be fooled by her youth though, she is wise beyond her years. She is familiar with death and despair, she has tasted the ravages of drug abuse, alcoholism and HIV. Many of our friends here have recovered from addiction. Believe me, they know how to celebrate life, having returned from Death’s door! She radiates life, reflecting the glory of her Maker.

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On June 11th, we gathered under the sun to sing, laugh, play games and enjoy each others’ presence. Rain or shine, we always have a great time! (Last year we were all soaked to the bone at our picnic.) We also have a light-hearted tradition of dressing up, a costume picnic of sorts, hence the bright yellow hair and green frog costumes. Welcome to LIFE in Irkutsk.

Mother Teresa of Khakassia: Sveta Nerbisheva

Sweet Sveta, God's servant to Khakassia.


Thirty-six hours away by train, Nikolai, Sveta’s husband, lay at death’s door. By phone the surgeon told Sveta that Nikolai had little hope of surviving. Sveta’s best friend agreed to fast with her for her husband’s life and Sveta decided she would not accept the surgeon’s prognosis. Sveta set off by train from Ulan-Ude toward Askiz, in the Republic of Khakassia. “My fast was unlike any I have ever experienced. I felt like a tree branch in a very strong wind. The whole trip home I was being blown about.” Her journey home was one on her knees in prayer with many tears. “I begged God for the life of my husband, who had not repented.” God reminded Sveta continuously of Luke 8:50 . . .”Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” (From the story of Jesus resurrecting Jarius’ daughter.) Upon her arrival at the hospital, Sveta could not recognize her husband. His head was extremely swollen, his kidneys had failed, he had had a heart attack, and was suffering from blood or food poisoning. She asked Nikolai to repent, but he was not ready. So they prayed over him some more. The next day he finally asked Jesus to be his savior. His kidneys began working soon after that, and his health was restored!

Sveta is Khakas, an Asian people native to Siberia. There are about 76,000 Khakas, fifty of which are believers. Khakassia is a rolling, grassy steppeland enframed by the Sayani mountains. Ancient graves marked by massive standing stones speckle the terrain. The Khakas people bring offerings to placate the territorial spirits, which are numerous, they seem to reside in every rock, tree, and river.

A typical panoramic view of Khakassia. Astounding!

Valley of the Chiefs (or Tsars). Remnants of ancient Asian cultures, standing stones mark graves and holy places throughout Khakassia.

Sveta and Nikolai had both been alcoholics. Through a long tough road, Sveta came to faith in Jesus. After caring for her paralyzed mother for three years, Sveta got a job as a nurse’s aide. “I asked God for a long time how I could serve him, I didn’t know he was preparing me to serve him through the sickness of my mother.” She works at a place where the homeless and addicts come when they are ill and have no where to go. Sveta showers God’s love upon them by singing, reading the Bible, washing them, changing them, and getting them groceries. Recently with the help of her pastor she got a shower and tub installed at the center to wash these sick people. Before that she had to wash them on a stool. “The people can see how God loves them, he cares that they are clean, and I can wash them more easily.” says Sveta with a big grin. ”

What a transformation – from alcoholic to ministering angel!