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Russian  Christian  Community  in  Missouri

Paul Wong

How  the  Russian  Christians  came  to  our  Church  in  Houston

 

On Thursday December 13, 2001 Darrell Whitfield went grocery shopping with his brother in the local Walmart store in West Plains, Missouri.  He noticed a lady modestly attired with her son in the grocery cart.  He went over to talk with her and found out her name is Anna Pshonak and her son’s name is Daniel.  They are Apostolic Pentecostals from Russia recently immigrated there.  She gave Darrell her husband’s name as Yevgeniv and also their phone number.   That evening Darrell spoke to Yevgeniv who gave him their pastor’s phone number.

 

Darrell attended Sabbath service in their Community Church near Pomona, Mo. and called me Tuesday January 8, 2002.  He told me their worship is very much like what our congregation does, everyone kneeling down and praying together in unison.  Their pastor told Darrell they have four families living in Houston, Texas and would like to talk with me.   I also received Aleksey Prosinko's e-mail address and included him in the ARK Forum list. I called Pastor Nicholay Gantyuk who told me he would get in touch with their members in Houston.  I gave him my telephone number.  A few days later I received a phone call from a lady who introduced herself as Alexandria.  She spoke perfect English.  She is an American who is married to a Russian Christian named Andrey Mikhalov.  She wanted to know how to get to our church in Houston.  I drew a map with clear directions and instructions and mailed it to her. 

 

On February 23, 2002 four Russian Christian families of about 15 people including children attended their first Sabbath service in our church in Houston.  Their men are in the trucking business therefore may be sent to different cities in America.  With the exception of a few weeks when they went to Portland, Oregon or to their Community in Missouri they have been attending Sabbath services in our church in Houston regularly every week.  They have expressed they are very comfortable with our church, and we are also very comfortable with them.

 

In the Spring of 2002 Darrell Whitfield called and also e-mailed me with an invitation to visit his father’s congregation in Mountain Home, AK; attend the Passover Services with the Little Children of Jesus (Chris Barr’s) congregation in Pocahontas, AK and also visit the Russian Christian Community in Missouri. I could not go at that time because I had some previous commitments with our congregation in Houston and also my work on an architectural project. I told Darrell that I would really like to visit the brethren in Arkansas and also the Russian Christian Community in Missouri but did not know when the Lord Jesus Christ would make it possible for me to go there.

 

.Informal Conference in our Houston Church

A small group of leaders from the Russian Christian Community in Missouri that included Pastor Nikolay Gantyuk arrived in Houston, Texas on Friday June 21, 2002 to visit their members here.  They stayed with Brother Alexander Mikhalov Sr. who is the leader of the Russian Christians in Houston. He and his family live on the same street as Sister Hsiu-Lan Lee. My wife Cecilia Joan and I paid them a courtesy call on the evening of their arrival and invited them to the following day's Sabbath service in our Church.  

 

After our morning service and Fellowship meal I had an informal conference with the visitors and all their Russian members in Houston.  The topics of discussion were mostly about the basic beliefs of their church and ours.  We talked a great deal about the mode of baptism with head bowed in the likeness of Jesus' death because they had also been talking about this subject with a Messianic Jewish rabbi in Houston.  They were extremely happy to know that we also baptize in that mode which confirmed in their research this is the correct mode for baptism. 

 

Visit our Web Site:  Baptism in the Likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Death

During the informal conference we also discussed the following subjects:

Washing of Feet     and  Holy Communion  

The informal conference lasted about three hours and it was extremely fruitful and edifying to both sides.   Before the visitors left the Houston Church Pastor Gantyuk gave me his e-mail address to be included in the ARK Forum list. He invited me to visit their Community in Missouri.  I told him I would like to very much and shall pray for the Lord's guidance on this matter.

 

My First Visit to the Russian Christian Community in Missouri

 

Brother Alexander Mikhalov Sr. called me on August 22, 2002 and invited me to go with his family to the Russian Christian Community in Missouri.  Although I was scheduled to preach on Saturday (August 24, 2002) in our Houston Church I accepted His invitation.  I called Sister Lee of our Religious Department and she exchanged my preaching time with Brother Liu so that I could preach on the following Sabbath (August 31, 2002).  Praise God everything worked out fine.

 

Nine of us (four adults and five children) left Houston early on Friday morning at 4:30 a.m. and arrived at the Community at 6:00 p.m. that is a thirteen and half hours journey.  After leaving the state highways and driving through county roads over hills and dales, a maze of twists and turns of dirt roads between forests we finally came to a large opening of eighty acres of farm land. The first and most prominent building that one could see was the chapel amidst twenty four residential buildings sprawling all over the landscape. Unlike most church buildings outside this secluded country community there is no name sign either outside or inside the chapel. The only noticeable sign in English is “Speed – 10 miles per hour”. The picture on the right shows their chapel.

 

 

 

Brief  Description  of  the  Russian  Christian  Community

 

Alexander Mikhalov Sr. recalled the history of their church from what he had heard from his grandmother.  He thought the earliest believers were possibly Messianic Jews from Poland who had migrated to Russia around 1890.   They had developed a distinct faith from other Christian denominations after the Russian Revolution in 1917.  They believe in the One True God, baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking with tongues, and the observance of the Seventh Day Sabbath.  Because of their faith and refusal to join the Communist Party they were greatly persecuted by the Russian government.  They were discriminated against by the government in regard to getting government jobs and privileges, and their children were forbidden to attend colleges in Russia. 

 

In 1987 an American Protestant church (he did not know which one) learned about their plight and sponsored one of their families to immigrate to the United States of America.  That family first lived in Portland, Oregon.  Since that time other American Protestant churches have sponsored more of their members to immigrate to America.  After receiving their permanent residence status they sponsor their own relatives to immigrate to this country.  Up to the present time there is a rough estimate of nearly nine hundred members who are already here in the United States.  In Portland, Oregon there are over seven hundred members, in Missouri about one hundred and fifty and in Houston about twenty.

 

 

Profile of Pastor Nikolay Gantyuk

He is thirty four years old and lives with his wife Angelina and five children – three boys and two girls. They are Katya (16), Vladik (14), Egor (12) Tomas (11) and Susana (8). This family originally lived in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, a former Soviet Republic, which is located in southern central Asia, north of Afghanistan. They lived in Germany from 1993 to 1995. In May 1995 the family immigrated to the United States of America and settled down in Portland, Oregon. He received the calling of God to preach the gospel but would not accept any payment for it. The family moved to a five-acre property about five miles away from the Community in December, 2001. The younger children attend public school and the older ones attend home school that is administered by their Community in Missouri.

 

                                                      My Hosts – Pavel (Paul in Russian) and Galina Belyavskiy


They only moved one month earlier to their single width mobile home which is the closest building to the Church. Petr their son’s family live next to them. Originally they had prepared the single guest room for me to stay but insisted that I slept in their largest bedroom that was beautifully decorated like a bridal chamber. Pastor Gantyuk told me Brother Pavel is one of the deacons of the Church. They have lived in Seattle, Washington for eight years before moving to the Community in Missouri.

 

Both Pavel and Galina are extremely loving, kind and hospitable. They have repeatedly told me many times they would like me to stay with them whenever I visit their community. They told me the Lord blessed them through my visit. On the day of my arrival in their home Pavel was offered a job as a maintenance man at the Ozark Medical Center. They connected the two events and acknowledged it was definitely God’s blessings because Pavel had been looking for a job more than a month without success. He spoke little English and did not have the skill and experience to be offered that job. Actually I was much blessed by staying with them.

 

 

Pavel gave me an inspiring testimony. When he was twenty-two years old and was living in Ukraine, at that time it was part of Russia, he did not believe or observe the Seventh Day Sabbath. His parents were believers. He worked as a machinist in a factory. One Sabbath day as he was working in the workshop he felt very sick. He said it was more of a spiritual sickness than a physical one. He said he had a very strong conviction to go home and take a rest. He talked to his supervisor and asked for sick leave. After he returned home he immediately went to bed. While he was asleep he had an unusual dream. He dreamed he was in heaven which is such a beautiful place. He saw many angels were playing all kinds of musical instruments and produced the most melodious music he had ever heard. As he was enjoying the heavenly music God impressed upon his mind with these words, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” He meditated on his dream the whole week and then made a decision not to work on Saturday again. When Friday came around he talked to his supervisor and told him he did not want to work on Saturday anymore. When his supervisor asked him the reason he told him it was his religious conviction not to work on Saturdays. He told the supervisor he was prepared to work extra time in the evening to compensate for the time he did not work on Saturday. He expected his supervisor to rebuke or fire him. He prayed for God’s comfort, guidance and intervention in his job. He was pleasantly surprised when his supervisor agreed to let him try the new time table without working on Saturday. Pavel said, “God has been good to me. I have been able to keep the Sabbath day holy from that time until now.”

 

Some  Special  Features  about  the  Russian  Christian  Community

 

They prefer isolation    When I asked permission from Pastor Nikolay Gantyuk to write this article on the Internet he told me I could write it but I must not give the exact location of their community.  I can only write it is in Missouri.  They do not like to have an influx of visitors.  It is not easy to find this place, believe me.

 

They live a simple and healthful life of self sufficiency     All the believers that live in this community are Russian immigrants who have been in America not more than twelve years.  Many of them cannot speak English.  Some of the younger men who can communicate in English were able to find work outside the community, and most of the women work at home and on their farms.  There are many elderly folks who seem to be fairly contented with life in their community and are healthy looking.  My hosts were very loving, kind and hospitable to me.  Their meals are simple and tasty.  They told me that with the exception of some staple food such as wheat flour and rice all their food is home grown.  I have seen their garden that has a huge variety of vegetables, legumes, nuts and fruits.  They raise cattle, sheep, goats, chickens and ducks.  Cattle is slaughtered in the kosher way once every two weeks and distributed to those who want to have it.  They keep the biblical diet; abstain from alcoholic drinks, tobacco and drugs. 

 

No television, radio, newspaper or books from the outside world     I was told that even in Russia their believers did not watch television, listen to the radio, read the newspaper or books from the unbelieving world.  When they immigrated to the United States they voluntarily kept these same restrictions.  They may know very little about the world affairs outside of their community but their knowledge of the One True God in the Lord Jesus Christ and how to be like Him has increased tremendously.  They are able to grow spiritually in the Lord Jesus.

Few Members know the Name of their Church     When I asked the Russian Christians in Houston the name of their Church they could not give me an instant answer.  They told me they would find out what it is and let me know.  When I asked Brother Pavel (Paul in Russian), who is my host during my short stay in the community, “What is the name of your Church”, he gave me a blank look, smiled politely and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t really know.  Let me find out and let you know.”  They did let me know.  Their church is called “Home of God”.  You may think it is strange in America and in the Twenty First Century not to know the name of one’s own church, but let me tell you something.  The believers in the First Century could not tell you the name of their Church either.  It was not important to them because their focus was on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not the Church (1 Cor. 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:5).  The believers were just called “disciples” (Acts 1:15) and “Christians” (Acts 11:26).  According to a Christian researcher the Early Apostolic Church was called by over fifty different names.

 

No administration office, typewriter, computer or any modern equipment     When my host opened the front door to their chapel building he told me I could look around.  I looked for their administration office and I could not find any.  I did not see any telephones either.  I found out they do not have any church administrative functions so they needed no office.

 

No Organizational Structure in the Church      One of the first things I wanted to know about the Russian Christian Community in Missouri is their church polity (government).  Almost everyone that I talked to about this subject cannot tell me whether or not there is any organizational structure in the church.  There is no church board or council.  The pastor (who is not paid) works closely with three brothers who are deacons of the church.  I was told all their important decisions are made at congregational meetings.  It appears their polity is congregational.

 

No offering box and collection plate      In my full attendance of their Friday evening service, almost whole day and night of services on the Sabbath day and whole day and night of services on Sunday there is a notable absence of collection for contributions, offerings, tithes, funds, etc.  I did not ask the sensitive question of how they receive funds to finance the building of their chapel.

 

No Christian symbols, decorations, clocks and bulletin boards inside the Chapel     There are no crosses or any other Christian symbols outside or inside the Chapel building.  In front of the Chapel lawn they have grown beautiful flowers of different varieties, hues and colors.   As you enter the Chapel building into the foyer, sanctuary and other rooms you will see only bare walls.  There is an absence of decorations, pictures, clocks and bulletin boards on the walls. There are no church announcements, no notices, no preaching schedules and no letters for display.  I have seldom seen such a demonstration of simplicity and purity in church life outside of this community.

 

No Shoes are worn inside the Sanctuary   There is a large entrance foyer in front of the chapel.  On the left wall facing the sanctuary there are shoe racks for the brothers and on the right wall there are shoe racks for the sisters.  Everyone, without exception, must take off the shoes before entering the sanctuary.  I asked the believers about this matter and I was told it was a Russian custom to take off one’s shoes before entering the house.  This custom is carried over to the House of God. 

 

There may be an underlying religious reason for taking off the shoes before entering the sanctuary.  God said to Moses, Do not draw near this place.  Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” (Ex. 3:5; Jos. 5:15)  I remember the church where I was raised in Ipoh, Malaysia; my father, who was a minister of the church, always took off his shoes before he went up to the pulpit to preach.  He respected the pulpit as “holy ground.”

 

Separation of Brothers and Sisters in the Sanctuary     If you attend a Bible Study, worship or prayer service in the Russian Christian Community you will experience something that is not found in most American churches, but is found in many churches in Asian countries.  The brothers sit on one side of the aisle and the sisters sit on the other side.  I asked them about this practice and was told it is their tradition that is brought over from their churches in Russia.

 

Clean Lifestyle Their members do not engaged in modern ballroom dancing or attend public social parties. They keep strict rules of moral behavior. Premarital sex is disallowed. Adultery will result in excommunication. All the married couples remain faithful to one another and there is not a single divorce case in the community.

 

Strict Dress Code The dress code used in this community is almost identical to that of many old-time Pentecostal Churches in the United States of America. The brothers wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers. The sisters dress modestly, that is, covering their bodies and limbs as much as possible. There are no low cuts, slacks or pants. Blouses cover the torso up to the neck and sleeves are down to the elbows. Skirts cover all parts of the legs down to the ankles.

 

Sisters' Head Covering All the sisters, from the oldest to the youngest, that came for the Worship Services have their heads covered with some form of light colored cloths. I was told that they also do not cut their hair. (1 Cor. 11:2-16)

 

Sisters keep complete silence in the Bible Study Services I attended the Friday (Sabbath) Evening Bible Study Service upon our arrival at the Community. The pastor read a passage from the Bible, and then gave his exegesis on it. The theme was “holiness”. There were at least seven brothers in the congregation that spoke on the same subject that evening. I noticed there was complete silence from the sisters. They were observing the Biblical teachings of 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

 

Sisters perform in Choirs and Gave Testimonies On the Saturday morning and evening services a sister led their choir consisting of brothers and sisters. Several sisters went up the platform to sing hymns, recited religious poetry they had composed and performed play-acting on biblical themes. Their sisters were highly talented. Several brothers and sisters gave short testimonies to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ during the service.

 

Prayer in unison in the Spirit     One of the things that made the Russian Christians felt at home when they worshiped with our congregation in Houston is the prayer in unison in the Spirit.  Their prayer was harmonious with everyone praying at about the same subdued loudness.  You could not hear one person’s voice stronger than the others.  There was no bell to end the prayer.  Everybody lowered their voices gradually and the prayer stopped at the same time.  Their prayers are guided and controlled by the Holy Spirit.  They all say the Lord’s Prayer in one accord and in unison as well.

 

No Schedule and Time Restriction in Preaching      When Pastor Gantyuk and his group came to our Church in Houston I invited him to say something after I introduced him to the congregation.  He gave only a short greeting speech.  This time when I visited the Russian Christian Community in Missouri I did not expect to do any preaching at all.  I only brought my Bible and did not prepare or brought any sermon notes with me.  On Friday evening Pastor Gantyuk invited me to preach during morning Sabbath service.  Before the service we went to the Prayer Room where he introduced two other speakers to me.  He instructed each person not to speak more than half an hour.  After the prayer we entered the sanctuary and sat down in seats on one side of the platform.  

 

Brother Alex Mikhalov Jr. who has been coming to our Church in Houston was to be my interpreter.  After the other two speakers had finished their sermons I went up to the pulpit to speak.  My sermon title was “Behold, I am coming quickly!” (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20).  When I said I was going to try and summarize the book of Revelation into a half an hour sermon, Pastor Gantyuk told me I could take as much time as I needed.  I could feel the Holy Spirit working mightily amongst the audience.  They were very attentive throughout the sermon. 

 

After the evening service Pastor Gantyuk announced several people had requested me to speak about the physical preparation for the Lord’s Second Coming.  They wanted to know more about the automobile that does not use gasoline (electric car), solar energy, wind energy, low cost building systems and other subjects such as how to get pure water and dehydrated foods, etc.  After the dinner in Pastor Gantyuk’s home he drove me back to the chapel.  It was already 9:30 p.m.  I was flabbergasted to see about sixty adults waiting to hear me speak again.  There were more questions about the Great Tribulation, Antichrist, 666, mark of the beast, Armageddon, nuclear war, etc.  Many stayed till 1:30 a.m.  Some have requested me to speak again the following day.  I can tell you, the believers in the Russian Christian Community in Missouri are very eager to learn.  Although I was physically exhausted at that late hour I felt spiritually refreshed and filled with the joy of the Lord. Praise God, HalleluYah!

 

Request  for  Baptism  in  the  Houston  Church

After the Sabbath service on July 20, 2002 Andrey Mikhalov talked to me on the front walkway of our church building. He and his wife have been regularly attending Sabbath services in our church for more than five months. They have not been baptized before and wanted to then. I talked to Pastor G.H. Chen about this matter and he agreed we should baptize them. During our Church Council Meeting held on that same day we also discussed this matter and all the Church Council members unanimously agreed to their baptism. Brother Andrey said he would talk to his wife about the date of their baptism. Sister Alexandria was in Portland, Oregon visiting her family at that time and she called me to say she would be back in Houston on August 8 and asked me whether or not August 11 would be a good date for their baptism. I said it was okay. I later found out there would be a National Religious Education Seminar in the Houston Church on August 9-11, 2002. Our Church in Houston could not have baptism on August 11. Regarding the change of date Brother Andrey said he would talk to his wife, who was still in Portland. They could not fix a date for their baptism because he would be traveling to different places.

On August 17, 2002 Sister Alexandria told my wife and I their family would be moving out of Houston the following Thursday (August 22, 2002). They have decided to move back to Portland, Oregon to stay with her parents. Since they will not be attending services in our Houston Church anymore they thought it would be best for them not to receive baptism here. We accepted their reason.

 

Baptismal  Service  at  the  White  River

Towards the end of the Saturday evening service on August 24, 2002 the pastor announced there would be a baptismal service at the White River the following day at 11:00 a.m.  He also said that in addition to the four people from the community who wanted to be baptized there were three more visitors who also wanted to be baptized.  Two of them were from Houston, Texas and one from Manitoba, Canada.  On the previous Saturday Sister Alexandria Mikhalov told me she and her husband would be moving to Portland, OR and be baptized by them.  I thought they would be baptized in Portland, but just then I came to know they were going to be baptized in Missouri.  I was glad to be present to witness their baptism there.

 

I went with my hosts Pavel and Galina Belyavskiy and their son Petr who is one of the leaders of the Community.  The baptismal site is called the “North Fork of White River” and is part of the Mark Twain National Forest.  I consider this as one of the most beautiful and ideal sites for baptism.  The river is about fifty feet across and slopes gradually down to a depth of about four feet in the middle.  There is a lot of space on the bank for a baptismal service.  That Sunday morning many of their church members (about 120) came to the service.

 

They were singing hymns in Russian to the tunes of “O Happy Day” and others.  The pastor gave a sermon to the seven baptismal candidates.  There was also another sermon by another minister.  Just then Sister Alexandria began to faint but her husband caught her before she went down.  They took her aside, refreshed her and then she fully recovered.  After the baptism Brother Andrey told me the pastor instructed all of them to fast and pray before the baptism.  Alexandria was pregnant, fasted and had been standing under the sun for nearly an hour.  Her faint was understandable.  She was supposed to be the last person to be baptized but they were sensitive to her needs, and so she became the first.

 

The whole congregation prayed in the Spirit.  Then Pastor Gantyuk waded to the middle of the river that was waist-deep and stood there facing the oncoming flow.  He continued to pray.  As Alexandria Mikhalov waded towards the pastor I continued to pray for her.  The pastor directed her to stand beside him on his left.  He asked her to confess her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of her sins then raised his left hand shouting in Russian: “I baptize you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins.”   
Alexandria bowed her head, bent and immersed herself completely in the water.  At that moment I praised God “HalleluYah”.  Her husband Andrey was the second person to be baptized.  He was also baptized with head bowed in the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ’s death.  I continued to praise God for what He has done.

 

The Russian Christian Community has been baptizing believers with head facing up falling backwards in the past.  This is the first time they baptized with full immersion face down in the forward motion.  This significant change in their baptismal mode is attributable to the informal conference that took place in our Houston Church on June 22, 2002.  We give all the glory to our Lord Jesus Christ, HalleluYah!

 

I am truly happy for Andrey and Alexadria Mikhalov who have been coming to our Church in Houston for more than five months.  They wanted to be baptized in Houston, Texas but circumstances have changed because they were moving to Portland, Oregon where the Russian Christians have two large congregations of more than three hundred members each.  After their baptism I asked Andrey how he felt.  Here is what he said, “I feel great.  I know that all my sins are gone.”

 

The Russian Christian Community have a beautiful ending to their baptismal service.  After the change of clothes they all prayed to thank God for what He had done.  All the newly baptized people stood in a line and the members hugged, congratulated and gave them flower bouquets.  It was a happy day.

 

Washing  One  Another’s  Feet

 

It is truly amazing the Russian Christian Community in Missouri have sacraments that are similar to those of our Church in Houston.  After the baptismal service they also have Washing of Feet followed by Holy Communion.  Let me first give a short description of their Washing of Feet.

The pastor gave a sermon on the significance of Christian love for one another, humility, service and forgiving one another.  After the sermon he descended from the platform, tied a towel that is knotted to another towel around his waist and began to wash Andrey’s feet.  Then he wiped the feet with the towel.  After that he took off the towel and gave to Andrey who got up from his seat to let the pastor sit down then washed his feet.  After that both the pastor and Andrey stepped aside to let another couple of brothers wash one another’s feet.  The sisters also did the same amongst themselves.

After the Holy Communion Service Pastor Gantyuk asked me in humility: “Brother  Paul,  what do you think of our service?  Is there anything that we did is incorrect?  Please correct us.”  I was deeply moved by this pastor's humility. It is not very often that you find a minister so humble and so willing to learn that he will let others correct him.   I do have respect for this minister of God who understood and practised the spiritual teaching of foot-washing.   Here is what I told him.

 

“Washing of Feet has many functions.  The most significant function is to have a part with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our Lord said to Peter: “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (Jn. 13:8)  The other functions are to impart the teachings of mutual love, humility and service.  The example shown by our Lord Jesus Christ is that He alone washed the disciples’ feet, and none of the disciples washed His feet in return.  Our Church interpret this one-sided action as ministers and Church Council or Board members (those who hold positions in the church) wash the feet of the newly baptized Christians.  Reciprocal foot-washing is also practiced in our Church at another time to show mutual love and forgiveness towards one another.  What you have done is demonstrating the two functions of foot-washing in the same religious service.”  The pastor nodded his head and smiled.

  

Closed  Holy  Communion

 

Before they begin the Holy Communion service Pastor Nikolay Gantyuk sent Julie Mikhalov, one of the sisters who live in Houston, to tell me that they practice closed Holy Communion.  This means they only serve Holy Communion to their church members.  I told her, “I understand this.”  I have never participated and do not intend to participate in any Holy Communion outside of our Church unless our Lord Jesus Christ gives me very clear instructions to do so.  Our Lord Himself practiced closed Holy Communion when He invited only His twelve apostles to participate.  Closed Holy Communion is consistent with biblical teaching.

 

Pastor Gantyuk gave a lengthy sermon on the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross and stressed on the significance of living a pure Christian life.  He also urged the faithful to judge themselves to see if they are worthy before partaking of His flesh and blood.  After his sermon he invited the congregants to openly confess their sins.  There were more than ten brothers and sisters who stood up to make their confessions. 

 

Here is how the pastor administered their Holy Communion.  He unfolded the white cloth covering the one round shaped unleavened bread.  He stood up and held the bread with both hands in front of the congregation and began to give thanks with understanding (in Russian) and to consecrate the bread.  The whole congregation prayed in unison in the Spirit.  After the prayer the pastor broke the bread into small pieces on a large plate.  Then he descended the platform and served all the congregants except those sitting in the last two rows.  I was sitting in the second last row.  After serving everyone he went back to the brothers and divided the remaining bread amongst them.  Then he ascended the platform and picked up all the crumbs on the plate.  I asked Brother Sergey Seleznev, my interpreter, whether or not they believe the consecrated elements as the “spiritualized” flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He said, “Yes.  After the consecration they have become sacred food.  That is why the pastor is making sure everything on the plate must be eaten and not thrown away.”  I told him I believe that too.

 

In the Russian Bible “fruit of the vine” is translated as “new wine”. (Mt. 26:29)  During our Informal Conference in the Houston Church we had discussed “new wine” actually means fresh grape juice.    The Cup that was used in their Holy Communion is a large glass jug with a handle and a spout.  The visible liquid in the glass jug has a purple color so I assume it is grape juice.

 

The pastor stood before the congregation and held up “the Cup” with both hands as he prayed in Russian to consecrate the “new wine”.  The whole congregation also prayed in unison in the Spirit.  After the consecration he used another smaller glass container without handle and spout.  Then he descended from the platform and began to serve the brothers one by one by letting them drink from the same “Cup”.  After serving the brothers he went up the platform and poured the remaining element into the smaller container.  Then he went down to serve the sisters individually by letting them drink from the same “Cup”.  The leftover was divided amongst the brothers, each person drinking from the same “Cup”.  The pastor returned to the platform, held “the Cup” high and drank from it until the last drop.  He understood and believed it was the “spiritualized” blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

After the Holy Communion service Pastor Nikolay Gantyuk humbly asked me whether he had done anything different from what I do in our Church and I should correct him if he was wrong.  I was humbled by his sincerity and humility.  Here is what I said.  “I am truly amazed at the many similarities that we have between your church and ours.  Since we have diverse backgrounds we should not expect to be alike in all things.  For instance, you all drink from the same cup and we don’t.  I know the Bible states that Jesus and the apostles drank from the same cup but there were only thirteen people (Mt. 26:20,27).  Some of our congregations have more than a thousand participants in the Holy Communion therefore it is not practical to do that.  Pastor Nicholay said, “I agree with you.  In Portland, Oregon we have seven to eight hundred participants.  In that situation we still use one container for consecration, then pour into several containers to be served by a few brothers to the congregation.”  He asked me, “Do your ministers prepare the elements?”  I answered, “Yes, we do. (actually in Houston one of our Church Board members prepared them).  The Lord Jesus Christ directed His disciples to prepare the Passover. (Mt. 26:19)  Pastor Gantyuk said, “We prepare the unleavened bread ourselves but we do not use any appliance to prepare them.”  My hostess told me she kneads the whole-wheat flour with her hands to make the bread for the meals.  She does not use any bread-maker at home and her bread tastes really good and very substantial.  I told the pastor that in our Houston Church we make the unleavened bread with our hands, but we use an electrical appliance called the juicer to make the grape juice.  He did not make any comments after what I said and that ended our brief discussion on the Holy Communion.

 

Impressions  of  my  Trip  to  the  Russian  Christian  Community

 

After the Holy Communion service the Russian Christian Community converted the chapel into a banqueting hall and held a banquet for everyone present. Pastor Nikolay Gantyuk, Sister Gantyuk, Brother Alexander Mikhalov and several of their leaders and I sat at the same table. Pastor Gantyuk asked me what I thought of their community. Brother Alexander, on our way back to Houston, also asked me this same question. Here is my answer. I told them I was very impressed with their community and I was very glad that God had given me the opportunity to visit them. I said, “It is truly amazing that your beliefs are so close to what our congregation believes. I am not surprised at this because in the End Time our Lord Jesus Christ will bring all His sheep that hears His voice into one flock and He will be their Shepherd. (Jn. 10:16)

 

The Church that Jesus established originally consisted of only Jewish believers and the “other sheep” referred to the Gentile believers. In reading the New Testament one finds the Gentile congregations have autonomous government and were not under the control of the Jerusalem church. In that way all the congregations were able to develop independently through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and not by a central human organization. Although all the various congregations preached the same message yet they differed with one another in many ways due to different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Peace, harmony and maturity in church growth are achieved through unification and not assimilation. God’s church should resemble a loving family and not a military boot-camp. God has never created believers to be identical twins or clones. He made them brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Before the beginning of the year 2002 I have never heard about the Russian Christian Community at all. I have visited congregations from different denominations in the world that have similar beliefs with ours. I must say that so far the Russian Christian Community in Missouri is the closest one to ours.

 

According to the prophecies in the Holy Bible the One True God would restore the truths to His people in the End Time. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; . . .” (Acts 2:17) “And in that day it shall be that Living Waters shall flow from Jerusalem, Half of them toward the Eastern Sea and half of them toward the Western Sea; In both summer and winter it will occur.” (Zec. 14:8) Our God who is fair and impartial reveals the truth to His people from various congregations in different parts of the world.

 

When I heard about the Russian Christians having their origin in Poland and development in Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917 I was greatly impressed by these facts. If you do some research you will also discover that in the year 1917 the Balfour Declaration gave birth to the Zionist Movement that started the Return of the Jews to their homeland in Israel. The reason for my great impression and interest in this Russian Christian Community is because 1917 is also the same year that our church was established in Beijing, China. I have heard my father, Zacchaeus Wong, preached that 1917 is a significant year. It is four hundred years after the Reformation that began in 1517. Like the children of Israel that would only be free after four hundred years God’s people would also emerge after that period. “. . . and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.” (Acts 7:6-7) Some may consider this prophetic numerical interpretation as subjective; let me say that I am not dogmatic about it at all.

 

During the Washing of Feet and Holy Communion services on Sunday evening August 25, 2002 a Russian brother whose name is Sergey Seleznev came and sat next to me. He spoke very good English so he interpreted the sermons for me. He is working in the Ozark Medical Center as an electrical technician. He told me that he personally knows a Dutch minister in Holland that shares the same beliefs as their Russian congregation. I asked him whether he knows other congregations in the world that have the same beliefs. He said, “Yes, I know there are several thousands of believers not only in Russia, Ukraine and the former Soviet states but also in other European countries such as Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, etc.” Pastor Nikolay Gantyuk has many relatives in Germany that are believers. Brother Alexander Mikhalov’s family in Houston, Texas told me there are thousands of believers in South America, particularly in Chile. The list of believers is inexhaustible. HalleluYah!

 

God has clearly stated in His Word (Holy Bible) that He would not reveal two important truths to His people. 

1.   The exact day and hour of the Lord’s Second Coming (Mt. 24:36)

2.   How many people will be saved and go to heaven (Rev. 7:9)

 

God has given us several signs that we are now living in the End Time and our Lord Jesus Christ is returning soon. One of the signs is this: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Mt. 24:14) A long time ago I was greatly concerned that, with our lack of missionary personnel and resources, I could not see how our Lord’s prophecy could ever be fulfilled within my lifetime. Many of us have the Elijah syndrome with the erroneous concept that ours are the only ministers God would use to preach the Gospel to the whole world. What ignorance and foolish arrogance! Remember what Elijah said, “I alone am left.” “But what does the divine response say to him? I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Rom. 11:2-5) I praise and thank God that He has already prepared thousands upon thousands of true and faithful ministers “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” who will preach the Gospel of the Kingdom all over the world. (Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 14:3-7)

 

You are welcome to visit our web site “Living in the End Time”

 

 
This Article is the report of Paul Wong
presented to the ARK Forum on October 4, 2002
For comments please write first to:
arkpw@sbcglobal.net

Paul Wong is a Christian minister and the President of ARK International.
His ministry also serves as an architectural service company in Houston.
The ARK Forum on the Internet is international and non-denominational.



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