John Gardiner – UK
For me a heart for Eastern Europe began when an announcement was made in our Fellowship that Russia was seeking people to take the Gospel into Children’s Summer Camps. I felt that was something that the Lord wanted me to do so I offered and was accepted.
In around 1998, I visited Russia twelve times, sometimes leading teams and at other times just being part of one – a few times I was able to minister in Churches there. I found that my love for the Russian people grew, the more time I spent with them.
Then I decided to try and learn the language and so I joined ‘Tandem’, a language learning site. On my profile it states I am a Christian and that I love studying the Bible; as a result of this, requests from people kept coming to me asking if they could study the Bible with me. These studies began nine years ago and so now I have an ‘Online Bible School’. I’ve had (& have) students from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, China, UK and Kazakhstan. At present I have 12 students.
We begin with the Parables of Jesus and then on completion of these we progress to one of the Gospels and then to the Epistles. With some students I have also studied Genesis. I send the student the relevant chapter with a list of questions to stimulate discussion. All the answers are in the chapter and I do this to ensure that students read for themselves what God has to say and not simply hear my opinion. We use Skype for our studies and sessions are carried out on an individual basis, usually lasting about 60-90 minutes.
As a result of our times together, some students have repented and trusted Christ as their Saviour and Lord and some have been baptised. Some students are still studying and may be near to the kingdom. Students receive a certificate for each series they complete, in order to encourage them.
Of course, these online studies are not a substitute for Church and are not intended to be. When someone is
building a house, very often there is much demolition to be done, detritus to be removed before the
building can start. Because many of the students come from different religious backgrounds a number of
things have to be unlearned such as ‘salvation by works’ and worshipping ‘icons’ which is idolatry,
paedobaptism instead of ‘believer’s baptism’, auricular confession and absolution, Clergy & Laity instead
of the ‘priesthood of all believers’ and so on.
For many students they have never heard the simple message of salvation by grace alone through Christ alone. Some married couples have started to read the Bible and pray together every day. Sometimes the men who are studying with me share the study with their wives. One young man from a Muslim family, who claimed to be an atheist wanted to study just to improve his English. That’s OK by me! The Bible is the textbook. He has since been born again and baptised and a member of his family went with him to his baptism. He told me later, in his heart he had always hoped there was a God.
To God alone be all the praise & glory.