A Charis Bible College (CBC) student mission team recently returned from the mission field in Russia. Team leader and CBC instructor, Dr. Delron Shirley, led the twelve member team to St. Petersburg where they connected with missionaries Mike and Carrie Pickett, co-directors of the CBC extension school in St. Petersburg, Charis Bible Training Center (CBTC). The purpose of the trip was for the students to gain experience teaching the Word of God on foreign soil. The group spent twelve days touring and ministering in a variety of venues in the former USSR.
The Colorado students used CBTC as their base and began their mission experience sharing testimonies and teachings with the CBTC students. This was a great cultural opportunity in itself, as the CBTC student body is made up of more international students than Russians. Many Africans and Indians attend a local university where they study medicine and engineering during the day, and then attend Bible college in the evenings.
The team from Colorado also had the opportunity to minister to recovering addicts in a St. Petersburg drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. In addition to sharing the Word, several of the students gave personal testimonies of deliverance from alcohol related problems. The meeting closed with a powerful time of prayer ministry, during which at least one man was baptized in the Holy Spirit.
The Colorado team, and a team from CBTC, traveled together by bus to a village five hours northwest of St. Petersburg, where they visited a local church and spent three days ministering to believers in the community. The teams had to register with the Russian authorities to be allowed access to this particular village because it was home to a Russian military base. The students did not have any trouble passing through the military check points because they had filed the appropriate documents prior to their arrival; however, the pastor of the church was interrogated at length, as to the nature of the team's visit to his church. The questioning was due in part to heightened security after the suicide bombing that took place in Moscow's Domodedovo airporton the day the Colorado team arrived in the country.
Security aside, the students were able to minister in the village church Friday evening, all day Saturday and on Sunday morning. The church sanctuary also served as the students lodging while in the village.
"It was almost twenty years ago that I was in Russia last," said Delron. "At that time, the Communist Block was just beginning to break up and the people were just beginning to wake from the seventy-two-year-long nightmare of totalitarian rule to the dream of freedom. Leningrad had not yet returned to its original name of St. Petersburg, and the few believers in the city were still meeting in secret underground churches. The economy was devastated to the point that the people had to stand in long bread lines just to get enough food to supply their daily needs. The Russia I found on this trip was a completely new world with bustling streets filled with prosperous citizens moving freely and enjoying life. But most of all, I found a vibrant and growing Christian community freely living and sharing their faith."
Third year CBC intern and co-leader Mark Dykstra echoed Delron's sentiment about the Russian people when he said, "The people were very warm and receptive to the Gospel message."