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Entries in Russia (23)

Thursday
May242012

Russia Trip 2012: The Bread of Life

Andrew & Will Graham approach Charis Bible College housed in bread baking warehouse. (Click to enlarge)The first stop on Andrew’s trip to Russia, after a brief unloading of luggage at his hotel room at the Park Inn hotel—was to Charis Bible College, St. Petersburg. And not for just a brief hello. Andrew taught for three hours and made himself available for question and answer to the students afterward. This international group of students soaked up their time with him, and followed the sessions with questions they had been burning to ask for Student led praise and worship.
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months. It is one thing to read, hear, and watch videos of the teacher who founded Charis Bible Colleges worldwide, it is quite another to have him in front of you, and willing to make himself available in a give and take discussion.

The Charis students meet on the third floor of a non-descript warehouse building housed among the massive bread baking factories that serve the entire city of St. Petersburg. While breaking CBC-Colorado grad, Carrie Pickett (right) speaks to students with Russian interpreter. (Click to enlarge)the bread of life in these secure surroundings, students and instructors are bathed constantly in the mouth watering aroma of baking bread. And the Russians do love their bread. At every meal there is always a choice, “black” or “white.” All manner of dark breads, from rye to hearty whole wheat are preferred here. It is a fitting metaphor for the appetite these students display for the almost-too-good-to-be-true Gospel, and the deeper, more intimate Andrew ministers with Velodya, his Russian interpreter. (Click to enlarge)relationship with God that it nourishes.

Filed May 24, 2012 by AWM Media Operations Manager, Stephen Bransford.

Monday
Mar192012

How HE Loves Each of Us

In early 2012, CBC-Colorado sent a student missionary team to Russia. CBC students Shirley, Rheta, Gideon Collin and Dan pose for a living "Last Supper" portrait at the Koralia Church.
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One visit to the mission field, short term or long, has a tendency to change a person. The experience often exposes an individual to facets of God's love and aspects of ministry that they would otherwise never encounter. Through Charis Bible College's missions program, many students have had the opportunity to see the world and God's people from a new perspective. This was the case for CBC student, Sharayah Stitt; her trip to Russia with a team from CBC-Colorado solidified a direction for her future.

The team led by CBC-Colorado's Missions Coordinator, Michelle Patterson, visited St. Petersburg in January and ministered alongside staff and students from Charis Bible CBC-Colorado students, Sharayah, Alex and Steve, enjoyed their time ministering at Charis Bible Training Center in St. Petersburg.
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Training Center. The Colorado students had the chance to minister in the CBC extension school as well as at a local rehab center and small village church several hours outside St. Petersburg. It was at this village church that Sharayah encountered the Lord in a new way.

At the church, the students gathered in groups of three in front of the platform for a time of prayer ministry. A young girl named, Galya, was brought to Sharayah's group. It was evident by her lack of eye contact that Galya was very shy and timid. Through the translator Sharayah understood that the girl, about 17, was recently orphaned, and now found herself living on her own and caring for a younger sister. While they did have a home Carrie Pickett, the Director of CBTC in St. Petersburg (center) stands on the platform of a small village church with the team's interpreter and CBC Colorado's team leader, Michelle Patterson (right). (Click to enlarge)and a small pension from their father's passing, it was clear that Galya's heart was broken and she needed love.

"After praying, I asked our interpreter to tell Galya that she was pretty and reminded me of one of my friends. She looked up nearly astonished, for the first time making eye contact, then smiled ever so slightly and threw her arms around me in the most desperate hug I have ever experienced," Sharayah said.

The two embraced for several minutes and for the next half hour, stood with their arms around each other, listening to another CBC team member minister on God’s love. From those first moments, Sharayah and Galya were inseparable. If they were standing, they were hugging; if they were sitting they had their arms around each other. It did not matter that neither spoke the other's language—God’s During the course of the mission trip, Sharayah (right), gained a glimpse of God's love for each of us. Here she sits with her new friend, Galya.
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love bridges any language barrier.

"She had obviously not been shown much love growing up, and I believe God specifically sent me to Russia to spend time with her, love on her, embrace her, and show her the tangible side of God’s love," Sharayah said.

When the group was departing, Galya found an interpreter to share her thoughts with Sharayah. Galya told Sharayah that she loved her. During the emotional moments that followed, they shared one last embrace, and Sharayah said she loved her too.

Sharayah spent the ride home meditating on her experience. She said, "He sent one person around the Sharayah, caught a glimpse of God's love for each of us, and it was overwhelming. (Click to enlarge)world just to show one of His children that He loves them. God filled me with a taste of the love He has for everyone. I was overwhelmed by even that small fraction; unable to fully comprehend the capacity of love God has for us and wants us to show others."

For Sharayah Russia was a life-changing, life-directing experience. She has seen how much God desires for others to know His love, and He revealed to her that He has gifted her and called her to be a missionary— to spread His love to others abroad.

Thursday
Feb092012

Judy Gonnerman's Call to Missions

CBC graduate and full-time missionary, Judy Gonnerman, on the mission field in Kyrgyzstan. Here she stands with young ladies modeling dresses donated by ministry partners. (Click to enlarge)Charis Bible College graduate, Judy Gonnerman, has been serving the Lord as a full-time missionary since she finished her studies at CBC-Colorado in 1999. Judy and her husband, Bob Gonnerman, were born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit in the late 1970s. A short time later, the couple heard Andrew speak in Kansas City, Missouri; both appreciated Andrew's down to earth ministry and were excited to learn more about God's love and grace. "Like many people, we had not heard much about God's grace and Andrew's teaching had a defining effect on our lives," said Judy.

Bob Gonnerman and the team he traveled with to Russia in 1997. In this photo they were in Murmansk.
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The Gonnermans both held secular jobs into the 1990s; Bob worked as a stock broker and a postal employee, and Judy worked in the health insurance industry. Judy retired from her job in 1992, choosing instead to be a stay-at-home mom and to homeschool the Gonnerman's twin, seven-year-old sons, Joshua and David. They settled their family on a farm in northwest Missouri where they worked, raised their family, and served a small rural church. All the while they continued to listen to Andrew's teaching.

Judy remembers hearing contemporary Christian music artist, Carman, sing the song, Lazarus, Come Forth in the mid 90s—only she heard the words, "Judy, Come Forth." Map of Russia indicating the location of Murmansk. (Click to enlarge)After listening to that song, the Lord began to speak to Judy that, like Lazarus, God had something more for her life. "Lazarus was in Abraham's bosom, which was a good place to be, but God had a better plan for him. In the same way, what Bob and I were doing was a good, but He had a better plan for our lives," said Judy.

In pursuit of what the future held for them, the Gonnermans turned their attention more fully to the things of God. In 1996, after listening to Andrew for nearly two decades, they worked their way through the CBC Correspondence curriculum for first-year students. In 1997, Bob and Judy, 63, and The Gonnermans (right) in Ufa, Russia. (Click to enlarge)51 respectively, moved their family to Colorado Springs to attend second year classes.

During the Gonnerman's second semester in Colorado, Linus LeFever, the CBC missions director at the time, asked Bob to consider going to Russia to help start at CBC extension school. Bob joined a short-term mission team and went to Russia. While he was away Judy would often say, “Bob is God's sheep and he knows His voice—the voice of a stranger he will not follow.” When Bob returned, and announced that he thought they should go to Russia, Judy had to remind herself that Bob knew His voice. "As a faith person, all I could do was gulp, smile, and say, "Okay," Judy recalled.Flying home. Bob in the airport in Portugal as the family headed back to the US a year and a half after his ALS diagnosis.
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Judy was unable to visit Russia prior to making a final decision about serving there; she simply put her faith in God and trusted her husband's decision. The Gonnermans sold all their belongings and moved their family to Russia to assist in the launch of a new Bible college. Judy fell in love with the Russian people and has always been glad she took those steps pf faith.

Things went well for the family for their first year or so on the mission field; however, in the summer of 2000, Bob was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS/Lou Gehrig's disease) a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Bob's doctors advised the Gonnermans not to stay on the field. Considering that the doctors also said there was nothing they could do for Bob, the couple chose to continue to serve God.

Judy and her two sons, Joshua and David. (Click to enlarge)Determined to continue their work, the Gonnermans headed to Murmansk, Russia, but because of Bob's condition, the pastors they were assisting asked them to leave. Due to their love for the Russian people this was a hard time for the family. The Gonnermans turned their attention to Portugal where they helped another couple start a Bible college. They spent another seventeen months there before Bob became too weak to continue. "All Bob wanted to do was teach the Word. He taught his last lesson on April 15, 2002; we flew to the States on April 28 and he flew home to Jesus on May 10," said Judy.

Judy with Charis Bible Training Center students. Many of these are also university students in St. Petersburg. (Click to enlarge)Fifteen months later, at the age of 57, Judy and her boys headed back to the mission field in Russia where they joined Carrie Pickett at the CBC extension school, Charis Bible Training Center. Judy said, "It was like coming home to be reunited with old friends."

A short time later the boys returned to the States; Joshua to go to college and David to serve in the United States Navy. While Judy did travel to see them off, she returned to Russia knowing her work there wasn't finished.

In 2004, Judy was part of a CBTC mission team that went to Kyrgyzstan, and the Lord began to speak to her about a ministry there. Reluctant to move several thousand miles southeast, Judy at the children's home in Kyrgyzstan. (Click to enlarge)Judy made tentative plans to relocate in 2007. Circumstances and God's timing allowed her to stay in Russia an extra year. During her extended stay, the Russian Visa laws changed, making it necessary to leave Russia three out of every six months. This worked out perfectly for Judy as she was able to work and minister in both places. For Judy it proved to be the best of both worlds.

Today Judy still balances ministry in both locations. In Kyrgyzstan she works in a children's home and has also taken the opportunity to minister in many churches and to church leaders. In Judy teaching at CBTC in St. Petersburg. (Click to enlarge)St. Petersburg, Russia Judy steps in for Mike and Carrie Pickett during their three month visa rotation. While at CBTC she teaches and is involved with the foreign student groups.

Judy said one of her greatest joys is to see the Word of God change people. "There is nothing more wonderful to me, than to go back to some place I have ministered previously and hear their testimonies," said Judy. "The purpose of my ministry has always been to be where God wants me and be available to do what He wants, and that is still true. Teaching, hospitality and giving have always been a part of this, and as long as I receive God's provision in finances and health, I hope to be able to keep ministering to the body of Christ for years to come," Judy said thoughtfully.

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