A massive effort is under way to support and encourage church planters and pastors in Russia. Teams of pastors, evangelists, church workers, and various support staff set out in December for a seven-month initiative aimed at assisting church planters and pastors in Russia. The effort is called Gospel Expedition 2004 and is spearheaded by the Slavic Gospel Association.

Tom McAdam, a spokesman for SGA, says so far response to the project and the volunteers involved has been overwhelming. "Reports have gotten back that they are being very favorably received," he says.

In fact, McAdam says, in several towns not even scheduled as stops on the Gospel Expedition itinerary, volunteers have been greeted warmly and prevailed upon by local believers to spend time with them. "They'll get stopped in these towns, and people have meals prepared for them, and people [will be] waiting at a church, expecting that there's some possibility that they'll stop."

The Gospel Expedition 2004 effort includes rotating teams of volunteer church planters who visit and offer support to Russian Church leaders. McAdam says this is the first time many evangelical pastors in Russia have had fellow Christians visit to help them expand their ministry efforts.

"The church planters that we support throughout Russia -- many of them -- are in very isolated situations," the SGA representative says, "and they really need to have additional resources. They are in some ways acting as islands with occasional contact from the outside world, and they're laboring faithfully out there."

Even after almost a decade of freedom, the demand for Russian-language Bibles and Christian literature, as well as other training materials, has not decreased in the former Soviet Union, and is in fact on the rise. McAdam says expedition volunteers will be helping to distribute the usual kinds of Christian resources to Russian Christians, along with prayers and encouragement.

The Slavic Gospel Association was founded in 1934 by Rev. Peter Deyneka, who immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet republic of Belarus. For many years, SGA covertly distributed millions of Bibles and Christian books to believers throughout the Soviet Union, and also produced and broadcast Christian radio programs. SGA's mission has been to spread the gospel through training, teaching and church planting, and to minister to believers in Russia and to Russian immigrants living in various countries throughout the world.

Since the fall of communism, the SGA's primary focus has shifted back to ministry in what is now called the Commonwealth of Independent States. McAdam says Gospel Expedition 2004 is the largest outreach to Russian pastors and church planters in the history of the ministry.

Vist the Slavic Gospel Association at  slavicgospelassociation.org

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