by Steve Hale
The Lord’s church has been planted in Murmansk, Russia! Fifteen precious souls were baptized before we left, with another lady promising to obey the gospel as we were leaving. Of these fifteen: (1) five were young men, ranging from the ages of 12 to 22; (2) 10 were young women, ranging from the ages of 15 to 21.
It was my privilege to lecture in eight different schools on the subjects of Christian Evidences, Christian Ethics, and Church History. Many of our studies were set-up through these lectures. Each night, we lectured at the Seaman’s Club (also called the House of Culture). A number of studies were set-up as a result of these lectures as well.
In comparing campaigns, there is great hope for the church at Murmansk. The church at Sykvkar had 6 converted in the first campaign. 12 months later, this church has over 350! Furthermore, the city of Murmansk is about twice as large as Sykvkar, so there is a lot to be done.
Murmansk is Russia’s only year around port even though it is about 75 miles north of the Arctic Circle. A gulf stream keeps the port open all year.
The city is incredibly large, and quite beautiful in its own way. City officials set the population at 470,000 with 1.1 million living in the Murmansk region around the city.
Furthermore, the Kola Peninsula on which the city sits is very rich in minerals. Every known mineral in the world has been found on the Kola Peninsula, documented in Murmansk’s Natural Museum.
Americans are greatly loved by the citizens of Murmansk. During World War 11 (to the Russians, “The Great Patriotic War”), the city was besieged by the Germans. If captured, the major Russian naval port would have been in Nazi hands.
The city was rescued by American and British troops. Even though this was some fifty years ago, the people of Murmansk have not forgotten. This is stressed to the children of the city as well.
We met the first convert, Vita Malickina, on the airplane as we traveled from Moscow to Murmansk. Vita is a 17 year old student. She is beautiful, intelligent, and very committed. It took a great deal of courage for her to break the ice for us, and become the first Christian in Murmansk.
Vita sat between Ronnie Morrison and myself on the airplane. Ronnie and I studied with her for the entire two hour plane ride. Ronnie had to leave for Vorkuta with Jim Dearman to secure television spots for’Truth For The World.’
It was my privilege to finish the study with Vita, and baptize her into Christ. Vita has not learned fluent English, and was describing how she met me. In trying to say we met in the air, she said: ‘I met Steve up in heaven.’ I’ll never forget that.
Andrew Romonov was our second convert. He studied with Ken Newlin, a retired engineer with NASA, and a member of the Mayfair church in Huntsville, Alabama. He also served as Ken’s interpreter.
Ken brought his video camera, and wanted to film Andrew’s baptism. Because of that, Andrew asked me to baptize him. When I asked him who Jesus was, he answered, in his distinct British brogue: ‘He is my Lord.” I won’t forget that either.
Andrew studied extensively, and has a good grasp of the distinctiveness of the New Testament church. Terry Gunnels, our team leader and a professor at Southern Christian University, taught a class grounding the new converts our last week there. Ken also studied extensively with Andrew following his conversion.
Our third convert was a beautiful 15 year old girl, Tonya Sorochan. I met Tonya at one of the schools where I was lecturing. Tonya was not only in Terrys class, but continued studying with me following her conversion.
In fact, the last Saturday we were in Murmansk, we spent two hours dealing with questions she had as a result of her reading the New Testament on her own! She is very committed and courageous. She speaks no English, but her quiet smile and giggles speaks volumes.
We had some difficulty securing a place to baptize people. Obviously, it was too cold to baptize anyone outside. The only public place was the city Sauna/Pool. Because of this, our first three converts, Vita, Andrew, and Tonya were baptized in one of the bathtubs at the hotel. Though difficult and cumbersome, we were able to immerse these three inspite of the relative inconvenience. The other twelve were baptized at the Sauna/Pool.
Renting this was quite expensive by Russian standards, and secured the area for only specific periods, usually from 9 until 10 at night. Even though we had rented it for this period, and paid in advance, we had to inform them of it’s use a minimum of fifteen minutes advance. We needed it, praise the Lord!