How God used the Russian Mafia
Dear Friends, July 2020
I want to do something a bit different in the next few prayer letters. I will publish needs, and then I’ll tell a story from the field about how God worked in his establishing of our overseas mission.
In Malawi, Africa, we have started many new churches the past few years. Each new church builds their own shelters out of homemade bricks, but they cannot afford tin sheets for the roof. If they could use tin, rather than grass for the roof, the building would last for years. The average cost for the 10 roofing sheets needed by most churches is $400. We would like to help more of these new African churches extend the life of their buildings by providing funds for this material. Please pray about this need and help if possible.
Also, in Malawi, prayer is needed for the Malawians who are in training to serve in our 9 teams of Day-Camp workers; they begin traveling next week to minister toward the establishment of churches in new areas.
In Moldova, we need to set up a system of virtual teaching for the Bible school and University. Due to the pandemic, we can no longer travel or teach with the freedoms we had previously. We want to establish a method to allow teachers to teach virtually from the campuses. Students with internet access could attend classes from their own countries. This would also help our schools meet 21st century education needs. The equipment and software costs have been projected at about $3,000. We know that this fall, some of our students will only be able to continue their classes if we offer remote learning. This ministry will allow students to participate in classes from any country where Russian or Romanian is spoken.
FROM OUR MISSION HISTORY:
We were called into missions in 1992 and to the former Soviet Union. I took my wife and four little girls into the city of Tiraspol, Moldova in 1993. It was a city of 220,000 people with no other foreign presence, including no missionaries. But there was a huge mafia presence in the city. Due to the collapse of the USSR, the country was in a state of lawlessness and confusion and total economic collapse. The mafia had its hands in every business and government institution, demanding payments and acceptance of their network. In those days I rarely wrote about these things, as I tried to stay positive for the sake of loved ones and supporters.
We started our evangelizations and church-plant in November of 1993 with 103 first-time attenders. Within three months there were over 1,000 people coming. We moved our services to a larger auditorium in the center of town and rented all three of their venues (cinema complex). We were sometimes harassed by the government but never by the mafia. I’ve been asked by Moldovans and missionaries alike, why we were so free of problems in the worst part of Moldova. The simple answer is that God protected us.
At that time in Moldova, many people were being robbed, including our neighboring apartments, yet our home was never broken into. I would be stopped by the mafia for questioning while I was driving; and when they heard my name, they drove away and left me alone. When our rented meeting hall owners received a bomb threat for not paying the mafia protection money, I was warned not to use the buildings that Sunday lest we or our members come to harm.
The reason for this apparent immunity to mafia persecution was made apparent to me some time later. The wife and daughter of the mafia-head attended our services during the first month and eventually accepted Christ as their Savior. God used the wife of this wicked man to give us freedom to preach, live, and work in the most dangerous place in the former USSR. I understood later that this woman and her daughter were a constant witness to a very dangerous and hate-filled husband and father. However, over time, this man became soft to the Gospel and started making concessions to all religious ministries. He had plans to build a large Orthodox church, and, when he was assassinated, I found out his assassination was because he had become “soft” as a leader. This was due to his heart being softened by the Gospel. Did he get saved? I don’t know for sure, but the influence of his wife and daughter allowed tens of thousands to hear the Gospel unhindered. Their influence also allowed my family to live in peace and safety and to serve Christ in relative freedom.
Today, the church we started in 1993, sits in the center of town, and the pastor has been given a presidential citation for helping the poor. All of this was possible because of God’s grace to save and soften the heart of the wicked. God is good and answers prayer.
There is so much more to share, but for now, pray for Moldova, where this story continues.
Dr. Eric Chapman