Monthly Archives: February 2015

Kalmykia with Sarang Badeev – Buddhists Turning to Faith in Jesus Christ!

FROM R.K.’s CORNER

Ulrichs 11-14Resize of Andy&Sarang3-BIn the May 2010 Bridge Report, I shared the compelling story of Andrew Vincent, a courageous young  American who, thirty years ago, brought the Gospel to Kalmykia, an autonomous Republic within Russia, located on the north-western shore of the Caspian Sea. The Kalmyks are an unreached people, the only Buddhist community in Europe. It  is also a story of a young Kalmyk, Sarang Badeev, who responded to Andrew’s message and became a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Andrew taught him the Word of God and trained him for leadership. In 1996, Andrew was blacklisted by the Russian government for his missionary activities and forced to permanently leave Russia. Sarang was ordained and given charge of the first church in the capital of Elista.  Since then, he has continued to pastor, evangelize and plant church fellowships within the Kalmyk communities in Russia, Mongolia, China—and the United States!

Last May, Sarang visited Steve and my home in Florida.  We came to know him better, and learned more about his people, their background history and current life.  It is a sad tale of war, suffering, oppression, and persecution, but also of endurance and the will to survive in a harsh environment.

Kalmykia - ccIn this issue, we are giving you an overview of the history of the Kalmyk people, and an update on Sarang’s apostolic work among them. Sarang is worthy of our support! Please allocate donations to him and his ministry: KALMYK WORKERS.

KALMYKIA – A BRIEF BACKGROUND

2. Peter 3:9, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patienttoward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Matthew 24:14, “And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached to all the world as a testimony to all nations (ethnos), and then the end will come!”Kalmykia - HOmes on the Steppes BNOTE:  This is an update on the May 2010 Bridge Report in which we featured the Kalmyk people, their eventful, tragic history, their compelling spiritual journey from ancient times Shamanism, to the Christian faith (12th Century), to Tibetan Buddhism (17th Century), then being reintroduced to the Gospel (mid–1980s) while under Soviet rule by a bold American, the only foreign visitor to Kalmykia since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.  It also featured the testimony of Sarang Badeev, one of the young Kalmyks who, twenty years ago, embraced the Christian faith and has, since then, labored in an apostolic capacity among his Kalmyk people who are located in China, Mongolia, Russia, and the United States.

Please visit our website:  http://www.bridgeinternational.org/pdf/may2010.pdf

UPDATE ON KALMYKS IN RUSSIA

Kalmykia - Buddhist Temple - Picture1 BImmediately after the sanctions were imposed upon Russia by the European Union and the United States, the economic situation deteriorated dramatically with sharp rise in the cost of staples, food, grain, meat, and milk. The people were told it was  due to Russia’s militarily enforced annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from the Ukraine into the Russian Federation.  Kalmykia’s state financial resources were drained and sent to the Federal government in Moscow.  When later the oil prices dropped, the situation deteriorated even further.

Kalmykia - Street chessThis is reflected in the fact that the Kalmyk government revenue has decreased, and the number of jobs in the public and private sectors are reduced. Banks have stopped giving business loans, with the result that some of the businesses are closing, causing a lot of people to lose their jobs. Even before these events took place, it was difficult to find jobs in Kalmykia, which is one of the poorest regions in Russia.  The long-term negative impact of a large outflow of young people who have left for Moscow and other Russian cities in search of work speaks for itself. In addition, it is now harder to buy a home because the interest on mortgages has sharply risen.  Prior to this, many who had moved to Moscow and had well-paid jobs, helped support their family members in Kalmykia.  With so many having now lost those jobs,  there is extra hardship on the families back home.Kalmykia - Evangelism BThis depressing, negative situation and bleak future outlook, however, is not all bad!  As the dark is getting darker, the light shines brighter! The hardship is causing people to become more open to the Gospel and the Word of God.

Kalmykia - Evengelism Team BThe Kalmyks have had, since the introduction of the Christian faith by the Nestorians in the 12th Century, an awareness of a monotheistic Creator God.  Many more are asking spiritual questions and showing interest in reading and understanding the Bible — they are seeking for truth, and they are more open to receiving the message about a loving, personal God and responding to Him! Here are some pictures of the Kalmyk believers.

THE KALMYKS IN MONGOLIA

Kalmykia - ancient dwelling BUnofficially, the population is estimated at 400,000, most of whom live in small communities in the western territory in the foothills of the Mongolian Altai.  There are three main towns which have a few industrial enterprises; the city of Kobdo being officially recognized as their capital. Many still live the traditional nomadic lifestyle as cattle breeders, and some live remotely high up in the mountains which are difficult to access.  The Kalmyks in Western Mongolia are rich in folklore, and preserve their traditions through creative expressions of dance, song, poems, and story-telling.  They also excel at national sports. Many of those who live in the capital of Ulaanbaatar are very active in the political life of Mongolia Business Sport. The current President of Mongolia, Elbek Dorj is Western Mongolia Kalmyk, so is prior Prime Minister Altanhuyag. The pristine Mongolian Altai is a massive, untouched wilderness, abounding in minerals and vegetation with a variety of physical healing agents.

THE KALMYKS IN CHINA 

Kalmykia - Biblestudy in Khomutnikov BMost of the Kalmyk ancestors—the Oirats came from Dzhungaria, which today is located in the Xinjiang region of China.  In the 1600, most of the Oirats left their homeland and settled in present Kalmykia in Russia, but 150 years later, many of them returned to Dzhungaria to escape the control and persecution of the Czar Dynasty.  Today, the majority live the traditional lifestyle as nomadic horse and cattle breeders.  Their race horses are considered the best in China and the Kalmyks are by far the best equestrians. One breed is called the Karasharskaya, named after the nearby city of Karashar.  It is a mixture of Mongolian and Caucasian horses, a tall, slender and beautiful horse.

THE PROSPERING OF THE GOSPEL AMONG THE KALMYKS

Kalmykia - 2008 Bible Conference Participants BKALMYKIA, RUSSIA—In the capital of Elista there is a fellowship of app. 65-70 committed believers.  In the surrounding villages there are several home fellowships, counting app. 140 adults. The evangelical church is regarded as a cult by the authorities.  The believers are not actively persecuted, although the KGB keeps a keen eye on them.

MONGOLIA—The first believer came to faith through Sarang through a visit to his aunt, who lives there.  Now there are app. 170 believers who are scattered in small home groups throughout the region.  During Sarang’s visits, he teaches and pastors them.Kalmykia - Young Leaders B

CHINA—In the Xinjiang Province, the believers live underground, but Sarang has preached the Gospel and seen 47 people come to faith, some of them young and well educated.

The doors are wide open to the Kalmyk people– will you partner with Sarang in reaching them with the Gospel?

Kalmykia - the Young Generation B 

 

 

 

 

2014 Annual Bridge Report

Dear Friends and Partners:

Ulrichs 11-14Steve and I wish you and your family a Happy New Year, and extend our warmest greetings with the Apostle John’s prayer from 3rd John 2 – that all may go well with you and that you may prosper, even as your soul prospers! 

We thank everyone who in various ways partnered with us in 2014 through The Bridge International, especially  those of you who so generously gave of themselves by financial support and prayer on behalf of the missionaries and their mercy ministries we helped sponsor. We are so grateful that so many keep on giving sacrificially toward the furthering of God’s Kingdom in the nations in spite of continued tough economic times.

Those who have contributed to The Bridge International in 2014, have received by postal mail their official contribution receipt for their Federal Tax returns enclosed in this publication.

We always seek to live by the highest standard of integrity in financial matters, knowing we are stewards of the funds entrusted into our hands for proper distribution, thus, our accountability is not only to the Lord, but also to you who give, and to the recipients who receive the gifts abroad.  Upon request we will send you The Bridge’s 2014 Finance Report prepared by the CPA firm Cherry, Bekaert & Holland, L.L.P. in Miami, Florida.

You may have noticed that, a couple of years ago, we changed the format of The Bridge Annual Report.  It has changed from posting the name and picture of each missionary with a short description of their activities and the funds sent — to being more general in nature.  The reason for this,  is that changing times have compelled us to be more protective of the people we serve in the field, most of whom live and work in parts of the world where there is a drastic escalation in the number of perpetrators who aggressively plan and pursue violence, especially  against Christians. The number of countries in which they operate, is also on the rise.

From the inception of The Bridge 32 years ago,  we have sought to be true to God’s call — sharing testimonies from the indigenous church in the nations with the believers in the West for their encouragement, and bringing resources from the West to assist the indigenous church abroad.

Some of our field partners choose to be very open with their lives and testimonies; they are by their own choice featured in The Bridge Report which we publish online and also send out by postal mail. Others, whose names and ministries have never been mentioned in Bridge publications, choose to work quietly “underground”, as they find that works best for them in spreading the Gospel.  We respect both ways, knowing that in their call to serve the Lord they are all driven by the same passion — to see that those yet unreached may hear and receive the Good News of Jesus Christ, and be discipled according to Mt 28:18-20!  

To gain specific information or an update on a field worker or a project you help sponsor, I encourage you to first look at our website www.bridgeinternational.org, send us an email, or call our office.  I would personally be very happy to give you the information you need.

2014 IN REVIEW

logoOur main focus of engagement in 2014 were in three parts of the world: Central Asia, The Middle East, and South Sudan. 

In the month of April, I had the pleasure of being invited to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Agape Evangelical Center in Almaty, Kazakhstan, one of the larger  indigenous ministries in Central Asia. In 1989,  Agape Mission was birthed by four young people who had come to faith in

Jesus Christ during the communist era.  The team began to openly evangelize in streets and parks, and people responded!  In 1991, just after the fall of the Iron Curtain, The Bridge came alongside these new believers and began helping them with resources.  Over the years, Mission Agape became Agape Evangelical Center which is the umbrella covering a large local church; a number of local mercy outreaches to the poor, prisoners, elderly, and orphans; a Bible College for the training of church planters and missionaries; 60 satellite churches planted in other parts of the region, including China; and an effective Drug Rehabilitation Center housingnearly 100 people who are being gloriously set free from a life of bondage by the power of God!  Needless to say, my visit to Agape, as always, was joyous, faith-building and encouraging!  To familiarize yourself with this ministry, please read the following Bridge Reports online at:

http://www.bridgeinternational.org/pdf/may2009.pdf

http://www.bridgeinternational.org/pdf/july2009.pdf

http://www.bridgeinternational.org/pdf/august2009.pdf

http://www.bridgeinternational.org/kazakhstan-almaty-agape-evangelical-centers-25th-anniversay-celebration/

In Kazakhstan, I also took the train North to the  city of Karaganda, where I had a delightful few days with Yermek Balykbekov and his family, who are ministering to their own Kazakh people.  I was received with the characteristically warmhearted hospitality for which the Kazakh and other people groups in that part of the world are known.

www.bridgeinternational.org/kazakhstan-r-k-s-visit-to-yermek-balykbekov-in-karaganda/

While in Central Asia, I also took a side-trip to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan where I met up with a lovely Russian family to whom I was introduced to in 2003.  They are ministering to the Russian-speaking people in the city.  I stayed with a delightful, young Tajik-Uzbek family who have a passion to disciple teenage boys who have been released from State orphanages – ill prepared, without having anywhere to go. I also met a wonderful group of expats from Canada, America, and Europe who serve the Kyrgyz people in various ways with much love and care.

I also spent time with several Afghans I had to come to know prior to my visit.  During subsequent  trips to Norway, Germany, and Holland, I also met up with a number of Afghans who have come to faith in Jesus Christ – even one living in the regional city near my home village!  Two decades ago, for a couple of years, Steve and I personally financed a grade school for the children of the approx. 2000 Afghans refugees who had fled to Kazakhstan from the Russian Army who had invaded their homeland.  God gave us a deep love and respect for this beautiful, strong, self-sufficient, fiercely independent mountain people who, regretfully, have been so turned away from God’s purposes by the darkness of Islam and generations of tribal conflict. Today, a new generation of Afghans who have only known war, is emerging in the nations. Some of them have come into a dynamic, deep, life–changing relationship with Jesus Christ as the Son of God; others are cunningly hiding behind the Christian faith to gain favors – for them lies and deceit are the order of the day.  We need an extra measure of wisdom and discernment, as well as persistence, to effectively minister the love of God to the Afghan people!

That brings us to the Middle East.  For security reasons, I am not at liberty to disclose specifics on our partnerships, nor the extent of our service to the peoples in that region of the world.  Suffice it to say that we have a heart for both Israel and the Arab nations, and serve partners who  minister in both places.  Those who remain steadfast in their faith in the face of persecution and insurmountable obstacles and risk to themselves and their families’ safety and life, put much of the Western church, with its superficial, self-centered preaching, to shame.  They embody the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 2:15-16, demonstrating they are Children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which they shine like stars in the universe as they hold out the word of life!

The Bridge helped raise funds to relieve the profound suffering of some of the refugees who fled to Northern Iraq from the areas in Central Iraq and Syria that have been decimated by the Islamic extremist group ISIS.  We funneled the funds through the ministry of an Arab friend and partner who now travels regularly with his wife to Northern Iraq, while distributing the relief aid and ministering the love and comfort of Jesus to the traumatized, suffering refugees.  He allowed us to publish his first trip report (take note of  his last few paragraphs).  It is to be found at:

http://www.bridgeinternational.org/north-iraq-relief-aid-for-syrian-and-iraqi-refugees/

South Sudan, the newest country in the world, continues to be at a crisis point with massive government corruption, lack of good leadership on all levels, and absence of basic infrastructure.  The President and the former Vice President are still in armed conflict over unresolved power issues; although there is presently cease-fire, it is anticipated that war may erupt again at any time.

Although The Bridge has longstanding relationships with dynamic ministries both in the North and the South of the country, our focus in 2014 was to continue the partnership with the two young men who returned to their new country in 2011, and now living in and not far from the capital of Juba.  They  are both pioneering  and struggling to help their people under the most arduous circumstances.  The following link gives you an overview of the people and ministries we serve in South Sudan:

http://www.bridgeinternational.org/turkey-south-sudan-trip/

Thank you again for walking shoulder to shoulder with us in furthering the Kingdom of God in the nations. Let us be mindful of the words of Jesus in John 9:4 — Let us continue to work together while it is day, the night is coming when no one can work!