- Sergey, you have visited many places, but your first time in Africa. Why did you go there?
“The main goal of all missions is to bring people to Christ. During the day, we held seminars to teach people the basic principles of Christian doctrine, how to trust the Lord, staying true to Him in everyday life, and how to fight temptation. Then we held evangelistic meetings, each ending with a call to repentance. The number of people who responded fluctuated on different days from a few hundred to a thousand. Praise God!”
- Did you have to deal with any terrible diseases like ebola or malaria?
“Nobody got sick there, thank God. We were previously vaccinated against yellow fever before we left. The doctor prescribed pills for preventing malaria, which needed to be taken every day during the trip. It was also impossible to drink unfiltered water or eat local food. We had to constantly wash our hands and spray mosquito repellant, as they carry malaria.”
- Were you scared to be there?
“We have been to many very dangerous places. In the Middle East there is constant threat of terrorist attacks. In Africa, it’s more about deadly diseases. If you succumb to fear, then you will not serve. We had a brother on our team who already had malaria. He was in a coma for forty days, but now that he has recovered, he again set off on another mission! It is a matter of trusting God and answering the call to God’s mission.”
- You gathered quite a large team who desired to go.
“This is due to the volume of work. In the Congo we were 10 people. We went with doctors, and as they took patients and performed operations, we preached the gospel. About 3,000-5,000 people gathered for evangelism. And in Tanzania, more people gathered, anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000, so our team grew to 27 people. Among them was everyone needed for the ministry: pastors, evangelists, preachers, counselors, photographers and cooks who were especially concerned about food safety (taking into account the sanitary conditions in those regions where we were, safe food was a priority for us).”
- Did you bring your own cook from Moldova?
“Yes. The locals offered us their food, but the experienced brothers advised against it, since not everyone can handle it. Because it is very hot there, everything deteriorates quickly. So even though they can safely eat something, we couldn’t even smell it. We also spent one day cleaning our hostel with bleach: the refrigerator, the kitchen — everything we could. Some foreigners were with us who brought sausages with them, and we already bought macaroni and fruits on the spot. And so the cook prepared food for our entire large team, so we could safely serve.”
- What conditions were in the hostel?
“It was hot, with annoying mosquitoes. By our standards, the hotel was one or two stars. But according to local standards, it was the highest category. Even so, I want to say that any inconveniences were not a major factor for us. We went to serve the local people, and that was the main thing. We saw that the African people are very open and kind-hearted. It’s true that in the Congo felt hostility from the officials. We got the impression that there is a targeted genocide of their own people. It is very dirty there, heaps of garbage are everywhere, and people eat, live, trade on this garbage. Because of this, disease is in full bloom. We didn’t see any older people there, because the average life expectancy is 52 years. And those in power do nothing to change the situation, so we were sad.”
- Are there churches there?
“Over the past decade, churches have been growing rapidly. The Gospel was brought there a long time ago, with the first settlers of Europeans, who were mostly Catholics. Protestant churches are experiencing rapid growth, but the number of Muslims is growing. The situation is the same in Tanzania.”
- Are people are open to change?
“Yes. But there is a fierce spiritual struggle. We weren’t bothered by inconveniences or creature comforts, or the heat, or the many hours serving, but the spiritual oppression. In Africa, the voodoo cult is widespread. We saw firsthand how enslaved people's souls were, and how demonized the population was. After all, people had been in devil worship for years, and this was manifested during the services. When we called people to prayer, they came forward, began to pray and ... lost consciousness! And these were not isolated events, but dozens of people! They were picked up by Christians, who specifically looked out for such people in the crowd, and carried them out to the prayer tent behind the stadium. That is, local Christians were ready for this. In addition to spiritual shock, those seeking repentance had a real opportunity to be trampled, after all, hundreds of people went down to pray! 1,500 people left once!”
- Have you seen this kind of response before? After all, you have visited many countries.
“This is the situation in Africa. After those people who had fallen were prayed over, they came to their senses, got up and began to praise God. Among the unconscious were many young people, young teens who needed to be freed from dependence on demonic forces. Watching these things take place, you understand how they need liberation from the occult forces and spiritual oppression. Many (and those who profess Islam, too) understand that only a Christian God can free them from the demonic power, in which millions of people are ensnared. The people of Africa are very open to accepting the good news of Jesus Christ.”
- If people are so spiritually burdened, what attracted them to your meetings?
“In all we estimate that we had about 70,000 people attend our meetings. Some came to listen precisely to the Word of God, some for company, some out of curiosity, some to look at white people. I was very surprised by the testimony of a young man who said that he was a student in an Islamic school, but he repented at our meeting! God was very active there.”
- You held meetings or services every day?
“Yes. In the morning we held seminars. I led a seminar for local ministers on the topic: “The Pastor as Leader of the Ministry”. There were a lot of counseling conversations. After lunch in the afternoon, the meetings began. Five days, every day at 4pm we held a service. It included music, the sermon, and the call to repentance.”
-Did all the local churches gather?
“Yes. We talked a lot with local Christians. Often I was the only white person among blacks. They are very respectful to the white people, as they consider them the highest race. This opinion has evolved over the centuries. And I had to tell them that they underestimate themselves. It’s not about skin color! There are so many talented people among them. They are all hardy and vigorous. Imagine if our services lasted from 4 to 6 hours. Four hours is the minimum. And throughout this time people were standing under the open sun…with kids. It’s hard to imagine whites people acting in such a way ...”
- Are local churches equipped and ready to accept so many new believers?
“I was pleasantly surprised by the organization of this entire mission trip. When people went to pray and repent, the believers immediately approached them with a notebook and pen, wrote down information to contact the repentant person in the future. Special people stood, helping those who became faint. For this, everything was prepared at the stadium. It was not chaotic, but very orderly and organized. Therefore, I am confident that the churches will adapt and organize, given how they reacted and how they prepared.”
- Would you go there again?
“We set a goal for ourselves, ‘serving in the Middle East,’ but the doors to evangelism opened in Africa. How can I ignore this? If God opens doors for us, we must go. Seeing us off, the brothers had already started preparing the next mission! They are waiting for us, so we are preparing to come to them again. Although there are local ministers and churches there, they lack experience and knowledge, therefore we are needed there. And it is an honor for us to participate in the expansion of God’s kingdom!”
- You gather teams for your missionary journeys from different places. How do you find people?
“Many people ask us: how do you manage to serve in the Middle East, and now in Africa? I remember that at the very beginning of the ministry we prayed for a long time before going. And when a person dedicates himself to ministry, he no longer belongs to himself, only to God. The Apostle Paul says: “Imagine your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, as your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by renewing your mind so that you may know what is God's will, good, acceptable and perfect ”(Romans 12: 1,2). When I left for the ministry, I realized that I cannot return. Everything is done by God’s power. We trust Him and say: “Lord! Your will be done!” If someone hesitates to go or not, looking for something for himself: thrills, extreme tourism or something else, then I advise you not to go. This is not our kind of ministry. In Iraq, I talked with one young girl who wanted to serve with us. I began to tell her how dangerous it was, but she paused and said, “It would be an honor for me to die for the Lord ...” I could only pray in response. God uses those people who put themselves on the altar of serving Him!