Hello dear friends and partners,
I know it’s been a while since I shared news with you last. Now it is the time.
News #1: we are back in Russia again. We had to leave Norway because the migration officials didn’t allow me to work as a pastor without a Master’s degree in theology. I only have bachelor’s. We spent half a year in Vadsø without going from there, and we were traveling back and forth for a year before that. Altogether, we spent almost a year there. In many ways, my hands were tied, because I was waiting for the job permit, and I wasn’t able to do many things I wanted to do. Nevertheless, we have done something:
- I started and completed a series of Sunday sermons, all linked into a progression focused on getting to know who is God really and what our relationships with him are.
- Helped to sort out and keep away ‘traveling evangelists’, who are popular in Norway, but who are mostly traveling artists with their own agenda often destructive to the church.
- Started a weekly home group, which I still lead over FB Messenger.
- Masha started crafts classes for kids where they make gifts for their parents and friends, read the Bible, pray, sing, etc.
- Started a home group for teenagers, and it happened to be only boy’s group (men’s ministry!)
- We started a Bible group for new believers.
- Started preparing a message for the kids very Sunday before the main sermon.
Besides that, I was on a leadership team organizing an All-Finnmark Conference, trying to bring the churches in the North together.
What I am planning to do when I have a job permit:
- Prison ministry
- Street outreach
- Free church café for the city
- Hospital ministry
- Extend kid’s and teenager’s meetings and invite the people from the city.
I know these look like dry facts, but we really fell in love with these people, this place. Not even with the people in church, but the people who live there. This is tough time for them. The city and the whole area are going through dramatic changes, the future is blurred, no one knows what will happen with the place in next few years.
We were leaving crying. Now because the borders are closed, we can’t go visit them even using our tourist visas. Nobody knows when they will open. We left Vadsø May 4. It was an adventurous story how we were crossing the border when it was closed, but maybe I will tell the story later.
When we arrived in Polyarny, it was a serious stress for all. We were not ready for that. Me and Masha, we all were focused on the work in Vadsø, throwing ourselves completely into this work, and we didn’t have any plans ‘B’. One thing was obvious: I needed to study to upgrade to Master’s degree.
Right after I got the news about the denial, I called my seminary and they approved my Master’s program application. So, my first focus right now is to study. First it was my decision – I will go for it if this is what it takes to continue ministry in Norway. But now I enjoy it so much. I love to study indeed and my question to myself is: “Why didn’t I do this before???”
Since there’s no ministry in Polyarny anymore, we moved to Murmansk. Besides studying, I’m trying to re-start ministry for men here. Right now, we are preparing a men’s camp in Murmansk region with some friends. Hoping to have it in the end of this month.
Dear friends, your support, prayer and financial, has been an important help for us as a family and for our ministry, both in Norway and in Russia. I’m grateful to all who spent time in prayer for us, who donated money to us and who shared wisdom and good advice in this challenging time. Thank you!
Yura & Masha Belonozhkin