The Living Stone UMC in VladivostockBy Martha Kogle
October 1998 found Foothills UMC making its first trip to Vladivostok, Russia. The Russian Peace Foundation was our Hosts and we began our 14 year Mission outreach to a city that had been closed off from the world by Communism for over 80 years. We went to do Humanitarian work Projects and ended up meeting some of the most gracious and kind people we have ever met. We worked in a variety of places, a Preschool, a sports facility, a convalescent home for the elderly, and several Orphanages, to name just a few.
We started a weekly Bible Group that met at the Peace Foundation, for worship and fellowship. It was at this time we contacted the Russian United Methodist Church in Moscow for help with finding some leadership for the Group. It was our dream to be able to establish and Charter a new UMC Congregation in Vladivostok. Bishop Hans Vaxby sent one of the retired District Superintendents and Rev. Lee spent several months finding a leader for our group. He went to a Korean Missionary asking if he had any lay person that could lead our group, He introduced us to Dr. Valentina Smagina. She accepted the invitation to become our leader. She was invited to attend Annual Conference, and after much prayer and conversation she made the decision to become a United Methodist and go to Seminary in Moscow (its extension course). She Graduated last year. This last year she was contacted by the Korean Missionary asking if she would be interested in joining our UMC Bible Group with the Korean Group that she had attended before becoming the leader of our Group. They began worshiping together and enjoyed being together. She said only if they could be a United Methodist Church. The Missionary and his group seemed to have no problem with that and so the Bishop was contacted and in March he came out and worked out the details for their application for membership into the Russian UMC. The Korean group had a lovely small building and we had a trained Pastor and it seemed only right that God had provided a new plan.
The Korean Missionary is now busy working with Chinese, trying to start another Church. Last month at the Siberian Far Eastern Annual Conference the application was voted upon and I received an E-Mail from Annual Conference from Bishop Vaxby saying that the Application was accepted with GREAT JOY and they will now become a Russian United Methodist Church called “Living Stone” UMC. Thanks be to God.
There will be another Mission Team going soon, it will be our 19th Team. But it will be different, since we now have a congregation to be in Ministry with. Some of the Russian Pastors have been asking for help in areas of ministry.
This is a brand new Congregation and many are new Christians. How about some of us going to lead Seminars on Prayer life, Spiritual Growth, Evangelism, How to develop a Church Budget, how do we use God’s gift of Time, Talent, Treasure? Does this nudge any of you to pray about you going to enrich your life, and touch the hearts of new Christians in Russia?
Give me a call and let’s talk. We here at Foothills are not in this Ministry alone. There are 15 other congregations that have supported this Mission outreach to Russia. They have given money to help these small congregations grow. This Mission was started in the San Diego District, but the entire Conference has helped in many ways to make this new Church happen. There are over 40 people that have gone from Foothills, and about 100 total from many of our sister churches. May God continue to surround and bless these our friends in the “Living Stone” Russian United Methodist Church in Vladivostok, Russia.
Praise Be To God
Rev. Martha Kogle