Ed Jones, Pastor
During one of my mission trips to Russia I visited the small village of Ustyuzhna, one of the many unremarkable towns in North-Central Russia. One afternoon the Russian pastor I was assisting asked if I would like to go into the countryside. After I reluctantly agreed, he drove me to within a kilometer of Shustova and motioned me to take a walk and speak to the inhabitants.
It was mid-summer and dry. The dirt road leading into the hamlet had few tire tracks to note the passing of anything remotely modern. As I entered, several people greeted me with varying degrees of suspicion and curiosity. After stating I was an American here to talk to whomever would listen about Jesus, I was taken to the town elder’s house. After much inspection of my clothing, hair, etc. the elder informed me that many in that village had never seen an American. Because of the prodding of the Holy Spirit and my novelty I was invited to speak.
I gave a clear presentation of the Gospel only to discover that the whole family and many of the townspeople were already believers. Relieved, we shared a meal and warm fellowship. I was presented with a jar of the best honey on the planet at which time I opened my backpack and began to distribute Bibles and New Testaments. It was a day I will long remember.
As I prepared to depart, a group of young boys approached. After the now-normal curious inspection, one of them, Pavel, requested a Bible for himself. I had one left that I was hoping to give to the head of a house on the way out, so I offered a New Testament instead. The disappointment I saw on his face touched my heart. “Pavel,” I asked, “why should I give you a whole Bible?” Looking down, he replied, “I want to know more.” He went on, “Until you came, the only scripture we had was some Psalms, but in the next town they have the entire Gospel of John. I go there, copy some chapters, come home and memorize them.” I discovered later that the next town was eight kilometers away…this is Northern Russia! Subzero temperatures are common, and wild animals are not uncommon. At the time Shustova had no running water or electricity. Pavel would read by oil lamp.
I asked him how much he had memorized. He responded that he had put nearly the entire Gospel to memory. Humbled and not a little embarrassed, I gave him a Bible. He asked me to sign it to remember me. I don’t need his signature to remember him.
Please take the time this week to get into the word of God. Pavel does. And join us on Sunday as we take a moment to explore God’s love letter to us.
Ed Jones pastors Fellowship at the Ranch Church, which meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. Visit Fellowship’s website: www.fellowshipattheranchchurch.org for more information.