The Man from Magadan


 

The Man from Magadan

Sometimes, something so radical and impossible happens that reinforces God’s Love and Grace.

This incident took place back in the 1980’s shortly after the collapse of Communism in the old Soviet Union.  As a result, the doors in that part of the world were opened wide for the influx of the Gospel.  Following nearly 70 years of oppression, when preaching and church and owning a Bible were illegal and punished severely by the communists, suddenly God made it possible for us to go in and hold evangelistic meetings and distribute Bibles in the Russian Language.

It was during this exciting time that our church was able to organize short term mission trips and travel with small groups of individuals from our congregation into different parts of Russia, the Ukraine and Siberia.  The object was to hold meetings, sponsor pastors and plant churches.  We would purchase a complete sound system, take thousands of New Testaments in the Russian Language, connect with a contact in different cities, and rent a large conference hall to conduct a 3 or 4 day evangelistic meeting and then establish a new church from the converts that were reached.

We took a group from Life Church and targeted Kramatorsk, a large city located in the Ukraine to hold a meeting and establish a church.  Since language was a problem, we would hire translators and interpreters to work with us.  But one area of ministry was not so dependent on understanding words of a different language.  That area was the ministry of music.  So we would prepare a group of songs, usually simple choruses, that were popular and effective in the states and use members of our group to sing, play instruments and minister with music.  Pat was in charge of organizing the musicians and the music we were to use in the crusade.  The Ukrainian people (as were all those we met during this season) were very interested in learning new songs and how to implement them in the new religious freedom they enjoyed.

One day, shortly after we arrived in Kramatorsk, the musicians were rehearsing the songs that were to be used in the opening evening session.  Since the place we were using was adjacent to a busy street lined with different kinds of businesses, the pedestrian traffic walking near us could hear the music and the singing and the praise that was coming from inside our building.  At this time, a man, looking just like the hundreds we saw every day, came into our building and approached one of our translators.  From what I learned later, their conversation centered on the songs and the music our team was practicing.  The man was very excited and explained that he was in charge of the music ministry in his church that was now free to worship without fear of being arrested by the KGB.  The man was very interested to learn how he could have access to what he was hearing so he could teach the people in his church.  He had with him a small, hand written booklet, bound together with a piece of string, containing the songs and choruses he was leading and teaching in his church.  The remarkable thing is, his church was located in the city of Magadan in the far reaches of eastern Siberia.  On the map you can see it is in the proximity of the Bering Sea and nearly 4000 miles from Kramatorsk.  He was so emotional, and so thankful for this miracle moment, when he came in contact with just what he longed for…. and at such an “impossible” circumstance of divine convergence.

One of Pat’s most treasured possessions was the small, tattered, hand-written booklet of the songs the Man from Magadan gave her.  And it was this booklet and this God-Connection that became the passion and motivation for her to compile the first Russian Language Book of songs and spiritual choruses ever published… complete with written music and accompanying words.  Tens of thousands were printed, published and freely distributed throughout all our mission travels inside the Old Soviet Union.

They are still in use in hundreds of churches and home groups over there.

 

 

 

“Located in Russia’s Far East and surrounded by mountains, the Magadan area is so remote that no train lines or roads reach it: one can only get here by sea or plane.

This was Russia’s El Dorado: full of gold, silver, tin and other resources. The main city in the region is Magadan, which is a port on the Sea of Okhotsk, and which served as a major transit center for prisoners sent to Stalin’s labor camps.

The whole area is steeped with memories of the GULAG times [GULAG – Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies], and the history of the region itself started with labor camps, in their cold barracks.

When gold was discovered here at the end of the 1920s, the Soviet government developed a vast network of labor camps, which exploited more than 2 million prisoners and exiles.

Among them were criminals and Nazi-collaborators, as well as innocent people, who were accused of state treason. In the Stalin era, just a wrong word could get anyone to these places.

More than 100 thousand people died in these mountains of hunger and cold. In some places, the temperatures in winter dropped to minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 58 Fahrenheit). It was thought a healthy man could survive no more than three winters in those conditions.

Ships filled with prisoners docked in the bay at Magadan. It is here the prisoners’ ordeal began: one in seven never survived it.”

 

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