150 Russian Flood Survivors Profess New Faith in Christ
September 20, 2012
By Bob Merrill, field director for The Alliance in Russia
On the night of July 6, 2012, Pastor Alexander Saharov and his wife, Tanya, fell into bed after a long day. At 3 a.m., the phone rang. The news was startling. Krymsk’s streets were flooding.
Raging waters were filling homes and preventing families from escaping. Cars, animals, and people were being swept away by the swift currents. Alexander and Tanya spent the next few hours checking on the well-being of church members, relatives, and friends.
Once church members were accounted for, the pastor and his congregation walked the streets, offering help as needed to survivors, handing out Bibles, and sharing Christ. Believers from other ECMU churches in Russia traveled to Krymsk to help as well, spending long days shoveling mud from more than 100 homes.
These acts of kindness opened doors for the gospel to be shared, and more than 150 people have accepted Christ as a result.
“I’ve never seen people so open to listening to the good news and so ready to respond to God’s gift of life!” exclaims Pastor Alexander, who is now coordinating efforts to repair and rebuild homes.
More than 7,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in Krymsk that early July morning. In some sections of the city, flood waters reached 15 feet high. Official reports put the death toll at 172, but many involved in the relief efforts believe that thousands may have perished.
Alliance people immediately responded to the desperate need. Don Plummer, an Alliance worker in the region, coordinated a relief and recovery strategy with the Evangelical Christian Missionary Union (ECMU)—the primary Alliance national church partner in Russia.
Pastor Alexander took the lead in the recovery efforts, working in conjunction with the ECMU director for general services to develop plans to minister to those affected. He and his church believe God called them to be a beacon of light in the midst of the crisis.
Stages of Relief
During the first three days after the disaster, survivors were in shock; Krymsk was described as a “city of zombies.” Pastor Alexander, whose home was unaffected by the flood, fed more than 120 people each day at his house and purchased towels for them with funds from CAMA (Compassion and Mercy Associates, the relief and development arm of The Alliance) and the ECMU. The church purchased and provided survivors with basic clothing items as well as shovels and buckets to help remove debris from damaged buildings.
With the help of a $10,000 grant from CAMA, church members were able to set up two sites to offer additional relief assistance. One center served food and water and addressed medical needs; the second site provided clothing and tools for clean-up.
Local city officials, noting the church’s practical compassion and efficiency, remarked, “In the future, we will adopt your method of assistance for victims in emergencies.”
More than $9,000 in ECMU gifts helped to underwrite critical legal and emotional support for a number of flood survivors. Graduate students from the counseling program at Kuban Evangelical Christian University (where Alliance personnel teach) helped survivors to work through their traumatic experiences. Students slept on cots and ministered for long hours over a period of several weeks.
The ECMU has identified 31 severely damaged homes—prioritizing widows with children, whom they claim are “our responsibility.” Most of these families live on the ground floor of apartment buildings and their homes were completely destroyed. Work teams from other ECMU churches will likely partner with work teams from North American churches to make these homes livable before the Russian winter arrives in early October.
Because of the church leadership’s excellent funds management, just $5,125 of CAMA’s $10,000 grant was spent. The remaining $4,875, and a similar amount remaining from ECMU church donations across Russia, is now being released to begin the major work of rebuilding.
As additional funds are found, the church will continue its current ministry—assisting flood survivors and sharing the love of Christ in practical ways.
What You Can Do
Pray for the people of flood-affected southern Russia and for continued effective outreaches to many in need. Praise God for the 150 new believers in this region; please pray for their continued spiritual growth and physical well-being. Pray for Alliance workers around the world.
Give to the Great Commission Fund to support Alliance workers in Russia who are there for the long haul, walking with people through this crisis and extending the hope of Christ to those who have suffered great loss.
Check out CAMA’s relief and development work.