"After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan." (Matthew 15:39 NIV)
Whenever we tell someone in town that we plan to leave on March 13 and return on April 9 on an evangelistic mission trip to Magadan, Russia, they will often ask with a sense of incredulity: "Where is that!?" We usually explain that it is in the part of Russia that borders Alaska. In fact, back in the roaring 90s era of new relations with people of the Former Soviet Union, Alaska Airlines was making regularly scheduled flights from Anchorage, Alaska across the Bering Sea. The first stop was Magadan, unless harsh winter weather forced the plane down in Anadyr. After Magadan, the flights went on to Khabarovsk and Vladivostok. All the oil field workers could connect in Khabarovsk for a 30 minute flight over to Sakhalin Island.
Our church members here in Cedar Key as well as many kind people in the community have become involved with our work of helping the orphans and other poor children of Magadan. We can never say enough good words about your deeds of kindness that have made it possible for us to ship packages containing children's clothing and other needed items. The shipping cost has risen sharply over the past few months making it impractical to ship those heavy things over. We regret this, but are happy that due to the improved Russian economy, more goods are available in the local shops.
Somewhere in one of my old boxes containing files dealing with my mission work in the Russian Far East, is a map of Russia that is well marked from my research into the cities of the Far East. My first mission trip to Russia in 1992 was a huge revelation regarding the poor condition of Christianity in post-Soviet territories. Our first evangelistic activities in the far northern Komi Republic near the Arctic Circle were met with open arms and many enthusiastic cries for Bibles and literature. Many souls were saved in these difficult early campaigns when eager souls heard and obeyed the Gospel. (Hebrews 5:8-9)
Upon my return to America from that first trip to Russia, my heart was full of the great urgings from so many young people and their parents to come back and spend time teaching them the doctrine of Christ and the apostles. All the reports that came to me from various missionary sources glowed with dozens of new churches being planted, as many Russian souls rediscovered the joy of personal faith in God and His Son. These exciting reports, along with my own experiences further ignited a passion within me for taking the Gospel to Russia.
It became obvious that none of my fellow missionaries were making any serious plans for evangelism in the great Far East territories of Russia. Several strong missionary efforts were being conducted in the Russian European cities and large Siberian cities. However, the land mass of the Russian Federation occupies over one fifth of the world's land. My geographic studies of the Russian Far East revealed ten cities that had populations in excess of 100,000 people. Using this information as a guideline, I began to ask God for wisdom to help develop a plan of evangelism for this vast region. Two of the cities on this list were Khabarovsk which is in the Khabarovsk Krai and Magadan which is in the Magadan Oblast.
In the early spring of 1993, a small group of missionaries converged upon the city of Khabarovsk and we worked night and day for three weeks establishing a Church of Christ patterned upon the New Testament church. This is the city that I chose to begin my work because it was historically considered to be the chief economic and industrial city of the Russian Far East. There was a good transportation system supporting the area, and I believed that from there I could spread out into other cities.The work was a great success and the church that was planted continues to spread the Gospel in this city of over 800,000 people. While living in Khabarovsk in 1993, before we discovered that Martha had a terminal form of leukemia, I was involved in planning another evangelistic campaign to begin a new church in Magadan which is approximately 900 miles to the northeast. This church planting was part of my plans before I left America for the Far East.
Later on, while we were in the States receiving care and experimental treatment for this disease, another missionary couple moved to Khabarovsk and very ably took up this work. Praise God for Jim and Bonnie Vansant's help at such a critical time! Before her death, Martha insisted that I return to Russia and "take care of the babies" in Christ. Upon returning to Khabarovsk, it was evident that Jim and Bonnie had things under control, so it was natural for me to make plans to help establish a church in Magadan. In October of 1994, I boarded a plane in Khabarovsk for Magadan and met up with some missionaries who were arriving from Alaska. The church was established through much hard work. I made the decision that someone needed to remain present with this church for as long as it takes to help the new Magadan Christians function on their own.
God did not allow me to become paralyzed by my grief. One of the first people that I met in the city of Magadan was Galina. What a wonderful blessing she was as a translator to all the preachers and teachers who were part of the campaign team. We were all amazed at her ability to help so many of us it seemed at the same time. She assisted us in arranging visits to the Mayor and Governor as well as all other officials. She also helped us find a suitable place for the church to conduct our meetings. Her enthusiastic and warm heart won over the entire group from America. It was not so easy for me to win her heart, but God helped.
Here is a letter we received from a dear Christian in Magadan that will help you understand why we must go back whenever we are able:
"Our dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God's blessings to you from sisters and brothers of Magadan Church of Christ! Please accept our request - we strongly desire to hear Word of the Lord from our brother and spiritual mentor David and his loyal and faithful helper Galina. We waited for David for 5 years, (I was denied a visa) and in November 2006 he arrived for 1 brief minute. Our church is in urgent need of such preacher from God. David and Galina, let God's will be on your arrival. With love - sister Tamara."
You are encouraged to attend the services of the Church of Christ at the corner of 3rd and E Streets. Write me with any questions or comments. David Binkley, Sr., P.O. Box 186, Cedar Key, FL 32625 or E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also request to receive the daily WORD OF THE DAY by e-mail. Check out our web site at www.cedarkeychurchofchrist.com