Part of the global outreach of HPCUMC involves a Methodist church in Samara, Russia. Our support to them has included helping them purchase a church building in 2001. Yet, even though they now have a church building, they are considered a sect by many because they are not part of the official government religion.
Our brothers and sisters in Christ are in many ways a first century church, not unlike what we read about in Romans or Corinthians. They live in a world where discussing their faith holds them up for ridicule from neighbors and co-workers, yet they proudly and boldly share their faith stories about how being a follower of Christ has changed their lives.
While they are relatively small in number – about one hundred adults – their commitment to sharing the love of Christ is anything but small, with sixty six people actively involved in the church’s ministries. They feed the poor and homeless every week and offer as many Bible study courses as they can find translated into Russian. During the past year they started focusing on the importance of ministering to families in church by addressing issues like family relations, bringing up children and dealing with addiction, a major problem in Russia.
Anyone who has been on one of the mission teams to Samara can share stories of Samara’s radical hospitality. One such story is that a young family with a two-year-old graciously gave up one of the two rooms in their small apartment to host members of Hyde Park Community UMC. Our partners at Samara UMC are empowered, energized and incredibly appreciative of our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Like those in the early church needed Paul, they need us. Speaking from personal experience, those of us who go to be in communion with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in Samara are always the richer for spending time with these new Christians.
The Russian Initiative, the program that reintroduced Methodism in Russia following the fall of the Soviet Union, holds a conference every two years. The next conference will be held May 15-16, 2015 in Russia for the first time. If you have an interest in attending this Moscow conference and then visiting Samara or to learn more about our partnership, please contact Nancy & Tom McOwen or me.