By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
MINSK, Belarus (LBM) – Andrew Ryzhkov has good news about an international partnership to share with churches in our state: Though Louisiana Baptists are 6,000 miles away, they are helping to change the spiritual future for thousands of Belarusians, one Bible at a time.
Ryzhkov, founder of the Byelorussian Mission in-country ministry, said financial gifts from Lousiana Baptists have helped purchase some of the more than 30,000 Good and Evil Illustrated Bibles that have been distributed in the country from January through early November, compared to 27,000 Bibles that were handed out in 2020.
He said that four out of 10 people who have received the special Bibles have turned to Christ, and such evangelistic success only cost just $10 per Bible.
“With Louisiana’s help, we can be stronger and go to even 40,000-50,000,” he said. “We need Bibles. And we need people to come and join us in spreading the Gospel.”
Louisiana Baptists have been actively engaged in evangelizing Belarus since 2014, helping to establish local churches, complete construction projects and conduct training of pastors and lay people.
This year a major focus of the ministry has been on the younger generation. With the help of volunteers from five states and three countries, the ministry held a conference for 250 students that yielded 30 decisions for Christ, trained 90 leaders to open a day care center in their respective communities and hosted 7,000 students for summer camps.
Tommy Middleton, director of missions for Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, has taken six mission trips to Belarus since 2016. He said the Belarusians’ passion for sharing Jesus keeps him passionate about returning to the country each year.
“It’s a great opportunity to go into an environment that is receptive to evangelism,” Middleton said. “The Christians there are fearless and make me want to step up my game when I return from a mission trip there.”
Middleton along with members of Jefferson Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, Walker Baptist Church and First Baptist Church, Rayville, traveled to the country in September. While there, they shared the Gospel in classes they taught at a university and several coffee shops.
He said the Belarusian Christians continue to embrace discipleship and plant churches, which has helped strengthened them to be bold witnesses to the country.
“When you can disciple those people who speak the language and know the culture, they have the ability to reach many more than we can during our short time in the country,” he said. “We are seeing young people especially embrace this lifestyle of discipleship and they are filling the churches. They make for great Gospel partners.”
Jason McNaughten, pastor of Walker Baptist, echoed the thought. “Belarus never disappoints,” he said. “We are primarily planting Gospel seeds, and God is bringing a harvest. It was my fifth time to travel there and each time I come back home more determined to pray for and support Belarus as well as reach my mission field here at home.”
Ryzhkov asked for continued prayers as plans are being shaped for future ministry to Belarus. “Pray for revival, especially among young people,” he said. “And pray for those who receive the Gospel to grow stronger. And pray for leadership, for us, so we can go where God wants us to go. Join us and see first-hand how the Lord is moving in Belarus.”
To contribute to the purchase of the Good and Evil Illustrated Bibles or for more information about a mission trip in 2022, email Andrew@ byelorussianmission.org or visit byelorussianmission.org.