was dark when our convoy of two vans, a jeep and four cars pulled out
of the city of Kobe and drove for two hours across to the Japan Sea
coast to Maizuru Port. All the vehicles were loaded up with cartons of
used clothing, shoes, medicine, Gospel tracts, and New Testaments in
Russian. Our adventure had begun.
What a varied group of people
the Lord had called together for this outreach to the island of
Sakhalin in Eastern Russia. Reijo, the leader of the team is a Finnish
missionary to Japan. Chuck is an American businessman working in Kobe.
Noel Morris is from New Zealand. Rev Park is a Korean pastoring in a
Presbyterian church in Osaka. Kirsten is a University student from
Australia and Ryutaro Kawasaki is a Japanese.
Each one of us has
a special interest in going to Russia, but together our talents are
pooled to make this a unique outworking of the Great Commission.
with the team there is also a camera crew from the American Cable News
Network (CNN). They have come to cover our "up-front" main purpose of
taking humanitarian aid to Russia. Because of this aid we have open
doors through official channels into Russia.
In due course both
the CNN crew and the Russian officials will discover that the aid we
give comes out of our greater desire to see the Russian people come to
know the Lord Jesus.
Just before midnight we drove the cars on
to a 20,000 ton car ferry which is taking us to Otaru Port in Japan's
northern island of Hoddaido. There all the vehicles will be loaded on
to a Russian freighter and we leave Japan for Kholmsk in Sakhalin.
the next week we will deliver the cardboard boxes in our cars to the
appropriate places and hold Evangelistic Crusades in the capital city,
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, in Makarov, in Kholmsk, and in several other cities.
We are excited to see what the Lord will do to touch the Russian people
with His love.
of an approaching typhoon, a steady drizzle had set in as we rolled off
the ferry at Otaru Port at 4 o'clock in the morning. Nothing was open,
so we drove to the restaurant car park and slept in the cars for a few
After a good breakfast, we were joined by Pastor
Sato from the Otaru Brethren Church, who had come to help us. He had
been praying about how his church could help the Russian people, and
now God was showing him a way to get involved.
Our convoy drove
down to the docks and we saw our ship, the "Sakhalin 8". She was once a
cargo ship and had been rebuilt to transport railway cars, but now they
had filled the rail deck with second-hand Japanese cars.
were dozens of Russians walking around looking at cars which the
dealers had brought down for them to buy. Some of them were buying
several cars for the black market, although they were supposed to take
back only one vehicle each. Others were buying second-hand fridges and
washing machines from the back of the Japanese dealers' trucks. Many of
them stood around reading the Russian language Gospel tracts we had
At first we couldn't find the Captain, then the
shipping agent. Then it seemed that all the promises we had from the
shipping company would not be honored by the people here. There seemed
to be no way that we could get on board. Or at least if we could, then
our cars could not. We were cold, wet and somewhat dejected.
midday Pastor Sato returned with a 25 seat mini-bus his church had just
bought a few weeks earlier. We loaded all our personal gear in with us
and he took us to the church where the ladies had prepared a delicious
meal for us.
At the same timer Rev Gyurko, the principle of the
Bible College in Sapporo, arrived bringing six flags representing the
six nations of our team members. We had asked him to find these at
short notice, and they actually had to make them for us.
our team leader, went with the interpreter to see what could be done
about our passage. After the meal the remaining team gathered for
prayer, asking God to give us favor with the Captain and get us on the
ship to Sakhalin. Even before we had finished praying, the phone call
came to hurry back to the dock to complete Customs and Immigration
The CNN crew could not believe how fast our God
answers prayer! But then came the next problem. The rail deck was full
with 150 cars, and they were deciding about putting another 60 cars on
the deck. The Captain was cautious because of the approaching but
A large crane truck arrived and began to lift
the cars one by one in a sling up to the deck. We all began jockeying
for position to be next on. No orderly line here.
Two of our
cars were loaded, then the crane moved up to the fore deck area. Again
we tried to be next in line. The Russian black-market men seemed to be
controlling the order, and we wondered if there would be space left for
us. Finally our cars were loaded one by one. My van, filled with
cartons of used clothing, was almost last. It was dark, after 7:00 pm
by then, and as I walked up the ship's gangway, my video-camera battery
finally ran out.
But praise the Lord, we were on board. We have
two cabins, and the other men sleep in a lounge on the sofas. We were
fed soup and bread, mashed potato and hamburger, and at 11:00 pm the
"Sakhalin 8" left port and headed out to the open sea.
where I write this from now, being pitched and tossed around, wondering
if our vehicles (not roped down!) will still be on the deck in the
This was the day that the Lord had made. We rejoiced
and were glad because He had done great things for us. We were going to
can't imagine how slow things move in Russia. We finally docked in
Kholmsk at 11:00 am and began immigration procedures. A crane came and
began unloading cars from the rear deck. One was Reijo's van. Then the
crane driver stopped until he was promised more money. A few more cars,
and then the dockers slinging the cars wanted more money too. At last
the unloading proceeded.
Meanwhile three men from the Yuzhno
church appeared and waved to us. A man and a women whom we learned were
to be our interpreters were also standing and watching. We had finally
made contact with Russian Christians.
Arei, the interpreter, and
Volva from Yuzhno came aboard, and told us that we should pay for a
police escort back to Yuzhno, because bands of young Russian "Mafia"
might stop us and want to "buy" the Japanese cars from us. The Holy
Spirit gave us a verse, Ezra 8:22, and we decided to go without the
escort and trust the Lord.
Our cars unloaded, we drove through
the city of Kholmsk. Then followed a hair-raising high-speed drive up a
windy, unsealed, and pot-holed mountain road. When we reached the
beginning of the sealed road, I discovered that 19 year-old Kawasaki
has only had his drivers licence for two months!
We arrived at a
believer's house near the Yuzhno church. Many of the neighbors are
Christians in this area. Straight away we had to leave for the special
meeting that had been prepared for us that night in the Drama Theatre
About 150 had gathered from the
Pentecostal and Korean Churches. Reijo, Rev Park and Rev Kim (a Korean
Missionary to Yuzhno) all preached. Our team was introduced and we
waved our national flags. Many came forward for salvation, healing and
other needs. The response of the Russian people surprised me after the
reserve of the Japanese.
the meeting went till after 10:00 pm, there was still more to do. We
returned to the house to get out vehicles, and then to Kolia's
apartment for food. This was our first real taste of fellowship with
the believers as more than twenty of us crowded into the living room
and ate a meal of soup, bread, fish and hot, sweet tea. We would be
having many more meals like this one.
Our "hotel" was actually a
students' hostel, with no heat, no hot water, no shower, no food, and
the middle of the bed mattresses almost touched the floor! But we slept!
Was it a late breakfast or an early lunch? We found the daily schedule different to what we were used to.
the early afternoon we visited a State Orphanage, taking boxes of
childrens' clothing. The children were separated by age: babies, 1 - 2
years, and 2 - 3 years. There were about 60 children in this orphanage
for a variety of reasons. Other that the parents had died, perhaps the
mother had some disability like dyslexia or deafness and the child
might have the same problem. One little girl has club feet and very
little hope for an operation. Another little girl has a hole in her
heart, and I later learned that Eileen from the CNN crew has made
arrangements for her to go to Moscow for an operation.
were able to hold the babies and play with the older children. At first
some were shy, but as we played with them their fears melted away. But
our hearts were touched, and we found it hard to leave when it was time
Our next appointment took us down a muddy road with some
of the biggest pot-holes I have ever seen. We stopped outside the
Yuzhno Prison, hoping to be allowed in to sing and testify to the
prisoners. After talking to a guard for several hours it became
apparent we were not going to be allowed in. The CNN team videotaped
the guard talking to us until a senior officer came out and shouted at
him, and demanded the videotape. Of course they only gave him a blank
Again the night was not yet over as we went back to
Kolia's apartment to talk with the pastors from other areas. From this
discussion I began to realize some of the great needs of the churches
in Eastern Russia.
Transportation is a major problem. Pastor
Sasha from Nikolayevsk on the main-land finds it easier to drive around
in winter when the Amur River freezes over and provides him with a
usable road. His need is a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
just over a year old, already has over 100 believers. Sasha is actually
a missionary from Ukraine, and spends six months in Nikolayevsk, then a
month back with his family, then back to his church again. He has come
to Sakhalin with a singing group of five young people to help with our
Teaching is also needed. They are anxious for
us to send them cassettes, but they also need cassette players too.
Such equipment is sometimes available in cities, but in outlying areas
everything is scarce. We have brought New Testaments and evangelistic
pamphlets, but there is a great lack of teaching material for believers.
arrived back at our hotel and found that the lady had heated up two
large pails of hot water for us. We all enjoyed a "bucket bath" and
happily went to sleep.
I thought of how the apostle Paul met the governor of
Malta in Acts 28 as we waited to see Mr Fedorov, Governor of the
Sakhalin Region of Russia. He welcomed us and gave us letters of
authorization for our mission, and thanked us for the humanitarian aid
we had brought. Reijo presented him with a Bible, and after taking
photographs with him, he was interviewed by the CNN team.
hour away from Yuzhno is the town of Dolinsk. The local paper mill has
recently been closed down, leaving much of the population without jobs.
We begin our meeting in the Culture Center and about 80 people came to
hear us. I gave my testimony, Reijo and Rev Park preached. There is a
small Korean church in this town, but there were many others there that
night. Three people came forward to accept Jesus, and we distributed
many Bibles and pamphlets.
We were intrigued to find six of the
older ladies of Korean origin could speak Japanese, so we could
communicate with them without an interpreter.
The next morning I went to the Aeroflot office to buy a plane ticket
back to Japan. After the usual Russian waiting time my ticket was
ready. But they could not work out the exchange rate for me to pay
because the computer was not working. We waited some more. Still not
working. We decided to pray: "Lord, please fix the computer and make it
work." Then we asked again, and sure enough, the computer was
functioning. Why do we always wait so long before praying?
loaded our cars up with equipment and began the drive to the next
crusade meeting. This was a little seaside village called Vsmorje about
150Km away. Flocks of geese wander around on the streets and fields.
There were only a few families of Christians here, but over 70 turned
up at the village community center. Half of them responded to the call
for salvation, and we gave them all New Testaments. Some of our team
spent more time giving impromptu Bible studies to these new believers.
the meeting we visited Mr Okamoto, a Korean man whose parents were
brought here before the war. We drank sweet tea and ate caviar on
pieces of bread, and then presented the family with a new Bible. Back
in our cars, we began the last leg of the day's journey by driving
another three hours to the city of Makarov. There was no seal on this
road, and we needed to stop several times to clean the mud off our
headlights, and to eat a thick slice of bread and sausage that someone
nick-named a "Russian Big Mac"!
has a population of 15000 and even more muddy pot-holes! Up on the top
of a hill are three white domes which we were told house radio and
radar equipment that tracked the ill-fated KAL airliner several years
ago. Then I met Yuri, who worked up there until two years ago. Now he
runs a private Cable TV station which serves 1300 households. His video
camera is only about the same size as mine, and I discovered that his
office is in the building that used to be the Communist Party
headquarters. I also found out that Yuri is a Ham Radio operator like
me, so I was invited to his two room apartment to see his transmitter.
His wife served us coffee, but she had not been feeling well. I offered
to pray for her, and she showed me the small cross around her neck. She
said she believes in God, and after I prayed, she pulled on her coat
and came with us to the park where our team was singing and witnessing.
of young people had gathered to listen to the Gospel songs and to talk
to visitors from so many different nations. Some were reading the
pamphlets we gave them. Kirsten prayed in the street with five teen-age
girls who wanted to receive Jesus, in spite of the taunts from their
friends. We rejoiced as we invited them all to the Culture Center for
the evening meeting.
About 200 gathered there that night. Yuri
was there with his video camera, and lots of children, and even the
Mayor of Makarov. Our singing group, Reijo and Rev Park began the
meeting. I wanted to teach from the Bible, so I asked that Bibles be
distributed to those without them. My message was about Faith, and the
Power of the Word of God. Pastor Sasha gave a call for salvation and
dozens responded. Others came forward for prayer for healing. Backs,
legs, shoulders, and many other problems were healed as we prayed.
woman came with arthritis in her hands and shoulders. I asked her if
there was someone she hated and had not forgiven. Yes, there was a man
who had taken away her children many years ago, and she hated him. I
told her she had the choice to give up her hatred or keep her
arthritis. I led her in a prayer of forgiveness, and then she began to
move her fingers and shoulders. The more she moved them, the freer they
became, and tears of joy streamed down her face. We saw Jesus do many
miracles in Makarov that night.
were invited to Mayor Sidorov's office the next morning. Reijo
presented him with a Bible, and the mayor gave us each a small City
coat-of arms. He spent over an hour showing us around the civic museum
and several of the monuments around town. We also gave him some
medicine we had brought to donate to the Makarov Hospital.
drove out of town, I felt in my heart that I would be back again one
day. The team still had five more crusade meetings, but for me this was
where I would leave the convoy and head back to Yuzhno to fly out the
The day's adventures were not over yet. Through a
series of problems with our vehicles we were left with a car that had a
ruptured patrol tank. With a perished piece of hose to the fuel pump
from a 20 liter can of petrol jammed in the passenger seat, we
struggled to drive the 150Km back to Yuzhno. Our makeshift tank worked,
but the petrol was not enough. The can was empty and we were 5Km short.
A passing car stopped and towed us the rest of the way, typical of the
courtesy of Russian road-users.
night at Kolia's apartment I had a hot bath and good sleep as I
prepared to fly to Khabarovsk for church on Sunday and back to Japan on
Monday. But my heart would stay on in Sakhalin with the new friends I
had made and the great needs I had seen in the churches.
Russian brothers and sisters really love the Lord, but they have almost
no teaching aids like books or tapes. They also lack much of the
equipment that we take for granted: vehicles, sound equipment, copiers,
and tools. I left my microphone with the Khabarovsk church because
their old one kept crackling and cutting out during the service.
Russia is still peaceful. Food seemed plentiful although petrol was
difficult to buy. We don't know how long this peaceful situation will
last, but these churches which have mushroomed in the last
year-and-a-half could be a vital factor.
Right now the Japanese
government is holding back on extending aid because of the Kuril Island
issue, but this has given Christians a wonderful opportunity to offer
help with no strings attached. Our trips to Eastern Russia to take aid
to churches, hospitals and orphanages are just beginning as we respond
to God's leading and a present open window of opportunity.
September 1992, Noel Morris