Our one and only Savior gives us, His dear followers, this ever-timely instruction: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34b). We need this verse’s reminder from God’s Law, but we especially need this verse’s never-changing motivation from the Gospel of Jesus’ sacrifice for us (Galatians 2:20d). This Gospel-produced love moves the children of God to take to heart and to act upon the words of Galatians 5, verse 13: “Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”
In this report, we will give you an update on the loving service, by God’s grace (I Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 2:10), given to and received by our brethren in Ekaterinburg, Russia, in various locations in Nigeria, and in Sauk Village, Illinois.
Our Conference’s June 2010 Convention provided Pastor Schurganoff with a special gift of $500.00 to purchase a new computer. (His old one had “died” on him.) On September 29, he reported: “About 10 days ago I bought a new, inexpensive computer ($640.00). Unfortunately, I could not find a computer more cheaply than this price. These days I established a software necessary for me and internet connection, and also I continue to try to restore some important files and documents for church work which I have remained on an old computer.”
Last summer Mr. Alex Popoff, a member of St. John’s, Lebanon, Oregon, who is fluent in both English and Russian, completed the translation into Russian of our Conference tract, The Scriptural Principles of Christian Giving. His translation was then sent to Brother Schurganoff for proofing, for printing, and for distribution to the members of our Russian sister congregation and any other interested persons. Furthermore, Mr. Popoff has translated one of Pastor Schurganoff’s recent sermons from Russian into English. We are most grateful to Brother Popoff for his translation work, which he is so happy to do for the Lord’s work in human hearts through His Word of truth and grace in the language of the people.
In a September e-mail, Brother Schurganoff relayed this message: “Concerning my health, I can inform you that I feel little bit better now. Thanks for your prays [prayers]. At least I have forces [energy] to continue church work.” Last November he gave us this update: “My health is much better now. The truth [is] I have still the common weakness and some complexities with physical activity. I continue recommended treatment. My wife and son have good health now.” In his most recent e-mail, dated February 17, he said: “Excuse me for my delay with the answer to you. Last two weeks I had a problem with my health again.” He gave no detail on what the “problem” was with his “health.”
About one year ago, a copy of the Rosetta Stone Learning English course was purchased and sent to Pastor Schurganoff. It is a highly rated course which, in an interactive manner, teaches the student how to speak, understand, read, and write a foreign language. Pastor Schurganoff reports that, as of the end of January, he is on Level I, Unit 4, Lesson 1. This is a computer-based program, which will not allow the student to go forward until the previous lessons have been mastered by him. In his monthly reports to us, Pastor Schurganoff includes his progress with the Rosetta Stone course.
We have informed Pastor Schurganoff and his congregation that the amount of financial subsidy that the Conference will send them in the 2011-2012 fiscal year may have to be adjusted, depending on the congregational 2011-2012 pledges of support for our Conference’s General Fund. As we consider their monetary needs, let us continue to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16a) on behalf of our Russian brethren, not only for the motivation to help them tangibly, but especially that they may continue to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18a).
One of the actions by our Conference’s 2010 Annual Convention was to provide funding to help cover the urgent needs of the seven pastors in Nigeria. In the meantime, one of the seven, Pastor Kaladokubo, who is 64 years old and the pastor of the Elem-Sangama congregation, became very sick. On September 9, Pastor Fyneface wrote the following: “Rev. Kaladokubo’s illness is getting complicated. Half of the amount sent to us was voluntarily given to settle some of his medicals, as his case was worst than any of us. Please remember him and his family in your prayers. …His sickness has worsened and the doctor said his chance for survival is slim.” This example of sharing with someone in greater need was wonderful to behold and was an application of Galatians 6, verse 10: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” On November 8, we received this health update: “Brother Kaladokubo’s health is improving. His new doctor’s prescription is helping him a lot. He needs to take the recommended food, vegetables, and fruits.” However, on January 10, we received this message: “Brother Kaladokubo’s health is not stable. He is still receiving treatment.” May our merciful and compassionate God (Lamentations 3:22-23), if it be His gracious and good will, preserve Pastor Kaladokubo’s life and restore him at length to health and strength so that he can continue to serve his congregation as the Savior’s faithful steward (I Corinthians 4:1).
Earlier this year we sent to our Nigerian brethren four boxes of printed materials for all the congregations. Two of the boxes, with 24 copies of the Small Catechism, 100 copies of A Sketch of the Doctrinal Position of the Concordia Lutheran Conference, and other materials, were sent about six weeks ago and did arrive safely in Nigeria. However, the other two boxes with 24 Bibles, recent copies of The Concordia Lutheran, plus some other items, did not arrive in Nigeria until February 28!
What about Pastor Fyneface’s health issues? There is still no final answer as to whether surgery should be carried out to correct one of them. In early January, he wrote that he had not seen his doctor since November because a payment is required even for a mere consultation or check-up. It is quite obvious that the poverty of our brethren abroad directly affects things that we here often take for granted. We pray Almighty God, with whom “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26b), that, if it be His will, He grant relief and recovery to Brother Fyneface in His best time and way, and work even this condition for his “good” according to His promise (Romans 8:28); for “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6a).
Recently, it came to our attention that Pastor Fyneface and his family were in great need of financial assistance. This particular need was conveyed to our Conference congregations; and they, moved by the Gospel of God’s rich mercy toward them in and through Christ, responded generously to the appeal to help these dear brethren. We should, of course, stand ready to help to the best of our ability also others of our Nigerian brethren when we hear of their needs (I John 3:17), always motivated by the love of Him who first loved us (I John 4:19). “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us” (I John 3:16a). “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
Let us also, concerning all of our sister congregations in Nigeria, continue to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16a), crying out to our gracious God that He would strengthen and help them according to His merciful will (Matthew 6:10b; Isaiah 41:10 and 13), ever reminding them of His sure promise: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5c).
At our Conference’s 59th Annual Convention last summer, St. Mark’s, Sauk Village, for the first time, requested a monthly subsidy to assist the congregation in defraying its financial needs. Though a considerable amount and a significant addition to the annual budget, this subsidy was granted by the convention delegates. During the intervening months, Pastor Bloedel has continued faithfully to serve his congregation, teaching and preaching God’s Word to his dear people as their God-given shepherd (Acts 20:28). The congregation has, for 2011-2012, appealed for subsidy once again, though the monthly amount requested has been lowered somewhat. However, the congregation, like our sister congregation in Russia, has been informed that their request may still need to be adjusted, depending on the 2011-2012 pledges of the other congregations for the General Fund of our Conference.
Let us also, in regard to our dear brethren at St. Mark’s, continue to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16a), beseeching our compassionate God to keep them “faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10d), ever guiding and directing the future of this congregation according to His good and gracious will in Christ Jesus, “[who] is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
—R. J. L.