Audio Bibles reach the outsiders of Russian society

By March 25, 2009

Russia (MNN) — One of the most-marginalized people groups in Russia is the focus of ministry by Faith Comes
By Hearing.

Lori Koch is the manager for
International Programs at Faith Comes By Hearing.  She says a partner named Sergey had been
working among the Buddhists but was urged to begin a ministry to the Roma.
"He was resistant, at first, because he shared the prevailing attitude of
most Russians: 'These are the Roma; they're unreachable. If I did want to
spend my time, it would be wasted time because there's no value in reaching
this people group for Christ.'" 

The Roma live primarily in
Central and Eastern Europe and can often be found in the Balkans and
surrounding areas. They are often
regarded as thieves, sorcerers, and troublemakers.

While some are fully integrated
in the society, most get work as common or migrant laborers. Many live in
depressed ghetto communities with very high unemployment. 

When Faith Comes By Hearing
released the New Testament in the Baltic Romani dialect, things changed for Sergey. Koch says, "His full-time ministry
now is to the Roma people. His goal is to establish a Roma church with a Roma
pastor." 

It hasn't happened yet, so keep
praying. As much suspicion as there is from outside the people group, there's a lot inside, too. New things are viewed with suspicion and with the
distrust that comes from generations of being marginalized.

That way of thinking was
reinforced with Simza's story. In April
2008, she heard about a group of people who were listening through the Bible in
their own language. When she went to see for herself what this was all about,
she heard the Word of God in her language, Baltic
Romani
, for the first time. She repented of her sins and began going to
church, an action that would have serious consequences.

When Simza's family found out about
this, they severely beat her. But Simza didn't turn away from her newfound
faith. She continued listening to the Audio Bible in secret. The abuse
continued, and she was shunned by other family members.

Simza was forbidden from
listening to the Bible and from going to church. Eventually the beatings
stopped, but her family still forbade her from believing in God. She asked for
prayer that God would strengthen her faith and that her parents would give
their lives to Christ.

Now, almost a year later, Simza
lives with her pastor and his family. The man who brought the Audio Bible to
her is a Faith Comes By Hearing coordinator who goes village-to-village with
God's Word to establish Audio Bible listening groups. During his recent
visit with Simza, they talked, prayed, and listened to the Word of God on the
"Proclaimer," the audio player. Simza was moved and said,
"I'm not afraid anymore," and she urged the man to take her to see her
family.

The family was afraid when they
first saw the Faith Comes By Hearing coordinator, thinking that the police had
come to arrest them for abusing Simza. He assured them he was not there to take
them to jail but to bring them the liberating news about salvation through the Word
of God in audio.

They were invited inside the
house, and without speaking, the Faith Comes By Hearing coordinator placed the
"Proclaimer" on the table and began playing it.

After a half hour, they looked up
and found themselves in the midst of a crowd that had gathered. The family
talked until 4 a.m. Simza's family cried
and asked for forgiveness for treating her so badly. God's Word in their heart
language brought healing and restoration.

The next day, as the Faith Comes
By Hearing coordinator prepared to leave, he picked up the "Proclaimer" to take
it with him. The head of the house stopped him and asked him to leave it. He
said the "Proclaimer" was a blessing for his entire family. This exciting story is not
unusual.

What it does show is the unique
effectiveness of Faith Comes By Hearing‘s
approach. Koch explains: "We're not simply
distributing the audio Scriptures, but rather, we have  workers and partners on the ground and in the
field who are insuring that people are actually engaging with the Scripture in
a systematic way."

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