Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians, and Belarusians Worship Together at U.S. Local Church

Fellowship at Adventist congregation gets past any divide, leaders say.

Southern California Conference, and Adventist Review
Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians, and Belarusians Worship Together at U.S. Local Church
LEFT: Head elder Rauf Shalumov invites members to share greetings of their own and from their families. MIDDLE: Katerina Sveshnikava tells the children’s story, inviting participation from children. RIGHT: Oleysa Shetinkina offers a song for special music, whose title may be translated as “Heaven Is Crying.” [Photo: Southern California Conference]

A Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Glendale, California, United States, is showing in practice what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. The Russian-American Seventh-day Adventist Church is embracing the community and showing unity amid especially challenging times.

The diverse church family, which meets at the Center for Spiritual Revival in Glendale, lists 15 nationalities, including people from Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, and Belarus. All of them worship together each week, leaders reported. “Services are in Russian, yet members and visitors from many countries share greetings from their families and unite in prayer for their well-being and safety,” they said.

Anatoliy Gurduiala, born in Moldova, has been the senior pastor of the congregation since 2010. In a recent sermon, Gurduiala emphasized what Christians need to do during this time. “Remember that our citizenship is in heaven, as the apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:20,” he said. “As Christians — citizens of heaven — we must bring light to other people’s lives.”

During his sermon, Gurduiala revisited the story of Elisha and the Arameans in 2 Kings 6:10-23. From this familiar passage, he highlighted two key points. “First,” Gurduiala said, “don’t be afraid, because as the prophet reminded his servant, ‘those who are with us are more than those who are with them’” (verse 16).* And he added, “Today, if we ask God to open our spiritual eyes, we will see so many angels around us.”

Local church pastor Anatoliy Gurduiala preaches about what it means to love our enemies and our neighbors as Christians. [Photo: Southern California Conference]

At the same time, Gurduiala read verse 22, where the prophet commanded their enemies be treated with kindness. “Set food and water before them so they may eat and drink and go to their master,” Gurduiala read, adding, “Hatred brings hatred, not good things. This is why the prophet told them to go and bring bread.”

Gurduiala also touched on the challenging message of Matthew 5:44 to love our enemies. Although we are not perfect today, we must strive to love even those who are hurting us, he emphasized. “That’s what makes Christians different,” he said. “Nationality doesn’t matter in a church family — we are all God’s children.”

In closing, Gurduiala turned to Galatians 5:20-22. There are times when we think that we have not sinned because we didn’t kill or commit another “big sin,” but fostering a spirit of disunity is also sin, he said. The message of selfless Christian love, even in the midst of pain, is an important and timely one for the church today, he emphasized.

Throughout the service, as members shared, prayed, and fellowshipped together, they showed a sense of deep, unified support for the people of Ukraine. Members shared personal stories of what their families are experiencing as the war drags on and the dangers they face each day.

“Our hearts are with this congregation and their families, who are suffering during these unthinkable times,” Southern California Conference leaders said. “May we continue to lift up the members and families of this church in prayer, as well as our brothers and sisters everywhere who are affected by this tragic conflict.”

The original version of this story was posted by the Southern California Conference.

*Bible texts are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Southern California Conference, and Adventist Review