November 21, 2015

First Adventist Church Opens in North Siberia

, news editor, Adventist Review

Thrilled believers traveled long distances to attend the opening of the first Seventh-day Adventist church in Siberia’s far north, an inhospitably cold region akin to the Arctic where church members are few and live far apart.

The church in Nyagan — a city of 56,000 people located 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) northeast of Moscow — is an answer to 23 years of prayers by the first Adventists in the city and echoed by others over the years, said Vasiliy P. Stefaniev, president of the Adventist Church’s West Siberian Mission.

Local Adventists began praying for the construction of this church 23 years ago.

“As they gathered to worship in the homes of various church members, they dreamed about having their own church, a modest place to worship,” Stefaniev said in a statement Thursday. “The opening of the church building is clear evidence of the answer to their prayers and is in line with the words of the apostle Paul: " Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations (Ephesians 3: 20-21).”

Nyagan is a relatively young oil and gas industry town founded in 1965 near the Ob River, the main river in Siberia and the seventh-longest river in the world. Although Nyagan is south of the Arctic Circle, it is often likened to an Arctic city because its weather is just as bitter for much of the year. It also is the birthplace of tennis champion Maria Sharapova.

The new church is the West Siberian Mission’s first in a northern region poorly covered by the Adventist message, according to the Euro-Asia Division, which oversees the mission and released the statement by Stefaniev.

“God’s children live many kilometers apart from one another, and there are no churches,” Stefaniev said. “Therefore, the opening of the church in Nyagan was a long-awaited and welcome event for all.”

The West Siberian Mission has 1,156 church members worshiping in 31 congregations, according to the latest statistics from the Adventist world church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. The entire Euro-Asia Division has about 115,000 members and nearly 3,000 congregations.

In Siberia, Adventists traveled from the nearest towns and villages located up to 300 miles (500 kilometers) away from Nyagan to reach the city on Friday and participate in a choir rehearsal for the dedication service on Sabbath. Because of the long distances involved, the church members were unable to hold any other joint rehearsals, and they all practiced their songs at home before gathering Friday.

“Their wonderful singing at the Sabbath service didn’t leave a heart untouched and caused everyone to respond with praise and gratitude,” Stefaniev said.

The sermon centered on Psalms 37:3-4, which says: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

“Indeed,” Stefaniev said, “in the dedication of this house of worship, the Lord fulfilled the desire of many hearts!”