How many students from The Master’s College can claim to have sung in the Siberian Tundra in North-Eastern Russia for a few remote villagers? Presently, only 10 members from the 1998 Majesty group (TMC’s traveling music ensemble). But soon sharing in this experience will be a collection of current TMC music students and several Alumni. Departing from Los Angeles Airport on Tuesday, June 15, the 16-person vocal ensemble will land in Moscow and make its way westward toward Kiev over the course of two weeks. The groups primary ministry will be through the vehicle of music – a capella arrangements, men’s quartets, and special music numbers – all embedded with a strong gospel message. The collection of music will be presented in many venues including churches and cathedrals, in the middle of streets and in believer’s homes.
Led by Dr. Paul Plew, Chairperson of the Master’s College Music Department, the team will be sponsored by Slavic Gospel Association, which is currently directed by Dr. Bob Provost. SGA was founded in 1934 by Rev. Peter Deyneka, who in 1914, at the age of 15, emigrated to the United States. A few years later, Deyneka repented of his sins and trusted in Christ, and was then burdened with a call to serve his own people. Today, SGA continues to serve Bible-preaching churches in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States by helping native pastors and churches reach their own people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Kyler Welch, a graduate of TMC, currently serves as the Vice President of SGA and will be traveling with the team, acting as a guide and providing essential ties to local churches. During a brief visit to the Master’s campus, the team met with him and was able to catch a glimpse of what the summer mission’s trip would look like. Welch has been to all the towns and churches the team will be visiting, and it is his desire to purposely seek out remote locations that are not frequented as often.
Welch told the team, “I want you to experience the ‘off the beaten path’ stuff. From my experience, that’s the real fun. To go places that most people don’t. Those churches will love you more and will roll out the red carpet like no other. Most people go to Moscow; I’d like to go a step further and go outside of that and let you see what life in the country is like.” Called into ministry himself by a music mission trip to Russia, Welch recalled some of his own experiences.
“Even if we outnumber the church, its okay,” he said. “You can’t imagine the blessing your going to be to those people, and they will never forget it. Sometimes the smaller the crowd the better.” The team of students currently meets every Monday evening for several hours practicing Russian diction, translating and learning verses to recite in Russian, and rehearsing the repertoire of songs to be performed. The primary audience will be churches, even though many performances will be impromptu on street corners and in cathedrals. It is the teams desire to serve believers in the churches, as there is much oppressive persecution faced by true Christians. Welch gave testimony to this fact.
“The biggest problem the church has there is opposition from the Russian Orthodox Church,” Welch said. “Most will claim to be Christians, but it is mostly political. The genuine Christians are labeled as sects and cults. The Christians there – called Baptists – are often denied job promotions and even prevented admittance to college based on their religious beliefs. As a result, many churches are involved in social projects to make everyone think they are not such bad people.” However, when commenting on the spiritual fervor of the Russian people, Welch pointed out that a hostile environment filters out spiritual complacency. “Persecution purifies the church – when you look at the people inside a house of worship – you see genuine true believers in Christ. There is no one on the fringe.”
To read other articles from A Student’s Perspective download “The Master’s Piece” To read other articles from A Student’s Perspective download “The Master’s Piece” April 2010 issue.