Lenten prayer from Russia

Jennifer Wolfgramm, wife to missionary Luke Wolfgramm, gives insight into to political situation in their area of Russia and a Lenten prayer from their congregations. 

People often ask about the political situation here. We have not experienced any problems. We are far from the unrest. Our streets are peaceful. People are friendly to us.

However, we have experienced some changes because of the political situation. The Ukrainian Lutheran Church had a congregation in Crimea. This congregation woke up one day in 2014 and found itself in the Russian Federation. Political reality makes it unrealistic for the congregation to remain in the ULC. The congregation is re-registering as a member of our Russian Lutheran Church. Luke and Pastor Alexei went to visit the congregation in December. It takes all day to get from Novosibirsk to Crimea, so working together and supporting each other will provide some challenges. The pastor already Skype in to the regular Monday meetings of our missionaries and Russian pastors. We are enjoying getting to know the pastor and his congregation.

You may have seen on the news that the ruble is losing value. In the past six months, the ruble has gone from $1 = 30 rubles to $1 = 60 rubles. The devaluation of the ruble is already bringing on higher inflation. The economic crisis that has begun is supposed to be quite bad for the next year or two. So far, prices have not been rising as fast as the ruble is devaluating, so for those paid in dollars (like the missionaries), overall things are a little cheaper. However, our Russian friends and congregations will be struggling.

The economic crisis is a result of western sanctions and the falling price of oil. The economics and politics are connected. As economics worsen, we wonder what kind of political fallout there may be. Please pray that we can continue to work here in peace and quiet. We know that God will use everything for good.

Now, like you, we are preparing for the greatest day of the church year, Easter Sunday. Each of our four congregations plus the deaf congregation has mid-week Lenten services. This year we “Stand with Isaiah” and study Isaiah 53. Our children and adults are preparing special music for Holy Week. The children in Iskitim are preparing a play for the Sunday after Easter about the Emmaus disciples. Our missionary team quartet is preparing for five Easter outreach concerts, beginning on Palm Sunday. Another busy season, filled with the blessings of working with our Russian brothers and sisters to share the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection! May God bless you and us and we do His work around the world!

Prayer Requests

  • Thank God for our Russian pastors! Please pray that God would continue to bless them.
  • Thank God for our Daylight teachers! Please pray that they would make many contacts and be allowed to see some fruits of their labors. Pray that more teachers would desire to serve in Russia next school year.
  • Please pray that the children in Iskitim would grow in their faith. Pray that their parents would also want to learn about their Savior.
  • Please pray for the health of our deaf translator.
  • Please pray for the congregation in Crimea during this time of political transition.
  • Please pray for our members during the economic crisis.
  • Please pray for peace.
  • Thank God for blessing the children’s ministry in Iskitim!
  • Please pray that God would bless our efforts to share the Good News during Lent and Easter!

Happy Chinese New Year

“San-nihn faai-lohk” or Happy New Year in Cantonese Chinese, the language spoken in Hong Kong.

We are finishing up the New Year celebrations for the Chinese Year of the Sheep, which have lasted about two weeks. This is the equivalent to the celebration of Christmas in the States. There are three official consecutive days off of work for banks and government offices, so no mail. Restaurants are open and welcoming with higher prices. Family members are obligated to come home to visit their moms and dads, so airports, train and bus stations are crowded.

The first day of the holiday is usually celebrated with close family members. The second and third days are for visits to extended family members – aunts, uncles, etc. A wrapped present of a tin of cookies, chocolate candy or a box of imported noodles is always presented to the host. A New Year visit is never done empty-handed. (As a result, grocery stores set up gift wrapping tables just like the malls in the U.S. at Christmas.)

Homes are decorated with fresh flowers or plants, as well as red banners and pictures with Chinese blessing phrases written on them. One of the popular blessings is a wish for money and prosperity in the New Lunar Year. As a result, red envelopes or “lai ci” filled with money are given out as gifts to the children in the home visited. In Hong Kong, it’s also expected to give the red envelopes to show appreciation to the service people who keep the neighborhood clean and safe.

Unfortunately at this time, the Buddhist and Taoist temples are also filled with people buying offerings of fruit or burning incense to gain blessing for the New Year or to honor ancestors.

The Christian community here in Hong Kong has church as usual around all the celebrations. We thank the Lord for His blessings of salvation through Jesus, for his protection and preservation in His world, for good health, and for His light to shine in Asia!

May the Lord God, the Father, Son and Spirit, bless your Year of the Sheep with His peace through Jesus!

Mary Witte (missionary wife in Hong Kong)