In the spring of 1993, Pastors Phil and Jan White led a team of eight people to Saratov, Russia to hold a six-week evangelistic series as part of the North Pacific Union Conference Operation Bear Hug Initiative. Since then, our pastors have forged a lasting relationship with the Seventh-day Adventists in Saratov. They have helped to transform many lives through preaching the word of God. In July 2013 Pastor Phil returned to Saratov to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the church that had been built as a result of those meetings. We are proud of our pastors' work with our sister church in Russia.
Our Russian sister and her daughter met Pastor Phil at the Saratov Church this July, in 2013. "I attended all the meetings you conducted 20 years ago," our sister said, "and was baptized, and I remain faithful to Jesus. You gave attendees a Russian Bible and I still have mine and cherish it very much. Every time you've returned to Russia, I've asked you to sign my Bible. Would you please sign it again?" The inside cover of her Bible shows that Pastor Phil has signed it four separate times.
Tatyana Prisyazhnyuk was 14 years old during the Whites' first trip to Russia. She went with her family to the evangelistic meetings every night and eventually was baptized. She decided to pursue a college degree and enrolled in Saratov State University as a Linguistics major. But in Russia students normally attend classes on Saturday as well as Monday through Friday; Tatyana would not attend, choosing to keep the Sabbath, celebrating the Lord's day. In her sophomore year her professors began to warn her that they would fail her if she continued to be absent for Saturday classes. So, Tatyana prayed about it. It was extremely difficult, but she continued to keep the Sabbath throughout the year while keeping up with her schoolwork, completing every assignment handed out on Saturday classes and turning them in the next Monday morning. In fact Tatyana was doing straight A work. But eventually, her professors decided that they were indeed going to fail her. Tatyana continued to pray about it and keep the Sabbath. Then one day, a dean at the university of Islamic faith discovered what Tatyana was going through and called Tatyana into her office. The dean informed Tatyana that she was going to override the decision of the other professors and was going to mentor Tatyana through her Linguistics program until she graduated. Tatyana ended up graduating with high honors, has also completed her Ph.D, and is now an associate professor at the same university in Saratov. Her prayers were answered. Praise the Lord!
Meet Sveta Gavelo
Sveta was Pastor Phil's translator during his visits to Russia. Sveta was 22 years old and not an Adventist when she married Velodia Gavelo, an Adventist, in 1990. Soon after, she became pregnant with their first daughter, Anna. One day, Sveta's father was in a car accident and upon hearing the news, Sveta went into premature labor, giving birth to Anna. But Anna was a very sick baby and the doctors did not expect her to live. That is when Sveta began to pray, and to pray to a God that in her own words she did not know existed. She challenged God to prove He was real by saving her baby's life. The next morning, Anna was healed. Several months later, Sveta became an Adventist. Seven months after that, she was chosen to be Pastor Phil's translator during his first series of evangelistic meetings in Russia. Since then, she has continued to translate God's word and work in His service.