This region is made up of eight countries, and due to the size and complexity of the area (including different languages and cultures), the Linkman is supported by Area Team Leaders and their associated teams. Pastoral visits to support our brethren and sisters have taken place in Albania, Croatia and Montenegro. Along with pastoral support, preaching activities have also been carried out in Bosnia Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia including Bible schools and talks to interested friends.
No visits were made to Kosovo and Slovenia with no brothers and sisters and only limited interest. In terms of challenges, the CBM have needed to address a tax issue in Bosnia-Herzegovina relating to alleged unpaid tax for advertising, printing and welfare payments going back several years. This has hopefully been resolved with processes in place to prevent any repeat.
Our brothers and sisters in this region very much appreciate our visits / support and the Adriatics team are in regular communication with them via Skype, ‘WhatsApp’ and e-mail as part of the household of faith.
There has been only one visit, at the end of March/beginning of April. This was partly because of illness (one visit in October was cancelled), and partly because of lack of availability of workers. A sister from Bulgaria, Sis Janet Zheleva, who was the first to be baptised in Bulgaria in 1992, was due to visit UK. This will give an opportunity for face to face to discussions regarding how to proceed with the future of the ecclesia.
The purpose of the visit was to bring the brothers and sisters together to encourage more selfsufficiency in the ecclesia, which has been established since 1992. There is a core of 7/8, more committed members in Sofia, and the CBM representatives made proposals for regular meetings in homes at least monthly (ideally twice monthly) since they have given up the apartment after the landlord moved back in. It was no longer cost-effective to keep an apartment in view of CBM’s financial situation and the
numbers are small enough to be accommodated in homes.
As they were not able to hold a Bible School this year, two of our brothers joined the Skopje Bible School in October.
There are eight members – one brother and seven sisters. Four of the members are in Prague and when we meet them they all obviously enjoy each other’s company and seem to have a lovely time together, but we cannot get them to meet on their own. During the last visit, the visit team were joined for lunch by one of our former members who left the truth several years ago. This renewal of contact was very encouraging. Our members continue with their various problems of ill health and old age and yet remain inspirational in terms of their faith. Whilst we have a few contacts made through our website and ‘Facebook’ page, we have struggled to meet with them and to retain ongoing dialogue, mainly because of the language barrier.
Only 2 visits were possible to our 10 members (2 brothers and 8 sisters) spread throughout the country although regular contact has only been possible with 8 of those. Of these, one brother and two sisters live in effective isolation, so the visits made by CBM workers are the only real fellowship and ‘spiritual’ contact during the year. Regular correspondence in the form of exhortations, is sent but these have to be translated first which carries a heavy cost. Despite frequent and ongoing encouragement, our 5 sisters in Tartu do not meet together apart from the visits from UK, so they too have limited opportunity for meeting those who share their faith. There is no doubt that the trips we make are a lifeline and vital. In addition to the pastoral work, we also preach to regular audiences of more than 10 contacts, many of whom appreciate the lessons they receive.
Presentations are consecutively translated into Estonian and Russian, which sometimes makes for interesting listening and dialogue, but there is always lively discussion.
In 2016, the CBM representatives introduced 9 new recruits to CBM work and they were able to build on this by taking back 3 of them for repeat visits.
Our brothers and sisters were visited in March. Brother Steve Murie from Australia lives in Athens and provides support to the brothers and sisters, although he will be leaving at the end of the year. Steve and two Greek brothers attended UKYC earlier this year (paid for by themselves). A Bible Conference was held in Greece in October, attended by both Greek and Iranian brothers and sisters – this was organised outside of the CBM and was funded independently, but provided invaluable study and fellowship.
We continue to be challenged by the welfare needs of the Iranian brothers in Athens, and struggle to know best how to support them.
Three visits have been made. Our members in Veszprém, Sis Eva Földesi, and those in Subotica, Bro William, Sis Sladjana Danilovic and Bro Zoltan Meszaros, have met with us on every visit and broken bread during the year. Opportunity was taken to distribute several thousand bills, but we were not able to afford to run a preaching effort this year. A number of contacts were seen, and contact re-established with a “lost” contact, which is encouraging.
During March a visit was made to Omsk to hold the annual Bible School for the Kazak brothers and sisters. This was attended by 44, with 5 new faces and 11 children. After the death of Sis Ludmila Tsybina her role as organiser for the Shchuchinsk ecclesia has been successfully taken over by Bro Aleksandr and Sis Svetlana Perezhogin. There were three baptisms from that city at the Kazan Bible School. Kazakhstan is to change to Qazaqstan soon, as they are moving back to a Latin alphabet
A number of pastoral visits have been undertaken and a number of our Moldovan sisters also joined the Romanian Bible School. A preaching initiative, suggested by the Moldovans, is that we leave bookmarks which carry the address of the Romanian preaching website, in public places such as bus stations and other waiting rooms.
A Bible weekend was held in May attended by 18, and we enjoyed another Bible weekend in early November back in Poznan. Numbers were lower this November as the two Dawn fellowship families were not able to meet with us. It is good to see that the local brothers are now taking a greater role in leading studies at the Bible weekends.
We have not managed to have a visit to the brother and sister who live in the NW of Poland this year, due to illness in the Poland team. This is being planned for next year. However, it was encouraging to see that three of the Polish brethren managed to pay the North West a visit in November without our participation.
There have been three pastoral visits to Romania, plus our annual Bible School held in late July.
Brothers and sisters are doing well, although one young brother – Brother Alex Bangău – has recently had a quite serious operation. We have recently asked Brothers Danuț Corcoveanu and Mihai Radu to form a preaching team and come up with suggestions to develop our preaching work in Romania – they have already put forward positive ideas which we hope to implement next year.
Our Romanian sister Teodora was also visited in Turin, Italy, and her son Michi has asked to be baptised – this is now being followed up, initially with the 18-lesson course.
Visits took place to Belarus, Kazan and Moscow-St Petersburg regions in the spring, a Bible school in Kazan in August, and Yelets, Urals, Siberia and South Russia in the autumn. This is the first time since 2014 that all regions have managed to be visited. Generally, they have been positive visits including the highlight of 5 baptisms at the Kazan Bible School. A number of older brothers and sisters fell asleep during the year with those who remain in need of our prayers.
South Caucasus states
There has been very little contact with the two sisters in Georgia (Rustavi) except via Sister Kathryn Pearce who seems the only one they answer. They have refused to attend Bible school in Kiev due to the fear of the political situation there.
A visit was made in April for a Bible weekend in Kiev followed by a trip to Poltava, and another weekend in Kiev took place in November, followed by a trip to Pavlograd. 65 attended the week-long Bible School in July, including 9 completely new faces among the 13 people in the Foundations Class. Interest in the Truth in Pavlograd is flourishing, thanks to the local preaching of the Stepanov family.