[Photo Courtesy of the Euro-Asia Division]
Russia | Natalia Semak

The 30th anniversary of the Volgodonsk Seventh-day Adventist Church found its members gathered under the arches of the beautiful large church building, with more than 100 people reunited for this wonderful celebration. The celebration emphasized the church’s dedication to serving God, the community, and its neighbors. Guests from Rostov-on-Don, Aksai, Salsk, and other settlements attended the celebration, as the path of many of them is connected with the Volgodonsk church.

Symbol of God's Covenant

The first gift to celebrate the church’s anniversary was made by the Lord Himself! Many noticed that the rainy morning sky above the meetinghouse was illuminated with an extraordinary multicolored rainbow. Seeing the rainbow on the day of the jubilee service, the people who came to worship perceived it as a special blessing from God.

During the anniversary celebration, the church opened its doors to numerous visitors. Garlands of photographs depicting various events in the life of the community attracted the attention of guests, and the people in the photos were happy to share their memories. Booklets, clippings, and newspapers describing the historical stages of the life of the church were also laid out on tables next to the photographs.

The large number "30", placed on the stage, was in great harmony with the festive decoration of the hall. On the wall behind the stage were the words, “You have helped us, Lord,” which acted to remind the guests of 1 Samuel 7:12, a Biblical text appropriately expressing gratitude to God for the path traveled by the church.

Remembering the Path Traveled

Immersed in the atmosphere of the celebration, the guests who participated in the anniversary Sabbath service, were permeated with memories of significant stages of the church’s life. 

The program was led by the family of Pastor Andrey and Elena Yakimov.

For those who could not come, the service was broadcast live. 

During the Sabbath School lesson, led by Pastor Igor Olennikov, the audience actively shared their reflections on the topic: ‘what God invites us to remember in our lives and why.’

A musical performance by brothers and sisters from the city of Aksai, and also former members of the Volgodonsk Church, illustrating the great desire of a Christian to see the heavenly city followed after the Sabbath School lesson.

History of the Birth and Life of the Church

The first block of the program was devoted to the history of the emergence, formation and development of the Volgodonsk Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

The first group of local students of the Holy Scriptures was formed in Tsimlyansk in 1979, and was led by Pastor Boris Vasilyevich Gorbatyuk (later replaced by Daniil Andreevich Katlyarov in 1983 and later led by Veniamin Dmitrievich Tarasyuk). Two residents of Volgodonsk attended the historical services. 

The years 1991-1996 in Volgodonsk were marked by large evangelical programs at the V. Kurchatov Hall. The hall, with a capacity of 1,000 people was full during these programs, and people stood in the aisles.

After the evangelical program, Bible study courses were held and the first baptism service brought 30 new people to the church. During this time, 62 people also made a covenant with God. This was a time of vivid experiences, healing and answered prayers.

Gradually the Church grew and strengthened and reached a membership of 300 people. Church members organized themselves into groups, testified of God, and distributed literature.

During this time, the Church also began the ministry of the House of Night Stay, a ministry where Church members cooked food and traveled by bus to feed the hungry. In addition, a ministry was organized in one of the city hospitals, which lasted for about eight years.

From 1997 to 2006, the construction of the House of Prayer continued. The work continued for almost ten years at a time that was not the easiest from an economic point of view. At the same time, various types of ministries were developed. During these years, the first church choir was organized. The idea arose to organize concerts in memory of Anna German and thus testify about Christ.

2008–2013 was a time of active service to the world: health exhibitions, visits to orphanages, a Vacation Bible School, organizing city Easter concerts, taking part in garbage collection, continuing the House of Night Stay, serving in the veterans' house, and holding large-scale Christmas programs.

In 2013–2017, many of the community members began to move to new places of residence, and the size of the church membership in Volgodonsk dropped markedly. Many of those who moved to other cities became active missionaries and ministers in new places, helping to spread the gospel. Some became pastors, such as Igor Zaluzhny, Pavel Zadokhin, and Roman Marinin. Another member of the Volgodonsk community, Stepan Avakov, has a special ministry to coordinate help for orphans and foster families.

In 2018–2021, trips to small villages began to be organized, where people in need were offered clothes and shoes. A youth discussion club was organized, which first operated on the territory of the Shopping Center, and then in the church building. A sports corner appeared in the building of the community. At the same time, the first wave of the pandemic began and the church closed for the first time; but thanks to the organized broadcast, the services did not stop. Also, the ministry of literature evangelism continued, support for those in need of a night home, and a Vacation Bible School was also held.

All of these years Pastors Anatoly Marinin, Sergey Fartushny, Pavel Buchnev, Dmitry Plugatarev, Nikolay Krasyukov, Vsevolod Shalimov, Yuri Shchevtsov, and Igor Olennikov have served in the Volgodonsk Seventh-day Adventist Church. In the summer of 2021, the young Pastor Andrey Yakimov took over the baton of ministry in the Volgodonsk church.

At the end of the historical part of the commemorative service, the choir entered the stage, in which, together with today's participants, there were those who sang in the very first composition. Amicably and joyfully, they praised God by singing the hymn "Joy and Thanksgiving."

At the end of the solemn morning service, the head of the Rostov-Kalmyk Unification of the Church, Mikhail Oliynik, said a special prayer - a litany of dedication, consisting of gratitude to God for the path traveled and promises to continue serving Him in all deeds and undertakings, awaiting the glorious coming of Christ. The prayer ended with the sound of the amicable chorus of all that were gathered in the hall. This created an unforgettable atmosphere of solidarity and unity of all who came to worship the Creator of heaven and earth!

This article was originally published on the Euro-Asia Division’s news site.