Notes from Russia by LCMS Missionary, Rev. Matthew Heise4 min read

“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1 NIV).

Reaching out to the Chosen People

It was delightfully ironic that I was teaching on the book Romans at the Theological Institute of the Evangelical Church of Ingria on the outskirts of St. Petersburg in Russia. St. Paul’s words from Romans 9-11 resonated loud and clear as I prepared the sermon for my student, Boris Chuprov’s, Russian Jewish Lutheran congregation.

On the day that Boris asked me to preach the sermon, he was busy preparing a post-service seminar entitled, “Images of Christ in the Old Testament.” It is always important to express the continuity between the Old and New Testaments to our Jewish friends. Some of those in his congregation have literally just come out of synagogues, and so preserving the “Jewishness” of our faith is important, while of course, leading them on to the understanding that ALL of the Old Testament ultimately points to Jesus Christ as its fulfillment.

Boris’ Story | Faith Amidst Trials

Boris, LCMS Russian Seminary Student

Boris, LCMS Russian Seminary Student

Boris is on leave from the seminary due to the birth of his son, Athanasius, and to the ongoing struggle of living with HIV/AIDS. Boris acquired AIDS from a dirty needle, the culmination of a frightful journey that began with the emotional scars born out of military service in Chechnya. Boris took drugs, first orally and then intravenously, in order to dispel the images of war and destruction in his mind.

Thank the Lord, Boris was welcomed back home and given spiritual care by the loving congregation of St. Michael’s, the Lutheran church of his youth. His health is improving and he plans to return to his classes, finishing coursework towards graduating in January 2014.

Boris, like Paul, has some Jewish background and yearns for the salvation of God’s chosen people. As for me, it is my privilege to serve the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria, a church committed to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people, Jew and Gentile alike.

My Story | Russian Missions

Rev. Matthew Heise, LCMS Russian Missions

Rev. Matthew Heise

I serve as a theological educator to Russia and other former Soviet republics, such as Georgia, where I reside, and other countries throughout Eurasia. I teach at the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Koltushi, 10 kilometers east of St. Petersburg. I also conduct theological seminars throughout Russia, identifying future students for the ministry.

In Georgia, I support the work of Georgian evangelists as they reach out with the Gospel to others around them, lead Bible studies, and work towards planting churches.

I have had a fascination with Russia for a long time, being the grandson of Russian-German immigrants. Before studying for the pastoral ministry, I served as a missionary in Moscow from 1994 to 1996, where I taught English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) classes and was the ESL coordinator.

LCMS Seminars Led in Russia

LCMS Bible study in Russia

Russia’s Story | Past Persecution, Future Freedom

In Koltushi, Lutheranism dates back to the 1620s, a time when the Pilgrims were just coming to America. The Lutheran faith was brought to Russian originally by Germans who were invited by Czar Ivan the Terrible, thus there were Lutheran churches in Russia some 20 years after Martin Luther’s death in 1546. In the centuries that followed, the church grew until it was the second largest Christian church body in all of Russia, second only to the state-supported Orthodox Church.

All of that changed, though, when communists came into power in 1917. Their fanatical war against religion brought heavy burdens upon the church. By 1939, all Lutheran churches were closed and all its pastors were either sent to Soviet Union concentration camps or killed.

With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the long period of persecution came to an end.

My greatest joy is seeing a new generation grow up in the church. They have the freedom to hear of a Savior who loves them – opportunities their parents and grandparents never had.

Please keep the people of Russia and Georgia in your prayers, so that their hearts and minds may be open to the message of truth that I and other Christians share with them. With the Lord’s providence and your prayers and support, the witness to the Gospel continues to go forward in Russia.

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About the Author

Rev. Matthew Heise was born in Dearborn, Mich. and is a lifelong member of Guardian, Dearborn. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from Wayne State University, and a master’s degree in divinity from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo. Heise appreciates your prayers for safety and for a boldness to witness to the hope he has in Jesus Christ, with gentleness and respect.

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