(EDITOR’S NOTE: Southern
Baptists will observe the 2010 Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization
IZHEVSK, Udmurtia — During
one of his mission trips to Udmurtia, Jack Gilliland, pastor of Rea Valley
Baptist Church in Flippin, Ark., asked a local believer, “Are we making any
difference? Are we just coming and entertaining you, or is this helping?”
“Every time you come,” the
man responded, “it’s like you drop a rock in a pool and whatever foggy, murky
stuff that’s on the top brushes away a little bit — and we see a little more
Today Gilliland volunteers
from his Arkansas home as an International Mission Board (IMB) virtual strategy
coordinator, which he describes as “filling in where the missionaries can’t go
The Udmurts, an unreached
people group in Russia, were the focus of Southern Baptists’ Day of Prayer and
Fasting for World Evangelization emphasis in 2007. Since then, answers to those
prayers are bringing Living Water to the spiritually thirsty in the Republic of
Around the world people have
come to Christ, doors have opened to allow witness in places where missionaries
cannot go, the faith of believers has strengthened. The common thread? Prayer —
focused on one people group at a time for nearly 20 years of Day of Prayer and
In 1995 prayers were lifted
for Mongolia. Now more than 400 churches and about 45,000 believers call Him
Savior. Tibet had no churches in 1996 when the Day of Prayer focused on that
Buddhist country. Today there are 19 churches and more than 600 believers. And
the stories continue for each group that received the benefit of targeted
One of the 2007 prayer
requests asked Southern Baptists to pray that God would call an individual to
coordinate efforts among the Udmurts. Shortly afterward, the Lord burdened
He began to pray with
believers around the world for God to send someone to Udmurtia to live full
time and serve as a catalyst among the churches. Through word of mouth, e-mails
and the Internet, Gilliland amassed a prayer network of more than 1,000 people
who regularly intercede for Udmurtia.
During the past three years,
Gilliland also led multiple short-term volunteer teams to serve as “virtual
missionaries” in the absence of full-time missionaries. Volunteers work
alongside and encourage the seven small Baptist churches in Udmurtia and help
approximately 200 indigenous believers minister to and present the gospel to
villagers. Less than 0.3 percent of Udmurtia’s population is considered
“You go in and you build
relationships,” Gilliland said. “You live there like you would at home, just
like a missionary does, and you share the Lord.”
Gilliland and his prayer
network recently saw their prayers answered by two American couples.
Charlie and Heather Murphy*,
originally from Searcy, Ark., and Joplin, Mo., respectively, first met Will and
Marie Thompson*, whose hometowns are Cordell, Okla., and Clinton, Okla., while
attending school together in Texas. Their journey began when Charlie read the
IMB prayer guide for the Udmurts.
“The Holy Spirit moved in me
that day when I read that article,” Charlie says. At that moment he felt the
Lord say to him, “I love these people, and that’s where I want you to go.”
About that same time, Will
heard in class about the great need for people groups in Central and Eastern
Europe to hear the gospel. As Charlie and Will shared these experiences with
one another, they realized it was not coincidence but the providence of God.
They began to pray for and research the Udmurts, and God kindled their hearts
for the people group.
The Murphys and Thompsons
are now Russian-language students living in Izhevsk, the capital city of
Udmurtia. They have learned to rely on the Lord through prayer as they
transition to the new culture and language.
“The most difficult thing is
wanting so badly to be able to explain the gospel to people but not having the
vocabulary to do it,” Charlie says.
“I don’t just want to be a
language student. I want to be able to share God’s love with people, and right
now I don’t have the vocabulary to do that. That causes a lot of tears some
days, just weeping over the lostness and feeling like there’s nothing you can
really do about it, and then hearing God’s still, small voice saying, ‘You can
pray.’ That will forever be the most powerful weapon you have, even when you
can speak the language fluently.”
The couples pray for the day
when more Udmurts will put their trust in Christ and boldly share their faith.
A local pastor believes
Charlie and Will can be an encouragement to Udmurt believers, inspiring them to
evangelize their friends and families.
Gilliland agrees. “The
trails have been blazed, and we’ve laid some good groundwork,” he says. “We’ve
built a trust relationship with the people so that now it’s a matter of them
catching the vision.”
Gilliland’s next project is
raising more prayer support for the Murphys and Thompsons and for a
church-planting movement to start among the Udmurts. Having acquired the names
of every village in Udmurtia, Gilliland is enlisting local prayer warriors to
commit to praying for a specific village. His prayer is to see at least one
Bible study group form in each of those villages.
Southern Baptists will unite
again this May 23 on the Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization to
celebrate answered prayers over the years and to continue to pray for God’s
intervention among the peoples who still need to hear the Good News. To learn
more about the Day of Prayer, visit imb.org/dayofprayer. The web site features
resources to help churches, small groups and Sunday School classes pray for
peoples who have yet to hear the gospel, including a downloadable poster and
video, planning helps and other materials. To order the Day of Prayer and
Fasting DVD, go to imbresources.org or call (800) 999-3113.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Williams
wrote this story on behalf of the International Mission Board.)
How to pray for the lost in Udmurtia
Pray for spiritual darkness
to be lifted and for the Udmurt people to see the light of Jesus Christ.
that they will receive and worship Him.
- Pray for the Udmurts who
struggle with alcoholism and depression that the Lord will bring them hope and
- Pray for men to come to
Christ and become leaders in their homes and churches.
Pray for new Bible study
groups to be formed and new churches to be planted.
- Pray for people of peace who
will open their homes for evangelistic Bible studies.
- Pray that the Russian
government will not restrict missionary and evangelistic efforts.
Pray for volunteer mission
teams from the United States that will be traveling to Udmurtia.
- Pray that the Lord will give
you a love for the Udmurt people.
How to pray for Udmurt
believers and churches
- Pray that the seven Baptist
churches in Udmurtia will be bold in reaching out to the villages and sharing
- Pray for the churches that
have no pastor.
- Pray that the Lord will raise
up men of faith and equip them to be leaders in the churches.
- Pray for the two couples who
are Russian-language students in Udmurtia.
- Pray that they will become fluent in
- Pray that they will be an encouragement and support to local
believers and churches.
- Pray for at least 25 churches to be planted during
the next 10 years.