Ripples of prayer make waves in Udmurtia
Blake Williams, Baptist Press
May 13, 2010

Ripples of prayer make waves in Udmurtia

Ripples of prayer make waves in Udmurtia
Blake Williams, Baptist Press
May 13, 2010

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Southern

Baptists will observe the 2010 Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization

May 23.)

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

or live.”

Photo by Matthew Miller

Arkansas pastor Jack Gilliland meets with local pastors and evangelists to discuss ministry in the Udmurtia region of western Russia. Gilliland serves as an International Mission Board virtual strategy coordinator, which he describes as “filling in where the missionaries can’t go or live.”

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

Fasting emphases.

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

Gilliland’s heart.

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

evangelical Christian.

“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.

*Names changed.

(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.

  • Pray

    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

    their faith.

  • 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

    the language.

  • 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.