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The Online Bridge: Spring 2005
Issue 11, May 2005

Perry Friesen: From Russia, With Love

 

When I entered NABC in 1978 I wanted to be a better educated, equipped Christian, not a pastor and certainly not a missionary.  I started in a 2 year Diploma program. After my first year I heard two pastors share their testimonies. They said Pastoral ministry is the most exciting place to be.  These pastors were real, fun, believable and passionate, I couldn't shake what they said.  For the first time in my life, I thought maybe becoming a pastor isn't the worst thing that could happen to me.  So I changed into a 4 year major at NABC and graduated with the class of 1982. 

After I graduated with a BRE, I accepted a youth internship at Brentview Baptist Church in Calgary.  It took two weeks to see that it was true: pastoral ministry is an exciting place to be.  I was able to use my spiritual gifts to serve the body of Christ, I felt a fulfillment I had never known before in my work.  I went to NAB Seminary in 1983-1986 to complete an M.Div and an MA in counseling.  There I reflected on God's gracious call in my life.  He hadn't forced me to be some-thing I didn't want to be, but shaped my interests to want the very thing He had gifted me to do.

In 1986 I began ministry at South Calgary Community Church. I supported missionaries, but had no plans ever to become one.  When I started dating Lynda, my wife, we talked about this.  She was an approved Christian and Missionary Alliance missionary candidate.  She already had a call to missions on her life.   When we started dating, I affirmed my support of missions, but said "I have no plans in that direction."  God gave her the green light to marry me, and said to her, "Trust me." We were married in October 1991.

During the next year we went on 2 short term mission trips.  One of those was to Russia were we had an incredible experience.   I had only 20 minutes to preach and share everything I knew about God and how to have a relationship with Him, knowing I might never see these people again.  It was exhilarating, I can't remember a time before or after when I was more spiritually alive.  I saw more people make commitments to Christ in two weeks than in my entire life.  I got “wrecked for the ordinary”.  We left Russia, but wanted to go back.  Who would disciple these new believers?  One 13 year old boy wrote: "my greatest dream is to become a pastor."  Who would train him to become a pastor?  We pursued a number of avenues to get back to Russia. 

We heard that the C&MA was going to Krasnodar, the same city where we had been. We met with the vice president of missions and he too was excited.  We were trained and ready to go long term, 1 or 2 years.  He said they we're looking for a minimum commitment of 10 years. 10 years???  What employer asks for a 10 year commitment? I left that meeting like the rich man who walked away from Jesus, unable to pay the price. 

Some weeks later I was praying for God's direction, and He spoke to me in that still small voice: "Perry, what is it that you really want to do?"  I said, "God, I want to make a big impact for your kingdom."  And God said, "That's a good thing, Perry.  And just what are you willing to give up?"   Those words cut me like a knife.  I realized that I was looking to make a major impact without making much of a sacrifice. God said, "Unless a grain of wheat dies, it can't bear much fruit.  Come back when you're ready to give more."  I thought about the words of CT Studd who said, "If Jesus Christ is God's Son, and died for me, then no sacrifice is too great for me to make for Him."  I cried, "O God, I'm willing to give up whatever you want.  Just go with me." 

After that it was easy.  Lynda and I had to downsize, sell a car and other stuff, and go back to Canadian Theological Seminary for more missions courses.  Then we had to leave our families, our country and learn a new language.  I've never regretted following Jesus, becoming a pastor or a missionary.  We've been here over 10 years now. We have 3 children, Sarah 9, Katelyn 5 and Rayanne 3. Currently we live in St. Petersburg, planting a church.  I can't think of anything more lasting and fulfilling than working to see people get saved and established in a missionary minded church.  But if the way to make my maximum impact for God becomes something other than being a missionary or a pastor, I'd be open to it.  Life is too short to waste. 


Perry Friesen
To contact, or to receive prayer letters, write to: PnLFriesen@aol.com