In 1991 I had the unusual priviledge of being in the first flight of private aircraft into the, then, Soviet Union. When we were living in the Arctic, we did a lot of flying, because we lived in a fly-in village in the Northern Yukon. One day, while flying home from Alaska, the Lord opened my heart in a very unusual experience, and I was deeply impressed that the Soviet Union would be opened to the Gospel. I determined that when that day came we would be ready fly into this mission field. That day did come, and the following letter was written after my first of six trips into Siberia.
My trip to Siberia, USSR was successful beyond expectations. As I listened to the news today of the defeat of the military takeover in the Soviet Union, it meant so much more to me having lived, for a short time, with the people in their homes, and having had dealings with military officers, KGB, the Mayor & Councilmen, and etc..
As we gathered in Nome, Alaska for the flight across the Bearing Straits, it looked like bad weather would prevent us from going. We had a time frame we had to work in and the weather wasn't expected to clear. After spending a week in Nome the weather did clear and we took off for the military base of Ureliki in Siberia.
My impression was that the military and KGB were greatly relieved by the relaxed policies that have nearly ended persecutions and extreme harassment. The teenage draftees we met (everyone has to spend two years in the army) seemed totally innocent. They were real nice kids. It was the older officers, who were part of the old regime of torture and persecution. They had a subdued, almost conquered spirit. As if the entire system had yielded to the universal conscience of freedom, or at least was in the process of yielding. They couldn't hide their lifetime of prejudice they harbored toward us, but in a matter of hours even that began to crumble and we saw forbidden smiles and their kindness to us was genuine and less forced.
The Soviets who were sent over to accompany us from Nome were jubilant, much more aware of the historic significance of our visit than we were. It was impressive to all to see the 35 U.S. & Canadian aircraft lined up for nearly half a mile alongside the runway on this Soviet military base, when two years before no one could have dreamed such a thing.
The Custom's officials had a directive not to allow anyone to bring in more than two Bibles. Probably, because a Bible is worth a month's wages in Provideniya. My shipment of Bibles never arrived for me to take, but I did have over a thousand Scripture booklets of five different kinds in the Russian language, including the Gospel of John & etc.. The Lord knew what to send with me! I'll never forget the faces of the three officers who examined the booklets. This is what they could never destroy, and they wanted their people to have them very, very much. They counted every booklet, one by one, and wrote out special paperwork for certain people to come to the airport and convey the two cases of scriptures into town!
Military trucks and buses carried us for miles around a large bay to the town of Provideniya, pop. 5,000, where much of the town was gathered at a large theater like town hall. There a host family was chosen to take me home. There are no houses and no cars. Everyone lives in large six story cement apartment buildings. It only took a day or so to appreciate and love these people. They were very quick to express to me their hatred of the military and hardline "fools". My bedroom had a large American flag, a picture of George Bush, and Boris Yeltsin poster.
It was inconceivable to me that the Military coup that took place this Monday could possibly succeed. Still, I believe the Lord really had His hand in it all to end with so little bloodshed and disruption. The entrenched bureaucracy of hardliners is the greatest hindrance to progress in the Soviet Union, and nothing could have happened to move them out any faster than the events of the last three days. Everyone knew the old regime would not roll over and die without an attempt to regain control. Many feared a return to Stalinism type control. One can easily see the hand of God in the bungled Coup. Had it been carried out differently it could have been very tragic, especially for the Church. But with today's events we anticipate the one critical requirement for missionary activity, that of access, to improve instead of being lost. This places a great responsibility on the church as opportunities opening up are mind boggling.
While in Provideniya we got to visit a large Siberian Yupik Eskimo village about 20 miles north of town. This was very interesting as we had free access to the entire community. I had a meeting with the Mayor of Provideniya in which I promised to provide them with a Ham radio transceiver. They were very excited about this as it would give them direct contact with the outside world. My two best friends in town were both radio operators in the military! The Lord gave me some excellent contacts in town. The people were fascinated with my family pictures and virtually demanded I come back for another visit and bring our whole family! They have very small families because they don't have housing & income to support more than one or two children. So I promised them that by next summer I would return with my family for a longer visit.
We've had a very busy summer since I returned from Siberia. Karen took Seth and Josh to a Campmeeting in Idaho while Jenny went to a Camp at the Northwest Indian Bible School and on to South Dakota for the Spring Creek Indian Camp. Reuben, the twins, and myself stayed and held down the fort at home. Then the Northwest Indian Bible School came and held V.B.S. here at Sunchild. Our largest attendance for one day was nearly a hundred, and in the evening we had services with Walter Phelps, a Navajo, preaching. Following that, we had the Camp at Alix, east of Red Deer, with Rev. Gerald Bustin as evangelist. It was at this camp that the decision was made to start a Bible School, a Native Christian Training Center, here in Alberta in the Red Deer area. This is a very important development for missions in Western Canada, as well as a very ambitious undertaking!
Our garden is providing wonderful salads and vegetables now. We raised over a hundred frying chickens which we now have in the freezer, some of them weighing 8 lbs.. We also have 10 turkeys and 4 geese. In the last two days we've picked 4 gallons of wild blueberries. The turkeys go out every day and feed on the blueberries to get fattened up for the holidays. The beavers were kind enough to build a large dam just below our house which we have been using for a swimming hole. Seth has been working on the Taylor's horse ranch in southern Alberta off and on this summer. He has gotten to go on some trail rides, horseback, in the Alberta Rockies. All the time we have lived in Alberta we've spent very little time in the mountains, which are very beautiful, so we are happy Seth has finally got to experience some time enjoying it there.
One day while Seth was at the ranch, a tractor turned over on twoboys. It was very serious. Seth helped to jack up the tractor and get the boys out. The local doctor said their injuries were very serious and sent them to Calgary. The church got a prayer chain active, and later the doctors in Calgary said the boys were alright! Quite an experience.
I went to South Dakota to bring Jenny back and while I was there I got to see a friend and former co-worker, Mark Black Calf, as he was dying in the Rosebud hospital. I got to visit with his family and friends also, and he died a few hours after I left. We are gearing up for the opening of our A.C.E. school on Sept. 3rd. Karen has been giving diagnostic tests to new students. We have an excellent roster of students this year. Our only real problem is that we still don't have teachers lined up, for sure. It looks like Anita Roberts will be here to serve as a monitor. A family will be coming a month or two after school starts to take over the school. The local A.C.E. director is trying to get us some short term help to get school started. Little David is now 6 months old and he is sitting up and growing likea weed. Keep us in your prayers.
In His Service,
Rodger & Karen Rinker
Box 665 Rocky Mountain House,
Alberta, Canada T0M 1T0