The Reluctant Warrior
By Linus LeFever
My wife Kay, and I, began our ministry for the 1st time in 2006, up till that time we had always worked for other people in the ministry. In 1989, we had the ministry of being #2 and we were very comfortable in the role of Associate Pastor in a medium sized ministry in Chicago. It was during the year of 1989 our lives were about take a very sharp turn into being leaders.
I was working at the church when one of the guest speakers came to me and said “Linus, you are a missionary!” I promptly rebuked him in the name of Jesus and told him I was not a missionary. For the next few months every time he came to the church he asked the same question, “Are you ready to receive the call?” Finally, my Pastor began asking the same question and we answered the call to be missionaries on a short term trip to Romania.
Are you A Living Sacrifice? Romans 12:1
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies A LIVING SACRIFICE, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
Kay loved it. I was not so sure. My guide and I went to Hungary and met with a youth group and a pastor. I was still not convinced. At the Romanian, Hungary boarder the guard asked me, “Why do you want to visit my country?” I thought “Good question...why am I here?”
We visited Romania. Nothing that happened there changed my mind. We visited the Christians of the town. I had to walk behind my guide about twenty paces so the secret police would not know what we were doing. Fat chance, they already knew we were in town and they followed us everywhere. They were young men carrying machine guns that looked really nervous to me. I finally told my guide I was ready to go back.
We were going back to Austria. At the boarder, there was a mile long line of cars wanting out of Romania. Now this was the first thing I understood. I wanted out myself, but it was going to take two days to wait in line. My guide informed us that we could go to the International line because we were Americans. This was my first introduction to how privileged we are to the rest of the world. I was being cased out by the guards so I gave them a coke and a bar of chocolate. This lightened their mood.
The guards were watching us closely as we were waiting our turn. It was then a car full of angels, (prostitutes) pulled up and the guards lost all interest in us a waving us on through the crossing. Things got interesting at this point. In the next three miles the Holy Spirit began to teach me how to do practical training centers training students to be disciples. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I must have had a look, because my guide asked me if everything was ok. I told him God was speaking some things to me that I needed to process.
The rest of the trip I was processing what the Holy Spirit said to me. However, I had already made my decision. I was beginning to see why my friend wanted me to go the mission field. I knew how to organize things. Not just organize, but be able to listen to the Holy Spirit in obedience. This was the first time I had to trust what I was hearing to be God. It would be many years later that I would find out what the definition of being a missionary was. That I would be “a sent one”.
When we returned home in a few weeks, Pastor picked us up at O’Hare airport. On the way home he asked how things went. For the first time I said, “I think it will work.” A simple statement, but with that simple statement I knew I was all in and Kay and I were about to have a drastic change in our lives. We didn’t know what was ahead, but it was going to take a lot of faith in what the Holy Spirit was saying to us.
I Corinthians 16:9 “For a great and effective door has opened to us, and there are many adversaries.”
This above scripture caused us to sell everything, and I mean everything, we had. Finally everything we owned fit into the back of a two door Cavalier, including our 14-year-old son. During this time, things were not working out in Romania. The many adversaries began to make us question our decision.
One Sunday as I was putting the offering away Pastor came in and said that there was is a missionary in the congregation who helped missionaries to get in the field. He suggested taking him to lunch to see what he had to say.
We arranged to meet for lunch. I asked him one question. This turned out to be a life changing question...it would change our lives forever. I asked, “What do you have in Eastern Europe?”
He said there was nothing in Eastern Europe, but they were starting the first above ground, legal Bible School in the Soviet Union. My Spirit man exploded and began to show me three main things and many other little things in the next 15 seconds. The first was history was about to be made. The second was books would be written. The last major thing was a Bible School. I said, “Yes. How do I get started?"
MY SCHEDULE FOR PREPARATION
This is where the Vine Dresser really goes to work. I didn’t realize at the time how important it was to get a revelation of what God the Father was going to do in the supernatural. If you don’t look close, you will miss getting a revelation of what God is about to do in your life. It wasn’t until I began writing I could see how important this time was in my life. It also set in motion how to get the job done that God wanted us to do.
PREPERATION TIME IS NOT WASTED TIME
When missionary preparation began, the school went from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. Then I would return home, get my New Testament and go to the pool and read. I read the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs four times in the next six months. I would read something and then ask a question, “Lord what do you want me to know about this scripture?” Then, many times the Lord would tell me something about the scripture that I wouldn’t understand at the time...but it became clear on the mission field.
During this time, the Lord would wake me up in the middle of the night. I would look at the bare wall. We had no pictures. He would show me something that was about to happen in Russia, or a revelation of the scripture I had been reading. I would have to get up and write it down in my journal and then go back to bed. When I would get up in the morning to go to school, the younger students were waiting for me and they would ask, “What did the Lord show you last night?” They told me later how much before school meant to them. These students are in the ministry today. They were my first disciples.
THE POINT OF NO RETURN
It was coming down to the wire. Kay and I had very little money and no tickets to Latvia. Yet, we knew we made the right decision, but it was show and tell time. Several of our team were in St. Louis, so I called Pastor in Chicago and asked if I could borrow the van to go to St. Louis and pick up the team. “Sure” he replied, “Is there anything else?” I thought, I might as well go for it while I’m on a roll, “How about three round trip airplane tickets to Riga, Latvia?” He said, “You've got them. We will work on them now and have them when you get back to Chicago.”
I didn’t know what to say. The scripture came to mind, “You have not because you ask not, but when you are seeking first the Kingdom of God all of these things are added unto you.” God was blessing, not only us, but our entire team.
We had lived for six months without working, my school had been paid for; we were supplied a team; and now, we had our tickets to Latvia. What was left? MONEY to make the move.
THE FIRST THREE MONTHS IN LATVIA
Getting to Jelgava
When we got back to Chicago just before Christmas, pastor had set up meetings for us in Chicago with other churches. Just before we left for Latvia those meetings produced enough income for us to get a very good start in the Soviet Union. Many of those people continued to support us the whole time we were there. Every time I would come back to see our families and the churches, they wanted a report. We always left with a very good offering. All the churches we had supporting us from Chicago was because we had a RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM.
When we arrived in Riga, Latvia, the runway was lined with armed guards, fighter jets and even though it was only 2 p.m, it was already beginning to be dark. It always seemed to be snowing. When my foot hit the ground in the Soviet Union, I thought to myself we are not in Kansas anymore. After several hours in customs and immigrations they finally let us out of the airport around 4 p.m. We were met by the missionaries who had come with a city bus to take us to Jelgava, we did not have a clue where Jelgava was.
On the ride to Jelgava, I was looking out of the window of the bus and I watched a man on a bicycle get hit by car and no one stopped to help him. This was an everyday occurrence. I would see this scene multiple times over the next 22 months during our stay in the Soviet Union.
We arrived at our apartment. I was introduced to the sights, sounds and smells of the Soviet Union. We were to live in a town named Jelgava, Latvia. It was a closed city of 170 thousand people which was small for Soviet cities. I remember when I got off the bus, I asked what that smell was and the driver said..."It's your apartment."
FAITH COMES FROM DOING NOT TALKING
Every day from that point, began a series of miracles. I have seven journals I kept every day; each page has a miracle on it. There were no average days in the Soviet Union for American Missionaries.
On January 21, 1991, we started the first above ground legal Bible School in U.S.S.R. history. My first class was held in a building that had an address of Pasta 43. There were no windows. Two by four's and cinderblocks were the seats. There was no heat. But in front of us sat our first 30 Soviet Bible School students, wearing coats and gloves with the fingers cut out so they could write notes. They would sit for as long as you wanted to teach them. Six to eight hours a day on those hard seats. They were so hungry for God’s Word. Their hunger for God’s Word would just draw the words right out of you.
WHAT IS A PAPISKA?
After a week, the Russians all disappeared, only the Latvian students were left. We were told the Russians all had to leave. We asked where they had went. We were informed they all returned home to get their papiskas. A papiskas was a document, the first of many they would need in order to be at the Bible School. They were gone a week. When they returned our attendance went from 30 to over 100.
The students would come to us with stories of miracles on how they got to the school. This was a common conversation, “How did you find out about the Bible School?” I would ask. The answer would be like this from the students, “I was in my bed and the Holy Spirit came into my room and told me there was going to be a Bible School in Latvia.”
“What did you do?” I would ask. The student would tell me something like "I moved to Riga. I have relatives there. I found my wife there and I waited for the school to start.” I once asked how long was your wait in Latvia? The student replied, “Nine years I waited for the promise of the Bible School.”
I stopped weeping after the 10th story...all the same, they came from all over the Soviet Union. One man came from clear across the country from Vladivostok, 13 time zones, and a 7-day train ride. He stayed and never returned home until he graduated from the Bible school.
Over the next six weeks I became the director. Adele was my administrator. Kay and my son Seth were very busy figuring out the lay of the town and where to get things because there were no signs on most buildings. If there were signs, we couldn’t read them. Toilets became a source of conversations. You had to be called to be in this country. Without the Holy Spirit, I don’t think we could have survived; many didn’t make it this far and had to go back to the states.
OUR FIRST CHURCH PLANT
After five weeks of training we planted the 1st church. Over the summer we planted over 20 more churches in the large cities. We began by putting cities I had never heard of, on the walls of the Bible School and asking the students which of the cities was where they lived.
One Friday, before we broke up for the weekend, we told them to pray and ask God which city they were being led to go to by God. On Monday we put out an offering bucket and asked them to write their names, and the name of the city they were called too. That Wednesday we had a staff meeting. As we began to unfold 27 papers in the bucket, each one had the city and their names and not one single duplicate city. God, through the Holy Spirit, had communicated to each of the students the places where they were to go. Many are still in same place they chose 30 years ago. This is what being Spirit led is a about.
OUR FIRST OUTREACH
Our first outreach was held in Kathrine the Great’s Summer Palace. We also had church there every Sunday, with a Pastor, praise and worship, and a congregation. This was needed in Jelgava so when people from the town would receive Jesus as their savior, they would have a place to be taught. All of this work was practice for us for bigger things later on.
The team taught in the Bible school for the first week. Then we had the service over the weekend. We didn’t know what to expect, but the meeting was held on the 2nd floor of the Palace, in the throne room. The Latvians were hungry for God. When the alter call was given the whole room full came forward. Over 700 came to the Lord on the first night and it continued to grow the rest of the weekend. The students had to form a circle around the teacher and hold hands to keep them from getting to the speaker. We have a phrase we used a lot, “In Russia, you need to learn the art of pushing and shoving, they are not polite when they want something." We learned later how desperate they were to be healed and saved.
When they asked for people who needed healing, they had to learn to tell them to stand because everyone needed healing. Then they would ask them to put their hand on what needed healing and they let the interpreters pray over them to be healed. It was so pure and innocent, no one wanting or needing credit for what was happening because it was all God who got all the glory.
One last story of this meeting. My friend Dave didn’t teach much, he was more into praying for the people. He asked, “Is anyone here tonight that is depressed?” The whole room stood up and Dave looked at me and mouthed, “All of them?” I looked back and said, “You are in Russia and all of them are depressed.”
When we got back to my house and were all together, the weekend was summed up by Duane, who said, “A dog could bark in Russia and one hundred people would get saved.” It was true, the anointing was so strong and everyone knew God had shown up at the meetings.
OUR FRIDAY OUTREACHES
TIME FOR THE STUDENTS TO PRACTICE
We decided to build teams and practice on the streets. Until the police showed up, we had seven praise and worship groups. They all used to argue about what team was going to play the rackety old piano we had at school. They were all very good. Everyone played something. We had a great group of preachers and teachers who would teach and pray for the people. The students would watch the perimeter of the group with tracks they had made on how to accept Jesus.
Here is how our outreach worked, Praise and Worship with a guitar and boom box. I must stop here and say the best gift you could bring to our students were guitar strings, and if you brought a guitar with you, to Russia, you would probably not be taking it back to the states. You would sow it into one of the students. We have so much and they had so little.
Then the crowd would form and the teacher/preacher would give a short message, but not until the crowd was in place because they loved the music. The people in the back were instructed not to give out a track unless they stopped to listen, and when they walked away, then you gave them a track and begin to talk with them if they would listen. It worked, many people were just shopping and had never heard about Jesus before.
I told the students when we began doing these there are no mistakes here, we are only practicing to see what the culture will bear. Because of Jesus being in charge it always worked. Many people met the Lord because of these street meetings.
THE SUMMER OF 1991
Kay and I moved to Moscow to help the team with the groups who were coming in from America. We would pick them up at the international airport in Moscow. It was a good hour to wait for customs and immigration. The drive to the hotel was another hour. Most of them were asleep by the time we arrived and jet lag was kicking in. If they weren’t asleep, they could be very grumpy.
Groups ranging between 4 to 20 people from America would arrive during the summer. There were four groups every two weeks. They were all going in different directions to different cities. We had to stay with them until we knew their flight and trains had left the stations. They left with their interpreters and guides.
There were many train stations and 5 domestic airports. The main one was Domodivida. They flew to places like Siberia, and all the major cities of the Soviet Union. It would take them at least till Wednesday and sometimes Thursday before the team got out of Moscow. We had to keep a constant count of the people in Moscow and a daily meeting with the hotel to find out how many meals needed to be fixed.
Thursday, for our team in Moscow, would be a day of rest. On Friday we would begin to make plans for the next team coming in from America, and the teams returning on Sunday evening from their cities. It could take as long as Monday evening to get them all back to Moscow from the cities.
The summer was a great success and many churches were planted. We had many of the short-term missionaries come back and be full time missionaries, but the work had just begun and it was now time for the second session to begin in the fall. We had new people come in and join the team from the summer church plants
THE BEGINNING OF THE FALL OF 1991
In late August we came back to the Bible School after a successful church planting time in Moscow. Over 200 students showed up and wanted to come to the Bible School. Many of them were a result of the evangelism over the summer when the churches were planted with the help of many short-term missionaries. They were hungry to see this far off, mysterious land, with such hunger for the Word. The first missionaries never took for granted that hunger for the Word of God from the students, soon to be Pastors and leaders.
YOU HAVE TO TAKE THEM, THEY ARE OUR LEADERS
One day we were full in the school. Six students came from Kazakhstan. I didn’t know much Russian, but I could see they had only been born-again about six weeks ago. I told them they needed to go back to their home church and get the basics before they came to the school.
They had a former female Bible School student with them. She began to tell their story for them. She knew a lot of English. She said, “I went to Ukraine to plant a church with a team, and it was not working out. I went to the Kazakhstan, with another pastor candidate and we planted a church. The church grew to over a 1,000 in the summer. I went to another small town, (around 170,000 is a small town in the Soviet Union) and planted a church as a woman, this is not culturally acceptable. It grew to 200 people in a very short time. These men are our leadership and you have to train them for us. There were only 4 people in the church that had be born again for more than six months.” She then said, “I’m not leaving until you say that you will train them.”
We accepted them and they all graduated and went back and planted churches in Kazakhstan. By the end of recruiting we heard that story several times from other pastors we sent out. There was lots of fruit from the summer of 1991.
WHY HAVE YOU HIDDEN GOD FROM ME?
We can’t tell you where the churches were because we didn’t want to know. We would tell the student to tell the van drivers where to go and we would show up and do the meetings and then come directly home. When we got back the Russians would ask us if we went to such and such a city, and we said, “We didn’t know where we went,” because we didn’t and didn’t want to because if we did, we would have told and then the pastor would get a visit from the KGB.
At one church we went to we preached a message to a large group. The only place to preach was in a corner because the people filled up the place, including the stairwells. We were on the third floor. Natasha was my interpreter. She heard the commotion at the back of the auditorium and she told me what the lady was saying as she was pointing her finger at the priest. He was there because his whole church was there and she said, “I’ve came to this meeting tonight. In one night I met Jesus. I was healed and filled with the Holy Spirit. Why have you hidden God from me?”
THE RESULTS OF BEING IN SOVIET UNION
Kay and I would leave the Soviet Union after two years of living there. We would not really know the results of what had happened there until 2008...when I went back for a short-term trip to develop missionaries from the churches we had planted. While we were in Moscow, I met a Russian Bishop who told us the results of our two summers all those years before. He had a map of the Soviet Union in his office. He showed me the results of our time in the Soviet Union.
To my shock and surprise...the map had pins in it that represented thousands of churches that had been planted in the Soviet Union as a result of the Bible School in Latvia. There had been over two and half million people led to the Lord as result of the of the church plants. God had used all our efforts beyond anything we had imagined.
The last thing the Bishop showed me were the number of Bishops all over the Soviet Union. They had been broken down into 10 districts and 8 of them were former Bible School students from the years of 1991-92.
I have been doing mission work all over the world. This Reluctant Warrior has seen many things, done many things, and I am really glad that Kay and I said "yes" to something we didn’t think we could do...and God did it.