Olga and Aleksei Druzhinina have long served the Church of the Nazarene from their home in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The couple worked with European Nazarene College in theological education, and Aleksei was also involved in their local church as a Sunday School teacher.
It wasn’t until two years ago that they began to feel drawn toward cross-cultural missions. As they prayed for a place to serve, they sensed God telling them to plant a church in Latvia’s capital city, Riga.
“At first, we thought it was strange and that it was all in our head, but we decided to speak with our pastor,” Olga said. “During the same time, an M+Power training was happening in Moscow. While we were there, we spoke with Scott Rainey, the CIS field strategy coordinator at the time. He told us that God had told him to send someone to Riga, Latvia, and that was when we knew it was definitely God.”
The Druzhininas immediately applied for Schengen residency documents. A Schengen residency permits travel to all European Union member countries, but getting approved can be difficult for Russian citizens.
“People told us that it was impossible to get the residency,” Olga said. “After receiving the official invitation letter from a Christian organization and sending it to the government, we received a religious residency in February for one year. This residency allows us to talk about Jesus to everyone and tell what we are doing with no fear — something we didn’t have in Saint Petersburg.”
Latvia shares much in common with Russia, but when the Druzhininas arrived in Riga, they soon found that the culture is not as similar as they expected.
“Even though we have a common language and a common background, the culture is very different,” Olga said. “We thought that it would be easier to communicate with the Russians living in Latvia, but what we have found is that it is much easier to communicate with Latvians. Local Russians have a different mentality than the one we have.”
Olga and Aleksei have worked with the Salvation Army since their arrival, volunteering at the soup kitchen and leading a Bible study.
“I’ve been invited to preach twice this May at the Salvation Army’s Sunday service,” Aleksei said. “We have also visited different non-denominational churches, including a Latvian church that usually translates the service from Latvian into Russian so we can understand.”
This church has kept in contact with Olga and Aleksei and is considering translating the Church of the Nazarene’s Articles of Faith to Latvian.
The Druzhininas are also reaching many non-believers, and Olga has been invited to be part of an exclusive women’s club.
“It’s interesting because it’s part of a special society,” Olga said. “It’s about 100 women, all business ladies or wives of business men, and they all know what I’m doing in Latvia, which is great!”
After their one-year residency permit expires, they remain open to what God wants to do through them in Latvia or beyond.
“This is all God’s timing,” Olga said. “Our hope is to open a Bible study until February of 2020.”
As their calling becomes clearer, Olga and Aleksei hope and pray that doors will open for them to help plant churches in several countries, including neighboring Lithuania and Estonia.