My parents really believed "and this gospel shall be preached in all the world" and then participated actively by giving Bible studies and contributing funds to help others do so. So during a visit I mentioned to them that for $5,000, an entire campaign could be financed in Russia and that we were trying to raise funds in our conference to do so. Little did I know that within a very short time my father would die and my mother would be left a widow.
A few weeks after my dad's death, my mom said she wanted to give a check to my husband for Russian evangelism. He was shocked (since he was now assisting her with her finances) when he read 5 and the three zeros on the check. "Are you sure you want to do this?" I heard him ask. She said she certainly did. It was a memorial for my father, and she said she knew he would want her to do it. This is the amazing story that followed.
Evangelistic programs were held in the city of Kansk from February 27 until April 8. Six hundred people came every night to the meetings to hear the message of how they could be saved through Jesus Christ. As a result of these meetings 130 people were baptized.
When the meetings began, it was believed that there were no Seventh-day Adventists in that city. The very first night there was an elderly lady that came to the meetings. She had a very interesting history. Her name was Anna Kovalenko.
Anna was born April 19, 1916. Anna was baptized in 1931 at the age of fifteen. In 1936 Anna's father passed away. That same year Adventist pastors and members of the church began to be arrested. Pastor Raus, who had baptized Anna, was arrested and eventually shot. On June 27, 1936, police searched Anna and her husband's house. They took all the Christian literature they could find, such as The Great Controversy, Steps to Christ, and many others. Anna and her husband were arrested. At that time, Anna was expecting a child. On August 14, 1936, Anna gave birth to a baby girl. On August 29, the police came to arrest her again, but when they saw that she had just given birth to a child, they decided not to arrest her. Anna was only 20 years old.
On October 27, 1936, she was arrested with her child. The jail cell was very cold. There was no water, and there was a typhus epidemic. Her little girl, Nadya, could not bear the extreme conditions and died when she was only three months old. On February 14, 1937, Anna was sent to a prison camp for 10 years without a parole, based on anti-revolutionary acts.
The camp where she was sent was in Siberia. The place where she stayed was not adapted for winter temperatures. The winters were very harsh and cold. Sometimes the temperature would drop down to 50 degrees Celsius. At the same time Anna had no information about her husband who had been arrested in 1936.
Life at camp was very hard. She worked from dusk until dawn. Anna met other women who shared her beliefs. They were allowed to rest on Sabbath. So they met for 10 years in the corner of the house where they stayed every Sabbath. They sang, prayed, and preached to each other. In 1946 she was freed but could not go back home. She stayed in Siberia in the city of Kansk. She tried to find other Adventists there, but could not because there were none. For 53 years she spent a Ve of searching. She spent lonely Sabbaths, just her and the Lord.
In 1970, Anna was pardoned. She also received documents of the pardoning of her husband. The same document stated that he was shot in 1937. After 34 years, she finally knew the tragic ending of her husband's life.
People from other denominations tried to get her to go to their churches, but Anna was faithful to the true God and hoped to meet Adventists. She prayed for 53 years asking, "My God, are you really going to let me die without me meeting other A,Iventists?" I am glad that God heard her prayer.
She finally received an answer to her prayer when Pastor Ivan Tomaily, President of East-Siberian Conference, began evangelistic programs in the city of Kansk. With much rejoicing and tears, she thanked God that after 53 years, God had created an Adventist Church in her city. When she came to the meetings for the first time, the first thing she said was, "Here is my tithe, I am glad to give this back to God."
A very touching scene was when we had the first communion service at the new church in the city of Kansk. At that time Anna said, "Thank you, God, for letting me participate again in the communion service after 53 years." She is full of energy, strength, and much enthusiasm as she tells what she wen t through those 53 years of searching.
Praise the Lord for this wonderful experience of this brave woman, that even under the most adverse conditions she never lost her faith and trust in God and waited for His promise. Praise the Lord for all of the promises He has given us.