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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Friends on a Mission

By Scott Temple
May 20, 2012

Nine-year-old Vera Varonaeff and Annie Syretz, age 13, were neighbors in New York City in 1918. In the early 1900s, many immigrants from around the world lived in New York City. They wanted to start a new life in America.

Vera’s family came from Siberia, and Annie’s family came from Belarus. Vera’s family traveled through China and Japan to reach San Francisco. They eventually arrived in New York from the west. Annie’s family came to New York on a big ship from the east. God brought these girls together from across the world so He could use them to do great things for Him.

The girls lived in neighboring apartment buildings on 14th Street. All around them, families spoke Italian, German, Polish, Turkish and English. Because Vera’s family and Annie’s family both spoke Russian, they became friends.

Did you know that one of the best things you can do for your friends is invite them to church? That’s what Annie did for Vera. Both families were Christians already, and Vera’s family had left Siberia because Christians there were persecuted. But Annie’s family had learned about the baptism in the Holy Spirit, also called Pentecost. They enjoyed going to church at Glad Tidings Tabernacle of the Assemblies of God.

You can read in the Bible about the baptism in the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-18. In that Bible story, we learn that Christians who are baptized in the Holy Spirit begin to speak in new languages. In Acts, these were earthly languages people spoke in different parts of the world. But many times, Christians who are baptized in the Holy Spirit will pray in a language from heaven. God baptizes Christians in the Holy Spirit to give them boldness and power to tell other people about Jesus.

Annie wanted Vera to learn more about the Holy Spirit. When Vera accepted Annie’s invitation and came to Glad Tidings Tabernacle, she was baptized in the Holy Spirit and prayed in a heavenly language.

Vera told her father, John, about what had happened to her. He wanted to know more about the Holy Spirit. “Daughter,” he said to Vera, “pray for your father. I need this power too.”

John could see that his daughter’s life was changed. He began praying that God would baptize him in the Holy Spirit, and it happened in June 1919. Now he wanted to tell other Russian-speaking Christians about the Holy Spirit. He started a Russian-language Assemblies of God church in New York. It was one of the first Russian Assemblies of God churches in America. Soon, about 30 people were baptized in the Holy Spirit.

But John knew God wanted to baptize many more Russians in the Holy Spirit. He wrote to E.N. Bell, the first chairman of the Assemblies of God, and asked, “Are there over in Russia any American Pentecostal missionaries?” E.N. Bell wrote back to say that there were no Assemblies of God missionaries there.

John realized God wanted him to be a missionary to the Russian and Ukrainian people in the Soviet Union. Within six months, the Assemblies of God chose John and his wife, Catherine, to be missionaries to the Soviet Union.

John Varonaeff organized the first union of Pentecostal churches in the Soviet Union. By 1928, the number of Pentecostal churches in the Soviet Union had increased to about 400, with 20,000 believers. Think of it! Some 20,000 people learned about Jesus, and 400 churches were started.

God helped 13-year-old Annie tell her 9-year-old friend Vera about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Then Vera told her dad about the Holy Spirit, and her dad started praying for Pentecost. Then God used Vera’s father to bring the power of the Holy Spirit to many Russian and Ukrainian people.

Today there are thousands of Russian-language Pentecostal churches, not just in Russia and Ukraine, but all around the world. In fact, for many years Annie Syretz continued going to the Russian church John Varonaeff started in New York City. When Annie married, she and her husband were leaders of another Russian-language Assemblies of God church in Stamford, Connecticut. All her life, Annie continued to tell others about Jesus and encourage them to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

If you wonder how God can use you to do great things for Him, think of Annie and Vera. No matter who you are or where you come from, God has a wonderful plan for your life. And He wants to help you to do great things that will help other people learn about Jesus.

Scott Temple, director of Ethnic Relations for the Assemblies of God, wants to see people from all around the world learn about Jesus.

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