NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Brian Krebs has a divided heart.
It is split between his life as the face of Southern Baptist missions in Novokuznetsk, Russia, and his other life as a husband, father, grandfather and employee of LifeWay Christian Resources.
For the past three years Krebs has served as virtual strategy coordinator (VSC) with the International Mission Board. The VSC position allows a person to work in an area that has no on-site missionary presence but is seen as a location ripe for a partnership. In this position, Krebs works with evangelical churches in Novokuznetsk, supporting their ministry and helping them engage unbelievers in the city.
“Well less than 1 percent of Novokuznetsk’s 500,000 people are believers,” Krebs estimates.
“There are a few believers there who are working diligently to reach out to the people of Novokuznetsk,” he said. “I want to come alongside them and help them with whatever they need to do that.”
Krebs’ interest in Novokuznetsk began five years ago when Grace Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation with a strong English as a Second Language [ESL] ministry in suburban Nashville, Tenn., began teaching English as a ministry in Belarus, a former Soviet republic.
Krebs and his wife Vicki joined fellow Grace Community members in trips to Belarus annually from 2003-06 and fell in love with the people they met.
“The people are so hospitable,” he said. “Naturally, they were wary of our intentions, but when they understood that we really were sincere in wanting to help them with English, they welcomed us warmly.”
When the IMB noted a need in Russia, “we were ready to join them in meeting it,” Krebs said. He met Andy Leininger, an IMB missionary in Novosibirsk in southern Siberia, who told him about the VSC position. In 2007, Brian and Vicki Krebs were appointed.
“I am committed to going to Novokuznetsk at least once a year to work with Anatoly, the pastor of the Baptist church, and other evangelical pastors,” Krebs said. “Their work is hard. I am committed to doing anything I can to support them.”
On a LifeWay-sponsored mission trip to Novokuznetsk, Krebs and nine other volunteers spent eight days doing outreach among the people of the city. They worshipped with fellow Christians in local churches, had an English conversation time at the city’s public library, and visited a drug rehabilitation center and a youth camp.
“Novokuznetsk is not a tourist destination like Moscow or St. Petersburg,” Krebs said. “Just the presence of Americans is a curiosity. This gives us the opportunity to share our love of Christ and, at the same time, give these local churches an extra visibility. We come for a week, but the churches are here all the time. We want to help connect the people with the churches.
“I feel extremely blessed that LifeWay has allowed me to serve in this VSC position with the IMB,” Krebs said. “This is a good example of two of our Southern Baptist entities working together to spread the Gospel.”
Krebs’ dream is to engage more U.S. churches with the ministry in Novokuznetsk. “We can learn from their models of ministry to drug and alcohol abusers and ministry to people in prisons. We can teach them a lot about developing leaders. With their relatively new capitalist society, the demographics of Russia are changing. I can see Christian businessmen coming [to Novokuznetsk] and holding seminars on good solid business principles with the young business leaders. The possibilities are absolutely endless.”
Polly House is a corporate communications specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources.