Catching Fire Family of Missionaries from O'fallon Finds Russian People Eager for Bibles, Christianity

Article excerpt

When the Voegtle family of O'Fallon, Ill., visited Pioneer Youth Camps in Russia this summer, they weren't sure what to expect.

The camps had been organized years ago by the Communist Party to teach party doctrine to children.

"They used to teach them communism," Gary Voegtle Sr. said last week in an interview. "Now, they talk about Jesus."

Voegtle, his wife, Janice, their son, Gary Jr., and daughter, Elisabeth, were proud to deliver Bibles to Russia to help that nation return to its Christian roots. Gary Sr. and Janice Voegtle said that most Russians they met were eager to learn about Christianity and that many couldn't wait to be baptized as Christians.

"They're so on fire (about religion) and not ashamed to proclaim their love of God," Janice Voegtle said.

The Voegtles gave away about 5,000 paperback Bibles there. It was the third such annual trip to the heart of the former Soviet Union for Gary Sr. and Janice. Elisabeth, 16, went for the second time; it was the first trip for Gary Jr., 24.

The family went as missionaries for the Revival Fires Ministries, based in Branson, Mo. That group provides the small paperback Russian-language Bibles at a bulk printing rate of just 50 cents apiece.

Gary Voegtle Sr. said his family and other Revival Fires missionaries were seeking contributions to pay for future trips to Russia.

"My family will go back as often as we can while the doors are still open there," he said.

Anyone wanting more information about the missionary program can write to the Voegtles at 600 Obernuefermann Road, O'Fallon, Ill. 62269. Checks for Bibles may also be sent to that address, with the checks made out to "Revival Fires Ministries."

Although the Voegtles are members of St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Belleville, Janice Voegtle stressed that their work in Russia crossed denominational lines.

"We're not bringing a denomination over," she said. "We're bringing Bibles over."

The family stayed much of this summer with a Russian family that is organizing an Assembly of God church at Kursk in western Russia. Many Russians also are trying to re-establish the traditional Russian Orthodox churches that were closed by the communists, the Voegtles said. …