Despite the collapse of communism, investment in disaster-prone Russia is still a risky venture for most businesses. But after visiting Europe’s eastern-most city, I’ve been reminded of the urgency – in our line of business – to invest in this great land.
Perm is a mega-city twice the population of Amsterdam, built on the banks of the broad meandering Kama River, 1400 kms east of Moscow. The so-called Ural Mountains, which I was surprised to discover are mostly a low rolling ridge of hills just to the east, mark the border with Asia. Perm was thus the ‘Gateway to Siberia’ for many exiles – Dostoevsky among them – who began their trek eastwards towards an unknown fate along the Siberia Road, starting downtown at the riverside.
More recently, Perm was also the last city prisoners saw as they were herded north to the dozens of prison camps dotted throughout the Perm province. Some have called this area the “garbage dump of humanity”.
Secrecy has shrouded this city, closed to foreigners until just a few years ago. Even the workers in the giant armaments factory were not permitted to know what they were making. Today space rockets, rocket launchers and aeroplane engines continue to be manufactured there. Yet despite the sophistication of its industry, whole neighbourhoods of log-cabin type houses still lend the city a ‘frontier’ atmosphere.
Pioneering on several frontiers is indeed what Andy and Rachel Frecka have been doing over the past two years. They have made Perm a springboard for ministry teams heading north to work among prisoners and to plant fellowships in remote villages; to minister among Tatars down-river and unreached peoples like the Khanty-Mansi over the Urals in Siberia.
Perm will also be the location for the Eastern European Leadership Consultation at the end of this month, where both Frank Naea and Al Akimoff will be speaking.
Last week I spoke in the first DTS held in the Ural region, with a sharp group of mainly Russian and Tatar students. Tamara, a very capable Ukrainian, was leading the school, while Gulya, one of the first Uzbeki YWAMers, was my translator. I was conscious of the historic foundations this school was laying for the future multiplication of workers to spread out into this vast and challenging region, and beyond.
Andy and Rachel are too. They envision a U of N campus in Perm with multiple schools beginning over the next few years. Andy already had a property staked out, so we climbed into his Russian four-wheel-drive and drove 20 minutes out of town to a walled property, just 400 metres off the main Moscow-Perm road. With the guard dogs safely restrained, we explored the overgrown 13-acre estate, with seven or eight buildings in varying state of repair, bordered by a river. I thought of the Kona campus in its original overgrown and run-down state as the Pacific Empress Hotel. As we checked out the kitchen, the rusty, greasy galley of the m/v Victoria (later renamed the Anastasis) came to mind. But Andy’s vision was contagious. Yes, this would make a great campus!
Andy hopes to start negotiations this week. Asking price for the property about half the size of Heidebeek? 14,000 euros!!
Now, that’s what I would call a great opportunity to invest in Russia’s future!
Why not take a collection or send a gift over the next week or two to the YWAM Europe office, earmarked “Perm”?
Till next week,
p.s. YWAM Rostov-on-Don has just purchased a property that you can view on the following website.
Larry Dannhauer is looking for help with bricklaying, plastering, carpentry, electrical and plumbing skills.
Till next week,