By Ferrell Foster
The gospel is being preached in Russian each week in a suburb outside Washington, D.C., USA, and the church recently moved into its first building after 16 years of ministry. Pastor Victor Visotsky has led the congregation, New Life Russian Church, from the start.
Visotsky, with his wife and two children, came to the United States in 1991 at age 25. They moved to Pennsylvania from Narva, Estonia, in the Soviet Union, which was coming to an end.
In Estonia, Visotsky’s family had been Baptists. His great-grandfather had been an Orthodox deacon who became one of the first Baptists in the Ukraine years before. Baptists in Estonia had limited freedom. Visotsky’s parents were fined for having prayer meetings in their home after the KGB searched and confiscated Christian materials, including their Bibles. They fortunately were not imprisoned as some others were.
After arriving in the U.S., Visotsky completed two degrees and worked as an engineer while becoming a deacon in a Russian language church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Seventeen years ago, Visotsky was asked to come to the Virginia suburbs outside Washington to start a Russian language church. He was hesitant. The cost of living was higher, and he knew no Russian-speaking people in the area.
As they prayed for guidance about what to do, Visotsky’s parents moved to Pennsylvania from Estonia. His mother saw a doctor and learned that she had advanced cancer. The doctor gave her two weeks to live. The family prayed. After a few months, his mother returned to the doctor and learned the cancer had disappeared.
It was a miracle, and the Visotsky family understood it as, “God telling us, ‘I’m opening a door for you’” in the D.C. area, Visotsky said. “Praise god, my mother is still alive 16 years later.”
Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, Va., supported the new ministry in “many ways,” the pastor said. The Russian-speaking group met for a time at the church building, but Visotsky said that many former Russians were still nervous about attending church openly after decades of living in a Communist state that restricted Christian activities.
The early church had more success by holding Bible studies in their home and serving chai (tea). After a time, they rented space in Fairfax, Va., before securing their own building in Sterling, Va., in November 2017.
Visotsky still preaches in Russian, with an average attendance of about 140 people each Sunday. They translate worship services into English. The church has led former Muslims, Communists, Jews, and others to faith in Christ.
The church’s witness also stretches around the world, as people go on mission trips to Kazakhstan, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and other places. They also support missionaries to France, Russia, and central Asia.