A Life Lived in Joy Has Far-Reaching Consequences
From an interview with Tatiana Molodyk by Christie R. House
In 1994, I met with volunteers in mission who came from the United States to Saratov in Russia. For me it was very interesting. I helped them. I was a computer engineer and I didn’t know anything about the Methodist Church or what it meant.
After they left Saratov, one man came back. He had fallen in love with a Russian woman, and she was my friend. I saw how he helped her, and for me, it was very stirring, because he had a lot of problems and trouble in Russia—with documents mostly—yet, he smiled and was very happy. I didn’t understand why. And I knew that he was a member of The United Methodist Church.
My friend told me that this man prayed every day. That sounded very strange to me. Typically, in the Orthodox Church, people who need to pray every day are very unhappy. They cry through their prayers. I knew prayer and happiness to be opposites.
The questions in my mind about what made this man so happy, even in prayer and in trouble, kept growing. Finally, when my friend left Russia with him, he gave me a Bible. I wondered if this had the answers to all my questions—why he was happy, why he believed in spiritual things differently than other church people I knew in Russia. At that time in Russia, after the Soviet time, young people did not go to church. Church was a place for very, very old and unhappy people.
I had never thought much about the church, but church now became something of interest to me. When a Methodist minister from another Russian town, Samara, came to Saratov, I told him that I would like to know more about the church and the Bible, and really, anything he could tell me. He welcomed me to a Bible study in Samara.
After a while, we talked about how I could start a Bible group in Saratov. I began assisting this pastor. That’s how I came to be a pastor myself.
About five years ago, our congregation contracted for a new building, so we needed money to finish the construction work. We quickly made two classrooms, and we rented those. An organization that rented one of the rooms was “Art Therapy for Women.” I joined the class.
I tried to make something—it was pretty successful. So, I used the technique to create a collage piece.
Meanwhile, an American couple, Janet and Dennis Fisher, started coming to my church seasonally. Dennis Fisher was hired to direct the Volga Band, a professional band in Saratov. They knew about the Russia Initiative, and they found us.
They came back for 12 consecutive years. They took some of my artwork back to the United States and people in their church bought it. They gave the money back to our Saratov UMC. People at their church suggested I should make Christmas cards out of the collages, so I tried it.
People became more and more interested in the artwork. The Fishers started getting invitations to go to out into other states. At that point, they decided we either had to stop the enterprise or make an official business out of it. That’s when they decided a year ago to start the process of making it a 501c3.
The Rev. Tatiana Molodyk (left) with customer
I am a pastor, and I didn’t have time to devote to full-time art creation, but other women in the church came together and started making textiles. We call the ministry Marfa Ministry. We describe it as “Iskusniza”—women who create art.
Since we’ve become a nonprofit, with my artwork and the textiles that the women are making at the church, the Fishers have been able to sell our products and send back about $12,000 to be used for the completion of the new building.
We feel we can show other churches that they, too, can do anything.
The Rev. Tatiana Molodyk is the pastor of Saratov UMC in Saratov, Russia. Christie R. House is the editor of New World Outlook magazine. More information about Marfa Ministry can be found by visiting http://marfaministry.org.
Photos: Creative tapestries, greeting cards, and artwork are among the pieces created by the Rev. Tatiana Molodyk that support the Marfa Ministry. Photos by Christie R. House