By Sergei Zavgorodny
Published June 1, 1994
English translation by Roman Medvid
The Global Vision for Predvestnik, The Russian language Forerunner
To build a distribution network that will blanket all of the former USSR; to reach China with the printed word; and to penetrate the Muslim world with the Gospel.
Predvestnik’s Current Distribution Network
Predvestnik has been distributed in every former Soviet republic with the exception of Turkmenistan and Tadjikistan. We have been limited in Tadjikistan by the war between the radical Muslims and the existing government; and in Turkmenistan by the restrictive religious situation.
- In Kazakhstan, a huge territory in central Asia, there are some Christian churches in Alma Ata and another large city, Karaganda. The churches are mainly made up of Russian Christians. Outside the major cities there are few churches. The ethnic Kazakhi Muslim population remains largely unreached. Predvestnik is received in Alma Ata, a city of over one million people. We currently distribute over 25 percent of our newspapers in Kazakhstan through two distributors. There is a large Christian ministry in Alma Ata called “Agapé” which maintains contacts with every church in Kazakhstan. They distribute Predvestnik throughout their region. There is a mission called “Grace” in Karaganda (central Kazakhstan) which also directly receives a smaller order of Predvestnik. There is an huge opportunity for us in this area alone.
- In Uzbekistan and Kirghistan, we have three distributors – two individuals in the city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan and one mission in a region of Kirghistan. These are only a few hundred in number because there are only one or two known churches in these areas and they cannot evangelize freely among the Muslim population.
- In Turkmenistan and Tadjikistan, the furthest southern region of former Soviet Central Asia, there are virtually no Christian churches. This area remains unreached. These countries are utterly Muslim. A person who does not profess Islam is considered outcast. He cannot get a job; he cannot marry. So this area is closed.
- In Azerbaijan, there is a different situation. Because Armenia borders Azerbaijan and Georgia, there is a Christian element. There is an Eastern Rite Church in Armenia. To the north in Georgia, there is the Georgian Orthodox Church. Hence, Christianity is more easily spread to Azerbaijan. Distributors in Armenia and Georgia may send Predvestnik to Azerbaijan. However, there is one region between Azerbaijan and Armenia, that is in a similar situation as the Balkan countries. In the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, there is ethnic fighting. Soldiers kill people on the basis of what religion they profess. So this area is also closed.
- In Armenia, we have sent some newspapers back with people who were visiting Russia. But as of yet there is no main distributor within Armenia.
- In Georgia, we have distributors, but Ukraine refused to ship any newspapers there because of the war in the Caucasus mountain region. Now we have the open opportunity to ship there again.
- In Russia, past issues of Predvestnik went as far east as Vladivostok and to the southern Siberian regions of Omsk, Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk. Past issues were dispatched to the Ural mountain region: the border between Europe and Asia. The region near the Volga river has always been covered, including Kazan (Tatarstan). The central region is covered from Moscow. The remote parts of Siberia are not covered, but there is a very sparse population.
- Ukraine has distributors in every region from the far east to the border of Poland and Romania. Among our distribution centers are Kharkov, Odessa, Crimea and cities along the Dnieper River. We also recently heard about a new opportunity in Lvov. The capital city of Kiev, with a population of three million, could easily absorb all of the issues of Predvestnik now printed. In fact, the first several issues had a heavier concentration in Ukraine.
- Moldava, a country between Ukraine and Romania, is torn by ethnic strife and war. We are able to distribute in Moldava, however, through the border city of Ismail, Ukraine. Our distributor in Ismail always ships several hundred newspapers to Moldava.
- In Belorus, we have two distributors in the capital city of Minsk and a city within this region. Sergei Zavgorodny met with the pastor of the church in the Minsk region in order to create a larger distribution network that would cover all of Belorus. This pastor is from a very large church with its own mission network.
- In the Baltic States, the political and economic situation has changed. It is much more expensive to ship newspapers there now. This region has also been saturated with Christian ministries and missions. In the future, our policy for distribution to the Baltics nations will be “paid orders only.”
Future Plans for Expanding Distribution
Our goal is to enter into the state subscription service. It is the most prospective way of increasing distribution. We will take this opportunity so that individuals in all of Ukraine, Russia and Belorus may subscribe to Predvestnik. Each country uses a similar service. The state system works this way: Anyone may go to their post office and order a subscription from a list of publications. Predvestnik would be listed as a Christian publication. Any person in any town or small village will be able to subscribe to Predvestnik.
We are going to expand our contacts with Kazakhstan. We have very good contacts with the missions and churches there. We are looking to expand this influence further than Kazakhstan down to the south to the unreached territories.
We also have distributors in Russia in the region of the Black Sea. We want to use these contacts to help us to distribute newspapers to the south to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
A future goal for distributing Predvestnik is to reach more remote areas. Major cities already have large ministries and the people have begun to grow less open to the Gospel. However, in rural areas there are many people who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ. There is a great openness and a hunger for spiritual truth in remote regions. Our priority is to expand into these regions. The state subscription service can help us to achieve this goals.
Russian is still the primary language spoken in the former USSR. The official national languages in 14 republics have changed, but this has not had a great effect. One good thing that the Soviet Union did was to teach Russian to all the people groups and to standardize the language. Before the Russian Revolution, there were even peculiar alphabets using letters in Old Slavonic. Many ethnic peoples were illiterate before the time of the Soviet Union. More people speak Russian than ever before and the native languages use the Cyrillic alphabet.
We discussed the possibility to do ethnic language newspapers, such as in Ukrainian, Byelorussian, Tatar or Kazakhi. There is no sense to do a version in Ukrainian or Byelorussian. Most of these people still speak Russian as a primary language. Russian is understood by all people who speak Ukrainian and Byelorussian. As to the languages that are utterly different than Russian, this proposal makes some sense. It would take some time and effort to develop these newspapers.
We want to print a Chinese newspaper, The Mandate, and train a Chinese staff. We will also produce special editions for Muslims in Russian with the idea of eventually producing ethnic language newspapers with trained staffs. The Muslim edition could easily be translated into ethnic languages as an evangelistic tool to reach Muslims throughout Russia, central Asia and the Middle East.
Global Vision and the 10/40 Window
The 10/40 window is a region that is almost completely unreached with the Gospel. The nations situated between the 10th and 40th parallel are oppressed by poverty, dictatorial governments and false religions. This is the most difficult area of the world to penetrate. Today, we see that Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan are at the heart of the 10/40 window. These nations have been the focus of continual international crises.
The most strategic opening in the 10/40 window is from the north. The nations of ancient Turkestan (Kazakhstan, Kirghistan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan) lie directly above modern day Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will see these nations open up to the Gospel in our day as result of the spiritual awakening in the former Soviet Union. Predvestnik can have a part in opening the 10/40 window by producing Christian literature aimed at Muslims in Central Asia. We will cooperate with indigenous missions in this area such as Agapé and Grace ministries in Kazakhstan. We plan to send a representative to visit these areas soon and have our first special edition aimed at Muslims by the end of 1994.
Kiev as a Missions Center
The purpose of Predvestnik is to publish information on the true history of the church; to answer questions the common people have about the Bible, Christianity and the church; to print articles dealing with the simple Gospel message of salvation; and to be a source of relevant information from a sound biblical viewpoint. Our goal for the next three years is to print and distribute one million copies of Predvestnik; and to translate and print short paperback books and tracts.
In doing so, we will develop a network of people who will read Christian publications in years to come. These people will be able to support the work of publishing in their own countries when their economies improve. Then they will be able to support missionary efforts to surrounding nations such as the Muslim and Chinese blocs. But the time of spiritual openness is short, we need to act in a progressive manner to evangelize and disciple the people of the former Soviet Union through the printed word.
Within the next three years, our purpose is to become both more stable and widespread while beginning new works within the former USSR; to distribute Christian literature to unreached nations and people groups; to expand into the furthest reaches of the former USSR, China and central Asia.
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