I HAVE WATCHED THE EARTH-SHAKING changes in the Soviet Union unfold with great interest in the past three years. This vast country has become completely open to the gospel; freedom of the press and freedom to openly evangelize has grown tremendously.
In the summer of 1991, I helped to establish Predvestnik: the Russian language version of The Forerunner. Thousands of copies of Predvestnik are now being ordered by Christian youth leaders in the former Soviet Union. Alexey Salapatov, Predvestnik’s managing editor has received a stack of letters in response to the first five issues; all of them positive. People have never seen a newspaper like this before. Some have written to tell of dramatic conversions after having read the articles in Predvestnik.
In November, I made my fourth trip to the former Soviet Union. My purpose was to establish a publishing center which will be made available to Christian missionaries desiring to translate and print materials in the former Soviet Union. The Forerunner has established a base for this organization. This venture will provide an important source of spiritual nourishment for Russian Christians who still do not have enough literature.
Think about it: What would you do without your library of Christian books? Yet this is exactly the situation that the Russian Christians are in today; besides only a handful of books, there is virtually nothing to teach the Russian people about biblical Christianity.
Whole libraries of books were destroyed by the communists when they took power. New books teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ were banned and only a few dissident writers were brave enough to publish their own works. Many of these writers were sent to prison or institutionalized as madmen; some were even killed by the KGB. The opportunity to establish this publishing house was literally won by the blood of martyrs.
The Russian people are avid readers and admire their philosophers, poets, writers and novelists much in the same way we glamorize our Hollywood movie stars in America. Yet there has been little in the way of Christian literature printed in this country since communism has fallen. This is partly because the former USSR spans eleven time zones and is plagued by the lack of adequate transportation, distribution systems, supplies, etc.
While I was in Moscow and Kiev in November, I wanted to get a sense of what the needs are for Christian materials. In speaking with Russians and Ukrainians during a period of one week, I asked:
- What are some of the publishing needs of the former USSR?
- What kinds of Christian publications are already available?
- What topics for books most need to be translated into Russian?
Everyone agreed that the needs for publishing Christian materials in the former USSR are very great. There are less than one dozen evangelical Christian publications to reach 300 million people. Most of these are published infrequently, however, as often as the editors can afford to print a new issue.
I found that Predvestnik is of great help to new Christians and unconverted people who have many questions about the Christian faith. It is the only Christian youth publication in the former USSR. There is only one other evangelical publication that is published periodically. If Predvestnik were to be published bimonthly, it would be the only 16-page Christian newspaper in the former Soviet Union that is published on a frequent basis.
When asked: “Are there many evangelical Christian books available in Russian?” most said: “Yes.” But some estimated that there are not many titles available throughout the whole country. This number does not include short booklets, tracts and workbooks. Interviewees most often mentioned Josh McDowell, Watchman Nee, Reinhardt Bonnke, Billy Graham, David Wilkerson, as authors that they recognized.
The topics for needed translation were almost universally agreed upon. They ranged from: Bible study materials, inspirational books, the family and relationships, history of the church, Christian biographies, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Creation Science, Bible exegesis, commentaries, a concordance, a Bible encyclopedia, and a good modern translation of the Bible with study notes.
Two of the most popular books were The Cross and the Switchblade (Wilkerson) and Evidence That Demands a Verdict (McDowell). The Slavic Gospel Association has translated at least a dozen books, such as Mere Christianity (Lewis) and How Should We Then Live? (Schaeffer). Although each one of these books has made a tremendous impact, it is only a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed.
For more information write: The Forerunner, P.O. Box 1799, Gainesville, FL 32602