LA MIRADA, CA (EP) – Glasnost in the Soviet Union is opening doors for Soviets to respond by letter to Christian radio broadcasts from the U.S., according to two U.S.-based evangelical Christian broadcasting organizations.
The Far East Broadcasting Company, an international missionary radio organization which airs broadcasts in 100 languages around the world, reports a tremendous increase in responsive mail from the Soviet Union. “Where before we would receive only a handful of letters from Russia in a year, we received over 800 in November  and 1,000 in December ,” said FEBC’s Russian programming director, Jack Koziol.
A second Christian radio organization reported the same sudden influx of Soviet mail. “Last September we started seeing a significant increase in mail from the Soviet Union,” said Wally Kulakoff of HCJB, an evangelical Christian broadcasting organization which airs programs around the world in 14 different languages via shortwave radio.
Kulakoff, Russian language service director for HCJB (Heralding Christ Jesus Blessings), said that before glasnost, the organization was receiving about 30 or 40 letters a month from listeners in Russia. But since last September, that number increased by 300 to 500 percent. In January, l989, HCJB received 244 letters, compared to 20 in January, 1988. “One listener said he wrote us 80 times, but only three letters made it through to HCJB,” Kulakoff said, who added that there are Soviet pastors who have written that they have no Bibles.
Both groups said the greatest need for Russian listeners is Bibles. “Never before has there been this freedom to not only request a Bible, but to actually receive one by mail from the West,” said Koziol.
The Soviet policy of glasnost has meant an end to jamming of foreign broadcasts, and Soviet citizens, who own an estimated 60 million shortwave radios, can tune in to Christian radio programs more easily. Kulakoff said that he knows of an estimated 39,700 “radio churches” in the Soviet Union. “These are churches where people gather in homes to fellowship and listen to Christian broadcasts – the radio is their preacher!”
Both radio broadcasting organizations also expressed a concern that glasnost may not last long. “It is for this reason that we are sending Bibles as fast as we can,” Koziol added. “We just don’t know how long this opportunity will last, so we are trying to fill these requests quickly.” Even if glasnost disappears, Bibles that have reached the Soviet Union will remain, HCJB pointed out.
“There is an Iron Curtain,” said Donn Ziebell, executive vice-president of Slavic Gospel Association. “But there is no iron roof, and shortwave radio will always make it through.”