Report on Summer Mission to Russia
Russia and the republics of the former Soviet Union must be rebuilt by the people of God. The only hope for lasting freedom is to teach biblical principles for the reformation of society to the younger generation. I can see no better way to do this than to begin with the younger generation of leadership in the Church and teach these principles from the Word of God.
This is what we are doing through Predvestnik – the Russian language Forerunner – sowing the seed of biblical reformation into the hearts and minds of the younger generation.
God’s Word is the sword, a powerful sword. It will change many nations. And the power of the Word will be released in a special way in this special time of Revival in Russia. A special anointing through the power of the pen is being released for the rebuilding of Russia! Great Revival is just beginning here! In this special time, God is edifying His Church through the power of the printed word led by the Holy Spirit. This is the way it has always been throughout history. Whenever God has brought revival and reformation to a nation, He has used Christian literature to first illumine the hearts and minds of the people.
RUSSIA … FOUR YEARS LATER
In April 1991, I first visited Moscow with the hopes of starting such a youth-oriented Christian newspaper similar to The Forerunner which would sow the seed of biblical reformation into the Soviet society. At that time, signs of communism still abounded. Statues and paintings of Lenin were everywhere. Perestroika had given the people some new freedoms, but the Soviet economy – saddled with 70 years of anti-biblical policies – was near collapse. The worthless ruble was just beginning a phase of hyper-inflation and the only hope for the economy seemed to be economic openness and investment of hard currency by the West.
Yet some western missionaries assured us that this openness would be short-lived and that “the door would soon slam shut again.” Fortunately, I had more of a victorious ecclesiology (view of the Church’s role in history) than most. I hoped to set up a working newspaper staff which would be able to publish Christian newspapers and books for many years. However, I was aware of the tumultuous history of Russia and its many revolutions and coups. So I hoped to complete our first press run of 100,000 copies that year. I was filled with a sense of urgency. Ironically, the very day we were scheduled to print our first issue of Predvestnik, a communist coup attempted to put Mikhail Gorbachev out of power. All newspaper presses were seized by the Soviet army. The coup failed, however, and our newspaper was printed the next day in late August of 1991 in Moscow.
Almost exactly four years later, I stare out the window of a fifth story flat in downtown Moscow. I am distracted in writing this because of a huge racket caused by a jack hammer, a generator and a large tractor shovel across the street. A billboard proclaims western style building project: a shopping center and office building are underway. All over downtown Moscow, old buildings are being restored and new buildings are being built.
All the reconstruction going on is in preparation for a large celebration in 1997 – the 850th birthday of the founding of Moscow. I see banners and large signs with the city’s logo – St. George impaling a small dragon with a spear underneath his horse’s feet. I think about the symbolism of the 17th jubilee of Moscow. Seven plus 10 – seven means perfection and 10 symbolizes government – times 50 years which symbolizes freedom from slavery and debt. Will Russia have perfect government and freedom in less than two years? Will the devil be crushed underneath the Church’s feet?
I am reminded of the billions of dollars which have come into this city from the West. Moscow is now the most expensive place in the world after Tokyo. A three-room apartment downtown sells for $700,000. There are now five local MacDonalds with prices more expensive than a MacDonalds in midtown Manhattan. A pastor friend of mine has cable and watches CNN and the Discovery channel. New Arbat Street has become commercialized with large billboards in English, making one feel as though he is in a large American city.
I clear my throat. The dust and pollution in the air from all the activity in this city of 10 million people has given me some congestion. I drink Russian tea from the Krasnodar region – one of the special comforts of this culture. Russia is much better off today than it was during the time of communism. There is no doubt that reform is taking hold. There is a general feeling of sanity and liberty in the air – totally different from four years ago!
I think about the upcoming December parliamentary elections which are crucial to the future of this nation. Russia still has monumental problems. Most of the people are very poor compared to the West, yet they are much better off than the third world. Politically, Russia is at a crossroads. But don’t believe the hype of the western press! These liberals are distorting the truth and actually mourning the death of communism! It’s difficult to imagine a reversion to hard-line communism here, although the future seems shaky at best and uncertain.
The Church in Russia has a great opportunity to be on the vanguard of the social and political changes. Many young churches are prospering and growing now. A former staff member of Predvestnik, 26-year-old Vadim Urugamov started a church in Kiev one year ago and already has 300 members in attendance on Sunday. Another pastor, Sergei Atchkasov, 25-years-old has planted two churches in the past year and oversees eight cell groups including two on university campuses. These are vibrant, young growing groups. We have had the opportunity to influence their thinking through Predvestnik. These young men are not pietistic – they are reformers. They realize that the Church has this opportunity to be a body of reformers which can rebuild Russian culture.
This was the theme of my six-week trip which brought me to four cities in Russia in August. (I don’t have even the space to relate everything that has happened in one newsletter. I will have to save most of my testimonies for next month.)
YAROSLAVL … C.Y.I. CONFERENCE
During the last week in August, I participated as a workshop speaker in a Christian Youth International conference hosted by Bob and Rose Weiner Ministries and Rusty Russell of Miracle Life Ministries in Gainesville, Florida. This conference marked an increased emphasis on outreach to the university campuses. Prior to this time, CYI has helped train pastors and leaders for the young churches throughout the former Soviet Union. But recently, we have become convicted that most of the institutes and universities in Russia and the former Soviet Union are completely unreached. Yet here is the very place where millions of the future leaders of this society are being trained! If we want to change Russia, then we must change the university campuses first.
The 1000 student leaders heard Franco Gennaro of Champions for Christ Latin America give testimony after testimony of how God is changing high school and university campuses in Latin America. Franco was able to use this time to train Russian students to use multi-media presentations to affect high schools and universities. Champions for Christ uses several video presentations with slides and live narration produced by Reel to Real Ministries – Hell’s Bells: the Dangers of Rock Music; Creation vs. Evolution; The Hard Truth and Massacre of Innocence (abortion seminar); Love, Sex & Dating (Christian view of relationships) – and also the film Jesus as a part of their outreach to campuses in Latin America. Now all these presentations have been dubbed in Russian and will be used in the former Soviet Union in a strategy to reach the campuses.
According to Franco, “To catch the fish, you must use the right bait and go where the fish are.” Use of these presentations always draws a crowd on any campus in the world. The students are challenged with a biblical worldview on relevant and controversial topics. This enables an anointed evangelist to win the souls for the kingdom of God who would be saved.
I began working in cooperation with with Champions for Christ this summer to produce the first issue of the Spanish Forerunner: El Campeón which will be printed this year and distributed on campuses throughout Latin America. Now we also have a chance to help Champions for Christ with their multi-media evangelistic strategy throughout the former Soviet Union.
CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Also present at the CYI conference were three candidates for the Duma (Russian Parliament) who are delegates of the newly formed Christian Democratic Party. These candidates will be taking biblical principles for reformation into the political sphere. These Christian political leaders see the church in Russia and especially the young student leaders as potentially the most powerful and organized political force in Russia in days to come.
RUSSIA’S NATIONAL PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT
The first national pro-life movement in Russia has already begun! Present at the conference was Elena Uteshinskaya who is the leader of a growing network of pro-life ministry throughout Russia. The last day of the CYI conference was an eight hour pro-life seminar sponsored by Life Coalition International in Melbourne, Florida and Jim Anderson of Life-Line Ministries in Spokane, Washington. This seminar was extremely significant because it marked the launching of a pro-life movement in a country where abortions outnumber live births by more than two to one. In the initial stages Elena is educating churches in how to minister to women who are victims of post-abortion syndrome, to begin counseling women in crisis pregnancies, and organize a nation-wide prayer rally on November 23, 1995 to mark the 40th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in Russia.
PREDVESTNIK’S REFORMATION NETWORK
Predvestnik will be publishing pro-life articles and following the political campaigns of Christian candidates running for parliament. In the future, we would like to expand our staff to include a team of evangelists who would travel with the Champions for Christ multi-media seminars. Predvestnik would be distributed to the people who attended these seminars. Our opportunities seem unlimited. The impact we will have depends on having resources and We are being careful to be good stewards of what God has given us. I believe that we are seeing just the beginning of a great work in Russia – reaching tomorrow’s leaders today with reformation principles and equipping Russian young people to be effective in impacting their culture with the Gospel through multi-media.
Your support is of great importance to Predvestnik! Due to the chaotic economic changes and high rate of inflation, Predvestnik’s needs will be higher in 1996. We have begun to raise a portion of this support from within Russia and Ukraine. Hopefully, within a few years this indigenous support will become stronger. But for now, Predvestnik is still a missions project in need of support from Christians in the West.