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Strategy for post-Soviet world must be long term

The Cold War brought us to our knees. We prayed that God would tear down the wall that separated East from West. We pleaded for opportunities to reach lost souls in nations dominated by communism. God answered our prayers, and we flooded the former Soviet Union with Bibles and workers — at least for a while. Unfortunately, many of us have turned our attention to “new” threats. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, caused us to refocus on the Muslim world. And recent developments in North Korea have brought us back to our knees, praying for safety and opportunities to bring Jesus’ love to the East. How will we reach people who seem determined to destroy us? Today we pray for an answer, forgetting that it’s a question our creator has answered before.
During the Cold War, pioneering Christians answered the call to send Christ’s message of love into the Soviet world. Eastern European Mission set up shop in Vienna, Austria, and smuggled Bibles under the Iron Curtain. World Christian Broadcasting beamed messages of faith into the communist world from its radio tower in Alaska.
These ministries and dedicated missionaries helped create a hunger for the word of God. These were the first cracks in the Berlin Wall. Soon, the people of the Soviet Union joined us as we prayed for change. And in 1989 the Wall was gone.
Now, 17 years later, many people are asking, “What happened to that evangelistic fervor?” For one thing, the work became difficult. The thousands baptized in the early 1990s disappeared after the political thaw. The Orthodox Church influenced the government to treat young churches — and foreign missionaries — with suspicion.
Ten years ago, nearly 40 missionary families were working in Russia. Today, less than 10 remain. Many young churches, meanwhile, struggle to survive.
When Russia ceased being an enemy, many of us began to think of it as similar to the rest of Europe — a post-Christian continent in need of God’s love, but geographically and economically difficult to reach.
The work in the former Soviet world is far from being a failure. Churches exist across the region, though many have memberships of 40 or less, and several ministries are accomplishing goals that were impossible less than 20 years ago. These efforts deserve our support:
• Ministry training programs, including Sunset International Bible Institute and the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, have set up schools and are winning souls in Russia and eastern Ukraine.
• Young churches are sending their leaders for advanced study at a new institute in St. Petersburg, as detailed on pages 18-19.
• Eastern European Mission continues to put thousands of Bibles and faith-based material in Russia’s public schools. The church-supported Good News International Foundation has done likewise in Ukraine.
• Churches are reaching the lost in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Ministries are sending much-needed relief to orphans and people in need in Tajikistan and Moldova.
• World Wide Youth Camps sponsors events across the region, often using facilities that once indoctrinated children with communist ideals. Now these camps are teaching children about God’s love. They are the settings for numerous baptisms.
These noble works represent only a fraction of what we could be doing in post-Soviet countries.
We must recognize that the opportunity to evangelize Russia is still there. Let’s use it. Pray that the Lord will forgive our loss of interest and guide our future efforts. Consider adding a Russian mission work to your 2007 budget. Consider including a Russian work in your personal donations.
As we pray for opportunities to reach Asia and the Muslim world, we must expect God to answer. When he does answer, will we be ready? Will we keep focused on long-term strategies?
When God gives us the opportunity to reach a nation, will we see it through?
Nov. 1, 2006

Filed under: Editorial Staff Reports

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