Welcome to , 23 Oct 2011
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
Your prayers can change world history: please read and pray!

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(Note: the "prayers" link in the heading will take you to this issue's "Prayer and Praise" list.)

from Interfax-Religion

belt of Virgin Mary(21 Oct) A delegation of "St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation" delivered a reliquary with one of the greatest Christian shrines - the belt of the Mother of God the Word from the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos to St. Petersburg. "One of the reasons why we asked the Vatopedi Monastery to bring the belt of the Mother of God the Word to Russia is the demographic situation in our country. We think this shrine will arouse interest to spiritual revival of our society, to family values," the head of "St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation" and head of Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin told journalists on Athos.

For many years Vatopedi monks have made small belts, blessed them on the belt of the Mother of God the Word and distibuted them among the believers, placing them into plastic bags together with the text telling about the shrine and instructions how to pray and observe the fast. Orthodox Christians believe that thanks to intercession of the Holy Virgin these belts help cure female infertility, bear and give birth to a healthy child. As the belt of the Mother of God the Word is kept on Athos where women are not allowed, Russian women have a rare chance to kneel down before the shrine, pray for granting children, health to relatives and friends and prosperity to Russia. [read more...]

from Russian Evangelical Alliance

(10 Oct) Sixteen months after its official opening, Eastern Europe's largest Protestant-run home for the aged is still waiting on its first resident. On 26 June 2010, the "Baptist House of Mercy" had been officially dedicated in the village of Imenin near Kobrin, Belarus. Supporters of a network of Baptist retirement homes in Missouri had spent over $400,000 for the construction of a magnificent retirement center with room for 54 residents. Present at the dedication were 52 of those US-supporters. At first they assumed that costs could be covered by the residents' pensions. But since its dedication over a year ago, cost projections have become more realistic: home leadership now assumes costs of $9 per day per resident - only a third of which would be covered by an average pension. This would mean an annual shortfall of $80,000 for 35 residents.

During the early-October meetings in Kobrin, Steven Jones, the President of "Missouri Baptist Home", stated: "I believe that management issues have been the primary cause for this delay." He and Roger Hatfield, President of the Jefferson City, Missouri-based "Future Leadership Foundation", expressed the conviction that the establishment of a strong board of directors would lighten the load of "Zhemchuzhinka's" camp director, Rev. Vladimir Vandich. "It is not fair if all the responsibility for sensitive program decisions rests on the shoulders of Brother Vandich," Jones added. "The Board must carry the primary responsibility."

The political will of Baptist circles to get involved in social-diakonia [ministry] projects has been weak at times. A major concern is that social projects may occur at the expense of evangelistic efforts. On 28 June for example, the website of Moscow's "Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists" published an interview critical of church social work entitled "The Road to Nowhere?" RUECB-historian Alexander Sinichkin expressed the fear that successful Baptist social work among mostly lower-class drug addicts has cut into Baptist efforts to reach Russia's emerging middle class. [read more...]

by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(13 Oct) Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev has today (13 October) signed two new laws imposing severe restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service has learned. The two laws have attracted strong criticism from civil society organisations, human rights defenders and many religious communities in Kazakhstan, as well as from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which the country chaired in 2010. Both new laws are expected to come into force on 24 October.

OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) spokesperson Jens Eschenbaecher told Forum 18 that the ODIHR was disappointed that the laws were signed into force. "The legislation appears to unnecessarily restrict the freedom of religion or belief and is poised to limit the exercise of this freedom in Kazakhstan," he told Forum 18. Nazgul Yergalieva of the Almaty-based Legal Policy Research Centre observed to Forum 18 that "strict regulation and limitation of fundamental rights, such as freedom of religion, by governments has already proved to be a dangerous path, leading to social tension and resentment." [read more...]

from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(13 Sep) On 11 September, in Odesa, the monument to "Heroes of the Faith, the Christians who perished for the faith during the Soviet repressions of the 20th century" was officially opened as part of the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Pentecostal revival in the countries of the former USSR and the 20th anniversary of Ukraine's independence. The erection of the monument was initiated by the Association of Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Odesa which was established in the beginning of the last century by the missionary, Ivan Voronaiev, with the assistance of Christian Churches of Odesa and Ukraine. The project was financed by the Kyivan Church Emanuel (Bishop Vitalii Vozniuk).

The Monument was designed in the shape of a 2.5 meters high rock with a bust of Ivan Voronaiev carved in the middle who founded one of the most numerous Protestant movements in Ukraine and the countries of USSR, the Church of the Christians of Evangelical Faith (the Pentecostals). The ceremony of the opening of the monument was held within the framework of the international conference "Revival," which was held in Odesa during the week on occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Pentecostal or Voronaiev's Revival. It was attended by Odesa residents, faithful of various Churches of Odesa and a few hundred delegates of the conference from various regions of Ukraine and countries of Asia, Europe, America and Australia including pastors and bishops of Evangelical Churches. [read more...]

by Olga Glace, Forum 18 News Service

(18 Oct) Pastor Aleksei Abramovich was fined several weeks' average wages in late September for leading unregistered religious worship. His church in Zhodino near Belarus' capital Minsk belongs to the Baptist Council of Churches, whose congregations refuse on principle to gain the state registration which officials insist is compulsory. Yelena Goretskaya of the Ideology Department of Zhodino Executive Committee, who took part in the raid, claimed to Forum 18 News Service that the church had broken the law.

"We don't interfere with state policy. Our worship meetings are purely religious. It's not a crime if believers worship in my house," Pastor Abramovich wrote in a letter of complaint to President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Another church, the Church of God, an independent Protestant church in Zhodino, has given up trying to gain state registration as repeated attempts have failed. Architecture officials will not sign off that his newly-built church is complete. [read more...]


from Washington Post

from Independent Tribune

from Forum 18 News Service

from Interfax-Religion

from Mission Network News

from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

from PortalCredo.ru

See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!


In our first news article today and in the first item under "OTHER NEWS HEADLINES" we see that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state are taking great measures to turn around the low birth rate and population decline in the country. Some may wonder about the efficacy of Greek monks taking the belt of the Virgin Mary all around Russia for the faithful to venerate and receive a blessing. They may think: "How could some old relic convey spiritual power and blessing?"

But keep in mind that such miracles occured in the times of the Old and New Testaments: when a corpse was thrown into the grave of the prophet Elisha and touched the prophet's bones, the corpse came to life; when a woman with a flow of blood touched the hem of Jesus' robe, she was healed; and when a handkerchief or even just the shadow of St. Peter touched people, they were healed. St. Mary is considered by the ancient Church to be the first among all the saints for her lowliness and humility in assenting to the angel Gabriel's announcement, thus becoming the Theotokos, Greek for "Birthgiver of God," because she bore in her womb God the Word, "very God of very God." More on this follows....

In the second news article we read the sad story of a brand new home for the elderly that has been sitting vacant for 16 months now. Having lived in Russia for 17 years, I can well imagine that someone - it's not clear who - is putting the squeeze for another $80,000 per year on the Americans who funded the building project at a cost of $400,000. We've been in situations where either government officials or local Christians secretly enriched themselves at the expense of foreigners. The solution, in my opinion, is to create a method and plan by which local believers can fund such projects by themselves.

What's Wrong With The Church?

(Let us know what you think - use the online feedback form!)

In our last issue of Hosken-News we examined the Scriptures teaching that the Church is where the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily (Ephesians 1:22-23 and 3:19). But some may respond, "The Church is full of hypocrites, that's what it's full of!" (When I hear that, I'm tempted to reply, "Well, it's not quite full - there's still room for you!") Yes, there have been many things wrong with the Church. When the Patriarch of Rome decided he was more spiritual, or smarter, or at least more powerful than the other patriarchs, he decided to proclaim himself as head of all the other churches.

Of course, the others didn't agree, which led to the Great Schism of AD 1054. Since then more people have thought they were more spiritual, or smarter, or stronger than their peers, and have split off to establish more and more churches. Sadly, revolutions and reformations often turn out to have many of the same faults that the power structure they rebelled against had... our sinful nature follows us even when we attempt to find greener grass on the other side of the fence. The result of this perpetual splitting and re-splitting is today's 20,000 denominations, each claiming to be better, truer, etc., etc. This too is another of the main reasons many people are turned off by Christianity.

But unity by humbly submitting to one another rather than rebelling ought to be a central hallmark of Christianity: in Ephesians 4:1-6 St. Paul writes: "I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the calling with which you are called, with all lowliness and humility, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in you all."

Then a bit later St. Paul writes: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself as the glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27). From our human perspective we see plenty of "spots and blemishes" - things wrong with the Church - it is not yet glorious, "without spot or wrinkle"; but from Christ's eternal perspective He sees the Church, His glorious Bride, already decked out in a dazzling, pure white, holy wedding gown. We have the promise here that one day the Church will be "without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish." We must not give up hope on the one Church, and abandon it for something "better"!

St. John was the disciple to whom Christ, when He was hanging on the Cross, commited His mother Mary. In Revelation chapters 2 and 3 John describes the many faults of the seven churches of Asia. (By the way, not a single one of those seven churches exists today.) But later John paints another word picture:

And there appeared a great sign in the heavens, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon was under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head, and having a baby in her womb, she cries, being in travail, having been distressed to bear. And another sign was seen in the heavens. And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads! And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them onto the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman being about to bear, so that when she bears he might devour her child. And she bore a son, a male, who will rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her child was caught up to God and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, so that they might nourish her there a thousand, two hundred and sixty days. (Revelation 12:1-6)

Here we see clearly that the "woman clothed with the sun" is Mary who "bore a son, a male, who will rule all nations with a rod of iron," that is, Jesus Christ. Then St. John adds that she wore "a crown of twelve stars on her head," which describes the Church led by the twelve apostles, shifting the word picture slightly:

And when the dragon saw that he was cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who bore the man child. And two wings of a great eagle were given to the woman, so that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the serpent's face. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water like a flood after the woman, so that he might cause her to be carried away by the river. And the earth helped the woman. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged over the woman, and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:13-17)

Now the imagery has changed, showing Mary, still in lowliness and humility, to be the prototype of the Church, which was at that time - and in many centuries afterward - coming under severe persecution. Finally St. John in his vision sees the bride of Christ, having been tested and purged by those persecutions, as "the holy city, New Jerusalem":

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And the sea no longer is. And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband. And I heard a great voice out of Heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away all tears from their eyes. And there will be no more death, nor mourning, nor crying out, nor will there be any more pain; for the first things passed away. (Revelation 21:1-4)

Let us not give up on the Church, but rather in lowliness and humility strive together toward the goal of holiness and glorification as members of the Body of Christ, His Bride.

Prayer and Praise:
Sun. - Pray that Russia will experience a spiritual reawakening and a turnaround in its dangerous population decline.
Mon. - Ask the Lord to overcome whatever obstacles that are keeping the Baptist House of Mercy from functioning.
Tue. - Pray against implementation of new laws imposing severe restrictions on freedom of religion in Kazakhstan.
Wed. - Thank God for the spiritual legacy of the Christians who perished for the faith during the Soviet repressions.
Thu. - Pray for Pastor Aleksei Abramovich, fined several weeks' wages in Belarus for leading an unregistered church.
Fri. - Pray against the schisms that have divided the Church, and for the Lord to restore the full unity of the faith.
Sat. - Thank God that in the end Christ's bride, the Church, will be glorious, without spot or wrinkle or any such things.


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from Jim, 10/24/11, 2:46pm:
Good letter, you guys, I'm ok with the belt being anologous to Paul's hankerchief, but not happy with Mary's intercessions....
Being here in ... the old folks' home is sure something we can understand, both because of the corruption, but also knowing many American planners would assume a Russian pension would cover the daily needs!? Oppurtunities for misunderstandings in both directions. Blessings, Jim

Dear Jim,
Thanks for your good message, and please excuse my late reply: I've been grading papers and exams, and preparing to teach a new course next week. Let's take a look at the intercessions of the saints in Scripture: we as Christians are to become co-laborers together with God in our own salvation and the salvation of others, and God Himself is the senior partner. We have the privilege like the Apostle Paul to "save some" (Rom. 11:14 and 1 Cor. 9:22), helping others find this salvation and healing. Paul was not the Savior, but he was instrumental in "saving some." When Peter proclaimed at Pentecost (Acts 2:40), "Save yourselves from this perverted generation," he wasn't implying that men can save themselves without God's intervention. God feeds the birds of the air, but we can be His agents by putting birdseed in a feeder. God beautifully clothes the flowers of the field, but we can plant and water some petunias. The former does not preclude the latter, just as God's foreknowledge and election of the saints do not preclude their free will and moral responsibility (1 Peter 1:2 and 13-14). We are our brother's keeper.

Regarding Mary and other saints praying for us: we know from the book of Revelation that the saints in heaven are conscious, worshipping and praying to the Lord. Protestants often reject any teaching that recognizes Mary, because of the excessive exaltation of Mary by the Roman Catholics, i.e., Queen of Heaven, Immaculate Conception, Co-Redemtrix, etc. These are R.Catholic, but *not* Eastern Orthodox dogmas. Luther, Calvin, Wesley and many other early Reformers believed in the ever-virginity of Mary and gave her due respect. So Mary or any of the other saints praying for us doesn't mean that these "old, dead people" are somehow the Savior. Rather, they are "alive unto God" (Luke 20:38), more alive in God's presence than we are here on earth, and these righteous people's prayers can have a great effect in our being saved and healed from our spiritual, moral and even physical infirmities (James 5:15 and 5:20).
In Christ, Bob

Select to see full-size!   Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

p.s. If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

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