Welcome to , 13 Oct 2013
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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from BBC News

RR-Station-Church (09 Oct) It might look like a garden shed but it seems this wooden church in a Russian railway station attracts scores of people to worship before they travel. Built inside the waiting hall of Penza Station, some 600 km southwest of Moscow, the church holds "common prayer services" shortly before the departure of the daily train bound for the capital, news agency Penza Inform reports. It quotes one priest at the station as saying he hopes passengers will start turning up early for their train so that they can join in the prayers.

This is not the only church inside a railway station in Russia. Moscow's Belorusskiy Station boasts one complete with three golden onion domes, which is built inside a waiting hall on the first floor. The phenomenon highlights the important role which the state-backed Orthodox Church plays in today's Russia. While the government says it's promoting traditional values, opponents of President Vladimir Putin accuse him of using religion to consolidate his grip on power. [read more...]

by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(09 Oct) Presbyterian Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev's son Askar describes as "complete rubbish" the new criminal case against the retired pastor on charges of extremism, which carry a maximum seven-year prison term. "They're trying to turn my father into a terrorist," he complained to Forum 18 News Service. 66-year-old Kashkumbayev was arrested minutes after he was freed from prison in Astana after five months' pre-trial detention on separate criminal charges of harming a church member's health.

Police investigator Captain Vyacheslav Glazkov, the Police Anti-Extremism Department (which is overseeing the case), the KNB secret police and the city Prosecutor's Office all refused to comment. The prison chief where Kashkumbayev is being held dismissed concerns over his health. "People don't die here in my prison," he told Forum 18. [read more...]

from Interfax-Religion

(09 Oct) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia believes the Christian leaders from the Syrian city of Aleppo, who were abducted in spring 2013, could still be alive. "There are indirect indications that they are alive, and we hope this is so. And until we get them back, all together, we won't give up and will be working," the patriarch said at a meeting with a number of Syrian Christian hierarchs at the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.

Patriarch Kirill recalled that he had earlier appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Barack Obama, and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan to provide assistance in freeing the abducted metropolitans. The media reported earlier that Syrian opposition fighters kidnapped Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo John {Youhanna) Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi) of Aleppo and Iskanderun, Antiochian Patriarch John X's brother, in April. Their driver, also a priest, was killed. The archbishops were dealing with humanitarian problems of the local population in the village of Kfour Dael near the Syrian border with Turkey. [read more...]

by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(30 Sep) Baptist pastor Viktor Lim was ordered deported from Kazakhstan for leading a registered religious community and left in mid-August. Lim, a stateless person, had lived in the country for 20 years and his wife and children are Kazakh citizens. The authorities classed his action as "illegal missionary activity" for which punishment is a fine and, for non-citizens, deportation. "The appeal hearing lasted just 10 minutes - it was a pure formality," Pastor Lim complained to Forum 18 News Service.

Zhumagul Alimbekov, head of the Religious Affairs Department of Almaty Region, which lodged the suit against Pastor Lim, refused absolutely to discuss his deportation or the moves to deport Russian Orthodox priest Fr Sofrony. "I can't comment on court decisions," he told Forum 18. Asked why foreign citizens or people who have no citizenship cannot exercise their internationally-recognised right to freedom of religion or belief while legally resident in the country he put the phone down. The authorities have also been seeking to deport another foreign resident of Almaty Region, Russian Orthodox priest Fr Sofrony (Pyotr Yevtikheyev). A Russian citizen, he has lived in Kazakhstan since 1991. [read more...]

from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(11 Oct) The heads of Pentecostal Churches around the world gathered at the World Forum of Evangelical Christians, which was opened on October 10 in Lviv. Ministers have come from Belarus, Russia, Germany, USA, Canada, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and others were attended the opening day of the forum. As Iryna Naumets told RISU, currently most delegates are from the countries of the former Soviet Union.

"The purpose of this international forum: common prayer for the salvation of people and a series of workshops and lectures on the topic of evangelization," said the bishop. "Speakers will share experiences how best to spread the Word of God to reach people's hearts in the world today, and we will talk about the special role of the Holy Spirit, through which the faithful of Christ can put God?s plans into practice." [read more...]

from The Voice of Russia

(15 Sep) One of the most famous monasteries of Montenegro - Praskvica Monastery - celebrates the 600th anniversary of its foundation. This is the oldest spiritual and religious complex which is inseparably linked with Russia. According to a legend, it was Russian monks who were among its founders and came and lived there through the ages. Russia and Montenegro has had a long history of friendly relationships. Both countries adhere to the Orthodox Church which united them and today only strengthens their ties. Sinisha Smilich, one of the monastery?s priests said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

"This place is famous as many Russians came and come here and we, the locals, always did our best to make them feel comfortable. The fact that many churches and cathedrals are dedicated to Russian saints is another proof of our affection towards Russia. Sometimes we smile that there is a small Russia, here, on the Adriatic Sea. Our love to the Russian people may seem strange but it's sincere," he says. Today the Praskvica men's monastery consists of two churches, the superior's house and a library. Once it was much bigger but in 1812 soldiers of Napoleon's army destroyed it almost to the ground because the Serbian people sided with Russia which France was waging a war with at the time. [read more...]


from Foreign Affairs

from Forum 18 News Service

from Interfax-Religion

from Mission Network News

from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

from Interfax-Religia

from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

from Russian Ministries

from ForUm

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


Here's a quick update on our move to Pittsburgh: This past week we finally got our Pennsylvania driver's licenses and our car license. When Cheryl went the week before last to get her driver's license, some of the requirements were to bring in her birth certificate or valid passport, and Wisconsin driver's license. Her passport had expired, so that wouldn't work. When she showed her registration of birth that she had used to apply for her passport, they said it wasn't good enough - it wasn't a full-fledged birth certificate. We were returning to Madison WI for a wedding the following weekend, so we went to the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Madison, she simply showed her WI driver's license, paid $40 and got her birth certificate.

When we returned to Pittsburgh, she got her new Pennsylvania driver's license with no problem! I also needed a PA driver's license in order to register our car in PA. But I didn't pass the eye exam - my glasses prescription was 8 years old and 4 letters on the vision test were "fuzzy" for my left eye. This was strange, because we shared driving during our July road-trip vacation of 5,250 miles, and since then we've driven the 650-mile Pittsburgh-Madison route 3 times = over 7,000 miles. So... the next day I had to get an eye exam and a new pair of glasses from Lenscrafters, and when we went back to get my PA driver's license - again no problem! Now we're officially Pennsylvania "citizens."

You'll notice we present various sides of the news, which don't necessarily agree with our views. It's quite interesting to note how Western mainstream media and intellectual elite paint the spiritual and moral re-awakening of Russia and Ukraine as some sort of conspiracy between Russian President Putin and Patriarch Kirill - see the articles by BBC and Foreign Affairs above. Western media and politicians try hard to force their anti-Christian and pro-homosexual agenda on Eastern Christianity, but both state and church in the East are standing firm in their resistance to this pressure.

(After you've read this issue, please tell us what you think! Write your feedback in our comment form, and it will appear immediately so that others can respond.)

Ministry as Edification (oikodome) - Part 2

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 14 of my book The Ministry Driven Church.
It's also on our website as an online course, and you can try out the course's interactive questions HERE.]

One more point on this passage: the "gold, silver and costly stones" are the good works of diakonia-ministry. If you design your church building to do diakonia, you'll receive a reward, but if you pour your capital resources and invest your time merely in stained glass, gothic spires and ding-a-ling handbell choirs, all of that will burn on the Day of Judgment, it's just "wood, hay and stubble," expensive kindling wood. You'll receive no reward; you may be saved, but with the smell of smoke on your white robe of Christ's righteousness.

In Rom. 2:5-10 the Apostle Paul tells us that our good works, not just belonging to the right church or the right race, are also a determining factor in whether or not we get to heaven -

But according to your hardness and unrepentant heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath, revelation, and of the righteous judgment of God; who "will pay back to everyone according to their works:" to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory, honor, and incorruptibility, eternal life; but to those who are self-seeking, and don't obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, will be wrath and indignation, oppression and anguish, on every soul of man who works evil, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. But glory, honor, and peace go to every man who works good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Keep in mind that any earthly temple is just a small, weak reflection of God's temple in heaven - "For we know that if the earthly house (oika) of our tent is dissolved, we have a building (oikodome) from God, a house (oika) not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens"7 (2 Cor. 5:1, ASV). It must never become the central focus of our attention; it is just a temporary tool to do the job. Our earthly buildings will burn, our physical bodies will be dissolved, but our diakonia will last forever. Paul writes in Eph. 2:19-22 that the church, the Body of Christ, should be a place where strangers and outcasts are welcomed and feel at home -

So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household (oikeios) of God, being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom the whole building (oikodome), fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together (sunoikodomeo) for a habitation of God in the Spirit.

The design of our ministry building should be accessible to the poor, the lame, the maimed and the blind, which means that the apartments are financially within reach, all doorways are one meter (three feet) wide and without thresholds; there should be a ramp of no greater than 1:12 slope between floors (ramps are better than elevators because they help wheelchair-bound people get exercise and thus be healthier and more independent); all halls and rooms including bathrooms must have 1.5 meters (five feet) of free floor space at all places where a wheelchair might make a turn; and all shower stalls must have a minimal "lip" on the floor: no bathtubs.

What will be the result when we structure our ministry upon that of Jesus and His disciples? When we build up the Body of Christ in this way, the church multiplies! We read in Acts 9:31 (ISV) - "So the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed peace. As it continued to be built up (oikodomeo) and to live in the fear of the Lord, it kept increasing in numbers through the encouragement of the Holy Spirit."8 What then should we do? "So then, let us follow after things which make for peace, and things by which we may build (oikodomeo) one another up" (Rom. 14:19). Specifically, we must make allowances for those who are weak, to build them up: "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, to be building (oikodomeo) him up" (Rom. 15:1-2).

How many church buildings or ministry centers are specifically designed to "bear the weaknesses of the weak"? Yes, traditional buildings let you hold worship services, and that is all fine and good, but do they build up the weak? "'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are profitable. 'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things build (oikodomeo) up" (1 Cor. 10:23). The purpose of the building isn't the structure itself, rather - "You also, as living stones, are built (oikodomeo) up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5). How can a church building provide for ministry that builds up the weak, and at the same time virtually pay for itself?

Our two-story design as shown includes 32 wheelchair-accessible apartments, on the second floor 16 apartments with a "loft", on the first floor a 54 ft. by 54 ft. (2916 ft.2) common area, three rooms for the altar, the deacon and the priest, and a sacristy (1296 ft.2); on the second floor a 1548 ft.2 balcony and two large rooms (1080 ft.2); and a 24 ft. by 30 ft. (720 ft.2) hall in the "loft." Because the building is wheelchair-accessible there are no steps leading into it, therefore the plot must be landscaped so that water flows away from the building. The living rooms of all the units can also be used for Sunday School classrooms or small group meetings. But most importantly, the design expresses the purpose of the ministry driven church where every member is a minister. It lets the church focus on ministering to people, not on struggling to maintain a budget-breaking building.

Other people can be members of this church and not of its "housing cooperative," but the residents of this cooperative will be members of the church that requires all adult residents of sound mind to affirm the doctrines and practices of the church. This guarantees the building's perpetual Christian character by avoiding the problem of unbelievers in the second generation inheriting the units. A company that has built twenty-five such housing cooperatives in the Midwest U.S. for senior citizens, Realife, Inc., takes a similar approach. Here is what their website stated -

What is a Housing Cooperative?

Housing cooperatives are a form of multifamily homeownership. Shareholders or tenants join together to form a not-for-profit cooperative corporation which owns the building in which they live.
Residents buy a share (membership) in the co-op, but the cooperative owns the building, land, and any common areas. Residents are entitled to live in a housing unit as part of their membership benefits. Members pay a fixed amount each month that covers basic expenses, including mortgage, property taxes, and more. As owners, members exercise control over their housing situation by electing a board of directors made up of other residents. This varies from a condominium or town home, where residents each own their individual housing units and are responsible for their own mortgage.

What are the Advantages?

Ownership: Members actually own the cooperative through their share ownership of the not-for-profit cooperative corporation; there is no equity investor or landlord.
Control: Residents govern the cooperative with assistance from the managing agent.
Cost of Operation: Occupancy charges are equal to only the actual cost of owning and operating the property. In a rental, rent generally goes up faster than actual costs because most landlords are in business to make a profit.
Individuality: Initial members are able to customize their dwelling units, including a choice of floor coverings, cabinet colors, and various structural changes.
Homeowner Tax Advantages: Mortgage interest and real estate taxes are tax deductible in a housing cooperative.
Equity Growth Potential: In a Realife Cooperative, members earn limited equity on their unit based on the amount of time they live in their home. The earning of limited equity keeps it affordable for the first members and future members.
Overall Value: Expenses in a cooperative are spread across the entire membership proportionately, making the cost of living generally lower than a comparable single-family home.

Three Steps to Your Cooperative Home

1. Reservation: By making a $200 refundable deposit, you are assigned a reservation number. This determines the order we follow with home selection.
2. Subscription: This is the home selection process. It involves unit selection (including type and location in the building) as well as a review of the costs associated with membership in the cooperative (share price and monthly fee). There is an $800 deposit that is required at this time to reserve the home you have selected.
3. Share Collection: We collect the shares prior to construction. This is similar to a down payment on a single family home. We are required to collect the shares before we begin construction in return for the FHA insurance on the mortgage. There is only one mortgage on the property and it is held by the cooperative.9

There are four stages needed to start such a housing cooperative: First, train a team of diakonia-ministers to visit and care for local disabled people in their homes. Second, invite their relatives and friends to come to the home of these disabled people to listen to what the Bible says about caring for the poor, lame, maimed and blind: they already know what you're doing, you just need to identify why you're doing it and they will believe! Third, when you have three or four of these home groups going (it may take a couple years to get to know and trust each other, so be patient!), introduce them to the idea of a housing cooperative. If you dump this idea on them before you've won their trust you could alienate them, and you need to be able to trust their sincerity as well. Fourth, when enough people are interested you will incorporate a non-profit housing cooperative, locate a piece of land and follow the three steps above: reservation, subscription and share collection. As you can see, this differs little from conventional church-planting, but it has the added plus of real, hands-on ministry integrated into it right from the start.

The cooperative will encourage twelve to twenty physically healthy families with an adopted or foster child to live in the center, along with twelve to twenty units for elderly or handicapped people and twelve to twenty units for trained diakonia-ministers. The larger church body must include mainly people who are capable of ministering, not just those who need to be ministered to. Having physically healthy younger families in the center also greatly helps the rehabilitation of disabled and elderly people and their socialization, because they want and need to be part of larger society. I have shown below 32 units including efficiency, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, three-bedroom and four-bedroom units. But the design can be modified to as few as 30 units: 12 three-room units, 8 two-room units and 10 one-room units; or as many as 46 of the smaller units. The plans for the units are modular - the one-room unit is two-thirds the size of the two-room unit, and the two-room unit is three-fourths the size of the three-room unit.

But we must now ask some serious questions: Why should you change your lifestyle and sell your own home that you are so comfortable in? Look at it from the other side: why should missionaries give up their comfortable living standards to live in cockroach-infested, run-down apartments in a foreign country, while the large majority of nominal Christians in the West live in luxurious homes far larger than they actually need? My wife and I can testify how convenient it is to be able to simply lock the doors of our condo and go to Russia without having to worry about mowing the lawn or shoveling the sidewalk. Think how you would be able to go away on a mission trip for a month or two... or six, without having to worry about such things. But living in a condominium like our present home is not nearly as good as living in a community such as a housing cooperative. We have witnessed the fellowship that is created when several families share common space together, enjoying the fellowship that comes from an architectural design that promotes this fellowship. "We shape our buildings, and then our buildings shape us!" Think of the possibilities created by such a building for outreach to the needy, the disabled, the elderly and the lonely - widows and orphans - that you could have right in your own city! You don't need to cross the ocean and learn another language to be a missionary; you can have a mission outreach right where you are just by crossing some socioeconomic barriers.

Please keep in mind that such a ministry center is not an assisted living center, nursing home or hospice: those require professional nursing staff to be on hand at all times. It is a residence for orphans and widows, elderly and disabled people who may have chronic conditions, but can live semi-independently in a specially-designed environment, perhaps with some supervision. In a Christian center like this, much of the supervision and care can be given by trained volunteers, perhaps "empty-nest" younger retired people who are called to this form of ministry. Residents who require meal preparation and/or supervision would make private arrangements to pay an amount depending on the service required. But these costs should be considerably less than the $3,000 per month that many elderly people pay to live in an assisted living facility in the Midwest U.S., and they will have the benefit of ownership instead of rental, which is simply pouring money down the drain. The result is that large sums of money are freed up to be used for local and world-wide ministry. The classrooms will be used to train people in diakonia as well as other courses of Christian instruction: evangelism, youth and family ministry, theology, missiology, etc. So this "Agape Restoration Center" (ARC) reaches out to the community and to the whole world! Below are the sketches for our proposed ministry centers. You can also download or print these sketches at this webpage: www.agape-restoration-society.org/build.htm - take a look!

Isometric view (three-dimensional)

basement plans

1st floor plans

2nd floor plans

Endnotes to Chapter 14:

7. American Standard Version, op. cit.

8. International Standard Version of the Bible, op. cit.

9. Realife Inc., "Cooperative Living," (www.realifeinc.com/cooperativeliving/what-is-a-housing-co-op/, 2006).

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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Thank the Lord that Russian Christians are building Orthodox chapels in a few of their railroad stations.
Mon. - Pray for Presbyterian Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev in Kazakhstan, re-arrested as a suspected extremist.
Tue. - Intercede for the release of Archbishops John and Paul, kidnapped last April by Muslim revolutionaries.
Wed. - Pray for Baptist pastor Viktor Lim, exiled from Kazakhstan, and Orthodox Fr. Sofrony, about to be exiled.
Thu. - Thank God for the freedom of religion in Ukraine that allowed Pentecostals from 20 countries to convene.
Fri. - Praise the Lord for Praskvica Monastery in Montenegro, celebrating the 600th anniversary of its foundation.
Sat. - Pray that believers will do Christian service (diakonia), to build up (oikodome) the body of Christ (Eph. 4:13).

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. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of its blessings;
the inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. -W. Churchill

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