Evangelisation Rooted in Performance
M o s c o w – The Russian Baptist cycle tour from the Atlantic to the Pacific celebrated the begin of stage two with an excursion through three Moscow congregations on 10 June. This tour began on the North Sea in Varel, Germany on 13 May and has covered 3.400 kilometres. Plans are to use four teams on this four-stage tour; the first stage was completed in the Western Russian city of Briansk on 6 June. The second stage is scheduled to end in Tiumen, Western Siberia on 5 July. Yet two of the tour`s currently eight cyclists have been along since Varel and hope to surmount all 15.000 kilometres enroute to Vladivostok: the dentist Levon Sarkisov (Krasnodar) and the church deacon and father of 10, Vladimir Skovpen (Klintsy near Briansk). Being that the 50-year-old Skovpen was already national USSR champion in 1980, it can be accepted with relative certainty that he will be along when the tour arrives in Vladivostok on 2 September. Daily treks of up to 300 kilometres will be no rarity. A third cyclist, the hearing-impaired Moscow Baptist Victor Kabachevski, also intends to arrive in Vladivostok. Yet, as a Ukrainian citizen he was refused a visa for Germany and was forced to begin the tour on the Belarus border in Brest.
This tour is a part of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists’ annual missionary “expeditions”. They take place under the motto “The Gospel to the Peoples of the World” (or Russia) and are frequently undertaken with motorised vehicles. Yet successful evening events demand thorough preparation by local hosts. On the present tour as many as 1,000 persons attended evangelistic meetings in the Briansk district and in Rovno, Western Ukraine. But only a sole service took place in Poland (Warsaw).
In time, the cycle tours may grow into a mass movement. The RUECB home missions department has already scheduled 32 cycle tours for 32 districts of Russia this summer. The department reckons with as many as 10.000 participants – not all of whom will be pedaling. The Union itself owns 154 bicycles and has portioned them out to the varying districts. Some are already dreaming – not only in Russia – of a star-shaped cycle tour to the World Baptist Youth Conference beginning in Leipzig, Germany on 30 July 2008 with cyclists arriving from all geographic directions.
Home Missions Director Leonid Kartavenko (Moscow) enjoys repeating a recent anecdote when asked about the purpose of cycle tours. When an outsider was told that Russian Baptists were undertaking a major cycle tour the person responded: “Can grandmas also ride bikes?” Kartavenko, who carries primary responsibility for the trek to Vladivostok, explains that Baptists need to prove that they too are “real men”. “We want to show that we can do more than just preach words. We want to show that our words are rooted in real perfomance.” Besides proclaiming the Gospel, the riders intend to demonstrate that a fit and atheletic lifestye without drugs and alcohol can also be meaningful and happy.
The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, Russia’s largest free church, has 78.000 baptised members workshiping in 1.930 local congregations and groups. General-Secretary is the 54-year-old pastor Yuri Sipko (Moscow).
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 11 June 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-16, 524 words.