Beginning with Oneself
The Women´s Department of the RUECB
M o s c o w – Diana Kondratyeva sees the road to freedom not in the struggle for women´s rights, but rather in prayer. Director of the Women´s Department for the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists” (RUECB) in Moscow, her thinking is sometimes highly conventional. Citing Adam and Eve, she supports a prioritisation of the sexes: “There was first of all the man, then the woman. The brothers and sisters came after that.” The West thinks in terms of partnership, but “according to my view, men and women have their own clear, God-given roles”.
Married for 30 years, she concedes that Russian men are often best-known for their weakness and love of alcohol. Yet if something is to change, women will need to begin with themselves. “We often make mistakes,” she admits. “Through our behaviour, gestures and intonation, we attempt to push through our own superiority. But God will only help if I can begin with: ´Here am I, change me.´ I can only begin by admitting that I am not a wise woman. That´s how things were with me and my husband. We were very near a divorce, but then I asked God to change me. Thereafter I was changed, then my husband was changed through me. He was an Army officer and never had any plans for becoming a believer. Yet today he is lay helper in a large congregation. God did that through my prayers.”
For 10 years, this 52-year-old woman played a leading role in the Russian Protestant prayer movement. That dedication is easy for her to explain: “Through prayer, God changed my life and the life of my family. I have seen how many miracles can happen to women and their families through prayer.” A pedagogue, she is convinced that one can penetrate into the world of spiritual secrets through prayer. She reports that she therefore has no fear of the “secrets” of family and upbringing or of the interaction between men and women.
This woman’s second passion – she’s the mother of two sons – is the family. She believes the success of church life is dependent upon the condition of its families: “Family problems are quickly transported into the congregation.” Satan can destroy a congregation by initially destroying its families. There can be no strong church without strong families. She advises women with a deficient family life to initially put off going to church: “Stay with your man. Gaze into his eyes and try to reach a common understanding. You should try 1, 2 or even 125 times! He will notice your good intentions and something will begin to change his heart.”
This department director has no ready solutions for the large number of single women and mothers. “We cannot help in any way,” she maintains. Yet such a woman can peer over and beyond her own problems and into the heart of God: “He can help.” When she was very near divorce, she pleaded with God according to the prayer of Jacob: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” But a way out of one’s own troublesome circumstances demands “a terrific sacrifice of time and labour”. Very often she confronts women with the question: “Have you really done everything you possibly could in the relationship with your husband/brother/son?”
The Women’s Department only began its official existence at the RUECB´s official conference in Bryansk (Western Russia) in Summer 2006. Diana Kondratyeva was called to head the new department, forcing her to put the prayer movement on a back burner. Women’s service though has been a part of the Union’s repertoire for 15 years. The second staff person in the Union’s Moscow offices is Svetlana Svedlova.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 14 December 2007
A release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #55, 607 words.