Doing What Others Refuse to Do
The „Brotherhood of Compassion” celebrates its 20th birthday
M o s c o w – On 14 May, 100 helpers in white lab coats and an equal number of guests celebrated the „Brotherhood of Compassion’s” 20th birthday in its home congregation: Moscow’s historic Central Baptist Church. In a brief review, Alexander Bychkov (General-Secretary of the All-Union Council of Baptists after 1971) recalled the amazement when the city mayor suddenly invited religious organisations to his office in early 1988. The desperate mayor complained that the city was lacking 800 busses and 20.000 nurses. Bychkov reported: “We didn’t have any busses, but we could do something about the lack of nurses.” Mikhail Zhidkov, one of the Union’s Vice-Presidents, was especially moved by the appeal. After he reported on the need in a church service, 150 members volunteered.
But not everything went according to plan. After only a few days in a large Moscow hospital, the church’s overly-zealous helpers were shown the door. The Brotherhood’s webpage reports: “Apparently hospital leadership was alarmed by our ´underground´ evangelism. In hopes of ridding themselves of Baptists, city authorities assigned them to an institution where the danger of mission was least: a psychiatric clinic. But Pastor Zhidkov, who died in 2004, responded: “We won’t have the opportunity to preach there. But the chance to show people Jesus is still given.” A close relationship with the head doctor developed quickly. Today, the contacts with Kashchenko Hospital – and three other hospitals – remain excellent.
These trusting, long-term relationships keep the work alive in today’s era of heightened mistrust. Mission President Galina Dzhuzenova reports: “The contacts with our partners remain excellent. We really only have problems with individual patients who get nasty when they notice we are not Orthodox.” But she adds: “We would probably have strong resistance if we attempted to start brand-new projects.”
Another example of fruitful, long-term relationships involves the police. In the struggle to aid the homeless, friendships with the Moscow police´ social services department developed. But these old friends are no longer young. Since they as retired police officers receive only a miniscule pension, they themselves have become the recipients of Christian compassion.
The mission also does much for the little ones: A number of orphanages, young invalids and children who have contracted HIV or tuberculosis receive medical and spiritual aid. Summer camps for such children as well as for children from large or poor families are held near Moscow every year.
Already in 1988, the first aid programme with contacts beyond Moscow got started when unrest in the USSR´s southern republics flared up and flooded Moscow with refugees. An earthquake in Armenia ensued and the first war in Chechnya broke out in 1995. Moscow Baptists were able to help in Grosny and Beslan. Aid for refugees in this 2.700-member congregation also caught the attention of released prisoners. As many as 150 ex-prisoners are helped each year to obtain the documents necessary for existence and to reinstate their legal right to housing. Soup kitchens are supported and even done in-house. Several thousand persons are aided annually just within the walls of this church located at Maly Trekhsvyatitelsky Pereulok 3.
It was a DC-10 jumbo which actually introduced this mission to a wider international audience. In early 1991, the Baptist World Alliance succeeded in sending a chartered air freighter loaded with food from Washington, D.C. to Moscow. The congregation’s deacons got the chance to put their words into deed and unloaded the airplane themselves. Baptist World Aid Director Paul Montacute (Falls Church near Washington) undertook the long journey to Moscow now to express his thanks for this and many other deeds. The well-known quadriplegic Christian Joni Eareckson Tada (San Diego) brought along a supply of wheelchairs when she visited in 1992
But because people do not live by bread alone, the programme is accompanied by music and games. Celebrations with presents held in children’s homes and hospitals on major holidays are a part of the mission’s basic ministry. Frequently, professional musicians are part of the show. In 2007, 350 children and parents found their way into this 1882-founded church to attend a festival. During the very musical anniversary celebrations this time, Yuri Sipko, the President of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, stated that though the oligarchs and powerful might be enthralled by their billions, “only love and affection give sustenance for living”. Galina Dzhuzenova added that only the certainty of being needed bestows a person with the feeling of being human. “And many children do not feel at all as if anyone needed them.” She and others mentioned repeatedly that only faith in God made their service possible. Their webpage states simply: “We do what others refuse to do.”
Asked about the annual budget, President Dzhuzenova answers that one simply spends that which is also received. That is of course less than when the Russian need peaked in the early 1990s. The ministry presently has seven full-time workers and approximately 100 volunteers. There are no concrete strategies for future development.
The British mission „Eurovangelism“ has taken to heart the fact that the work of this „Brotherhood“ is carried out almost strictly by women. In its publications it refers to this ministry as the “Sisters of Charity”. “Eurovangelism” remains a primary sponsor of this work; having been a part of it virtually since its inception. Mission head David Roderick made the trip from Bristol to attend these celebrations.
The „Brotherhood of Compassion’s” address is: „firstname.lastname@example.org“. Those wanting to know more will find their Russian-language website at: “compassion-ministry.narod.ru“.
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 19 May 2008
A release of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. It is informational in character and does not express a sole, official position of RUECB-leadership. May be published freely. Release #08-23, 905 words
Unless mentioned otherwise, all persons named reside in Moscow.