„Little Creek“ did Not Dry Up
National Russian Baptist Congress Successfully Completed
M o s c o w -- The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB) third biannual, national congress, “Transformation 2008”, ended on schedule at noon on Monday, 4 August, near the village of Rumyantsevo west of Moscow. “It was a truly wonderful event!” exclaimed Pastor Vitaly Vlasenko, Director of the RUECB’s Dept. for External Church Relations. “Many participants claim it was their best conference ever.” There was something in it for everyone, including the programme for the more than 200 children. Issues covered included parenting, romantic relationships, discipleship, leadership and mentoring. The creative arts played a major role: Music and drama were big hits every evening from 10 p.m. until midnight.
Though the event included guests from neighbouring, ex-Soviet countries, it remained a truly Russian one. There apparently was no speech in the main tent given in a Western tongue. But choirs sang in their South Russian mother tongues of Kabardian, Ossetic, Balgar and Roma. Two Wycliffe Bible translators from Russia were also introduced. The only Westerners present in any numbers were 18 members of Harvest Bible Chapel in Naperville near Chicago. They played a vital role in getting the camp prepared for the more than 2.000 visitors.
This Brethren-run camp is named “Little Creek”, and the secular press prophesied last week that the Creek would
“dry up” due to government opposition to the event. Yet the Noah-like scenes on Sunday, when tents and parts of the campus stood under water, left a completely opposite impression. Russians still
understand how to endure adversity: The weekend turned out to be a very moist but happy affair with believers hunched together in the tightest of quarters.
Was the holding of the congress legal or illegal? Local authorities regard it to be illegal, yet RUECB-leadership claims adamantly that the event was never forbidden by federal authorities. In a personal conversation, Pastor Peter Lunichkin of St. Petersburg, head of the RUECB’s Social Ministries Department, cautioned against undue excitement: Russian believers do not loose emotional control as soon as a government office attempts to forbid something. Russians are no experts at due process and organising, he conceded, and that holds true for both church and state. “We’re accustomed to public resistance,” Pastor Lunichkin assured. “Without any opposing pressure whatever we would probably not know what to do with ourselves.” He added that great freedom remains for proclaiming the Gospel in Russia. Wide access to children’s homes in the Petersburg region is still available. “We don’t know how long this freedom will hold, but that still is the case at present.”
Public electricity to the camp, cut off just before the congress began on 31 July, was not immediately restored after its closing on the 4th. Local government officials, who had in the name of public safety declared the conference illegal, were also responsible for cutting off its power. The conference’s legal aftermath is already beginning.
The RUECB, Russia's largest, unified Protestant church, represents approximately 80.000 adult members in 1.750 congregations and groups. Its President is Yuri Sipko.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 06 August 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 #08-35, 495 words.