From the Editor’s Notebook: A Song in Siberia

From the Editor’s Note Book

W. Ross Rainey

A Song In Siberia

A Song in Siberia is the title of a book co-authored by Anita and Peter Deyneka, Jr., of the Slavic Gospel Association, Wheaton, Illinois. The book chronicles twelve years of harassment and pressure from the Soviet authorities of a single congregation of believers in Barnaul (pronounced bar-na-ool), but also years of triumph and blessing through God’s power and protection. Barnaul is one of Siberia’s important industrial centres with a population of almost half a million. It is a capital of the Altai region, located roughly a thousand miles east of the Urals, two thousand miles west of the Pacific, and 125 miles north of Novosibirsk, Siberia’s largest and leading city. Barnaul lies along the Ob River, where temperatures range from 100 degrees F. to colder than 60 degrees below zero F. A reading of this bock makes one realize how little, if anything, we sacrifice for our Lord and His Gospel in lands so blessed like the United States and Canada. How easy it is to take our citizen liberties for granted and not realize that believers on the other side of the world are almost daily persecuted by the authorities and other unbelievers around them. I guarantee if you read this book you will be humbled and made to think about the possible shallowness of your own Christianity.

The authors have travelled extensively in the Soviet Union, their information having been drawn from primary sources — they spent weeks interviewing members of the Barnaul church who have managed to emigrate to West Germany.

Although atheist officials have sought to stamp out the church in Russia, or at least to keep it from growing, they have been unable to stifle the witness of believers. God’s people witness consistently through daily example and life-style. In my reading I was impressed with the fact that a Communist commission investigating why Christians are so successful in spreading their faith came to the following conclusions:

1. The believers are skillful, conscientious workers without exception and are respected for this.

2. The believers do not have problems with alcohol. Increasingly they are given tasks that require reliability.

3. The believers do not let anyone die without comfort.

4. The believers do not subscribe to any peace resolutions in world politics, but they do promote peace in the way they live. They live in peace with their families and also help other families when these families are having problems.

In more recent years few books have stirred me as this one has, and if nothing else it has burdened me to pray more for my fellow believers behind the Iron Curtain.

A Song in Siberia may be obtained from David C. Cook Publishing Co. either in Eligin, Illinois or Weston, Ontario. The $3.95 cost of this paperback is a modest investment compared with the spiritual dividends to be realized through reading it.

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Georgi Vins

It was a pleasant surprise to read a full page article on Georgi Vins in the May 21, 1979, issue of Time magazine. A few years ago I read about the plight of this Christian leader in Russia and at the time felt a definite burden, along with thousands of other believers over the world, to pray for him. A leader of the breakaway
“Reform Baptists,” Vins has spent eight of the past 15 years in prison because of his uncompromising Christian convictions. Forbidden to preach the Word of God in public or to bring up their children with religious instruction, Vins said of the Reform Baptists: “In accordance with Biblical teaching, we believe that every authority is ultimately from God and that we are obliged to submit ourselves to such authority on all civil matters. To work. To pay taxes. To show respect to the government. But when it is a question of faith, then we submit ourselves to God alone.”

Georgi Vins, 50, received a degree in electrical engineering from the Kiev Polytechnical Institute in 1952 and was officially ordained as a minister in 1962. He was released by the Russian authorities through a trade by the United States with the Soviet Union of two Russian spies for five Soviet prisoners of conscience.

In describing something of the Reform Baptists’ underground activities, Vins tells of a remarkable mobile publishing operation called Khristianin (the Christian) that roams the country turning out thousands of Bibles and pamphlets. Local Baptists gradually buy up paper and hoard it until a ton or more has been collected in one place. Then, they call on one of their printing teams, which arrives with a special offset press than can be dismantled and carried in several suitcases. Since the Soviets permit no teaching seminaries for Protestants, the Reformers also run a Bible correspondence school, as well as an organization that seeks aid and publicity for religious prisoners. Their evangelistic work includes open-air testimony meetings, held in the woods, which often attract a thousand or more young people.

Georgi Vins’ present determination is to continue speaking out and writing on behalf of the Reform cause wherever God directs him. He said that in Moscow, just before he was deported, a polical officer explained that he had been deprived of his citizenship for actions harmful to the Soviet government, and “went on to say that at first American society would show great interest in me, but in the end everyone would forget me. I would be of no use to anyone, ‘Your fate is a sad one,’ he said. ‘You will always be an exile.’” Vins replied: “The God in whom I believe will decide that.”

We give thanks to our Lord for answered prayer on behalf of Georgi Vins. Our continued prayer is that he will be a powerful voice for Christ in the West and not be side tracked by the easy-going, soft, shallow, materialistic brand of Christianity which pervades much of evangelical witness in North America today.

Meanwhile, in view of such dramatic answers to prayer, let us not forget to continue to pray for those of our fellow believers over the world who are in prison for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Explicit on this point are the words of Hebrews 13:3: “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them who suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”

Via Dolorosa

According to a brief article in The Jerusalem Post, a Benedictine priest says that the Via Dolorosa (“Way of Sorrow”) is not the true route Jesus followed to His death on Calvary almost 2,000 years ago. Virgil Pixner, of Mount Zion’s Dormition Abbey, says the present trek, which cut west across the Moslem and Christian quarters of the Old City, lies 400 metres north of where the real “way of the cross” was. Both the present-day route and the original one led to Calvary’s Hill, now enshrined by the hulking, stone Church of the Holy Sepulchre, along with the site of Jesus’ trial.

Pixner, a member of the Abbey’s faculty who teaches Christian archaeology, expounds his revolutionary conclusion in an article to be published in the forthcoming issue of “Christian News from Israel,” a magazine published by the Religious Affairs Ministry. He says the Via Dolorosa “migrated at least twice down the ages” to its present course, which was laid down by the Crusaders, because of mislocation of the Praetorium, where Pontius Pilate Sentenced Jesus to die on the cross.

When I trod the traditional course of the Via Dolorsa a little over six years ago, I must confess to wondering if indeed it was the true route. It’s not likely that Pixner’s article will resolve anything. And, after all, the matter is not that important. The important thing is that the Way to heaven has not been mislocated, for Christ Himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Many, of course, dispute the way to heaven, just as they dispute the way of the Via Dolorosa, and we are reminded of Solomon’s words: “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).

There is only one true Way to heaven and, make no mistake about it, that Way is the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you by faith received Him as your own personal Saviour? Are you on the one and only Way to heaven?

On Leadership

“A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a postition of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of the external situation. Such were Moses and David and the Old Testament prophets. I think there was hardly a great leader from Paul to the present day but was drafted by the Holy Spirit for the task, and commissioned by the Lord of the Church to fill a position he had little heart for. I believe it might be accepted as a fairly reliable rule of thumb that the man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader. The true leader will have no desire to lord it over God’s heritage, but will be humble, gentle, self-sacrificing and altogether as ready to follow as to lead, when the Spirit makes it clear that a wiser and more gifted man than himself has appeared.”

—A. W. Tozer