in General

SELC Newsletter #248

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Peace to you, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Recently our Bishop Vsevolod visited Yurga. Let us tell you again about this town and our congregation [previous Newsletters about Yurga: Newsletters # 136 and # 169].

The Lutherans live in Yurga because of our tragic history of deportation of the Volga Germans from their settlements by Josef Stalin. In the Soviet Union, millions of people and full nations were sent into GULAGs [see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulag] or exiled into Siberia just because of the desire of the cruel dictator.

The first Lutherans came into Russia immediately after the Reformation, and at the end of the 18th century because of an invitation by Catherine the Great (the Russian Queen) many Germans came into Russia for residence. They created their towns and farms, and schools, and churches, and lived there for over a century and a half.

Seventy-five years ago, August 28, 1941, Josef Stalin made the “final solution” on ethnic Germans. “After the house search, tell everyone who is scheduled to be deported that, according to the government’s decision, they are being sent to other regions of the USSR. Transport the entire family in one car until the train station, but at the station, heads of families [read: men] must be loaded into a separate train car prepared especially for them …. Their families are deported for special settlements in the far away regions of the Union. [Family members] must not know about the forthcoming separation from the head of the family” [see more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volga_Germans].

Every August 28, we celebrate Day of remembrance of victims of political repressions.

Volga Germans were sent into Siberia and North Kazakhstan. A lot of people died during the transportation in the railroad freight cars. Many people were frozen to death.

People who survived (adults with children) were put into concentration camps where they were forced to work in the beastly conditions. Thousands of them died because of hard work, because of hunger and absence of medicines.

In the camp in Yurga, if somebody was sick or injured nobody gave him (or her) any medicines, but the soldiers put him (or her) into a collective grave. This is a grave where several thousands (!) of Volga Germans were buried, located in the edge of Yurga. Now it is a memorial cemetery.

Nobody knows the full number of victims of Stalin’s regime. Recently the Russian government decides to keep NKVD [see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NKVD] archives closed till 2045. Just imagine what atrocities NKVD committed if our government still fears that the people will know about it!

At the beginning of the 60s in Yurga, the Germans were released from the camp. Some of them were trying to go back to the Volga. It was very difficult, almost impossible, because they did not have internal passports and to travel without a passport even within the Soviet Union was illegal. Still, some reached their former settlements on the Volga, and saw that for a long time other people had been living in their homes. The same was with their farms. And all the churches were destroyed.

So those who were liberated from the concentration camps continued to live in Yurga and were moved into the so-called “German village” (wooden barracks without running water and toilets; the toilet was only one — big dirty building in the center of the village). But for those who were in a concentration camp, it was happiness to live not inside the barbed wire, even in such conditions.
For many years, Lutherans gathered in a wooden house on the outskirts of Yurga, and then in 2007 (thanks to the help of our Brothers and Sisters from the Bethany Lutheran Church, Naperville, IL) an apartment for the congregation was purchased in the “German village.”

When the local authorities decided to demolish the “German village”, we were offered another apartment, and the parish moved there. There we have a chapel, and people come to hear the Word and to receive the sacraments. The room needs to be repaired, but the parishioners can’t do it because of the poverty.

But the most important thing is that we are free. You cannot imagine what it means — to be free — for those who grew up in the Soviet Union.

Now there is a resident minister in Yurga — Rev. Ruslan Zinnurov [about him in the Newsletter # 245]. Ruslan graduated from the university in Novosibirsk, then he graduated from our Lutheran Theological Seminary. On May 2016, he was ordained as deacon, and serves in the parish in Yurga. As the Church does not have funds to pay salary to him, he works as a teacher in a secondary school.

Deacon Ruslan’s wife Natalia is from the family of Volga Germans. Ruslan and Natalia are blessed with a son, Arthur.

Please pray for Deacon Ruslan and his family and for the parishioners in Yurga.

“Faith and hope”
Please see attached photos.

SELC Newsletter #247

Peace to you, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In Tuim (Khakassia) the “Family camp” was held in the SELC parish of Transfiguration. The first such camp pastor Pavel Zayakin organized in 2013. He explained that he saw many Christian parents wanted their children to participate in such activity, but the program of the camps was designed for teenagers. Thus he with the team of volunteers worked out a new “format” where the smaller kids would fit in. Children and parents were excited about the first two camps in 2013 and 2014. Thus, pastor Pavel Zayakin, after the break for the big Jamboree camp in 2015, initiated the third family camp in 2016.

The program was named “Treasure hunters.” For a week children and their parents were studying the Bible passages, which uncover the meaning of the gifts of the Three Kings. “What kind of a king is Christ? How is His kingship revealed in our lives? What does it mean that He is High Priest? How does He serve His people now? Why did He go to the Cross? Why do we call it victory?” — Participants were exploring the Scripture to answer these and other questions. However, they were looking for the treasure not only on the pages of the Book. Three field trips were undertaken to find gold, frankincense, and myrrh. That’s wasn’t easy! It took long walking, climbing up the hills, going down to the cave. From one hand it was a game, kids had fun, and thus they remember Bible story better. From another hand it helped to build a character, when they overcame their weariness, when they pursued the goal. Though these hardships were not so hard, it was very good to be in it with the parents. Surely these camps build up families, when kids and parents live together in the tents, study Bible, talk, meet different challenges, have fun.

Mrs. Tatiana Strukova, who came to this camp from Novosibirsk with her daughter Varvara, says, “It was a great opportunity to be together with brothers and sisters from different parishes of our Church, to talk informally, to discuss theology. I also want my daughter to meet Christian children from others places. I like very much how teachers in these camps conduct Bible classes for kids. They add many activities, like painting, playing, and singing. Obviously, children like it. Also, I see as very important daily matins and vespers. It really frames our life here. This year we had field trips every day, in contrast to the camps held last years. I think it was better for kids.”

This year pastor Pavel Zayakin intentionally was involved less in preparation and carrying the camp. He wanted parishioners from Tuim to take more responsibility. With his help and with the help of Mrs. Oksana Lapkovskaya (Sunday school teacher of the parish in Sayanogorsk), who was a director of the similar event in 2014, pastor Vitali Gavrilov and his wife Anna did a great job! Together with parishioners they prepared the venue and the program.

Pastor Jaanus Noormagi from Estonia, who visited the camp, said, “Everything was not only very well organized (spiritual program and technical things), but the people were happy. All participants felt not as guests, but as one family members. I came from a long travel, and I was just from the road, but immediately felt it. We, the Europeans, feel such things very easily. In Europe, usually individuals are very polite to one another, but they are strangers to each other. But here we all were like one family.”

People from the parish of Transfiguration were involved on different levels. Liudmila Kotova was the cook for the whole camp, Olessya Bebyakina helped with smaller kids, Valeri Gillyazutdinov was in charge of all technical issues. Other parishioners helped with preparation the church building and territory around before the camp and cleaning it afterwards. Finally, the parish in Tuim saw the truth of the words “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Being involved in all this work they realized that they are not just small and unimportant parish in the small town. They are members of Christ’s body, having their place and role in increasing and edifying of the church body (Eph. 4:16).

Please pray for the Lutherans in Siberia, and for developing of the Christian education for children.

“Faith and hope”
Please see attached photos.

A New Creation

A new creation, by which the image of God is renewed (Col. 3:10), does not happen by the sham or pretense of some sort of outward works, because in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts; but it is “created after the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). When works are performed, they do indeed give a new outward appearance, which captures the attention of the world and the flesh. But they do not produce a new creation, for the heart remains as wicked and as filled with contempt of God and unbelief as it was before. Thus a new creation is a work of the Holy Spirit, who implants a new intellect and will and confers the power to curb the flesh and to flee the righteousness and wisdom of the world. This is not a sham or merely a new outward appearance, but something really happens. A new attitude and a new judgment, namely, a spiritual one, actually come into being, and they now detest what they once admired. Our minds were once so captivated by the monastic life that we thought of it as the only way to salvation; now we think of it quite differently. What we used to adore, before this new creation, as the ultimate in holiness now makes us blush when we remember it.

Therefore a new creation is nora change in clothing or in outward manner, as the monks imagine, but a renewal of the mind by the Holy Spirit; this is then followed by an outward change in the flesh, in the parts of the body, and in the senses. For when the heart acquires new light, a new judgment, and new motivation through the Gospel, this also brings about a renewal of the senses. The ears long to hear the Word of God instead of listening any longer to human traditions and notions. The lips and the tongue do not boast of their own works, righteousness, and monastic rule; but joyfully they proclaim nothing but the mercy of God, disclosed in Christ. These changes are, so to speak, not verbal; they are real. They produce a new mind, a new will, new senses, and even new actions by the flesh, so that the eyes, the ears, the lips, and the tongue not only see, hear, and speak otherwise than they used to, but the mind itself evaluates things and acts upon them differently from the way it did before. Formerly it went about blindly in the errors and darkness of the pope, imagining that God is a peddler who sells His grace to us in exchange for our works and merits. Now that the light of the Gospel has risen, it knows that it acquires righteousness solely by faith in Christ. Therefore it now casts off its self-chosen works and performs instead the works of its calling and the works of love, which God has commanded. It praises God and proclaims Him, and it glories and exults solely in its trust in mercy through Christ. If it has to bear some sort of evil or danger, it accepts this willingly and joyfully, although the flesh goes on grumbling. This is what Paul calls “a new creation.”