A Newsletter from Georgi P. Vins
Authorities threaten to seize Baptist Prayer House in Leningrad
On December 8, 1981, the authorities arrested Vladimir Protsenko, the owner of the home in which the Leningrad independent (unregistered) Evangelical Baptist Church has been meeting since 1973. Protsenko, a simple and humble Christian, showed great faith in selflessly dedicating his home to the ministry of the church. As a result he has been subjected to fines and threats from atheistic authorities. Protsenko is 53, has a wife Elvira, and five dependent children. They reside at: g. Leningrad, pos. Kuzmolovo, Leningradskoye shosse 30 “A”.
Protsenko’s arrest follows the arrest of two of the church’s leaders in August 1981: senior pastor Fedor Makhovitsky, 50, who has already spent two years in labour camp (1966-68) and evangelist Mikhail Azarov, 44. By arresting Makhovitsky and Azarov the KGB was hoping to paralyze the spiritual activities of the Leningrad independent church. Now, by arresting Protsenko, they are seeking to deprive the church of its meeting place by gaining a pretext to confiscate it from its owner (confiscation of personal property, including a home, often is part of a prisoner’s sentence).
The confiscation of places of worship is nothing new in Leningrad’s history despite its importance in the development of the Evangelical Baptist movement in Russia. Just over a hundred years ago the first groups of Evangelical Christian Baptists appeared in Leningrad (then called St. Petersburg) as result of the gospel ministry of English missionary Lord Radstock. For many years, well-attended ECB prayer meetings were conducted throughout the city. Sixty years ago, when there were 1.5 million inhabitants in Leningrad, there were five ECB churches. Today the population has reached 4.5 million and the authorities allow only one church, the registered church in Poklonnaya gora (hill of worship) to function, and that is under complete control of the KGB. All other prayer houses belonging to ECB believers have been confiscated.
Upon mention of the above, we are reminded of two world famous Russian Orthodox Cathedrals in Leningrad: St. Isaac’s and Kazan. They too have been confiscated by the authorities. St. Isaacs is now a showpiece for tourists, and Kazan houses the museum of atheism. This is the kind of open mockery that the atheistic authorities have been making of the Christian faith for many years.
In Leningrad there are many majestic buildings and palaces, but for Christ and His followers there is no room. How true, even today, are the words spoken by Christ in the first century, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Matthew 8.20).
In 1961 a group of 20 believers left the registered Leningrad church because its leaders had entered into a compromise with atheism. In the years following, this small group of believers decided to start their own independent ministry based on fulfilling the commandments of the Gospel and remaining separate from atheism. They became strong spiritually and grew in number to 300, half of whom are young people. Throughout this period they had no permanent meeting place; they met in homes and apartments and in the forests around Leningrad and were subjected to fines and searches resulting in the confiscation of Bibles. They have survived in spite of the arrests of their leaders and continual persecution.
The Leningrad church is one of 2000 independent (unregistered) ECB churches across the Soviet Union. In 1965 all these churches came together to form a union and elected a council to serve the churches which would be free from KGB influence. Gennady K. Kryuchkov was elected president of the Council of ECB Churches, and today he is continuing his ministry despite ongoing persecution.
The experience of the ECB church in Leningrad is one of many examples of the cruel persecution meted out to those who have faith in God. State atheism in the USSR, by using the party-government apparatus and in particular the KGB, is trying not only to control the country’s religious life but completely to run it. Its final goal is to destroy religion. Through cruel and repressive measures, the KGB seeks to get church ministers to cooperate with state authorities and betray God. It is also engaged in a prolonged and relentless assault
on: the preaching of the Gospel, religious instruction for children and young people, defence and support of Christian prisoners sentenced for their faith, assistance to prisoners’ families and all independent churches and religious groups. But the richly blessed ministry of the Council of ECB Churches over the last 20 years has demonstrated the failure of the atheistic struggle against the Church of Jesus Christ. The Lord Himself said, “…lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. “(Matthew 28:20), and “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:17)
More news on continuing persecution in the USSR
Before the New Year the following information reached us from the USSR. In three Moldavian cities, Kishinev, Tiraspol, and Strasheny, authorities tore down large tents used by believers for worship services. These tents were fragile structures of canvas with wooden frames built especially to protect believers from snow and rain during services.
In Kishinev a tent was torn down in October of 1981. KGB officials turned up at a prayer meeting held at ul. Pochtovoi 88, with five German Shepherd dogs which tore the clothing of believers and several of those present were bitten.
In the last few months the KGB and police have carried out
especially cruel physical assaults on believers during worship services in: Zaporozhy, Melitopol, Nikolayev, Kherson, Chernovitsy, Kharkov, Dergachi, Khartsyzsk. Mass searches were
carried out in the homes of believers in Tula, Kharkov and Lvov. During the searches, Bibles, New Testaments and other Christian books were confiscated. In Kharkov Region KGB officials have been interrogating young
children in the absence of their parents. During the interrogations the children were forced to sign documents against their parents for sse in court.
On November 25-26, 1981, in the city of Barnaul, Siberia; 53 ‘ear-old senior pastor of the ECB church, Vladimir Ilich FIRSOV, was tried and sentenced to three years ordinary regime labour camp for preaching the Gospel.
In the city of Rostov-on-Don, 30 year-old Larisa Abramovna Zaitseva was sentenced to one and a half years in labour camp. Earlier, during the period from 1977-79, she was imprisoned for two and a half years for participating in the work of the “CHRISTIAN” publishing house, which under conditions of constant persecution prints Bible and Gospels in the USSR.
On December 12, 1981, two ECB believers were arrested in Kishinev. One was Khariton Prutyanu, the 28 year-old brother of another Christian prisoner, Mikhail Prutyanu, who was earlier sentenced to five years in camp. Khariton has a wife,
Natalya, and three dependent children. They live at ul. Komarova 48, g. Kishinev.
The other believer arrested on that day was 26-year-old, Oleg Perebikovsky. His wife’s name is Tatyana Perebikovskaya and their address is: ul. Krasnodonskaya, 17 g. Kishinev.
As of January 1, 1982 there were 130 Evangelical Baptist believers in prisons and labor camps in the USSR who were arrested for actively preaching the Gospel to their people. They need the prayer support of Christians all over the world. The daily spiritual request of Christian prisoners is expressed in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, chapter six, verses 18-20; “Praying… for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds; that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
If you wish to receive information concerning the persecuted
church in the USSR on a regular basis write to the address below:
Georgi P. Vins
International representation for the Council of Evangelical Baptist
Churches of the Soviet Union, Inc., P.O. Box 1188, Elkhart, IN 46515, U.S.A.