November 22, 2011

Scripture for Today

Scripture for Thanksgiving

The Bible as Timeless Manual – A good article on biblical literacy from Sheila Liaugminas.

Caitlin McInnis, budding flim-maker, makes powerful short movie on abortion – More on the new short film, The Letter.

Study: Less Than Half of All Kids In Intact Homes

A World Without People With Down Syndrome? At What Price?

Fatherless: New documentary questions morality of anonymous sperm donation industry

New Royal College abortion guideline is ideology and bad science

New Colorado Personhood Amendment Features New, Improved Language

LIFE Selects Best-Ever Science Photos – Image 1 is of particular note to us.

Here is quite a story–well worth reading.

“I came into the world miraculously. My mother wanted to interrupt pregnancy; she has already got two small children and experienced the death of her first born. My father was insisting on my birth, because he knew the value of the human life very well, having gone through the hell of German concentration camps. But my mother defended her ‘rights.” She came to the hospital and the doctor stood there for protection: he showed my mother the remains of unborn children and furnace where they were burnt. My mother was shocked by all what she saw, and she said: ‘I don’t want my child to be burnt in this furnace.’ So I was born. The Lord gave me life.”

Read more: Reflections About Life by Galina Shvetsova. This is from Siberian Lutheran Missions.

More from Russia:

Here’s an interesting read about life in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. It is by Eric Debelak of the East European Missions Network.

Twenty Years after the Fall of the Soviet Union

In the early morning hours on Christmas day, 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, declaring that the position no longer existed. That night, the Soviet flag over the Kremlin was lowered for the last time. The Soviet Union was no more. The unthinkable had happened.

Of course, the Soviet Union didn’t collapse overnight. Gorbachev was elected in 1985 and he started reforms to try to fix the economy, but he soon realized that since the economy and political structure were so closely tied, you couldn’t change one with-out changing the other. This led to him announcing his policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (rebuilding) in 1987. These reforms allowed people a glimpse of freedom.

Once they had a taste, they wanted more. Soon protests and calls for independ-ence came from national groups in various Soviet Republics.

In 1990, Lithuania and Latvia declared their independence, followed by Georgia in April of 1991. By this point, the hard-line communists had had enough. On August 19th, while Gorbachev was on vacation, a group of senior officials seized power and put Gorbachev under house arrest. The people started protesting and Yeltsin quickly became the center of the resistance.

When the coup leaders sent in tanks to the Russian White House to put down the protesters and arrest Yeltsin, the tank crews refused to fire on their own people and instead emerged from their tanks waving not the Soviet flag, but the traditional Russian flag. Within 3 days, the coup was over, and the people and Yeltsin were victorious. During the coup Estonia and Latvia both declared their independence and within the next month Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Armenia all declared their independence.

When Turkmenistan declared its independence in October and Kazakhstan and Russia declared theirs in December, the Soviet Union was finished, ending 74 years of their atheistic communist experiment. Freedom came to millions, including the freedom to hear the gospel, own a Bible and attend church.

Untold millions died, over 100,000 churches were closed and destroyed and atheism was strictly enforced for those 74 years. But the Soviet Union also preached its own religion. My wife, Liza, who was born and raised in the Soviet Union, remembers she was taught how “Uncle Lenin” was always watching, how he lived a perfect life, never disobeyed his parents and never had anything but straight A’s. Teachers said, “Lenin was, Lenin is, Lenin will always be.” But as the Soviet Union collapsed, the truth came out about Lenin’s viciousness, like Lenin executing whole cities, just so the neighboring cities would be afraid, as he wrote to Trotsky, “what is needed is remorseless destruction.” When people learned the truth, their beliefs, worldview, in fact their whole lives, fell to pieces. They didn’t know what to think or believe anymore. Missionaries starting pouring in and speaking into that void of belief, and many people accepted Christ. Who would have thought, that after decades of fearing nuclear war, after wars fought in Korea and Vietnam, after the arms race and space race, after all the fear, rhetoric and hatred, that all of a sudden the door would open to go and preach to the people we were most afraid of, to our enemies?

In those early years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new governments returned church buildings to believers and many of EEMN’s partner ministries started their work.
During the past 20 years, the various former Soviet countries have taken many different paths. Countries like Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia and Hungary have all joined the European Union and have striven to become “European” countries. Other countries, like Russia and Belarus, have returned to more authoritarian systems of government following the chaotic 90’s. In the more European countries there is more freedom, while some other former Soviet countries face fierce religious persecution. But one thing remains the same in all the former USSR: practicing Christians remain a tiny minority of the population. Many people, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, began identifying themselves with the traditional religion of their country, but more as a way of regaining identity than to embrace the faith. In Russia, for example, over 70% of people claim to be Russian Orthodox, but only 0.5% go to church regularly.

So the need for mission work in the former Soviet Union remains. In some cases there is greater urgency because of growing restrictions on in the countries where we work. But at EEMN, we celebrate these 20 years of open doors. Thank you for your prayers and support–without you our work would not be possible. And as you celebrate Christmas this year, remember the great present God gave us 20 years ago: the opportunity to share the Gospel with our former enemies, many of whom have become our brothers and sisters in Christ.