I Couldn’t Imagine… (What it was like to be an Evangelical during the Soviet era)

100_2034You can’t go to university.

You can’t bring your children to church.

You will never get a promotion.

Your neighbors will spread rumors about you because you are “sectarian.”

The secret service has people planted in your community, and you don’t know who they are.

You have friends and relatives who have been sent to jail or worse.

You can’t get together with more than two or three Christians at a time, and even that is looked on with suspicion.

There is no Sunday school, no youth group, no Bible study, no small group, no vacation Bible school.

Your neighbors could inform on you at any time for any reason.

The schools have “Atheist Clubs.”

A Bible costs between one and six months wages.

There are no Christian books, CD’s, movies, radio stations or other media.

You are a small minority – maybe one or two percent of the population.

Atheists make up 70 percent of the population.

Your government has stated publicly that they want to eradicate you and called you a cultural disease.

The list could go on…

And yet you have joy.

And yet your passion for the the Word grows.

You know numerous people who have memorized books of the Bible, and a few who have memorized the entire Bible.

You pass around chapters of the Bible so that everyone in your community can copy the chapters by hand.

100_1971You are willing to walk 15 miles just to be with other Christians.

You are willing to meet in the woods so that if the KGB is present they will have a difficult time arresting you, because they can’t get their cars so deep into the woods.

You find little ways to share your faith with people – even though you know you could be jailed for sharing.

You share the little you have with your church family any time there is need.

Your hope grows when persecution grows.

You respond to problems with prayer, a realization that this world has suffering but the next world has reward, and hope when there is none.

The list could go on…

This is a more perfect picture than the reality of course – reality for the Evangelicals who lived during the Soviet era was messy and painful. Children who left the faith. A more rigid legalism that helped you define your community in the midst of such external pressure, but that sometimes hurt your members. Fear of public officials and “progress” as such things had been used to try to destroy you. Loneliness.

It was not easy, nor was it simple. But the Evangelicals who lived through the almost 80 year Soviet era accomplished something great.

I think that when we get to heaven we will see that their sacrifices made them pillars spiritually. I have so much to learn from these people. I am a spoiled, often selfish and entitled Christian. I wonder how many times in my life I have held my Lord’s manna in contempt because I desired the things of this world. I sit writing this in an air conditioned coffee shop with my latte and my laptop and try to imagine what it was like for those Christians, and realize that it is impossible – I just can’t fathom what it was like.

I can’t imagine… but hopefully I can learn.


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