This week finds us in Germany. Today we are visiting some short-term missionaries who we met in South Africa. This month finds us visiting missionaries at five locations.
Cathy is seated making Russian Dumplings called Pilmeni. It is one thing to share the Bible with one another but another all together to comprehend their life, culture and worship.
My mind raced back to the movie Dr. Zhivago as we talked with the Oma (grandmother) of the family. This Russian-German family moved to Russia at the invitation of Catherine the Great to establish German villages in the North of modern day Ukraine. They spoke German and continued their evangelical church tradition in the village of Raditsch.
Oma, called Friede, was born in 1936. Her father was the lay preacher of their congregation when Lenin and the revolution took over Russia. In October 1937 soldiers came and took him away and shot him a few weeks later. Friede said, I still have his Bible. We asked if we could see it.
Proudly she rushed off and brought back the precious memory of her father. There was an inscription in the beginning as the Bible was a gift from two women who had been ministered too. They gave it along with a book of songs.
When World War II began, the German’s came to Ukraine to reclaim the land and villages of Germans. When the Germans faltered, and retreated, Russians were killing all the German descendants who had remained German. Frieda said, we prayed all night thinking it would be our last! As a miracle of God, they were spared and returned to Germany and the village of Petersdorf.
Less than a year later Friede was taken captive by Stalin’s troops and placed on a train with her mother and sister. Over the next three months they lived in the train while being transported to Siberia. Siberia was their home until 1959 after the death of Stalin.
They lived on cooked grasses, a few mushrooms and cups of flour swapped for dresses. Their prized possession of her Father’s Bible came with them and the Russians allowed them to read it. What a joy to flip through the pages of this Martyr’s book and see underlined words and notes.
They could have church but only in small groups of fifteen or less. They sang hymns in a whisper and worshiped quietly. They were always afraid of soldiers coming and taking them away. Friede said, I understand the pressure and fear of being a Christian in a hostile country. I pray for those who must endure it even today.
What phrase was most underlined in the Bible? The fear of the Lord seemed to be noted over and over. She could understand fear in a way that I never have! In 1959, the entire family moved to Kazakhstan to get away from the brutal winters of Siberia. But the oppression of the Communist leadership continued to limit their worship as a church.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and the entire village of German’s moved to Detmold. Finally, they were free to worship and live without oppression. What a joy to see their Russian-German traditions today, to live in their home, share meals and worship. Tonight we join the Russian-German congregation for communion, and a Good Friday Service tomorrow.
We look forward to Easter Sunday this week. Let's worship our Christ as the whole Christian World lifts Him on high. He is Risen! . . . He is Risen Indeed!
Cathy and Danny Sartin