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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pastoral Care in Siberia

Yesterday we traveled from the "Camp between Two Rivers" near the village of Efremkino (Ефремкино) back to Abakan, Russia so that we could fly to Moscow and then back to the United States.

On the way back to Abakan, we stopped at little villages so Pastor Pavel Zayakin could visit members of the church, especially those who had moved away from closer congregations due to economic reasons. Pastor Zayakin is the Prost, similar to the District President, of the Khakassia region.

We came to the village of Shira (Шира) to make the first visit to two women who had moved from another village. The village they moved from had collapsed economically, only about 100 people, mostly elderly, remain. The village of Shira (Шира) by comparison is a good place to live.

Pastor Zayakin conducted a simplified home service, similar to the service found in the Lutheran Service Book Pastoral Care Companion.

The women dressed as if they were attending church on Sunday morning. We were rather surprised that the women dressed up for a home visit.

We visited another town, Tuim, for a home visit. The women were 84 and 85 years old and spoke Latvian and Russian. Their parents had been relocated from Latvia to Siberia but they had remained Lutheran their entire lives.

In Tuim we saw an abandoned factory and mining operations. The abandoned industrial complex is referred to as a monument to the Soviet system of a planned economy.

Nearby the abandoned industrial complex is the collapsed mine. We were told that divers were not able to reach the bottom of it. At its peak Tuim had 50,000 people. Now it only has around 3,000.

In the village, a little dog sits on the corner of Мира (Mira) "Peace Street."

We visited the congregation in Tuim, which gathered for the regular Friday vespers.

Finally, as the sun set over the step, we arrived in Abakan for tr night, to begin the journey westward to Moscow and on to the United States.

- Posted by Dr. Albert Collver from Moscow using BlogPress from my iPhone


Friday, August 23, 2013

Camp Between the Rivers

From August 20 to 23, we stayed at the "Camp between the rivers," a camp of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. The camp is located between the White Ius and Black Ius Rivers.

The Ius River is beautiful and considered to have pure water. It served as a good location for the camp near the village of Efremkino (Ефремкино) in Khakassia, Siberia, Russia.

A map of the area. The town of Efremkino (Ефремкино) is pictured in the lower left corner of the map. Near the camp is the "Path of the Ancestors," which is a place where a Paleolithic culture lived.

Inside one of the caves, were cave paintings nearly 4,000 years old. The paintings on the wall represented human beings and a god with four eyes. The caves were discovered by Pyotr Proskuryakov in 1883. Animal bones were found inside the cave indicating that sacrifices had been made to the god in the past.

Further along the trail, a Shaman's tree had ribbons on it indicating petitions to the spirits. This is similar to the other places in Siberia where sacrifices were made to the spirits.

The trail itself was rugged at times. However the view was worth the effort.

At another portion of the trail, we came upon an unusual artifact.

Nearby a cave that we came out of was some runic writing on the rock face. It was discovered in 1883 by Pyotr Proskuryakov's expedition, but the runic script was not deciphered until the early 20th century. The runic script encoder a Turkish based language. The inscription reads: "I greet you Altu Shan, my state and my Han (prince). I am Agdam Enal. My people are Tersye. I have come down from the mountains and have found out ." A debate ensued among scholars regarding the name of Tersye. This is a Khakassia word of Turkish origin. This is from a Syriac word used to designate a Christian. Other Syriac words such as Mar for teacher appear in other texts. Kyrgyz people were Christian around the 7 - 10th centuries. Additional evidence for Christian roots can be found in Khakassia language, for instance the Tarcha River, literally means "the Christian River." The name of this river comes from Tarcha Khyz. Khyz means young lady. According to Khakassian tales, Tarcha Khyz was the young woman who lead the Kyrgyz people in battle against the Mongolians. She was shot by an arrow and killed on the banks of the Tarcha River, hence it's name. This legend goes back to the 10th century. The history of Christians in Khakassia ends with the Mongolian invasion. This invasion drove the people of Kyrgyz Kaganate (predecessors of Khakasian people) into Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. How did these people become Christian? Most likely by the Nestorians who were forced out of the Persian Empire onto the Great Step. They came to Khakassia as missionaries.

Pastor Pavel Zayakin explained the history of the "Path of the Ancestors" to us as we hiked along the path. It was very fascinating hearing the story of early Christianity in the 7 - 10th centuries.

Back at the "Camp between two rivers" each day was book ended by morning and evening worship. Lectures were held during the day.

The Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church's "Camp Between the Rivers" is structured after a Poligon, literally in English, a polygon. It has the practical sense of a training field or proving ground for soldiers or athletes. The camp is set up to train the hearts, minds, and bodies of young people to be Christians in this world, hence hiking, works of service, worship, study and camping.

The camp is rustic, but a wonderful opportunity to study, meditate, and enjoy the Lord's creation.

Pastors Pavel Zayakin and Alexey Streltsov of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC) hosted and accompanied (listed alphabetically) Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations; Rev. Randy Golter, Executive Director of the Office of International Mission; Rev. Daniel Johnson, Catechist to Siberia and Baltic churches; Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, LCMS Director of Theological Education and Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne.

- Posted by Dr Albert Collver in Tuim, Russia using BlogPress from my iPhone


Monday, August 19, 2013

Organ Hall former Roman Catholic Church

The Organ Hall in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, Russia, is a former Roman Catholic Church. The communist took over the church and turned it into an organ concert hall.

The sign reads: "The Russian Federation Monument of Architecture, Roman Catholic Church, Architect V.A. Sokolovski, under the protection of the State."

Inside the Organ Hall, there is a crucifix. Although the Organ Hall is owned by the State, today the local Roman Catholic Church is allowed to worship here.

The churchy stained glass windows were replaced with Soviet style images extolling music.

Next to the Organ Hall / Roman Catholic Church is the former rectory. Today it is "Music School No. 5" located on Decemberists Street, named after the revolutionaries in the 19th century who attempted to overthrow the Czar.

A floor garden sits in front of the former church and former rectory. The church is built on the Rock of Christ, even when steeples are falling.

The city Krasnoyarsk is East of Tomsk and North East of Novosibirsk.

- Posted by Dr Albert Collver on 19 August 2013 using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:улица Дубровинского,Krasnoyarsk,Russia

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday with Angarsk and Chita Congregations

Today, the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC) congregations in Angarsk and Chita worshiped together. these congregations are 700 miles apart (talk about circuit riding!). Siberia is a vast territory that makes it challenging for both pastor and congregation. This is the first time LCMS people have had the opportunity in a SELC congregation since the Missouri Synod ratified fellowship with the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC) with Resolution 4-02, "To Endorse Altar and Pulpit Fellowship with the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church" at the 65th regular convention held in 20-25 July 2013.

Some of the people from the Chita congregation posing with us in the Siberian forest. The congregation from Chita is predominantly deaf.

Pastor Andry conducted service on Sunday morning. He preached on Mark 7:32-37.

Jesus healed the man who was deaf.

The SELC is a liturgical church whose liturgy is similar to that of the Missouri Synod. For instance after the Words of Institution are spoken the congregation sings Agnets Bozhy, "Lamb of God."

Also similar to the Missouri Synod is the Communion Statement which teaches "close(d) communion."

When the Missouri Synod engages a church body in fellowship discussions both doctrine and practice are discussed. Worship is attended. How a church worships reflects what it believes. In other words, you cannot really know a church unless you see how they worship because that is where doctrine is implemented or put into practice.

When fellowship talks happen between the Missouri Synod and another church body doctrine is examined to see if there is agreement, practice is studied, church constitutions are looked at, and worship is attended. This is all part of the process for church fellowship.

Before the service, there was a lesson from the Small Catechism.

After the service we had a group photo with people from Angarsk and Chita.

Nearby, the Russian Orthodox have an impressive structure called the Angarsk Church.

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to visit the Angarsk and Chita congregations so soon after the Missouri Synod ratified fellowship with the SELC in the July 2013 convention.

We said our good byes, exchanged gifts and spoke of the day when we could all gather in Chita. Off to the train station for the next city.

- Posted on 18 August 2013 by Dr Albert Collver using BlogPress from my iPhone


Friday, August 16, 2013

Shamans Rock on Olkhon Island

Shamans Rock on Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal is the site of animistic worship. In past years, Shamans from around the world gathered for a conference of sorts to exchange experiences in spirituality.

Thirteen poles erected on top of the hill overlooking Shamans Rock serve as a place of adoration and worship to the spirits.

Offerings to the spirits include vodka, cigarettes, and coins. We watched a young lady bow three times to the poles in adoration to the spirits.

Far from being eliminated, paganism continues and thrives not only in remote places, but increasingly in places formerly considered Christian. Natural religion, the thought that man must do something to appease God or the spirits is second nature to us. The only remedy is the proclamation of the Word of God, Law and Gospel. Instruction about the Creator of all things, the command to have no other gods, and the Gospel that Jesus Christ redeemed the world on the cross. Kyrie Eleison!

- Posted by Dr Albert Collver on 16 August 2013 using BlogPress from my iPhone


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Place for Idol Worship in Siberia

Traveling through Siberia going North from Irkutsk, we came upon a place dedicated to idol worship in the Ust-Ordynsky Autonomous District.

Horses are very important (perhaps almost worshiped). The Buryat people were the people who inhabited Eastern Siberia before the Russians arrived. According to the legend, Buryat means wounded warrior. Supposedly, Ghengis Khan from Mongolia left behind his wounded warriors who married the local people. Many of the Buryat people are animists who offer sacrifices to idols.

The sign reads: One may worship by sacrificing with coins. Keep this place in order.

Sacrifices of coins, rice, cigarettes, and vodka were made by the Buryat people to the idols. We saw a woman sacrificing to the nearby shrubs, and a family sacrificing with vodka at the site.

Sacrifices made to the shrubs.

The ribbons around the horses leg are to appease the spirits.

The countryside in Siberia near the place of sacrifice to idols.

As Francis Pieper noted in Christian Dogmarics, "How many essentially different religions are there in the world? ... There are not a thousand, not even four, but only two essentially different religions: the religion of the Law, that is, the endeavor to reconcile God through man's own works, and the religion of the Gospel, that is, faith in The Lord Jesus Christ..."

In remote Siberia, Russia, a group of people practice a religion of the Law, seeking to appease the spirits through sacrifice to idols. Kyrie Eleison!

- Posted by Dr Albert Collver on 15 August 2013 in the Ust-Ordynsky Autonomous District in Siberia, Russia using BlogPress from my iPhone