White Unto Harvest

The Way It Is: Preaching in Lithuania


Most Americans who come to Europe notice that things are different from what they know in the U.S. Because of the effects of the communist system, Eastern Europe is different from America in another way, having been held back from much normal progress for over fifty years. Many who have never been there may wonder what it is like to live and work in this part of the world. Misconceptions can be a hindrance to some considering possible fields of labor. Therefore, this article is written to give an idea of what it is like to preach and live in Lithuania.

Arriving at the airport in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, one is met by Kestutis Subacius, preacher of the church in Vilnius. He is always happy to welcome people and provide whatever assistance he can. Since much of our work now takes place in Kaunas, a driver is usually on hand to take us the 60 miles there. Kaunas is the former capital of Lithuania. The old town section of the city is picturesque with pastel facades, cobblestone streets and large historic buildings. When I was there in the middle of January (this year) the lights of the holiday season were out in abundance on the main streets of both cities. A heavy snowfall in Kaunas one day made the picture complete. We have a flat rented in the old town center conveniently located for much of our work there. It is on one of the city's two main pedestrian streets (the second one being a 5 minute walk away), hence, there is no traffic noise. These two streets are lined with shops and stores, and are alive with people for most of the daylight hours. It is common for workers to bring souvenirs back to the U.S. they have purchased in the shops. The flat is set up with a computer with e-mail capability and Lithuanian fonts for printing material in that language. Via e-mail our men there can keep in close contact with loved ones and others at home. The food is good whether one chooses to cook at home or eat at a restaurant. Because of the strength of the dollar one can eat cheaply either way. Some do their laundry by hand in a tub; others send it out to be done by a laundry service with low prices. Transportation is low price and efficient. There are buses, microbuses and taxis for travel around town; train and autobus lines connect with most surrounding cities.

We will usually go to Vilnius for the midweek Bible study with the church there. Vilnius is a beautiful city that has undergone much renovation in the years since the fall of communism. A castle overlooks it from a hill above the Neris River and the spires of church buildings are quite numerous. Many of its historic buildings are illuminated at night and the view from the air after dark is one of the most beautiful I have seen. Walking along the Pilies gatve (tower street) in the old town one passes one interesting shop after another as well as venders with tables set up on the side walk selling handmade wares, many of which are specialties of Lithuania. I have purchased many gifts there over the years. The narrow passageway-like streets leading off to the right and left leave one wishing he had more time to explore.

The work is designed so that men can come and teach with little or no introduction. Competent interpreters help us, both in assemblies and in private studies, as well as with the logistics of the work such as phone calls to Lithuanian speakers, putting ads in the paper, etc. We have about 20 tracts in Lithuanian we use as a means of teaching. A stand on wheels, stored near where we do our street work, contains a good supply of these. We usually set up the stand for 3 hours a day. In addition to making the tracts available to all who are interested, we also use this time to make contacts for study and to pass out invitations to the lectures we hold each Sunday afternoon. One meets all kinds of people doing street work but people are generally kind in their demeanor.

The Lithuanian people are, almost without exception, happy that Americans come to Lithuania. This makes the language barrier a little less difficult. If one goes to the trouble of learning just a little Lithuanian he will receive many compliments on how well he speaks it. People there have helped us in so many ways it would be impossible to list them all. Suffice it to say that their many acts of kindness, helpfulness, and hospitality have made things very pleasant for those who have taken part in the work there.

Lithuania is one of the world's top basketball powers. They have their own league with a number of teams. It is common to happen upon people watching a televised game. Some of their players have gone on to play in the NBA. Therefore, it is not surprising that one sees many jackets, books, magazines and the like with logo or pictures from U.S. basketball teams. The news of Michael Jordan's retirement was likely given every bit the prominence there that it received in the U.S.

The picture of our experiences there would be incomplete without some mention of our work with the Lithuanian brethren. As with all works, there have been ups and downs in the churches there. However, we have found brethren there who appreciate us for standing against sin, even when the sin touches the lives of Christians. Brethren have encouraged us in our efforts to spread the Gospel, even telling particular areas of need. It has been uplifting to learn of their seeking to spread the Gospel among their acquaintances and to hear of get-togethers of groups of brethren which take place when no American is there. One sister from the northern city of Shauliai is happy to make the 2-hour-one-way bus ride to be with the church in Kaunas. The seed has been planted and is growing in Lithuania.

There are other places in Eastern Europe wherein brethren have found it pleasant to live as well as work. Ed and Pat Brand live and work in Bratislava, Slovakia. The following quote from a report sent out by them in late December is an enjoyable account of life in that city during the holiday season:

Conclusion

Many are the nice places to live in America. However, there are places outside of America where it is also pleasant to live. These places are also mission fields in need of the Gospel. Hopefully, this article will help prospective workers in their view of preaching in Eastern Europe and lead to further efforts in the Lord's work there.


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For comments to the author, or to contribute news, reports, and information regarding preaching efforts in foreign lands, please contact Steve at 100416.655@compuserve.com

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