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 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:
"We enjoy the festivities which we see in the city of Bratislava: the concerts and performances, the booths in the squares selling gifts and good food, the general feeling of cheerfulness. The city is decked out with lights, and the people are bundled up against the cold. Walking down the sidewalk, you can't miss the distinctive aroma of chestnuts roasting over a charcoal fire. A small bag of them costs about 30-40 cents. Or you can buy a bag of fresh pop corn from another street vendor. If hot dogs are your thing, you can get one with hot mustard for about 60 cents. Instead of slicing the bun open, it is shoved down on a heated pointed rod, and warmed up for you. In the main square, you can buy a grilled pork sandwich with mustard, (which is delicious) for little more than a dollar. Then finish the whole thing off with a cup of warm Hu Hu. We don't know what this punch is, but it is about the only kind of drink you can buy there which is not alcoholic. Mostly children drink it, but we join them. It is a different experience from previous years in the U.S. It is a little hard to see the large tanks containing carp, and thinking, this carp is better than turkey? Many of the local people will buy a live carp or two and take them home to the bathtub and put them in there for a few days. Just before Christmas, they will kill the `fatted' carp and have fish for dinner."
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 email@example.com
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