Seminar in Toksovo

A small town Toksovo is located within twenty miles to the north of St. Petersburg. When we arrived to the place of our destination, we were greatly surprised to see snow falling off of the sky and a thick layer of it covering the ground – at the same time there was no hint of snow in St. Petersburg itself. It was rather chilly inside of the church building, but the parish building, where the seminar was to be held, was warm and cozy.

During the worship service we found out that a famous missionary from Finland, Arvo Survo, is going to speak after the Mass. At first, this overlap made us concerned: we wondered how we were to blend our seminar into all that. But the Lord provided everything in the very best way.

Arvo sang two songs to a guitar and then preached a very short sermon which turned out to be a great introduction to our seminar. We had a lot of participants of various ages. Also, the cooks’ son had his birthday that day and his friends stayed to wish him a happy birthday and share a birthday cake with him.

Everybody listened very carefully to what we had to say about the activities of the Concordia Foundation, about the principals of sharing the Gospel with others  and the importance of it for the growth of the church. At the end of the seminar the pastor of the church, Ero Kugappy, preached a short sermon and summoned the flock to be more active in sharing the Good News with this world. He expressed gratitude to the Foundation’s staff for encouraging the church and for the well organized seminar.

After the seminar we all had some tea. One of the choir singers, Ekatherina, sat down and shared an edifying story with us. You see, the narrator of the seminar, Igor Savich, included in one of his presentations several slides about Islam; he said that this religion, or rather life style, constitutes danger for today’s society, including Russian society. Ekatherina told us that she has the firsthand knowledge about that. Several years ago she met a fine young man – typical Russian from Novgorod. They got married; she wasn’t able to get him interested in spiritual matters.

Some time passed and she noticed that he began reading books about Islam. She didn’t pay much attention to that thinking it was just a mere curiosity. But it wasn’t! Her husband became friends with other Russians who were interested in Islam. They all exercised and went to a sauna together.  After all, when Ekatherina realized that he was serious, it was too late already – her beloved husband became Muslim. That was a real shock for her. She tried to talk with him, but everything was in vain. Her husband became more and more aggressive towards her; he demanded that she becomes Muslim also. When she refused it caused scandals between them. In order to save their family she decided to be patient and not to prevent him in this belief, but keep silence. That didn’t help. She was accused of not being a good wife and of getting in his way. He then abandoned her.

We ached for this young woman, and the most terrible thing is that hers is not an isolated incidence. She told us that a lot of Russian young man convert to Islam nowadays. I remembered a parable that Jesus told saying that if an evil spirit is driven away from a person and is not replaced by anything else, it comes back and brings other evil spirits alongside with him and this person feels even worse. In case of Ekatherina and her other friends we can see that they were greatly influenced by the power of darkness because there was no one to show them the light. Aren’t we as Christians to be blamed for our passiveness and indifference?

Realizing the graveness of the problem Concordia Foundation prepared to publish a brochure titled Is There Any Use in Going to Church. This brochure will be able to give answers to a lot of questions including the questions of those who want nothing to do with a church.