Couple's mission is bringing religion to schools in Latvia CENTRAL COUNTY -- Arnold * Broadneck * Severna Park * Crownsville * Millersville

July 08, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

David Lloyd never thought he would really get a chance to "make" history.

But six months from now, the Severna Park resident and his wife, Elaine, will settle in Riga, Latvia, for five years of helping to revolutionize schools in the former Soviet Union -- for God.

The couple is going as part of a sweeping effort to introduce Christianity into the schools through a multidenominational program called CoMission.

Russia and several other former Soviet republics want to bring the teaching of religion back into public schools.

"Having lived there, I know the Soviet people have a great spiritual hunger after three generations of indoctrination in atheism," says Mr. Lloyd, 34, a graduate of Severna Park High School and the University of Maryland at College Park.

Mr. Lloyd, a staff member with Campus Crusade for Christ, worked for 10 months with students at Moscow State University.

Students are not just learning about Jesus. The government has invited a spectrum of religious groups -- Muslims, Jews and Buddhists -- to instruct teachers and public school administrators in how and what to teach about religion.

The biggest response, however, has come from evangelical Protestants in the United States.

CoMission sprang from a Campus Crusade group that was showing its movie called "JESUS," based on the Gospel of Luke, in the former Soviet Union in 1990.

Aleksandr Asmolov, the Russian deputy minister of education, saw the film and asked Campus Crusade's leaders to develop a curriculum that would teach Christian morality in Russian schools.

"The Russians wanted it to be mandatory," says Mr. Lloyd. "We didn't want it to be. We thought students had been indoctrinated their whole lives; we didn't think Christianity was something a person should have to be exposed to, so we agreed to do the curriculum only if it was voluntary."

Campus Crusade and two other Christian organizations designed a basic curriculum and began holding four-day conferences to teach educators how to use it.

Since 1991, 35 conferences have been held, with an average of 400 teachers attending each one, Mr. Lloyd says.

The program has grown to include 60 Christian groups from many denominations. The teacher-training seminars are being taught by U.S. educators, missionaries and business people who volunteer their time and pay their own expenses.

To continue its ambitious program, CoMission needs to recruit 12,000 people for a "Christian Peace Corps" to go to the former Soviet Union for one year each. Seventy Americans have gone; the number jumps to 300 in August.

The Lloyds' task comes after the conferences. The couple is to lead a team of 10 volunteers to teach evening Bible classes and answer questions about the curriculum.

Each team is to stay in a city for a year, to be replaced by a second team, then a third. The Lloyds, however, plan to be there for at least five years.

The program ends in 1997, and CoMission hopes to leave behind thousands of native people trained to teach the Bible in public schools.

But all that lies ahead. For now, the Lloyds are cramming language, history and literature with a private tutor four times a week. They are living in Texas until January, recruiting their team of 10 for Latvia.

Like her husband, Mrs. Lloyd -- who holds bachelor's degrees in journalism and voice performance and a master of music degree from the University of Texas -- has done short-term mission work in the former Soviet Union.

"This is a phenomenal opportunity," Mr. Lloyd says.

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