Westminster church to send mission team for Russian schoolchildren

April 06, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Within two weeks, a Westminster church that averages about 350 worshipers each Sunday collected $36,000 to pay for a three-week mission to Russia.

"A door opened for us to take the Gospel to schoolchildren in Russia," said the Rev. Pete Puckett, assistant pastor at First Assembly of God. "Our congregation saw the need and met it."

The 18-member group, which includes the church's two ministers, will not go empty handed to Magnitogorsk, an industrial city southwest of Moscow. With 150,000 copies of the "Book of Life," they plan to reach each school-aged child in the Russian city.

Mr. Puckett said the Cranberry Road church embarked on the teaching mission at the request of education officials in Magnitogorsk.

"The education department in Magnitogorsk asked us to distribute the books in the public schools," he said. "Unlike in this country, they are eager to use the Gospel in their school system and see this as an opportunity to return to Christianity."

The paperback book, a chronological compilation of the four Gospels in text form, is translated into Russian for the children, who range in age from kindergarten through junior college.

With translators, teams from the church plan to visit all 800

schools in the city, which is the steel-manufacturing center of Russia.

"About 94 percent of the children begin school in poor health from pollution caused by the mill," said Mr. Puckett. "The mill is the center of the city, and is 10 miles long and five miles wide."

The group will leave Carroll County April 18 for the 10-day trip. In addition to the school visits, the travelers plan evening assemblies for the Russian residents.

"We want to share what Christ means in our lives and answer questions they might have about life in the United States," the pastor said.

The Westminster congregation also has been able to plant the seeds of a sister church in Magnitogorsk.

The congregation members already have hired a Russian evangelical minister and leased church space in the city for a year.

"Of course, the salary in Russia is only about $2,000," said Mr. Puckett.

Weekly services will be in a theater that is vacant on Sundays.

"We are excited to have the opportunity to establish a Protestant church in the city," said Mr. Puckett.

Ministers, in the former Soviet Union, have told Mr. Puckett that ,, this window of opportunity will not stay open for long.

"Pastors are already seeing a change in the government attitude," said Mr. Puckett. "Many of them have been called into government offices and forced to give lists of their congregations."

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