Baptists in Belarus
Baptists in Belarus
Belarus is inhabited by approximately 10 million people. Currently there are about 300 local Baptist churches and 40 church plants. Every year a couple of new congregations are accepted into the fellowship of the Baptist Union. The Union comprises of nearly 14 000 members and at least the same number of friends and children who are under the care of Baptist churches in this country. Rev. Nikolay Sinkovets, the President of Baptist Union says: “Our vision is to have a Baptist church in every district town of Belarus. Presently there are 15 Belarusian district centers, about 40 towns and at least 1500 big villages without Baptist congregations. Our mission strategy is to create mission centers in district cities and encourage strong churches to work in smaller towns and villages to plant new churches.”
The major obstacle to Baptists in Belarus is a repressive religious law which was introduced in 2002. This law states that public worship is strictly confined to buildings recognized by the state. It is therefore illegal to register a Baptist church or a church office in a residential building or any inhabited building. The law also prohibits Christians to hold meetings in private homes. The church’s activities are viewed by the authorities as a source of income. This hampers the growth of the churches, especially those that do not have their own buildings. Baptists regularly pray for awakening in Belarus – one Friday of every month they hold a special time of prayer and fasting. In spite of the obstacles, the existing churches continue carrying out their ministry and new congregations are being planted.
Church Plant in Borovlany
The church planter named Oleg came to faith about 15 years ago through his brother who witnessed faithfully and effectively to him. As a result of his coming to faith, Oleg is now a church planter in Borovlany, on the outskirts of Minsk. He is married and has an adult son. The church meets in a small building containing only one large room which can seat up to 50 people. The room is furnished with several chairs, a couple of pews, a table, a pulpit, a bookshelf, and a fire place. The property does allow for a bigger construction and there is even a foundation being laid for this.
There are usually about 20 people present for worship on Sunday mornings. They sing accompanied by a tape recorder. Oleg usually leads the service and preaches. The service is finished with a time of intercession, praying for issues and requests that people raise. After the service there is a time of fellowship around the table with tea and sweets. The people who stay after the service relax and enjoy chatting and asking me questions. Oleg’s goal is to develop more leaders but he is aware that the process will take a couple of years. The church has also done some outreach in the local neighborhood. Borovlany is a popular place for new people to move to, and some people even come from Minsk as it is relatively easy to travel there by subway.
Church Plant in Senno
Senno is a small town lost among the vast fields and meadows, where life runs at a slower pace. The town’s most prominent place is a monument dedicated to the heroes of war. It is always nicely decorated with national flags and fresh flowers.
The church planter named Pavel has six children – the oldest boy is 18 years old and the youngest girl is only 6 months old. They all live in a small house which has only two rooms and a kitchen. Pavel and his wife moved to Senno about 10 years ago after having completed a course at the Baptist School of Evangelism in Minsk. They were called to be missionaries and started church planting in Senno. A few years later they began the construction of a church building, made possible with a bank loan which they got from the state because they are a large family. They invested all the money into the church building and thus have been able to officially register the church.
However the congregation is still underdeveloped. There are several people who attend services but altogether there are only 15 members. They practice baptisms every summer at a local lake which always draws many spectators. Pavel believes that the church plant will grow stronger over the next 2-3 years.
As you read these words, please pray for the Baptists of Belarus. Pray that the mission work they are engaged in will advance and that the obstacles they face will be overcome. Pray that the newly planted churches may develop and become strong.