Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Territorial leaders visit Moscow Part One

Territorial leaders visit Moscow 1992
 Good News interviewed Commissioner Robert E. Thompson on the Army’s advance in Russia following his recent trip to Moscow with Mrs, Thompson.

Good News:  Would you describe for our readers your impressions of Salvationists in Moscow?

You would be proud of the Salvationists in Moscow. Last Sunday, in Russia, there were 420 Salvationist after 14 months in the country.  And the Lord is adding daily to the number who are being saved and completing the soldier preparation classes. They insist that these preparation classes be given, and people are eager to do the study and find it necessary because they have virtually no biblical background at all. We did meet one young man who with his wife will be a candidate for the first session of training, (to become SA officers) which begins in January. His parents are believers so he does have some background in the Bible.  I asked him, “when you did your military service were you able to find any Christian fellowship?” He said, “No, there weren’t any other Christians. I had a Bible that I put on my bookshelf. Time after time it was taken and my father would send me a new one.” He didn’t indicate whether the thedt of the Bible was harassments or whether it was a hunger on the part of other people for the Word. We really don’t know that. But the basic biblical principles are just totally absent from the thinking of the people.

Up until just a few weeks ago the corps officers had been doing all of the leadership themselves. (Captains Sven and Katleen Ljungholm, USA Eastern Territory).  During our Sunday at the corps they did have local officers who were leading the Sunday School. There was a Singing Company of 60 who took part in the Sunday morning Holiness meeting. The people have lived for so long under a regime where they were not encouraged, or even allowed to think, so they are having a difficult time taking on responsibility.

Captain Sven Ljungholm told us of an example.

There were 132 soldiers to be enrolled. One of the requirements is that every new soldier must be in uniform. Captain and Mrs. Ljungholm have been able to get bolts and bolts of material at a very inexpensive cost (driving 10 hours at night to collect them - paying cash!) and they have been having the uniforms made by a (Red Army) tailor. On the Thursday before the enrollment Sunday one of the soldiers came to the Ljungholms and said, “Did you hear about the factory?  They had a fire. They are not operating. There is no way we can get the uniforms made,” he said. “What are you going to do?” he continued. So Captain Ljungholm said to him, “Well, what are you going to do?  Suppose Mrs Captain and I were back in America what would you do?”  Somehow they got themselves organized and one recruit took enough cloth for 10 uniforms to this tailor and some to another place. On Sunday morning when they had their dedication service and enrollment 132 new soldiers were in Salvation Army uniforms. So the Ljungholms are feeling good about the fact that the people are gradually learning something  about taking responsibility for their own development.

The Ljungholms are absolutely tireless workers. They are up early every morning. It’s only after midnight that they are able to get a telephone line to get faxes out, so that it’s usual that they are not in bed until well after midnight, and up early again in the morning busy with 1001 things.  I went with Captain Ljungholm when he lectured Russian officers at the Military Institute who are social development people.

They really don’t understand the concept of social work.  But he had the opportunity to meet with them (and agreed to conduct a ten week long series of weekly lectures). We visited a number of prefects and sub-prefects, which are neighbourhood mayors, who have control of the “cultural houses” and many other things in the city.  The Captain has identified people in the government who are ‘believers’.  Some of them Eastern Orthodox, one or two Baptists, Pentecostals.

The Ljungholm told us that the word for salvation is a new concept, and  they find very often when they speak of salvation, they have to say, “No, it’s not the organization,  it’s the gift from God.  And so they are working under certain handicaps.  They Ljungholms and their soldiers are very strong in their witness.  They are eager to share,  and God indeed is blessing them.

Good News: What would be your general observation of the work of The Salvation Army in Russia?

The people, by nature, are interested in cultural things.  You’ll know that they are well known for their ballet. That people do a great deal of reading.  Many of them are well-educated,  in every area of the City has what they call a “cultural” house, something like a community centre. It is in these places that we are establishing the corps.  There are three in Moscow and soon there will be two in Saint Petersburg. Where they had ongoing programs of youth activities, training for ballet and that sort of thing, the Army is moving in with youth and feeding programs. Salvationists from Sweden send in two truckloads of supplies each month and along with the supplies come four or five Salvationists who unload, and take part in the Sunday meetings any help with the ministry there. So this is where the Army is making its inroads. At this point, the Ljungholms have been able to obtain these properties, not to purchase them for the Army, but for the use of the Army, and things are going very, very well.

President Boris Yeltsin has told the (government) ministers that they must somewhere find $ 52 billion during the next year.  One of the ways that they are trying to do this is to rent space which previously had been given free of charge to such organisations as The Salvation Army. So what was a lovely office, given gratis to the Army,  very likely will be rented to someone else. Western companies are moving into Russia and they are willing to pay huge dollars for office space which, just a year ago, was virtually worthless.  So when we talk about the brevity of the “window of opportunity”, at least one of the reasons is that business people who coming from the West are willing to take whatever property is available. Whatever inroads the Army is going to make into Russia must be made as quickly as possible.

They have a considerable social-service program.  The Army provides food for thirty-one feeding centres in Moscow.  They are not all manned  by Salvationists, but the food is there ever provides a good outreach foreign ministry. Many of the people who are soldiers today have come through social-service programs where they had been ministry to. Many of the young people attended Salvation Army camp during this past summer and became acquainted with the Army and with the Lord .
Commissioner Robert E. Thompson 

End Part One of Two

From the book; Return to Russia with Flags Unfurled, Sven Ljungholm

[1] GOOD NEWS, USA SA East, December 1992, pps. 2, 3, 13


Anonymous said...

Fascinating reading- what's the status of the corps in Moscow today?

When will the book be released, and will there be a Kindle version?

Robin K Australia

Anonymous said...

"The brevity of the “window of opportunity”, was certainlt grasped with both hands in those very early and informative days. All of this reads like the book of Acts of the Apostles 'and people were added to their numbers daily'. How exciting and who of us would not have wanted to be a part of all of this and to have witnessed the power of God's Holy Spirit at work. Thanking God for those who worked tirelessly, unstintingly and who gave of themselves at massive personal cost. Praying for those who met with the 'Ljungholm's Army' way back then will still be sturred by God Himself wherever they find themselves today.