Pray for Our World: Russia

Russia is the world’s largest country, extending across 9 time zones. It has vast natural resources in gas, oil, timber and minerals, as well as huge amounts of arable land. However, most of the economy is in the hands of a few men while millions of Russians remain poor an unemployed. The country has known little but autocracy or tyranny since it began in the 8th century. Freedom of press and media is limited, and all television stations are government controlled and censored. The Church in Russia has suffered some of the most severe persecution of any nation in recent history. Deaths in the Gulag prison camps between 1920 and 1990 are estimated at 20 million, many who were Christian. Of the 100,000 church-owned buildings in 1920, almost none remained by 1940.

Today, the people still face many challenges. For the younger generation, modern life offers little real hope. Health care is inefficient and costly, making it inaccessible to many. Alcoholism is one of the world’s highest.  Drug addiction is prevalent among young people, with 8% of teens using drugs daily.

The religious climate is unique and challenging. The Russian Orthodox Church, over 1,000 years old, is the main church and a major symbol of Russian identity. Russian Orthodox claims to be the one true apostolic Church handed down from Rome and Byzantium. The original undivided church of the apostles split between the East (Orthodox) and the West (Catholic) during the Great Schism of 1054. Other denominations later derived from the Catholic church, but the Orthodox Church remains as the original church from that initial split. They have remained true in their ancient confessions of God, and the mystery of Christ and His resurrection, and we could learn some from their Orthodox theology. Yet at the same time, it has caused them to be closed off and intolerant of other Christian denominations. Pray for this ancient church, for their unity with other Christians, and for them to be able to reach a new generation of young people in the same way as Peter and Paul did with the original church.

*If you would like to know more about the forming of the original church during the first thousand years after Peter and Paul, and the theological differences that caused the church to split, I recommend this great book to read: The First Thousand Years, by Robert Louis Wilken.

Pray for Our World: Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a very unique country.  It is one of the oldest known nations, and has a long written history even from the Bible.  It is Africa’s oldest independent nation and one of the first Christian nations.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was the state church from 1270 until the 1974 revolution.  The Orthodox church had been isolated from the rest of the Christian world for a long time, as a Christian island surrounded by Islam, so they developed a unique culture, theology and tradition over time.  In recent years, the demand for the Bible has increased, and the Orthodox Church has helped in distributing Bibles and they have started to work more closely with other Christian groups including Catholics and evangelicals.

Ethiopia is mentioned in the Bible from Genesis to Acts – from the Garden of Eden, to Noah’s sons who inhabited the land, to the Ethiopian eunuch whom the Apostle Philip explained the scriptures about Jesus.  Even today, we see the roots of Christianity in this country, which is one of very few countries in this part of the world that is predominantly Christian.

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.  The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush (Ethiopia). And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. Genesis 2:10-14

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.  Acts 8:26-40