LHF’s books seem to be intricately woven throughout the faith life of Rev. Evgeny Raskatov, pastor of St. Anne’s Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Born into an atheist family, Evgeny was introduced to the Christian faith by a friend who invited him to a Salvation Army youth camp, where Evgeny received his first Bible. After years of unsuccessful attempts to make his way through the large volume, as well as visits to many different churches in search of Truth, he received a book that would change his direction in life: LHF’s Russian translation of Christian Dogmatics, by J.T. Mueller.
“Before, my mind was a mess [when trying to understand what the Bible teaches],” said Rev. Raskatov. “But Mueller put many things in order for me.”
After attending a Finnish Lutheran church for a few years, Evgeny decided to start taking courses at the Theological Institute, the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia, to become a deacon.
There, he again found more LHF books.
“We studied at the institute for perhaps 8 different weekends, and each time, we would be given one or two books to take with us,” Rev. Raskatov recalled. “By the end, we had a full library provided by LHF. For me, this was like a treasure! I still use these books and have them on my bookshelf. They are not books you read and forget; they are books you actually use!”
And use them he has.
After completing seminary – now to be a pastor, not simply a deacon – Rev. Raskatov has gained a reputation in his community for leading Christian information classes at St. Anne’s.
“It’s actually like confirmation classes, but the difference is that we invite everyone,” he explained. “You are welcome even if you are not Lutheran. Some are atheist; some are Muslim.”
As students progress through the classes, Rev. Raskatov gives them LHF books. “I have plans for what I want to give each person,” he said. “The very first day, some I might give the Small Catechism with no commentary. After three weeks or so, I might share the Small Catechism with Commentary. Then I give a Large Catechism.” As Rev. Raskatov testifies, the Word works!
In just 3 and a half years, about 100 new members have been confirmed at St. Anne’s; Rev. Raskatov expects that another 20 will likely be confirmed in February 2021. “I feel myself being the observer,” Rev. Raskatov said. “I’m not the one who is doing it; it is the Holy Spirit. It is almost like magic!”
This “magic” of the Holy Spirit isn’t always seen right away.
“I’m certain that 90 percent of the work of these books I don’t see,” said Rev. Raskatov. “For example, two years ago there was a girl – a doctor – who took our course but never came to be confirmed. But this December, after working with Covid in this area, she came back. It took two years. These books are like a weapon, like a bomb that’s planted. It can be years before it works.”
LHF books in lending libraries
“We say that Russia is the most reading country,” Rev. Raskatov shared. “In Soviet times, it was very hard to find a good book. If you found one, you read it very fast!”
This love for reading has continued through the decades, even into this digital age – yet another opportunity to introduce new believers to Jesus Christ, Rev. Raskatov has found. As LHF’s coordinator for distribution printed books throughout Russia, he has implemented a routine of providing the LHF books he loves to libraries throughout the country.
“We have had this program for about 2 years, where we come together and make a pack of all the books we have,” he explained. “We then send these packs to libraries and to churches – and not just Lutheran churches.
“Even a very famous Russian Orthodox missionary called and asked for our books. We have Orthodox academia who ask, ‘If you have a new book, please send it!’ And they put them in their libraries.”
Simple books for a deep faith
This lending library approach has been effective in spreading the Gospel to people who otherwise may not have heard it.
“There was a man, a well-educated film critic here in St. Petersburg, who came to me and asked, ‘I have some Bible questions. May we talk?’ I said of course! We sat, and he asked some questions about what he had read in his Bible. I didn’t recognize the words he shared, so I asked, ‘Where did you read it?’
“The man took from his pocket [LHF’s Russian translation of] A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories – a kid’s Bible!” Rev. Raskatov continued. “It was a little humorous, because he was so serious about his Bible! But he liked it a lot because it was easy for him to read and understand.
“But the questions and discussion we had weren’t on a kid’s level. It was a much higher level, about God’s will. He had been a visitor to our church library and had taken the Child’s Garden. From it, he understood he needed to ask some questions and came to the same church where he had found this little book.”
A word of thanks
Of course, none of these books that Rev. Raskatov and so many other Russian believers treasure could exist without the faithful support of LHF donors.
“I want to say thank you to all who support this work in Russia, because someone needed to have good faith for this work,” Rev. Raskatov concluded. “Especially when it comes to books, you don’t see very fast fruits. It’s work that you need to support for the long term before you see something. So I’m very thankful for the people who are supporting LHF’s work in Russia.”