Almost 100 years ago, Bishop Theophil Meyer of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia traveled across Siberia in order to reconnect with Lutherans that had fallen away from the Faith or were “sheep stolen” by Evangelical Baptist groups.
The Bolshevik Revolution had wreaked havoc upon the land and the Church struggled mightily to respond to the times. Bishop Meyer, since he was pastor at the large Lutheran church a short 15-minute walk from the Kremlin in Moscow, yearned for his people in the “hinterlands.” And so, he made the long journey.
Everywhere he went, he was greeted by grateful parishioners. One could echo our Lord’s actions in Matthew 9:36. When Bishop Meyer saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
The bishop shared the Word of God with them and may have planted seeds for the preservation of the Faith when all Lutheran churches were closed by 1939. After Bishop Meyer’s death in 1934, his son and daughter were executed by Soviet authorities.
Fast forward nearly 100 years…
…and we can be thankful that Russia is no longer under the scourge of communism. But the sheep are still harassed and helpless without books that explain God’s Word to them.
My old classmate, Rev. Leif Camp, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR), assists LHF with our book distribution in Russia. Recently he completed a trip with the new ELCIR bishop, Rev. Ivan Laptev, as well as with LCMS missionaries.
Although the trip did not quite make it to Siberia, it did cover some of the trails blazed by Bishop Meyer – the Volga and Ural Mountain regions. There, Rev. Camp made sure the people received Luther’s Large Catechism and a devotional booklet, For Such a Time as This: Comfort from Meditations Volume 1 in the Russian language.
The great need for these materials became apparent as the men visited with area residents. In a visit to the province of Udmurtia, an area that still adheres to traditional pagan beliefs, a lay leader named Deacon Marat informed a neighbor that his Lutheran parish was named after St. Peter. The man replied, “Are you Peter?”
How important it is to go to the ends of the earth in order to share God’s Word with those who do not know their Savior! We are grateful to Pastor Leif, Bishop Laptev and LCMS missionaries for their journey! 100 years later, the trail of Bishop Meyer is being followed so that the Word of Life can be shared!
by Rev. Dr. Matthew Heise, LHF executive director
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