The images of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in the village of Kolpanny, Russia are stunning. Rubble and smoke surround the church built in the late 18th century, but it remains relatively undamaged as buildings around it lie in ruins. Stanzas of Nikolai Gruntvig’s classic hymn come to mind… “Built on the Rock, the church shall stand, even when steeples are falling.”
St. Peter is of particular importance to LHF, because the church houses a precious store of LHF’s Russian-language books. Though we were concerned that those books would be lost, we needn’t have feared: all are safe. God has preserved His Word.
A History of Persecution and Fear
Like many churches in Soviet Russia, St. Peter was seized and desecrated by the Communists in the late 1930s; its graveyard was leveled and ultimately replaced by a pyrotechnics’ factory. It was only in 1990, as the tottering Soviet Union began its precipitous fall, that St. Peter’s parishioners were able to return to their church and hear God’s Word publicly proclaimed.
Other Lutheran churches in Russia bear the marks of persecution. For example, one of LHF’s central book distribution points is St. Anne’s Lutheran Church in downtown St. Petersburg. Sixteen years ago, ownership of the property was set to return to St. Anne’s parishioners after decades of government occupation when someone set fire to the building.
While the outside of the church has been reconstructed by the state, the interior displays the vivid scars of the fire. Ironically, it has intrigued many young artists who come into the church, where there is an exhibition of church art.
LHF’s book distributor, Deacon Yevgeny Raskotov, introduces the youth to the Lutheran church and its long history in Russia. But more importantly, he uses LHF books to tell the timeless story of our Savior’s love for mankind, that He gave His own life for our salvation.
There is no theology of glory inside this church. On Sundays, the altar is surrounded by a prostrate cross lying on a pile of rocks (see photo to right). Yes, built on the Rock the Church will stand.
God’s sure Word has been a comfort to our Russian friends throughout the years as they have suffered grievously for the Faith. While we struggle in our lives and it seems as if plans and dreams crumble into the dust of our own desires, our Lord assures us that He knows the plans He has for us. We need not fear, because He promises to stand with us so that in the end, we also will stand. Jesus never fails.
Rev. Dr. Matthew Heise, LHF Executive Director
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