Russia (MNN) — It’s been 100 years since the October Revolution that put Vladimir Lenin, the Russian communist revolutionary, in control of Russia, an event that affected the next century of world history.

The Russian Revolution

The revolution rose out of despair during a time when the Russian people were facing great hunger, failing crops, and poverty. Then came World War I when the Russian government sent off its men to fight in Europe. Women were forced to not only work in factories for the war effort, but then to turn around and take care of the home, their children, and their farms.

(Image courtesy of Slavic Gospel Association)

To deepen the injury to the Russian people, the ruling tsar at the time lived in luxury while his people suffered. And while Russians at the time loved the royal family, there was no turning a blind eye to their own needs. The people called for the tsar’s abdication, and in March 1917, the tsar obliged.

Seeing his opportunity, Vladimir Lenin, a member of the Bolshevik Party, returned to his home state from living abroad in Switzerland. Lenin riled up the Russian people, leading them in the call, “We need peace, land, and bread.” Lenin then used this energy to call for a revolution in supposed efforts to get this peace, land, and bread.

Then, on the current calendar date November 7, 1917, Vladimir Lenin seized power in Russia; an event that led to the establishment of the Soviet Union, also known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In time, the Soviet Union seized control of all aspects of Russian life. There was hardly such a thing as private ownership, even when it came to hot water. Everything belonged to and was run by the government.

Shaping History

The Russian Revolution is considered to be one of the key factors in filling the 20th century with bloodshed; Lenin and then his successor, Josef Stalin, both harshly ruled over the people. Then at the beginning of World War II, the Soviet Union aided Adolf Hitler.

It wasn’t until 1991 that the Soviet Union came to an end, but not before the country helped aid other countries, such as China, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, and more in their communist political agendas. In just 74 years as a sovereign state, the Soviet Union had done irreparable damage.

It also led to decades of persecution against the Evangelical church. Peter Deyneka, the founder of Slavic Gospel Association, has been survived by one daughter, Ruth Erdel, who still remembers the Soviet Union’s attack on the Church.

“Lenin, his goal was to eliminate all religion. He didn’t distinguish. He said there is no God, and the Bible was a book of myths, and he began to destroy. So, what happens, many many churches were destroyed, and this included the Russian Orthodox churches as well as the evangelicals,” Erdel recalls.

Erdel says evangelical pastors, Christians, and Orthodox priests were harassed and beat. Pastors and their families were even exiled to Siberia, never to return home. Bibles and Christian literature were destroyed and communism was taught in the schools.

The Cost of Following Christ

In Bible believing and teaching homes, children were taken away from parents. Children who believed in God were punished by low scores on schoolwork, regardless of actual content. And if a Christian decided to apply for university, the first question on an application was; ‘Do you believe in God?’ If checked yes, the application was ripped up.

“I recently met a lady who cried when she told me how she wrote such beautiful papers and longed to get her highest grade. [She’d run] to school with a happy paper and came back weeping with a line across the whole paper and a zero. When she [asked] why, the teacher said, ‘Well, any little girl that believes in the Bible or a God deserves a zero.’”

(Photo Courtesy SGA)

In 1944, when it became apparent that the Soviet Union could not eradicate Christianity, it forced the Evangelical Church to unite in a union named, All-Union Council of the Evangelical Christian-Baptists. Since the government didn’t understand the differences between denominations in Christianity, it lumped them all under the term ‘Baptist.’

“They had a joint committee from this alliance, of which answered then to the government,” Erdel shares. “But actually, the brethren themselves knew there were many spies on the board as well as pastors who had given in and became informants to the government”

During this time, church activity was extremely restricted. All churches had to register with the government. Churches could only meet a certain number times each week and had to tell the government which days it’d meet. On the days when there were no church services, no one could enter the church. Pastors also had to submit an outline of their church service the day before at a government office.

God Provides a Way

But regardless of how strict the government was on these churches, it couldn’t control the radio waves entering the country. It was through this unseen doorway that the Slavic Gospel Association was born and gained entry into modern day Russia. In 1941, Peter Deyneka visited a radio station in Quito, Ecuador where he was asked to preach in Russian. Unsure of who would hear it, Deyneka complied.

“I was 13 years of age and we were told, my mom and I, that he would be on the radio. I remember listening to him, sitting on the floor in front of a big old fashion short-wave radio, and heard my father’s voice from Quito, Ecuador…it was something really marvelous,” Erdel shares.

Years later, Erdel was called to radio ministry with SGA to the Soviet Union. From Quito, Erdel and her husband helped broadcast daily across the Soviet Union’s 11 time zones.

“For over 60 years, [it] was a marvelous way that we could get the Gospel to Russia,” Erdel says. “SGA nor anybody else could send missionaries. Russia wouldn’t let you in to begin with, but the Lord allowed us to get in on the radio.”

Echoes of the Revolution

In recent years, Russian churches have enjoyed a bit more freedom. The Russian people have a freedom of choice. However, the Russian Revolution is an ever omnipresent ghost, threatening Russia’s current order.

(Photo Courtesy/Caption SGA via Facebook)
This photo sent by Eric Mock shows a vibrant, zealous young congregation at worship.

Last year Russia’s president, signed the anti-terrorism bill into law, prohibiting evangelism outside of church walls. The law, echoing the suffocation of the communist past, has made it nearly entirely illegal for churches to share the good news of Christ. But by God’s grace, these churches are still finding ways to evangelize without the shackles that threaten to completely remove their freedom.

“The Church in Russia is a strong church…the Christians of Russia are loyal to their love for Christ and their desire to serve them,” Erdel explains. “And I think that is such an encouragement to us who live in freedom.”

So please, pray for the Russian Church’s perseverance, wisdom, and ability to reach people with the Gospel. Pray also for the Russian Church’s continued strength, peace, and support.

Learn more about SGA’s history and its work in Russia here!

To donate to SGA to help support Russian churches, click here!

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