In 1994 the highest level of the Russian educational system appealed for international assistance in promoting the moral and spiritual well-being of that nation's youth. The alarm Russian Minister of Education Evgeny Tkachenko expressed when discussing his country's educational crisis is all too familiar to those who know the plight of teachers in the Russian republic's more than 45,000 elementary and secondary schools.
Responsible for some 25 million students enrolled at these levels, Minister Tkachenko might have named deteriorating facilities or lack of care-givers in the burgeoning network of orphanages and boarding schools as his country's most critical educational issues. Yet in a letter to a United States congressman in the spring of 1994, he focused instead on the "content of education" as "all-important in the context of the present situation." In this letter Tkachenko made enthusiastic reference to "recent assistance of American sponsors" in the historic efforts undertaken by Moscow publisher Dr. Alexander Abramov to provide secondary school literature classes in several metropolitan areas with over 750,000 copies of the Gospel of Mark and the Book of Proverbs. In the absence of available funds in Russia to promote these remarkable efforts, support has been forthcoming from Christians in the West. The latest book in Abramov's Christian literature series, Alexander Menn's History of Religion, also was delivered to Russian schools in 1994. The 50,000 copies of the 200-page book sold rapidly despite fiscal constraints on the vast majority of Russian schools. Teachers' interest in the new titles is higher than ever, though the inventories have now been depleted. In a desperate attempt to provide something to use for instruction, thousands of teachers across Russia are returning to discredited texts with an atheistic worldview published during the Soviet period.
The impact Christian literature can make in school settings is evident in the experiences of a team of 14 American teachers placed in Moscow high schools in 1994-96 through a program organized by Seattle Pacific University (SPU) and Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries. Directed by SPU professor of education Arthur Ellis and graduate assistant Duane Goehner, the program led to the discipling of 120 young Christian students who now meet weekly to further their studies begun with the Mark and Proverbs textbooks. According to Russian Ministry of Education spokesperson Olga Polivotskaya, the problem is that such valuable resources are still scarcely known outside of a relatively few large metropolitan school systems. "We should have such books at our culture clubs where children gather in reading groups everywhere in Russia," she observes, while also pointing out that far more children attend school in smaller cities and rural areas in Russia than in the West. "Neither schoolchildren nor their parents in these places," she reports, "have ever laid eyes on such wonderful books with the words of life. Teachers everywhere are now pleading for this kind of help."
Dick Scheuerman has worked with Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries (PDRM) since 1992. For further information contact PDRM, Box 496, Wheaton, IL 60189; tel: 708-462-1739; fax: 708-690-2976; e-mail: email@example.com.
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© 1996 Institute for East-West Christian Studies