A Christian Editor's Report on a Women's Conference:
A Series of Surprises
Tatyana D. Popova
I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that Christian women from various Protestant denominations from all parts of the former Soviet Union were invited to the conference. The women described their Christian ministries and shared problems and plans, and it did not even occur to anyone to assume a sense of superiority of one denomination over another. Meanwhile, in real life, at least among believers in Russia, this problem is one of the most vicious.
In my opinion, the most important lesson from the conference concerns the unity which our churches on the whole are lacking--and society as well. All conference participants were leaders in Christian ministry and, of course, realized how important the role of evangelical women is in the church and in evangelism. But unexpectedly, all of us came to understand that the breadth of ministry among Christian women in the former Soviet Union is much larger than we would ever have imagined. For example, many people think that the Salvation Army's ministry is charity and compassion, but at the conference we learned that it successfully plants new churches and ministers to people there as well.
The Breadth of Women's Ministries
We all discovered new forms of Christian ministry. For example, Natalia Loginova (Moscow) has organized a Christian Club for Women in Business. Galina Chentsova (Moscow) is a psychiatrist who helps Christians deal with their psychological problems. Olga Mokan (Moldova) publishes the magazine Maria for Christian women. Natalia Chetverina (Moscow) writes Sunday-school curriculum for churches. Vera Kadayeva (Moscow) has created a network of Christian children's camps. Pentecostal women from Belarus shared with the participants how they organized a center to help low income families-- in one of the poorest republics of the former Soviet Union!
During the conference we had a number of workshop opportunities. Most of the women took great interest in the workshop on the problems of family relationships led by Yulia Lenchenko, who invited everyone to visit her crisis pregnancy center. Of course, as an editor, I tried not to miss any opportunity to meet with the speakers in order to relate their experiences in articles in the future. I also hope to develop friendships with them.
The Historical Perspective
There was only one man in the conference--Dr. Mark Elliott, the initiator and organizer of the conference, who opened the conference with a discourse on the history of Christianity in Russia. Dr. Elliott expressed his hopes that Russian women would not bring up their daughters on the ideals of Barbie dolls, but with role models such as St. Barbara from the Convent of Martha and Mary, grand duchesses Chertkova and Lieven, and also our mothers and grandmothers, whose strong faith carried them through the devastating hardships of over 70 years of Communist rule. This was the first time in my life that I heard an American Christian worker give references from Russian history as examples to follow. This not only surprised me, but caused me to reconsider my view of American missionaries (in some sense, Dr. Elliott is a missionary too) as people with little knowledge of Russian history and culture.
Some would consider it a weakness that some conference speakers went off on tangents, departing from their topics. But we have a saying in Russia that "people talk about what really hurts." That made everything the women said when they drifted from the themes no less interesting than their topics.
One of the conference highlights was a musical program prepared by Methodist women. After the final prayer led by a Presbyterian pastor, all the participants had the opportunity to exchange addresses and phone numbers and continued their conversations over cups of coffee. No one was in a hurry to leave, and while some were thanking Dr. Elliott and Galina Obrovets for the real women's celebration, others were asking, "When will be the next conference of this kind?"
Tatyana Dmitrievna Popova was born in 1953 in Leninogorsk, Kazakhstan, and studied journalism at the University of Alma-Ati. In 1978 she "accidentally" walked into a Baptist Church where three months later she repented and six months later she was baptized. She currently works in the publishing department of the Russian Christian Mission "Light in the East."
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© 1998 Institute for East-West Christian Studies