SELC/LTS Documentary Part 4: The Other Half of the Truth

SELC/LTS Documentary Part 4: The Other Half of the Truth

2007 – 21 minutes

This video refers back to the 2007 Russian economy which was booming due to the price of oil. Professor Alan Ludwig agrees that many in Russia are prospering, but he asserts this is a “half truth.” Many Russians are left behind and are living in great poverty. [Ludwig speaks in many scenes]

Novosibirsk — begins with scenes of the Divine Service at St. Andrew’s Parish of SELC which shares the Seminary chapel for its services. Includes deacon Alexey Shillin and Natasha counting the Sunday offering of $400. Flash back to CTS president, Dr. Dean Wenthe giving gift of altar wall crucifix to pastor Lytkin at the consecration of the original seminary building, which opened in 1997. Interviews with Professor Alan Ludwig and Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin describe life in Russia. The SELC covers the world’s largest territory of any Lutheran Church in the world. Most congregations are mission congregations which meet in rented apartments. Ludwig comments that Pastors in America, while not receiving extravagant salaries, and occasionally requiring outside employment, receive an adequate salary. In Siberia, most must seek outside work and are extremely poor. The video includes a tender narrative of Angelica, a pregrant mother of five and gymnastic coach. She earns $150 a month of which 1/3 goes for transportation to and from work. She has a little daughter. While on the way to an abortion clinic she met some members of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Novosibirsk. Because of their witness and help she now has a beautiful healthy daughter.

Khakassia — Pastor Vitale Gavrilov serves in the region of Khakassia. He makes furniture to support himself, wife and four children. His parish is located in the small village of Tuim. Thousands of families in Russia still remember this place with fear—Stalin’s Death Camp. However, the Church is there and people are being fed the body and blood of Christ. Many of the people living in Tuim are unable to leave the poverty of the region because of their own impoverished economic condition. Alcoholism, drug abuse and crime is rampant in Tuim. Rev. Vitali Gavrilov conducts a pastoral visit to an elderly couple who had just harvested their potato crop and discovers that the wife is sick with a cough. Pastor Gavrolov tells her to go to church and as Holy Scriptures says, she should call the elders to pray for her. His pastoral ministry consists of driving thousands of miles to visit his people. Most pastors must hold down a full time secular job and still conduct services and make calls on people.

Angarsk — Pastor Andrei Ivolga serves in the eastern Siberian city of Angarsk, which is now in economic decline with few good paying jobs available. The parishioners are poor and thus have little to support their pastor. Pastor Ivolga works as a taxi driver five nights a week and as a pastor by day. The congregation worships in a house purchased by the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society and serves a mission in a nearby village.

Yurga — This congregation is located 130 miles from Novosibirsk. Ethnic Germans were deported to Yurga by Stalin in response to Hitler’s invasion of Russia. These Lutherans kept faith through decades of repression. Father Alexander Hahn is the pastor to these descendants of exiled German Lutherans. In one scene Pastor Hahn is digging potatoes. After the harvest he is interviewed. Hahn states, “The level of life here is not the worst, but it could have been better.” A moving narration follows the interview: “From all the clergy shown in this movie, only pastor Hahn was raised in a Christian family, all the rest have chosen the difficult life of a Lutheran pastor in Siberia. They must endure the misunderstanding and reproaches of the closest family members. …They struggle with the poverty and every day social problems of their parishioners. They go to remote towns and small villages. They go, leaving behind their romantic allusions, they go performing their daily work in the world, they go performing the ‘Great Commission.’”

Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin: “Mission work always brings financial loss for the church, but we do not go to collect offering, we go to proclaim the Word and I’m sure no pastor will leave the church because of money. We have come to serve, not for money—there are good times when the funds are sufficient and there are not so good times. We must simply learn how to survive during these times. We are glad that pastors in our Church understand this.”

Professor Alan Ludwig: “Being a pastor does not mean being a king, it means being a servant, it means laying down your life for your brethren in the way that Christ laid down his life, of course in most cases this does not mean death but it means the same self-sacrificing love in which he will be a servant to his people and it’s not always easy.”