First-time evangelisation on a Moscow excursion boat M o s c o w – Mobile property moves more – at least in the summer. That was one conclusion resulting from an evangelistic event on an excursion liner in the middle of Moscow on 10 July. Host was the 40-member, three-month-old Baptist congregation “Your Church”; 180 persons were crowded onto a boat intended for 150. Cheered on by salami sandwiches and mineral water, the assembled enjoyed hot music and a variety of short talks. The evening was brought to a close with a drama done by the 20-member, Russian-Baptist choir “Oasis” from Sacramento/California. In it, a disco murder serves as a prop to explain Christ’s sacrificial death in our stead.
Church pastor Leonid Kartavenko believes this to have been Moscow’s first evangelistic boat excursion. Evangelistic expeditions in the early 1990’s had chartered ships on the Volga and in Siberia. But evangelistic events whilst the boat was in-motion had not been a part of the programme.
Kartavenko reported that the three-hour evening seemed to be over hardly before it had begun: “Who could imagine today’s youth holding still for a three-hour church service?” he asked. Approximately 60% of those present were regarded to be unbelievers. All inviting was done by personal connections and the grapevine; public advertising did not take place. “People don’t show up at concert halls in the summertime,” explained the pastor. „Excursion boats are particularly well-suited for talking and getting acquainted.”
Appealing is also the fact that – in contrast to meetings on public real estate – events on a boat need no government sanction. “This is very similar to renting a bus,” Kartavenko explained. “Bus excursions are usually strictly private affairs.”
Thanks to its success, monthly boat excursions are now in the offing for the remainder of the summer. Liners with as many as 250 seats are up for discussion. Thanks to the wonders of electronic technology, the music can readily be heard from shore and a boat without rigid walls is being considered. Bicyclists equipped with printed invitations reporting on the event could be stationed on boardwalks along the river.
Pastor Kartavenko is particularly proud of the fact that his tiny crowd of church members paid 3/4th of the excursion’s costs. The choir from California covered the remainder. The costs, divided by 180, came to $13 US (305 roubles) per person. Future planning assumes that believing passengers will cover their own costs.
Yet the congregation will need to avail itself of immobile real estate in wintertime. Large department stores have their own meeting halls and the group is hoping to hold evangelistic meetings in a major store owned by the firm IKEA. Being that IKEA is run by Swedish Protestants, one hopes that the goodwill of its owners will be readily obtainable. Leonid Kartavenko is already thinking of Swedish cultural evenings with evangelistic input. Furniture viewing before or after the event would be highly likely.
Despite all transitions at Moscow headquarters of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, evangelistic bicycle tours have not become a thing of the past. Yet only five or six regional tours – and not the usual 30 – will take place this summer. Vladimir Skovpen (Klintsy near Bryansk), father of 10 and a former national bike champion who alone had covered the entire distance from Germany to Vladivostok last summer in the saddle, suffered a multiple fracture of the collarbone in a work accident last February. (He would appreciate any words of greeting or support.)
A bike tour done jointly with the choir “Oasis”, which is now on its third annual tour of Russia (www.oasischoir.com), is to take place shortly in the south Russian region of Krasnodar. It is being organized by the dentist Levon Sarkisov (Krasnodar), who had also been along on the long journey to Vladivostok. The Union’s youth department will be holding a bike tour from Belgorod near the Ukrainian border to the church congress in Rumyantsevo near Moscow from 26 to 31 July. The return trip is to take place from 4 to 8 August; total distance travelled should be 1.500 km (900 miles).