Thursday, December 17, 2009

Establishing Theocratic Structure in Russia (1990's)

these experiences (from pgs 208-210, & 217-218 of the 2008 Yearbook) aren't very typical here in the US, but they demonstrate the reality of the words mentioned in today's text about "disciple-making being a team effort" in countries where there has been rapid growth and interest in the Bible, but a limited number of qualified teachers available.

(photo of Hannu and Eija Tanninen - on pg 208)

*FYI -In March 1991, Jehovah's Witnesses were given official recognition in Russia.

Organizing The Work
Near the end of 1993, the members of the Russia Country Committee arrived at Solnechnoye...One of the first things to be organized was the traveling work. In the beginning, five circuits were established in the country, two in St. Petersburg and three in Moscow and surrounding areas. (Brother Tanninen served as a circuit overseer in St. Petersburg).

Hannu Tanninen recalls how the first circuit visits were held in the early 1990’s: “I sent a letter about the upcoming visit to one congregation in Petrozavodsk, Karelia. The letter outlined how the meetings should be conducted during that week. When my wife and I arrived for the visit, an elder met us at the railway station, and we went to his home. He showed me the letter and said, ‘We received this letter from you, but since we did not understand what it meant, we decided to do nothing and wait until you came and explained everything.’

“At the time of the first circuit visit to Murmansk, there were 385 publishers conducting over 1,000 Bible studies. However, the number of those who were studying the Bible was actually much higher because many studies were conducted with groups of interested people. For example, one pioneer sister had 13 Bible studies, but over 50 people were studying with her!
“Our second assignment was to the Volgograd and Rostov oblasts. In Volgograd, there were only four congregations for over one million people. Brothers were eager to learn how to conduct meetings and Bible studies and how to preach from house to house. During every visit, we had to form new congregations. For the circuit overseer’s report, we counted how many had been baptized since the last visit. Every congregation had 50, 60, or 80 people baptized between visits, and one even had over 100! As a result, 16 new congregations were formed in the city in just three years.”

In January 1996, a Branch Committee was appointed in Russia. At the same time, the first full-time district overseers were appointed. (Hannu Tanninen served the area between Caucasia up to the Volga). In those days, all the district overseers also served a small circuit in addition to their district.

Study Observers
Sisters could learn many things from one another. Eija recalls: “I can only imagine how much patience and humility were needed on the part of our sisters when we began our ministry in Russia because I couldn’t speak the language properly. I was touched to see how eager the sisters were to learn how to conduct Bible studies. Many of them were new in the truth, and some of them had been serving under ban when it was not always possible for instruction from Jehovah’s organization to reach them.

“We served in the town of Volzhskiy from 1995 to 1996. Often, when a sister invited me to go with her to a Bible study, several other sisters would ask if they could go along. At first I wondered why, but then they explained that they wished to see and learn how to conduct Bible studies. I told them that if the Bible student had no objections and would not feel shy in their presence, it would be all right for them to come. Usually, six to ten sisters would come, being of the opinion that it would not disturb the Bible student, and it really didn’t. After some months, I saw many Bible students who, in turn, began their own Bible studies with interested ones. At that time, Volzhskiy had two congregations. Ten years later, 11 congregations had been formed.”

Her Prayer Was Answered
It was clear that theocratic instruction greatly benefited not only the brothers and sisters who were new in the truth but also those who had served Jehovah for many years under ban. Hannu Tanninen recalls: “In different situations we often felt the guidance of the angels and witnessed events that deeply impressed us. In 1994 we arrived at a new congregation in Novgorod, now also called Veliky Novgorod, and the brothers took us to the apartment where we would be staying for the week. In the apartment was a visitor named Maria, an elderly sister who had traveled about 30 miles [50 km] especially for the occasion. She had been in the truth for 50 years and wished to meet one of the first circuit overseers to serve after the ban. We asked her to tell us how she had learned the truth. She told us that when she was 17 years old, she ended up in a concentration camp in Germany and met Jehovah’s Witnesses there. She accepted the truth and was baptized in the camp by an anointed sister. Eventually Maria was released, and she returned to Russia to preach the good news of the Kingdom. After some time, she was arrested and imprisoned because of her preaching activities. She spent many years in Soviet labor camps.

“At the end of her story, we were moved to hear this humble sister say that over the last few weeks, she had been praying to Jehovah to show her if there was something wrong with her worship to him. Later that evening, I mentioned to her that a long time before, the article “Questions From Readers” in The Watchtower discussed a certain matter. It stated that for a baptism to be valid, it was important that it was performed by a Christian brother. Maria was very thankful. She felt that she had received an answer to her prayers. So she was happy to be baptized in the bathtub. Fifty years had passed since she had made her dedication in 1944.”

*wow...that story is really an example of how 'one person plants, and another person waters' (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)