By Steve Wallace
During the last full week in November Derek Chambers and I visited two of the Baltic countries, Lithuania and Latvia, to teach the gospel. The purpose of this report is to detail our experiences there and to stir brethren about the possibilities that exist.
” . . . inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide . . .” (Matt. 10:11)
We had no trouble obtaining visas at the airport (at no cost) upon our arrival in Vilnius, Lithuania. When we got to our hotel we were quoted a price that was much higher than that quoted to me over the telephone when I made our reservations. Westerners are recognized and “gouged” by some hotels and taxi drivers. We immediately set out to find other accommodations for our stay. We were not prepared for what we found. We met Kritina Mikushauskas who worked at a restaurant where we stopped. She invited us to stay with her and her husband, Ilvida. Only after we were there did we realize that they were offering us accommodations at no charge! (This in spite of our demands that we pay them.) We stayed with them during our remaining time in Vilnius. We were also helped by the fact that Ilvida’s brother, Romas, spoke almost perfect English. They also assisted us by driving us to several different destinations. Their kindness knew no bounds.
Steve Wallace (second from left) with Romas Mikushauskas (left) and the family with whom he stayed during his visit to Lithuania.
The Results of Our Efforts in Lithuania and Latvia
We spent five days in Vilnius and two days in Riga, Latvia. We cut our stay in Riga short. It was evident after a couple of hours that the response there was nothing like we had witnessed in Lithuania. We spent parts of four days set up on a square in Vilnius. We are hard pressed to estimate the number of people who stopped at our table there. It was many hundreds, and perhaps over a thousand. At almost any given time three to five people would be standing around us looking at the literature we were offering. Some even asked for directions to our assemblies! We handed out over 300 lessons in English, German, and Lithuanian. (We had one short lesson in Lithuanian.) We had a number of discussions with people. We were fortunate that a number of people happened by who were glad to put their English or German to use in translating for us. One discussion went on until after dark. As the temperature was below freezing, six of us went into a restaurant and continued our discussion there for a good while.
Our work suffered greatly due to bad advice we received here in Germany from a native Lithuanian. We were told that many Lithuanians spoke English and German, and that we should not take literature in Russian. While we did find a surprising number of people who spoke English and others who spoke German, neither language is anything near to being common to Lithuania. Almost everyone could speak Russian. Many of the programs on Lithuanian television are in Russian.
Our stay with the Mikushauskas was eventful in spiritual terms. Romas’ daughter had been attending a Pentecostal church in Vilnius for some time and he was concerned about what he had heard about this church. This led to a study with her one evening, with Romas translating. It was a rather long study and after it was finished we could see that the word had made an impression on Romas and his daughter. The last we heard she was studying the tracts we had given her. We also had a good discussion with Ilvida one evening on the existence of God, again with Romas translating. He said that they had been brought up under Communism and the only “gods” they had known were Lenin and Stalin.
A Short History of the Pentecostal Church in Vilnius, Lithuania
We attended one of the assemblies of the Pentecostal church Romas’ daughter attends. There was about an hour and a half “warm up” – tongue speaking, “gospel” music played by a rock band, exhortations – for the featured speaker’s lecture. The hall they meet in is quite large and was half full when we got there. When it was time for the lecture it was standing room only – and there were a lot of people standing. I estimate the crowd to have been somewhere around 500 people. My feelings about the success of this false religion were mixed with curiosity as to how it had come about. I asked Romas to get an idea of how this church had grown to its present state.
In late July or early August of this year, advertisements appeared in a Vilnius newspaper inviting people to come and attend Bible lectures at a specific time and place. There also seems to have been literature passed out on the streets. We do not know whether any incentives other than their version of the gospel were offered. Having met members of newly established churches there, we learned that they are zealous in asking others to attend their assemblies. When we couple this with the openness we saw in the people of Vilnius, the history of this Pentecostal church in Vilnius may be instructive in showing the potential for the true gospel there.
The following information may be helpful for the future of the gospel in Lithuania. We made arrangements with three different people in Vilnius to have various lessons translated. We hope to have these in the coming months. The dollar is ridiculously high against the Russian Rubel (the currency in Lithuania). We ate at restaurants for the dollar equivalent of about 20 cents per meal. Reservations for two people for a sleeping car on the train from Vilnius to Riga cost us about 40 cents. A Dutch journalist I talked to said that he could live there for about $150 a month. Bibles were not available in stores in Vilnius. However, we did find them in Riga. This led us to believe that they would also be available in Lithuania in the future.
We are very excited about the response we saw in Lithuania. During the latter part of our stay there and our return trip to Germany much time was spent talking about going back next year. We hope this report will stir others to enter this great open door for the gospel.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 4, pp. 114-115
February 20, 1992