A Report on Happenings in Europe
Much has happened in the last five months and things are really hopping here. First to the work here in Ramstein.
We made it through the war without anyone in the church here being sent to the Gulf. Also, no one has had to take part in any of the follow up actions in the Middle East that are still underway.
We have had one baptized. Three have been transferred back to the U.S. We will lose six more in the next three months. We have had one man transferred in and some visitors. . .
Sewell Hall held us a good meeting the 26-28 April. It was good to be with him again and Martin Broadwell, who was traveling with him. There were no visible responses but his preaching encouraged the brethren.
Valerio Marchi, of Udine, Italy, and his wife Patrizia were with us the weekend of the 5th of May, along with Andrea and Elena Miola, also of Udine. Valerio spoke to the church here about the Lord's work in Italy. It was encouraging for us to hear of the work going on there and the way the brethren there have overcome various trials they have faced. One cannot help but be impressed by the dedication our Italian brethren have shown. In addition to their public and private teaching efforts, Valerio and other preaching brethren there have done good work in publishing various tracts, bulletins, and a magazine. It was wonderful having them in our house. It would be both rewarding and enlightening for American brethren to pay visits to both the Italian and Spanish works.
1. The Lord's work in Bitburg, Germany. There is now a sound church in Bitburg. Conservative brethren there had tried to work with the liberal brethren in an effort to unite on truth but were unable to change the majority of them. When they left they took with them five brethren who had been members of the liberal church. The brethren there want to give notice of their existence and location in the Bitburg area. They will call themselves "the Eifel Church of Christ" (Address: Gary Sowell, P.O. Box 3025, APO, NY 09132). They are looking for someone to come work with them. They would be happy to have a man interested in the work in eastern Europe to come work with them for a while, while being free to travel to the East every so often.
2. A trip to the USSR. I was contacted by a sister in Tennessee who wanted to spend $ 1,000 on Bibles for the USSR. After talking it over with the brethren in Prague, it was decided that Jeff Young, Bill Bynum and I would go to the cast Ukrainian city of Lvov the third weekend in March. The trip itself was practically a saga that I doubt any of us will ever forget. We spent a good part of two afternoons on the square there in Lvov taking addresses from people who wanted Bibles. (The government will not allow them to be imported but one can mail Bibles into the USSR.) The only thing with which we could compare our experiences there was to Jesus and the multitudes. We were thronged continually for hours. Many of the people would talk to us very happily even though we usually understood none of the things they said. We ended up getting more names than we had Bibles for. It has only been recently that it has started to look like we would get enough Bibles for all them. The men in Prague have gotten Bible lessons translated into the Ukrainian language to put in the Bibles when we mail them.
Incidentally, some have sent Russian New Testament with Helps, which can be had cheaply from the International Bible Society. While the price is good, the "helps" included in the back pages of these Bibles contain denominational teachings, which have to be torn out before we can give them to anyone.
3. Budapest, Hungary. I was in Budapest, Hungary, the third weekend in February to meet with the brethren there, and to hand out Bibles and Bible lessons in Hungarian. On my trip back through Austria one of the Nigerian brethren in Vienna had made arrangements for me to study with some friends of his in Linz, Austria; I had a study with two of his friends there. Bill Bynum, then in Prague, also helped in doing follow up work with these men. We did not end up baptizing either of them.
I was in Budapest again the third weekend of April. I was able to spend a good amount of time teaching the Nigerian brethren there. There are not many of them left. They leave Nigeria seeking a better life and go wherever they think they can find it. Of the 25-30 that have been baptized there, I only know the whereabouts of maybe three at this time. When Hungarian nationals are converted a more permanent work will exist in that city. I handed out Bibles and Bible lessons in Hungarian and made a real encouraging contact in the man who owned the room I was staying in. We had several hours of discussions and studies. I was also able to have a study with one of his friends. I found a Hungarian lady to help with further translations of Bible lessons into their language.
Lynn Trapp was in Budapest for about a month the last of May and beginning of June. Charlie Brackett, who made a recent trip through some of the eastern countries in preparation for moving there, also spent some time in Budapest. The most encouraging news from their time there is the contacts they made among the Hungarian people. Buddy Payne is now traveling through some of the East European countries with several men interested in working with them. He is now in Budapest and has made contact with at least one contact Lynn and I had given him. Richard Copeland and Jeff Archer will be moving to Budapest in July. Lynn plans to move there next year.
4. Prague, Czechoslovakia and Slovak Republik. The work in Prague is the most encouraging of all the work going on in Eastern Europe. There have been four baptisms in recent months. They have had as many as 16 Czechs visit services. (There has been more work done in CSR than in any other East European country.) Charlie Brackett had extremely encouraging results from work he did in a city north of Prague: he got so many contacts through a contact that Bill Bynum had given him that he could not cover them all in the time he had. Buddy Payne called last night to say that their work in Brno, CSR, had resulted in 10 people studying with them. Dale and Marlene Smelser, their son Scott and his wife, Bertina, and Mike Morrow moved to Prague in February. Bill and Nancy Bynum, having stayed longer than they had planned to stay, but have now gone back to the U.S. Jeff and Melanie Young, who were living with the Bynums, have now moved. Their new address and phone number: Jeff Young, 28 Rijen 9, 1000 Prague, CSR, ph. (0) 2-268214. Sewell Halt and Martin Broadwell visited Prague during their time in Europe. The brethren were greatly encouraged by their coming.
6. East Germany. Brother Trapp's being in Hungary freed me to go to East Germany the third week of May. Derek Chambers, who preaches at the church in Mainz, went with me. We already had a contact in Eisenhuttenstadt, a city on the border with Poland, so we decided to make that the hub of our work in the area. We met twice with the aforementioned contact, a lady whose address had been given us by a Christian in Texas who knew her. I hope to see her again during my trip to East Germany this week (20-24 June). What she told us in conversation confirmed what I had read about life under communism. Pretty grim. We arrived on a Thursday. We set up the next morning in Eisenhuttenstach with a table full of literature in German. Hardly anyone showed any interest except for one Jehovah's Witness who made proof of his indoctrination for about 20 minutes. The next day in Frankfurt was better. We were set up there for about seven hours and handed out about 30 packets of literature. On Sunday we drove to Cottbus and set up there for a day. About 15 people took literature. German television had aired a special program warning the East Germans about American sects, especially Scientology and Moonies. We noticed a fairly hostile reaction on the part of many and a marked avoidance at making eye contact on the part of others when they looked at the literature laying on our table. This was especially so in Cottbus. In contrast to this, we found the East Germans to be about the friendliest and most helpful people we had ever met when it came to asking for directions or help in other ways. We quickly learned to have packets of information ready whenever we had to ask someone something. They were always very friendly and had plenty of time to talk. We had a return address on all the material we handed out and hope to hear from those who took it.
While there, we were able to take some time out to seek information for Ivan Valdes, who is moving to East Germany with his family on 20 June.
Many of the church buildings in towns we drove thru had been destroyed in the war and were never rebuilt. This presents an opportunity to start all over in establishing religion in such places - real religion.
About the "Western Standard of Living." Our visit to East Germany brought to remembrance a conversation I had last year with a man here in Ramstein who had recently come from there. I asked him about the differences between living there and here. One of the things he said was that in East Germany they knew all their neighbors and their needs, and tried to help one another with the difficulties of life under Communism. Whereas, in wealthy West Germany, people often do not even know their neighbors. The people in East Germany are generally not well off and there is much talk of bringing their standard of living up to "western standards." The many kindnesses shown us during our visit to East Germany, including one couple who insisted on taking us out to dinner and paying for it, brought a question to my mind: Do we really want them to have our standard of living? 7. Mary and I took a week's vacation to Switzerland at the beginning of this month. While away we visited with the churches in Bern, Swtz., and Alessandria, Italy. In Italy, we stayed a couple of days with Arrigo and Patrizia Corazza, and their family. I was asked to preach during Sunday services and Arrigo translated for me.
Brother Corazza's needs. Arrigo is doing a good work in a section of Europe where there is no other sound church for about 150 miles in any direction. He lost about $900 of his support as of I April of this year and is having trouble replacing it. Arrigo has a Masters degree in ancient languages and is thinking about finding a job as a teacher if he cannot replace his lost support. He and his wife are already dipping into their savings to make up the difference. It is hoped that a church or churches will come to Arrigo's aid with the necessary support. He has been preaching for almost 15 years in a country where gospel preachers are scarce and he is a worthy man. If you know of a church willing to help him, Arrigo's address is: Arrigo Corazza, Via Magellano 32, 15100 Alessandria, Italy; phone: 0131-226639.
Interest in the works going on in Europe continues to increase. Please pray for the efforts being made here. Thank you for reading this report.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 17, pp. 522-524