Mission to Moscow 1990: The Groundwork
Already for many years I had been writing to and praying for Christian prisoners for the faith in the Soviet Union. One of these prisoners was the Russian Orthodox Christian Aleksandr Ogorodnikov. Upon the advent of "perestroika" and "glasnost" he was released from prison in 1988 and recommenced publishing of the Bulletin of Christian Community, one of the better known Russian Christian publications distributed privately in the Soviet Union and abroad. Before Christmas 1988 the names of seventeen brave Christians in the Soviet Union who wished to correspond with Christians in the West were announced by CREED (Dr. Ernest Gordon, President). The list included Ogorodnikov. I wrote to all 17; the first reply I received was from him. We continued to correspond (I read, write and speak Russian), and we sent him copies of the CSSH Quarterly and other materials.
In August 1989 Ogorodnikov wrote me that he would be allowed to visit with Western Christians on October 15, 1989 in Brussels, Belgium, where he had friends publishing his Christian writings. He wondered whether I could attend this meeting. I could not, but contacted members and subscribers to the CSSH Quarterly in Europe, including M Dominique Tassot, President of the Cercle Scientifique et Historique (CESHE), a Catholic organization standing for the inerrancy of Scripture including, of course, creation. M. Tassot was able to attend the Brussels meeting with Mr. Ogorodnikov. He also is fluent in Russian and had been burdened like myself for Christians in the Soviet Union.
Upon his return M. Tassot wrote me that he had spoken to Ogorodnikov about creationism. and that Ogorodnikov had "immediately understood the interest of the creationist theses for Christian thought. particularly in an officially atheist country. Ogorodnikov has decided to promote our thesis of the historical and scientific veracity of the Bible and asks for our help in two ways: (1) send articles or books, if possible translated, on creationism !n the widest sense; and (2) participation of western speakers in his theological `seminar' in Moscow. It was decided to begin these conferences next spring (1990)." M. Tassot asked me to contact ICR so ICR might send a speaker to Moscow for this conference in the spring of 1990, leaving the choice of the speaker to me. He also asked me to come myself if at all possible as I know Russian. He himself and M. Guy Berthault, also of CESHE. a geologist and the author of an important study on sedimentology. also planned to come to Moscow.
Early the next morning after I received M Tassot's letter a dear Christian friend called me with the message that the Lord had put it on the family's heart to make money available to me for His special work and purpose. I told my friend of the possible creation mission trip to Russia. I myself knew beyond doubt that our Lord wanted Dr. Duane Gish to be the speaker from ICR; now the funds, too, were available. I immediately wrote to Dr. Gish. stating that "I see this as our Lord's "Macedonian Call' to you at this extraordinary time. when there is an open door to the Soviet Union which has not existed for over 70 years." On December 5.1989 Dr. Gish telephoned me to let me know he and Mrs. Gish would go. Shortly afterwards the date for the trip was fixed for May 20-30, 1990. The help of Mr. Eugene Grosman. a native Russian speaker working with the Slavic Gospel Association, was enlisted by Dr. Gish. Contacts for setting up conferences, debates and so on in Moscow were also made through Dr. Dmitri Kuznetsov. whose strong Christian and creation science witness has been described in earlier issues of Acts and Facts. As it turned out in the end, the conference with Mr. Ogorodnikov was the least attended of all events featuring Dr. Gish. because Ogorodnikov had meanwhile been dismissed as editor of the Bulletin of Christian Community due to Soviet KGB slander ICR had hoped to bring n creationist books, but this did not happen. On the other hand, creationist films by Films for Christ are being shown on Soviet Television now, and Dr. Gish's own trip was an unqualified great success. He told me offer his return that "There was no carping criticism of any kind" or at any time of his creationist message. What a surprising contrast to the treatment of this message in "free, Christian" America!
However, it is with by no means without danger to be an outspoken Christian of leadership ability in Gorbachev's realm. I have not had direct personal news from Ogorodnikov since he wrote me in August 1989. though have remained in close touch with other less "visible" Russian Christians. CREED believes that to cooperate with Ogorodnikov is to invite a KGB murder; Ogorodnikov has lost a brother and a case personal friend and collaborator to staged "accidents." I myself did not receive a visa to enter The Soviet Union (supposedly because the Intourist bureau "could not guarantee a room"), nor did M Tassot. We are both convinced that we were not allowed to go in because of our previous efforts in behalf of Russian Christians in prison.
Nevertheless the groundwork for the first creationist "mission to Moscow" was laid by our Lord many years in advance. It began at least at the time when He called Aleksandr Ogorodnikov into His service and martyrdom; when He enabled me to learn Russian when still a child in Germany: when He burdened the hearts of Dominique Tassot and myself for our Christian brothers and sisters under Communist persecution; when He brought the Creation Social Science and Humanities Society and its Quarterly into being in 1977; when He converted the heart of Dmitri Kuznetsov to Himself and then taught him the good news of Creation through ICR; when He gave more freedom to Russian Christians through Gorbachev as His instrument; and finally, when He directly established the contacts through myself and Dominique Tassot which led to Dr. Gish's trip. Our Lord, also last but not least burdened many Christian brothers and sisters to pray for us all. (I also personally praise Him for not sending me to Moscow in His all-knowing good and perfect will. for my presence was urgently needed here due to an unforeseen crisis in my family. Our Lord doeth all things well!) May all praise and glory for all this be to Him only, our sovereign, faithful Creator!