Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Churches Spread the Word in Former Soviet Union

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Churches Spread the Word in Former Soviet Union

Article excerpt

Last month, in a former communist workers' camp on the banks of the Dnieper River, a Webster Groves woman helped Ukrainian children illustrate Bible stories.

Cher Curtis' head is still spinning at the changes in Ukraine and throughout the former Soviet Union. Curtis, 48, never dreamed that she would teach Bible stories to children in a building decorated with a bust of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin.

"Passing that statue every day gave you an odd feeling," said Curtis, a member of a missionary group from Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton.

For one week, she told Bible stories through a Russian translator at a Baptist church camp. Short Bible plays and songs enlivened the stories, she said. Afterward, children recalled the stories by drawing fish, lambs, King David's slingshot and other symbols.

"These children loved our colored markers and would amuse themselves for hours making intricate designs with so much creativity," said Curtis. Their patterns resembled Ukrainian Easter eggs.

When the communist regime fell, religious men and women recognized it as an open door to spread the Gospel. They rushed to support Christians who had survived religious persecution and to evangelize. Many religious denominations sent Bibles, educational materials and funds to rebuild old churches.

"We wanted to do more than write checks," said Curtis.

Like many evangelical churches in the United States, Central Presbyterian sent teachers and musicians directly to Eastern Europe. Help has been welcome as long as Christians assist existing Protestant or Roman Catholic churches similar to their own, or work within the predominant Russian Orthodox Church.

St. Louis' late Archbishop John L. May was among the first St. Louisans to respond. In 1990, he led a group of American bishops to Lithuania, Latvia, Byelorussia and Ukraine. They met with Catholics who had been imprisoned for decades and discussed ideas to attract young residents of historically Catholic areas. Since then, Catholics in St. Louis have given tens of thousands of dollars to churches in Eastern Europe.

For five years, St. Thomas Orthodox Church in St. …

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