Wednesday, July 29, 2009
This is a letter from my friend Pastor Roman Heidemann. I just wanted to post it in the hope that a few more people might be aware of the good ministry he is doing in Russia.
This Tuesday I went to visit Babies’ house in Women’s prison in Nignij Tagil with ordinary visit. I planned to have a usual fellowship with mothers and had prepared discussion of the parable “Pharisee and Tax Collector”. On my way to the prison I figured out possible questions and prepared answers that would be most persuasive. This time I went there by electric train, so I had more than four hours for final thorough preparation.
When I came to prison, I was told that mothers had been waiting for me for an hour already. As a tradition I visited babies whom we help with medicines, clothing, toys and other things we manage to collect or buy if we received donations. I was told that a week ago a new baby was brought to this house and she was born from HIV positive mother. I expressed the intent to see her and when I entered the special room where lived babies who were HIV positive and born from HIV positive parents, I saw her, a nice year old girl with big blue eyes.
She saw unfamiliar people and got ready to cry curving her lips in unhappy shape, but I smiled her and she smiled me back. I asked medical captain who accompanied me about her parents and the officer answered me that the name of this girl was Anastasia and her mother was a HIV positive drug addict and was charged for imprisonment for drug trafficking. Then I asked whether this girl was HIV positive and got an answer that analysis were taken and results would be ready in a month time. I asked the permission to take Anastasia on hands and was permitted to do this. She behaved like she knew me for ages and the first thing she did, she hold my white pastor’s collar. I looked at her eyes and I got a sign! This collar was a remembrance that we were all slaves of sin before Jesus Christ took our sins away. She was like an angel, sent by Jesus, she was miserable, born from deadly ill mother, she was alone among strange people, she may have the same deadly disease. She came into this world like Jesus did. He pointed on our sins, he showed how miserable and lonely we were in this world, how fragile and short out life was. But he also showed us The Way, The Truth and The Life! The straight Way in Faith, the Truth of the Word and Sacrament and the Eternal Life in Him. All that He showed us in suffering, in blood and in death, His eyes were like eyes of this little Anastasia, big and blue, He came to us like a child, but He overcame death, He defeated hell, He rose from the dead and went to Heaven and He gave us Hope!
It was a shock for me to see these eyes of Love and Hope here in this sad room of hopelessness. My thoughts were in disorder, I felt presence of Jesus in the room with the tips of my fingers, I did not know what to do or to say. I just stood near the child bed firmly holding a baby. Suddenly the officer touched me and said that I had been waited for the long time already and took Anastasia from my hands. I calmly left the room and went upstairs to the second floor to the hall where mothers gathered to the sermon. I was like a robot going up and I saw Anastasia’s eyes before me. All high and clever phrases about prepared parable disappeared. I could not recall even one. I sat before mothers and did not know with what to begin, Anastasia’s blue eyes were still before me. Mothers waited for me and also kept silence. Then I touched my collar and asked them “Do you know what that mean?” And I told them about how I was slave in sin, I told them what Jesus did in my life, how he saved me from this slavery and He could save them from slavery too by Face and through His Grace. I told them about this little angel Anastasia and we all prayed for her, for the analysis to be HIV negative.
I know that everything is in God’s hands. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s pray for little Anastasia, may our Lord and Savior be merciful to her and give her the most precious gift in the world – His Love and His Healing! Let’s pray…
We appreciate your prayers, we need them most. Support our Babies in Prison ministry, check us out at www.stgertrude.ur.ru
of St. Gertrude
46, 123-B, Kuibyshev Str.
Tel/Fax: +7-343-262 3386
Mobile Tel: +7-902-262 0533
Monday, July 27, 2009
I thought I had found an interesting movie on Netflix... "The Other Side of Heaven." The description said it was about a missionary in Tonga writing letters to his girlfriend in the USA. I didn't notice that the main character was "Elder" John Groberg.
The movie opened with a scene from Brigham Young University in the 1950s. My suspicions were immediately aroused. Soon I realized this was the perfect motivational movie for all Mormon missionaries. A dedicated young man devotes his life to 2+ years of missionary service. He overcomes one obstacle after another and remains faithful to his girlfriend and to his church superiors. I thought about sending it back, but then I realized it might give me some good insights into the Mormon faith.
Wow, was I right! It's one thing to learn about Mormonism from ex-Mormons and from those who study their official teachings. It's another thing to learn about it through a film that truly presents what they think is the heart of their religion. It reminded me of Paul's words "whose glory is in their shame" (Philippians 3.19)
What was so shocking about this movie? It certainly wasn't the moral character of the Mormons. Christians could take some notes on this. It wasn't their tenacity and perseverance either. The shocking thing about this movie is the Mormon definition of "Gospel." The "preaching of the Gospel" is the main focus of this movie. But what is that definition according to Mormonism? Not once in that movie (to the best of my remembrance) is Christ the crucified for the forgiveness of sins mentioned! At the beginning, the boy's father quotes John 3.16 with a classic Mormon interpretation: I'm giving up my son just like God gave up His Son." He turns the Gospel into a Law. God sent Jesus to be an example for us to follow. That's what saves us... following His example.
John's first sermon was hilarious and sad at the same time. He taught them that God was giving them all the opportunity to be God's servants. However, he had trouble with the language and actually said that they all had the opportunity to be God's "outhouses." What's sad about this is that John presented a Gospel that says, "I (God) love you enough to tell you who I am and let you have the opportunity to try to become like Me. Follow My rules, and you can do it."
Here's another new twist that Mormons are into... The island that John goes to already has a "minister." You can't tell what denomination he represents, but he is definitely opposed to Mormonism. However throughout the movie John is kind to him and eventually wins him over so that you get the idea there really is no difference between Mormonism and Christianity. I don't think that would have ever happened in the 1950s, but that is definitely the new marketing approach that they are using to sell people on their version of the Gospel.
Here's the really sad thing as I think about it: How many Christians today would really see any difference between what they hear on Sunday mornings and what Mormons hear? I don't hear Christ the crucified for the forgiveness of sins being preached very much today even in so-called Christian churches... even in some Lutheran churches! This is exactly what Paul was warning about when he said, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?" (Galatians 3.1).
Christians need to get back to God's word in Christ before they slip all the way down the slippery slope of the Mormon Gospel... "It's all about me doing what I'm supposed to do to be good and get rewarded." Or, at the end of that slope they will find themselves on the other side of hell.