Smoke from cooking and heating fires is part of life in rural Belarus. As cold weather approaches, firewood is cut and stacked in preparation for the long winter. Often this involves the entire family as does harvesting hay to feed the cattle, horses, sheep and goats.
Cemeteries … located among the trees …tell of generations past and the families who have lived off the land. … of a time when Russia was ruled by the tsars and the communist dictators. Just as in the earlier times, gardens are an important part of surviving. They provide food for summer as well as winter and are always carefully cultivated and cared for to get the most from the small area around their homes. Still they find room for a variety of flowers and their dazzling beauty.
Harvesting potatoes in the small plots of land still depends on the horse drawn plough and the extended family working together to complete the task. Rainfall and soil conditions will determine the yield. This field is too wet causing much of the crop to rot in the ground. Extra income is earned by helping harvest potatoes in large commercial fields.
Growing plentifully in the forest all summer, mushrooms are picked by the bucket full. Several different varieties are sold along the highway. Mushrooms are also cleaned and preserved for use during the winter months. Identifying the good from the poisonous is a skill passed down through the family as are the methods used for cooking and preserving.
Apples are everywhere and are usually ripe by mid-September. This fruit is also preserved for the winter. Some apples are peeled and sliced then canned. For others the juice is extracted and allowed to ferment for apple cider. Large trucks are used to haul the excess apples to commercial processing plants. Pears and plumbs, though not as plentiful, add to the fall fruit harvest.
Beehives are often located among the apple trees to pollinate the blossoms in the spring. The rich dark honey extracted from these hives is sold in markets throughout Belarus.
Chickens, ducks, turkeys, sheep and goats are also important as a source of food for the people living in the rural areas. Wood sheds or small barns in the back yard provide protection during the long cold winter months. Also located in the back yard and often behind the barn or woodshed is the outdoor toilet.
The older homes are wood frame construction. Some are showing signs of decay while others look like new. The classical log homes are still in use, even though nearby may be a new brick structure. Ornate scrollwork around doors, windows and roofs attests to the skill … as well as the care … that was exercised during the construction of the homes. The ownership of these homes is passed down from one generation to the next.
Outside many homes is a well providing water. Some use a windlass to draw the water up in a bucket. The wells are 20 to 30 feet deep and were dug when the houses were built. For some of the homes, replacing the windlass with a pump provides running water.
Inside there is often a small gas cooking stove and a wood fired heating furnace. The heating unit is built into the house with brick and concrete to help retain the heat after the fire dies down. This is a warm spot to sleep during the cold winter nights.
The villagers, like those living in the cities, generally claim the Orthodox faith. Usually, at least one Orthodox Church is in each village even though it may be small and seldom attended by the residents.
On the other hand, very
few of the villages of Belarus have evangelical churches. The few that
have been established are small. Some are called “Dom Mvlitvi
Even though 98% claim either the Orthodox or the Catholic faith, 99% of the Belarussians do not know Jesus as their personal Savior. This includes 39 cities with a population between 5,000 and 25,000 that do not have an evangelical church and over 1,500 villages without any type of Biblical witness for Christ. In many places in Belarus, there is still not even one Believer or evangelical family to shine the light of Christ.
The time and expense for the national missionaries to travel to the numerous villages and the anti-evangelical laws of Belarus make it very difficult to establish new churches. Bible study groups and worship services in ones home are generally against the law.
Some of the larger Baptist churches in the cities have sent out bi-vocational missionaries to the rural areas but progress is slow. One national missionary shares God’s Word as he works at delivering supplies to homes and offices in his town.
The people in the rural areas of Belarus need to hear the Good News of Jesus. How can YOU help?
· … By praying both here in the States, and perhaps in Belarus through prayer walks.
· … By helping the national missionaries to obtain Bibles and other teaching materials as well as musical items.
· … By providing scholarships to Bible camps such as Pearl Camp at Korbin.
· … By participating in mission trips or projects that would assist national missionaries and pastors of small churches in reaching the people of Belarus.
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