The cities of Belarus are a place to enjoy … a place for the very young … a place to begin life together … a place to grow old … and a place to die.
The open-air markets and other shopping areas are where people of all ages can be found. For some, shopping appears to be an effort. For others, it is an opportunity to check out the latest gadgets. But, for a child the real treat is sitting on the back of a pretend horse with his grandmother at his side.
At a self-service restaurant, many different foods are available to satisfy the most adventurous taste. On the other hand, for those living in the capital city of Minsk, one of the five McDonald’s may be nearby for a quick American style snack. For those having a meal at home, pork, chicken or beef … all fresh and ready for the cook can be purchased at the market and enjoyed by family and friends. For most Belarussians, however, these options are beyond their means. A hot dog purchased from an outdoor vendor will suffice instead of a visit to McDonalds. For the family at home, small cuts of meat are usually served only once or twice a week.
An evening out at the circus is a time to enjoy watching the highly skilled performers from Moscow; the acrobats on the high trapeze or the dance couple performing their breathtaking routines, … and, of course, the trained dogs closely obeying their master’s commands.
A visit to the city park is a time for relaxation, for enjoying the company of others and to reminisce about the “good life “ during Soviet rule.
Another option is showing respect for times of trouble and calamity by visiting memorials to the Great Patriotic War. It was during this time that most of the cities and villages of Belarus were destroyed and one fourth of the population of this small country was killed. However, the memory of this war is fading into little more than a photo opportunity for the younger Belarussians.
Getting to work, even in the rain, is not a problem in the shiny imported cars … cars that are becoming increasingly numerous in the large cities. A home at the edge of the city is now a reality; … custom built to suit the taste of the owner and in a place free from the shadow of the apartment buildings. Unfortunately, these options are out of the price range of 95% of the population.
In every large city Vladimir Lenin’s statue is in a prominent location. Even though he died in 1924 the long shadow of Communism is ever present in this land and the people.
The shopping centers, the new apartment buildings, the universities and the Orthodox Church are indeed part of the cities of Belarus but only a small part. Behind the glitter of the new and the refurbished apartments there are other buildings that reflect the overwhelming majority of homes in the cities. Many were built in the ‘50’s and 60’s when Nikita Khrushchev was premier of the Soviet Union. They reflect the communist ideal of uniformity of homes and of a utilitarian design. Large furnaces located throughout the city provide centralized heating with hot water circulating through pipes to the radiators within the apartments.
The individual apartments are comfortable but small … often only 600 square feet for a family of four. The living room, like the other rooms, provides the basic needs for the family. The balcony offers a view of more apartments or of the traffic below. In some cities, a TV antenna farm appears to be growing on the apartment roofs but there are a few satellite dishes as well, and even fewer air conditioners.
There is little parking space around the huge complexes. It is not needed since most do not have a car. The subway, the busses, the trams and the trolleys are the most common methods of traveling. Most often people walk the short distance, … to the grocery store, to school or to church.
About 80% of Belarusians claim to be Orthodox, the State church. There are many Orthodox churches located throughout the city and within easy walking distance; however, people usually visit the church at most only two or three times a year … if at all.
There are a few evangelical churches in the cities and their members walk to church as well. Established in the early 1900’s, this church in Gomel is among the largest churches in the country with a regular attendance of over 300. On a Sunday morning, the Church is full; … full from top to bottom and overflowing at the sides. This church like others in the larger cities of Belarus would like to expand, to establish more churches; but beginning new evangelical churches is very difficult.
The vast apartment complexes would be ideal places to conduct Bible studies and house churches. But the government, in concert with the Orthodox Church, has set up laws specifically designed to prevent evangelical churches from expanding.
In Belarus, there are 16 cities that have a population of 100,000 plus. Over 70% of Belarusian’s live in urban areas. You can help bring the light of Jesus to the cities of Belarus by praying for the leaders of this country and by praying for the evangelical churches in the cities. Churches in the United States are needed to enter into a prayer partnership with Belarusian Believers for the cities of Belarus. Will you commit to pray?
Americans can participate in mission projects targeting specific subgroups such as doctors, nurses, teachers, university students, senior adults, intellectuals and mentally handicapped persons.
Won’t you visit Belarus and share God’s Word with those living in the new apartments, old apartment complexes, and in the new single-family homes?
[End with song or scripture scroll.]
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