Georgian Parliamentary Elections: 2012
Political change is making its way to the Eurasian country of Georgia. In early October voters removed the ruling party from power and elected relative newcomers to key roles in government. The party of President Mikhail Saakashvili graciously acknowledged defeat and will now go into opposition. In the Western world such news would hardly be worth more than a few remarks in passing, but in the former Soviet world it is big news. The peaceful exchange of power is relatively unknown in Georgia, so this is a sign of progress. We pray that all politicians will continue to take into account the needs of the people first and foremost and govern in an open and democratic fashion.
Religious Status Quo
While these changes were taking place in the political realm, it is clear that changes in the religious sphere will take much longer. Although the bad old days of persecution in the Soviet Union seem to be gone for good, and good riddance at that, there is a subtle form of persecution that remains. One of our Bible study groups in the Black Sea coast city of Batumi has been a victim of just such persecution. Oh, nobody threatened them with prison for holding a Bible study. It was more of the steady “drip, drip” type of complaints and threats from a landlord that forced them to move to a new apartment down the block.
The state Orthodox Church, which underwent a severe persecution of its own in former days, has once again reclaimed its authority in the land. The picture above shows some of the positive results of this redress—ancient cathedrals like Bagrati in the city of Kutaisi have been wonderfully restored. While the Orthodox Church here doesn’t seem to be quite as cozy with the state as in Russia, those who might be defined as “cultural Christians” are uncomfortable with others who gather in homes and read the Bible. The larger the group, the greater their concern.
One of the curses of the post-Soviet world has certainly been the proliferation of cults. To those whose faith is “skin-deep” at best, though, there is little knowledge of the Faith beyond traditions and rituals. So when someone acts outside of those rituals, like reading the Bible seriously, they become incensed. “These people are trying to change our century-old traditions, they cry!” And so the persecution, fueled by ignorance of what the Christian life entails, continues on in a new form.
Now the new landlord is upset with our Lutheran Bible study group. Some of our fellow believers are very worried about this development while others expect some form of persecution to continue and won’t let it stop them. I had the opportunity to encourage them that Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount hold true today: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Please pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen these Lutheran believers and protect them from the devil and those who have a false understanding of what our Christian faith means.
What more could you say about Bobbie? (And that’s how we always knew her, just Bobbie). She lit up any room she entered with her smile and zest for life. Most importantly, her faith in Jesus was something she shared in word and deed all her life, from the mission fields of Africa to the States. Bobbie was the president of LIMM (Lutherans in Medical Mission), an organization that helped us with women’s health clinics in Georgia. After the war with Russia in 2008, there were many refugees in Georgia. So she and Rita Nickel enabled us to reach out to women, sharing the love of Christ while helping them with basic health issues. Although Bobbie never got to Georgia herself, she was always gracious in her support and prayers for us.
I often enjoyed dinner with Bobbie and her husband John while visiting St. Louis. After discussing missions we would talk about movies, as Bobbie was an aspiring screenwriter. (She even played bit roles in a few movies). I still hope her text “Enemies Among Us”, about WW II German and Italian prisoners of war in America, will make it to a screen someday. Famed director Bruce Beresford showed some interest at one time. But mostly, I will miss her company and sunny disposition. Our prayers for God’s comfort and peace go out to John and their children and grandchildren. But as those who live in hope because Christ has redeemed us for life everlasting, we thank God that her struggle with cancer is now over and she is at peace with our Lord in heaven. We will see her again. For now, here are some closing lines from a hymn sung at her funeral. It sums up our common Christian faith quite well:
When from the dust of death I rise
To claim my mansion in the skies
Tis then shall be my only plea
Jesus hath lived and died for me
(Verse 5, hymn 563, Lutheran Service Book: Jesus Thy Blood and Righteousness)
Rest in His peace, Bobbie!!
Please pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Georgia, that the Lord will change the hearts of their persecutors and strengthen them in faith.
Please pray for the peace of Christ to uphold the Lautenschlagers.
Please keep Cousin Shawn in your prayers. She continues to steadily improve!
Please also remember our Ingrian Lutheran pastor Alexey Shepelov, who has a brain aneurism. Alexey will travel to Israel for a medical examination on October 15 to see whether he needs surgery. Please pray for safety, healing and God’s peace for him and his family.
Please pray for my upcoming travel and teaching to Russia and Mongolia at the end of October and well into November.
My E-mail: [email protected]—mailing address- 26650 Woodshire, Dearborn Heights, MI., 48127.
PLEASE NOTE THE NEW DETAILS ON MISSION SUPPORT FOR ME:
To support my work financially, you may send a tax-deductible gift to:
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
P.O. Box 790089
St. Louis, MO 63179-0089.
Make checks payable to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Mark checks “Support of Matthew Heise.” Gifts can also be given through the LCMS website on my online giving page at www.lcms.org/Heise.
If you would like to partner with me in my ministry with ongoing support, congregations can contact Debra Feenstra for information on Together in Mission at 1‐800‐248-1930 Ext. 1651 or [email protected] and individuals can contact Julie Loehring for information on Mission Senders at 1-800-248-1930 Ext. 1047 or [email protected]. Thank you, and may God’s peace be with you!