Tuesday, July 2, 2013


My former student, personal friend and mega-church pastor colleague, Barry Cameron, wrote a piece that is too good not to share on this the week of our nation's 237th anniversary on July 4th…

Pastor Ken

Twenty-one years ago I was invited to go on a mission trip to Russia and the Ukraine. To say it was a life-changing experience would be an understatement. I remember speaking with the Russians/Ukrainians, through an interpreter, and being blown away by how kind, friendly and gracious they were. I kept thinking, “Why did we ever think these people were our enemies?” Everywhere we looked we saw people living in impoverished conditions. Most had the bare necessities to live on but not much else. Yet, they didn’t complain and seemed grateful for everything they had.

I’ll never forget being in churches where it was “standing room only” for services that lasted several hours. The majority walked in the cold to get there and didn’t want to leave. They worshiped wholeheartedly and responded enthusiastically from beginning to end. There were no padded seats, just wooden benches. No coffee and donuts in the lobby. No flat-screen TVs or water fountains. Even the restrooms were outside the building and were nothing more than a hole in the ground.

One of the most memorable experiences of my trip was being invited to the public schools to “teach the Bible,” which we did, and the response mirrored what we had seen in the churches. These people were hungry for the Word of God. I only wished we could’ve communicated without having to speak through an interpreter.

All those memories came flooding back to me this past week when I read an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram with the headline: Russia ramps up pro-family, anti-gay efforts. The article, written by Patricia Herlihy in the Los Angeles Times stated, “The Kremlin has just issued a 12-year plan to address Russia’s demographic crisis – its high mortality rate and low birthrate. Buoyed apparently by a recent rise in the birthrate – 1.9 million Russian children were born in 2012, compared with 1.2 million in 1992 (the year of my mission trip!) – the country has announced that it will give bonuses to families that have more than two children and will provide better healthcare, housing and education for families.”

“In addition to these ‘carrots,’ the government has announced some ‘sticks’: Divorce will be taxed as an ‘act of hatred toward children,’ and a fixed sum of alimony will be demanded even of those who are poor or unemployed. Abortion is now strongly discouraged and increasingly limited by law. The state also is ramping up an anti-homosexuality campaign, with plans to commission artwork promoting ‘traditional moral and spiritual values,‘ declared Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin’s chief of staff. And last week, the Duma passed a bill banning ‘propaganda of non traditional sexual relations’ by a vote of 436 to 0.” The article went on to state, “The city of Moscow has banned demonstrations by gays for the next 100 years … From the time of Stalin through the collapse of the Soviet Union, homosexuality was illegal in Russia.”

As I read the article, I couldn’t help but think back to my trip there in 1992. Russia (the former Soviet Union) was virtually destroyed by many of the things our country is now enthusiastically chasing and embracing. Twenty-one years ago we witnessed, firsthand, their hunger for the Bible, not only in their churches but also in their schools. And here they are now, staging a national and moral resurgence by embracing many of the things we used to hold dear here in America. They aren’t seeking the American dream. Rather they are dreaming of their country becoming what our nation used to be. A place where morality, decency, traditional spiritual values and common sense were the order of the day.

This next week we’ll celebrate our 237th birthday as a nation, and I had a sobering thought: Isn’t it ironic after all these years, we’re the ones who need missionaries?

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” (Psalm 33:12)

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