Rev. Matthew Heise with graduates from the Ingrian seminary in Koltushi, Russia.
This post was shared by LCMS missionary, Rev. Matthew Heise. He works primarily in the country of Georgia but also teaches a course at the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR) in Koltushi, Russia.
“The graduating class this year at the Theological Institute of the ELCIR was not as large as usual. Due to attrition and illness, we had only two students defending their theses on February 17.
Erdene Bandanov pictured with his family.
“Erdene Bandanov used to be a shaman in the villages of the Republic of Buryatia, out in Russia’s Far East along the banks of Lake Baikal. Erdene came to faith in the one true Lord, Jesus Christ, after despairing over the fact that he was possessed by a demon. He craved power over people, but soon realized that worldly power meant that he was in thrall to one more powerful than him– the devil. Through prayer, the Lord expelled the demon from him. These past few years he has been studying diligently and now upon graduation will serve the Lutheran congregation in the village of Toksovo (founded in 1625) in the Leningradskaya Region. I will miss my conversations with Erdene, a fascinating student who is dedicated to bringing the Word to a primarily Russian congregation, while also doing outreach among Buryat immigrants to St. Petersburg.
“Erdene once told me that when he had come to faith, he and some fellow Christians followed a group of shamans to a local mountain where they were performing their rituals. He told me that he and his friends just shouted out continually “Hallelujah!” and praised the name of Jesus. The shamans despondently began to descend down the mountain, as one told Erdene- “You are frightening away the spirits!” Let us pray that Erdene will continually be used by the Lord to scare away the demons who once bound him as he proclaims true freedom in Christ to the people of Toksovo.
Vladimir Yakushev defends his thesis from the front of the room.
“Vladimir Yakushev is from the very far north of Russia, the port city of Murmansk. As with so many of the students at the seminary, Vladimir grew up as an atheist. I am always amazed at being reminded of the youthful atheism of my students who are now devout Christians. Master’s degree student Ivan Laptev spoke to me recently of his childhood atheism. ‘Of course we believed. We didn’t know any better.’ So as you can see, these positive changes from the days of communism have become more firmly grounded in 21st century Russia.
“Vladimir himself became a believer in his early twenties and gravitated to the Lutheran Church after his daughter’s illness led her to a Lutheran congregation in Murmansk who prayed for her healing. Vladimir will serve the Lutheran congregation in Murmansk as pastor, but is also using his skills from his previous profession as a cameraman. He is currently shooting a video of the history of the Theological Institute for which I gave him an interview.”