Royal Rangers ministry program opens doors to Christ for Russian youths. The ministry, a branch of the Assemblies of God international missions board, has become a tool for evangelism and discipleship among churches, orphanages and youth halfway houses.
According to Mark Broberg, A/G missionary to Russia, "Russians love the outdoors, and in the summer, many people spend as much time as possible outside the cities. The camping emphasis of Royal Rangers draws many young people to participate."
Although the concept of scouting has been part of Russian culture since 1909, it was banned until the Russian Revolution in 1917. During the communist era, the government developed a similar boy scouts program called pioneers. However, the clubs disbanded after the fall of communism in 1991.
"For 72 years, children could not study God's Word openly in an organized way," said Jerry Parsley, Eurasia regional director for the U.S. Assemblies of God. "Now the Pentecostal Union in Russia is eager to use all available means to instruct children and help shape them spiritually."
The Russian program follows an achievement path geared to the Russian culture; both boys and girls attend Royal Rangers in Russia because in many churches it is the only outreach available for children. In St. Petersburg, plans are under way for a summer camp that will draw children from across Russia's northwest region. Organizers expect 250 boys and girls to attend.
Broberg says many of the participating children come from unhealthy homes. "Some 9-year-olds were already hooked on cigarettes and drinking alcohol," he said. "At the camp they were the center of our attention, and they sensed God's love." Forty children accepted Christ as Savior and were filled with the y Spirit.
Omar Beiler, area director for the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic Republics hopes other areas of Russia will receive the Rangers with the same enthusiasm. "The hearts of young people have proven to be fertile soil for the gospel message, and the camp in St. Petersburg is a prototype that can be reproduced across the former Soviet Union," he said.
Broberg says the potential of Royal Rangers in Russia is enormous because the current economic and social problems have left many children without physical or emotional support.
"Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many children have been left to fend for themselves on the streets, in orphanages and even in their homes" he said. "In St. Petersburg alone, 130,000 homeless children live on the streets. Josef Stalin knew that in order for communism to survive, he must indoctrinate the children into a communist lifestyle absent of God. Our goal is to teach the children of Russia about the true freedom they can have through a relationship with Jesus."
By Pauline J.