Newsletter – May 2005

Newsletter – May 2005

Daniel Trusiewicz - May 19, 2005

Introduction to Georgia

The first mention of Georgia in documented historic writings can be traced to the 8th century BC. Georgian alphabet was designed in the 3rd century BC. Christianity was accepted in 326. The Bible was translated in the 5th century. The first Baptist church was founded in 1867. Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia is considered to be one of the cradles of the Baptist movements in the former Soviet Union.

Majority of Georgians consider themselves Orthodox (about 85% of population claims allegiance but only 5% attend church regularly). Religious intolerance facilitated by pro Eastern political forces in the country is a serious problem. There have been several attacks against religious minorities including Baptists. Orthodox priests are often aggressive towards Baptists. They exercise territorial authority and are often nationalistic.

Georgian people have been bothered for dozens of years by poverty, corruption, social injustice, violation of human rights and religious liberty. Most of population is unemployed. About 75% live under the poverty line and the average salary covers only 33% of basic needs. Georgian society has tribal structure. Public notices are often in 3 languages – Georgian, Russian and English.

Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia

Malkhaz Songulashvili, presiding bishop of EBC says: “The vision of the Evangelical-Baptist Church of Georgia is to begin a Baptistic movement in each Georgian Tribe, especially in Adjara, which is populated by nominal Moslems. Baptists would like to seek the lost souls and to reach the unreached in every corner of Georgia”.

Merab Gaprindashvili, general secretary of EBC states: “At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there were only 10 Baptist churches in Georgia, with the total membership of 2000 members. Now there are 62 Baptist congregations with over 5000 members. Baptists understand the need to be sensitive to the cultures of the many people of Georgia while bringing the gospel to them. This approach has proven to be successful”.

The Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia has developed several thriving projects. One of them is the “School of Elijah” with about 60 students. Its 3 years education program aims at preparing ministers, Sunday school teachers and missionaries. Newest initiative of EBC is the “School of Abraham”. Its goal is to prepare missionaries among Muslims. The “Beteli” Baptist Center is still under construction but dedication is planned in June 2005. The “Beteli” will provide space for a Baptist seminary and conference center as well as care home for aging people. In order to function properly equipment for heart check is needed.

Church planting

For the time being there are nearly 40 indigenous missionaries working in various places of Georgia. They usually start church planting in private homes. Baptists invite their neighbors and relatives providing possibility to listen to Good News and teaching them basic Christian doctrines. At present, it is impossible to organize the mass evangelistic meetings in Georgia.

Missionary Gela lives with his family in Batumi (by the Black See). They are good example of Baptist ministry. Hospitality is its intrinsic part. Gela’s wife, Inga, is involved in charity work visiting several elderly people. Their eldest daughter is a student. She leads regular Bible study for her peers. They occasionally organize Christian camps and conferences for students.

Gela has already started six Bible study groups in his neighborhood. He would like to begin also computer and English classes. Church planter Gela witnesses to nominal Muslims.

Gospel in cultural context

Unforgettable experience is participation in a service of the Cathedral Baptist Church of Tbilisi. Church hall on Sunday morning is packed with people of different ages. At least 500 are present. The service begins with bells ringing and procession towards the front. The large choir sings several times and all present recite confession of faith. Readings from the Holy Scripture and characteristic to Georgian culture songs as well as a sermon comprise this unique service. Singing of a small choir makes the atmosphere even more distinct. This service is both Christ centered and conveyed in the language of Georgian traditional culture. It’s excellent example of contextualizing the gospel.

Prayer requests

  1. that Baptist Union will be successful in implementing missionary vision and particularly with regard to training church planters.
  2. that church planters will utilize their opportunities and new church plants will be powerful in their witness for Christ.
  3. that Baptist leaders will continue to be wise and strong in overcoming obstacles.