Orthodox America

Letters from Russia  

Many letters from believers in the Soviet Union requesting religious literature give stirring testimony of the wondrous ways in which God speaks to a man's heart.. They reflect an intensity of spiritual experience that most of us here in the West are sadly missing. As a source of inspiration, as well as a continuing reminder of their spiritual need, we plan to make these letters not only those we receive directly but also from other sources, particularly those addressed to Fr. Victor Potapov at the Voice of America--a regular feature of Orthodox America.

Greetings, Fr. Victor.
Writing to you is a parishioner from the city of Yakutsk, in Yakutia. I am one of those who listen to your broadcasts. For a long time I've wanted to write you a letter, and finally decided to do so, perhaps because my present situation is rather unstable, my faith is not very strong, although I trust God that He will strengthen me. I should tike to tell you how I became an Orthodox believer, and hope that you will have enough patience to read my letter through to the end.
For a long time I wallowed in the mire of sin, taking pleasure in alcohol, fornication: I led a dissolute life. Then I began using drugs. Gradually I came to the end of my rope and was overcome by despair. I wanted to run away somewhere, or to meet people who could help me, comfort me and tear me out of this hell. Fortunately I hadn't yet become addicted to drugs.
By chance I saw a program put on by some Baptists on the local television. I went there straightway, repented and believed in God. I accepted God with joy and turned my back on my former way of life. I felt happy; how could one not rejoice after such torments. I felt enlightened, cleansed, saved, although later I understood that this was a forced inspiration which one encounters in all Protestant churches.
I began having new problems which began after my first visit to an Orthodox church. Never before had I been in an Orthodox church, and although I had already been nearly a year with the Baptists, it made a deep impression. The Baptists were constantly insisting that the Orthodox faith was a continuation of paganism and, in general, a heresy. At the same time I began to feel an inexplicable uneasiness: it seemed to me that I was in a theater, that it was all a play, and that I was among the dead. After the Baptists' meetings ! began to sense within myself a stupefaction; it was a kind of joy but it was abnormal, artificial.
After my first visit to an Orthodox church I declined to be baptized in the Baptist faith and, within three months, after some vacillation, I converted to the Orthodox faith and was baptized.
     Here I began to be overcome by temptations which until then I had, so it seemed, never encountered. And yet it is precisely here in the Orthodox Church that I constantly experience genuine joy and peace. I shall never abandon the Orthodox Faith because I consider that here is the true Church, although it is precisely here that I became subject to such temptations which earlier I could never have even imagined. My father began to drink and oppose my Faith; my mother began to have various visions which she was unable to handle and became mentally ill. I should add here that my mother had come to faith together with me, but she hadn't had time to convert to Orthodoxy before this happened to her. Her derangement is not severe, and I believe that God will heal my mother. I should like in the future to enter a monastery, but until my mother is better I won't leave.
Your broadcasts have been a great help to me. At a time when we have so little literature (often there lacks even the most elementary--the Bible), your broadcasts help very, very much. Many thanks, and may God help you. I wish that more attention be given to the Holy Fathers and the history of the Church. Likewise, I wish you would explain the error of Protestant teachings.
With this I shall end my letter. Of course, I should like to ask you to send some Orthodox literature, if this is at all possible. I ask you to forgive my troubling you, but the situation with literature here is very bad. I should like to read some apologetic materials from the Holy Fathers, defending Orthodoxy from Protestant attacks and all heresy in general. Again, excuse me.for troubling you..,
Good bye! May God help you! 

Hello! I'm 21 years old. Before, I wasn't particularly interested in religion, although in the depths of my soul I always had faith in God. I live in a small town not far from Saratov. We have no church. My mother and father are simple working class people, and therefore it's hard for me to learn about religion, about the life of believers.
Last year I broke my leg and for a year now I'm either in the hospital or at home. All this time I've been listening to your broadcasts with interest. Thank you for them. It is only through them that I have become acquainted with religion. I would ask that you tell more about the believers in our country, especially about those who have suffered for their faith, who have spent time in prisons or psychiatric hospitals.
Nikolai, Krasnoarmeysk

Letter to the editorial office of Pravoslavnaya Rus':

Christ is in our midst!
Beloved in the Lord brothers of Holy Trinity monastery!
I have received first one, then two more packages from your community. They arrived sealed and it appears that nothing was missing. What a mercy of God this is for me, a sinner, for my children and spiritual children! May the Lord grant you salvation! We promise always to remember you in our unworthy prayersˇ
We bow to you from the Russian land. Today in Russia we are experiencing a time of great anxiety. On the one hand many of yesterday's Sauls are coming to the knowledge of Christ, there is great interest in Orthodoxy, in Russia's history, but at the same time there is a great loss of memory, pornography (which we never had before), rock music, very active sectarians, irresponsible demagogues and "democrats" who scorn Orthodoxy and thousand year-old Rus', the Catholic Unia in Ukraine, the separatists from the so-called "Ukrainian Autocephalous Church," ecumenists, occultists, who come out with their seances even on television... People are very disturbed, everyone is anticipating some kind of shake-ups and catastrophes.
In my opinion it is all very reminiscent of 1917. We have some kind of strange, unhealthy "freedom". In Moscow one can on every street corner buy a book on how to engage in debauchery and all manner of sexual perversion, or pamphlets slandering some government figure, whether past or present. The publishing department of the Moscow Patriarchate prints practically no Orthodox books, whereas from the West the Patriarchate and various diocesan offices receive sacks of Protestant and Catholic literature, even religious comics.
...In the West, apart from the Church Abroad, it ,seems to me, there is nothing Orthodox of consequence. You are in our hearts, your books are a light for the Orthodox Russian people. If possible, could you send the book by Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, The Law of God for Schools and Families, and perhaps something else, as you think suitable.
With profound respect and love in Christ,
Priest V.
(Translated from Pravoslavnaya Rus, 6/28/90)