For some here in Novgorod, inspiration has been the Baptist church, which started in a private home, but has now moved to a brand-new, imposing brick building. Funded by Americans and Canadians, it is a carbon copy of a typical Baptist church in the United States.
The congregation has expanded from 20 to more than 500 hundred. Peter Hughes, from Roanoke, Illinois, is with an organization called the Fellowship of Christian Farmers International.
"We were helpful in advertising the need for monies for this church," says Hughes, "and the fellowship contributed a pretty good sum of money to build this church$75,000 to $100,000, I'm guessing. There were times when we brought over $27,000 in cash."
Over the time Hughes and the FCFI have been working in Novgorod, they have seen the congregation change and develop as well as the physical structure of the church.
"Initially we had a lot of elderly ladies and childrenone or two men, and very few young men. Now you have young men and families. It's tremendous, the change. And Anatoly is the dynamo. He's the leader; he's great."
Anatoly is Father Anatoly Korabel, the Baptist minister. He started in Soviet times when it was forbidden to proselytize or educate children in the faith. Now he has a Sunday school and a training program for new ministers. His goal is to open 35 Baptist churches in the Novgorod region, alone, but he says he continues to face opposition.
"Not every time freedom is freedom," says Father Korabel. "It looks like freedom, but it is not freedom. They don't want us. All the time they say that we are American church, not Russian church."
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