|Republic of Lithuania|
Area 65,301 sq.km. The southernmost of the three Baltic states. A flat, arable land with many forests and lakes.
Capital Vilnius 573,200. Urbanites 70 %.
Baltic 71.6%. Lithuanian 2,630,000.
Slavic 27.6%. Russian 300,000; Polish 250,000; Belarusian 55,000; Ukrainian 37,000.
Other 0.8 %. Jews 6,000; Tatars 6,000.
Literacy 98%. Official language Lithuanian. All languages 3. Languages with Scripture 1Bi 1por.
Industrial and agricultural economy whose transition from a Soviet to a Western model has been hampered by the decline of its primary trading partner, Russia. Positive signs of progress. HDI 0.761; 62nd/174. Public debt 12.5% of GNP. Income/person $2,260 (7.2% of USA).
Once a powerful duchy controlling much of West Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Strong links with Poland. Independent from Russia 1917-1940; occupied by the Soviets 1940-1990. Independent in 1990 as a multi-party democracy, but still struggling with the legacy of 50 years of Communist misrule. Government relationships are improving with dissatisfied Polish and Russian minorities.
Last European nation to be Christianized. Due to strong Polish influence, Catholicism was politically dominant until the Soviet occupation when all faiths were repressed. Religious freedom, but preference shown to Catholics and 8 other traditional religious groups who have constitutional rights that are denied to non-traditional groups, which includes all evangelical churches.
1 Religious freedom in the post-Soviet era has stimulated the growth of the Church, in particular newer groups of charismatics and Pentecostals. Relationships between denominations are better than in most former Soviet states.
1 The Catholic Church plays a key role in Lithuanian society, but it has not yet recovered from years of isolation and persecution, and is unprepared for the challenges of the 21st century. Vatican II reforms and renewal movements are sometimes opposed. Only 14% of Catholics attend church weekly. Younger leadership is pushing for change. There are strong Franciscan, charismatic and evangelical-style networks which are experiencing growth, especially among young people.
b) The Baptists, Pentecostals and Adventists are the most established evangelical groups in Lithuania, but are struggling to come out of a Soviet-era time warp. The hyper-conservatism and defensiveness which enabled them to survive the lean years are now barriers to their growth. Pray that the leadership might see the need for forward progress under the Spirit's guidance.
c) The newer pentecostal and charismatic churches have grown significantly, partly due to ambitious evangelism and outreach. However, in some cases, much of this growth was financed and directed by Western churches, who brought their cultural baggage with them. Pray that a genuinely indigenous expression of Lithuanian Christianity might develop in partnership with, and not under the patronage of, the West.
d) Low level discrimination against evangelical groups exists. Traditional denominations are favoured in terms of land purchasing, zoning, taxation policies, financial support from the state and official registration. Pray that the government might be just and treat all genuine Christian groups with equality.
3 There is a lack of trained leaders due to the rapid growth of the newer churches and the difficulties of the established denominations. Religious freedom has facilitated the entry of cults and theological error. Solid biblical foundations need to be laid locally. Those leaders who train abroad often do not return, and several who do find themselves out of touch with their home situations. The Catholics have 3 seminaries and 5 faculties in universities; the Lutherans have one. The Pentecostals founded a pastoral, mission-oriented training institute, Vilnius College. Word of Faith and other charismatic groups operate training centres. Another encouraging development is Lithuania Christian College, an inter-denominational Christian liberal arts college. Pray that these institutions may be used to train godly, well-educated and visionary leaders for the nation.
5 Expatriate missions. There are about 25 missionaries ministering long-term in the country, plus 30-60 Western faculty and staff of the Lithuania Christian College. YWAM has a ministry to families through Bible studies, clubs and camps and launched their first Discipleship Training School (DTS) in 2000. Pray for more missionaries to be called to serve in this land, and to serve with commitment and sensitivity.
b) Christian literature. A growing but still very small ministry. Two modern Lithuanian versions of the Bible and 12 other biblical titles have been made available recently. Word of Faith has published about 60 books in Lithuanian and produces a bi-monthly newspaper. There are now 7 Christian publishing organizations.
c) Student ministries. LKSB(IFES) operate in 4 universities. CCCI began ministry in 1993. Youth at the Crossroads has a key ministry in schools bringing Christian ethics to bear on sex education. SU camps have been running since 1997.
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