Laymen Ministries

Back In Lithuania (2018)

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Jeff Reich


Series Code: LM

Program Code: LM000152A

00:01 We're back in Lithuania.
00:02 Laymen Ministries have been working here for 24 years now.
00:04 I remember when we came in 1993,
00:07 there was about
00:08 47 to 50 Seventh-day Adventist in the whole country,
00:11 so Laymen Ministries is involved with pioneering
00:13 the work in this country.
00:15 If you've never heard the story about
00:16 how we ended coming here in the first place,
00:18 you're going to want to contact our ministry
00:20 and get the DVD called The Dream
00:22 or you can go on Laymen Ministries
00:24 YouTube channel and watch the video on there.
00:27 On this trip, I brought two former missionaries
00:29 with me Jonathan Peoples and Joshua Miller.
00:32 And both of these young men
00:33 came over as student missionaries.
00:35 They were in and out of the country
00:36 and actually lived here, Jonathan for seven years
00:39 and Joshua for 12 years,
00:40 and they're going to be reminiscing a bit.
00:42 Also on this program, we're going to tell you about
00:45 our Bible worker program and our paper
00:47 that is called the source of hope,
00:49 and we're going to even show you
00:50 some traditional Lithuanian cooking.
01:19 Lithuania is situated in Northern Europe
01:21 in an area called the Baltics
01:23 with Russia to the east and Poland to the south.
01:25 And it has a population of about 3.5 million people.
01:30 Lithuania has been one of the most occupied countries
01:33 in all of Europe, yet on the other hand,
01:34 in the earlier centuries,
01:36 when Vytautas the Great was king,
01:38 it occupied the territories of present-day Belarus,
01:41 Ukraine, and parts of Poland, and Russia.
01:43 By the end of the 14th century,
01:45 Lithuania stretched across a substantial part of Europe
01:49 from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
01:51 Life in Lithuania is difficult,
01:53 especially with the growing worldwide recession.
01:56 Unemployment is at all-time highs.
01:58 It has some of the highest rates in all of Europe
02:01 for alcoholism, depression, and suicide.
02:04 In the cities, people are crowded
02:06 into these small block of flats
02:08 or what we call apartment house complexes.
02:10 Life in the country is difficult.
02:12 The people survive by growing food
02:14 and keeping it in store for the long winters.
02:17 Today, while growing more and more secular,
02:19 like much of Europe,
02:21 the Catholic Church is the state recognized religion.
02:27 Just to show you how deeply seated Catholicism is,
02:30 we headed out into the countryside
02:32 to a small town called Siauliai,
02:34 where there's a shrine and a church dedicated
02:36 to the supposed apparition of the Virgin Mary.
02:45 As the Teutonic Knights conquest in Lithuania
02:47 started to spread Catholicism, churches started to spring up
02:51 in lot different areas like this area here.
02:53 In 1457, a man by the name of Peter founded a church
02:57 in this little area of Lithuania,
02:58 and it became known as Siauliai.
03:11 After the little church was established here in Siauliai,
03:15 Calvinists started to move into this area
03:17 and had a great influence.
03:19 And because of that, in 1532,
03:21 the priest at the church of Siauliai made a great, big,
03:24 huge wooden box that was covered
03:26 with this iron-clad material.
03:28 And he put in it a picture of the Virgin Mary
03:30 and some vestments and things like that,
03:33 and also a document, a proof that this land
03:37 was actually given to the Catholic Church
03:39 under the rule of Vytautas the Great was,
03:42 I think, who the emperor was at the time.
03:44 And he put all these things, and he went over by a rock,
03:46 he buried it in the ground really deep,
03:49 and then shortly after that,
03:51 the Calvinists had a really strong influence.
03:53 They took possession of the church
03:55 and all the property in that area.
03:56 And over the next 80 years,
03:59 the Catholic Church in this area started to die out.
04:10 And in 1608, some children in this area
04:13 were out tending sheep, playing,
04:15 and then all of a sudden on a big rock,
04:17 they a saw Virgin Mary appear clad in white
04:21 and blue garments securing the baby Jesus.
04:23 And she was profusely crying,
04:26 tears were running down her face,
04:27 and she was wailing, and it was making
04:29 the rock wet around her.
04:31 Well, they ran and told some of the local village people
04:33 what they saw
04:34 and how this woman that they saw appeared
04:37 was surrounded by an aura of a light of some sort.
04:40 And everybody came to the conclusion
04:42 that this had to be the Virgin Mary
04:44 that she had appeared in this area.
04:46 But when the Calvinists, pastors found out
04:48 what happened, they attributed
04:50 this manifestation as an evil spirit.
04:53 But a lot of the local village people here
04:55 believe that this was really the Virgin Mary
04:57 who had appeared and was weeping bitterly
05:01 because Catholicism had weaned in this area
05:04 and the church had been taken over by the Calvinists.
05:12 Needless to say, this supposed apparition of the Virgin Mary
05:15 created quite a stir in the local community.
05:17 And it actually started to revive
05:19 amongst those backslidden Catholics.
05:21 The story started to spread
05:22 a lot of the villages around the area.
05:24 And about three years the "supposed" appearance,
05:27 an elderly man who was over 100 years old,
05:29 who was nearly blind, heard the story,
05:31 and he remembered 80 years before
05:34 said he had helped this catholic priest
05:36 to bury this iron-clad box by this rock.
05:39 And even though he was nearly blind,
05:41 and it was 80 years later, and he was an old man,
05:44 the "miraculous" story goes.
05:45 He took some of the villages to exact spot
05:48 where this box was supposedly buried.
05:51 They dug and dug and dug
05:53 and sure enough they found the box.
05:55 They opened it up, they found a picture
05:57 of the Virgin Mary inside, some vestments from the church,
06:01 and some documents that proved that
06:03 that property belonged to the Catholic Church,
06:05 and they were endorsed by the Vytautas the Great
06:08 who was one of the emperors
06:10 of the Lithuanian empire way back years before.
06:14 And so those documents were taken
06:16 to the local councilmen and legal battle started.
06:19 And eventually the church
06:21 and property came back to the Catholics,
06:24 and a large Catholic Church was built here
06:27 to commemorate this whole event.
06:30 We left Siauliai to head to a place called Merkine,
06:33 which is deep in the forest of Central Lithuania.
06:37 Paganism has deep cultural roots here in Lithuania.
06:40 In fact, it's even recognized by the government.
06:42 Statistics say that the majority of the people
06:44 profess "Catholicism" but 37% of the people
06:48 of Lithuania do not believe in a regular organized religion,
06:51 but they do believe in spiritual
06:54 or supernatural forces that influence people.
07:05 This is a good example of what I'm talking about.
07:07 This is a Merkine New Age Pyramid.
07:09 This is kind of a center of enlightenment
07:11 here in Lithuania.
07:13 A man by the name of Zekas had these spiritual revelations
07:16 in which God told him this was a special spot
07:19 where there's kind of like
07:20 some kind of special forces here.
07:22 And he was shown in vision the exact size
07:26 and measurements of a pyramid
07:27 in which somehow triangulates all these spiritual forces.
07:30 And later, they put this large geodesic dome
07:33 over this pyramid.
07:49 In the late 13th century, the Teutonic Knights
07:51 which were like the military branch of the Catholic Church
07:54 came here and started forcing
07:56 the Lithuanian pagans to convert to Catholicism.
07:59 And really what ended up happening is that,
08:02 well, a lot of them started to profess Catholicism.
08:04 They were just mixing and matching
08:06 a new form of paganism.
08:20 Despite the many cultural
08:21 and historical challenges we face in Lithuania,
08:24 Laymen Ministries is shedding the light of Bible truth
08:27 and hope to people across this little country.
08:30 We publish a paper entitled the Source of Hope,
08:34 which is circulated all across the country.
08:37 Our Director Arunas and his wife Neringa
08:40 head up the publishing and distribution of this paper.
08:44 They and others have set up paper stands
08:46 all over the country.
08:49 Even as they were restocking this rack
08:51 at a large shopping center,
08:52 a lady stopped and shared
08:54 how much she appreciates the paper.
08:57 We started the paper in 2011 printing only 1,500 copies.
09:02 Today, we have a quarterly print run of 50,000.
09:08 We have stands here of
09:09 newspaper stands in Marijampole,
09:11 three of them in shop,
09:13 two of them in shops, and one more in hospital.
09:17 And we're very excited to have them here,
09:19 especially in the hospital because people are relaxed,
09:23 and they are getting newspaper daily and reading them.
09:27 And every week, we are putting
09:30 300 newspapers in those stands.
09:34 Each paper is eight pages in length printed in full color.
09:39 The paper targets people of all ages.
09:41 There are articles about family, health topics,
09:44 and how to understand the Bible, how to pray,
09:47 and other simple articles
09:48 to help people to grow in Jesus Christ.
09:51 We tried to find good Adventist writers
09:53 since they best understand the people
09:55 and culture of Lithuania.
09:57 Sometimes Pastor Arunas and his wife Neringa
10:00 write articles as well as authors such as myself
10:03 and others from America.
10:05 Our Bible workers stock stands all across Lithuania.
10:09 Summer festivals and events
10:11 are a great time to share the paper.
10:15 They go to the people in hospitals
10:17 and in homeless shelters,
10:21 church groups mobilize to share on Sabbaths.
10:26 Every quarter, they are mailed to subscribers,
10:32 youth groups take them door-to-door.
10:38 Even in the small shopping center,
10:40 we found copies right at the checkout stand.
10:45 Kaz Marijus was walking in a park one day
10:47 when he was handed one of our papers by our church member.
10:51 Today, he is baptized and regularly attends
10:54 group Bible studies led out by
10:56 one of our Bible workers named Gina.
11:03 He loves to read the Bible, the paper,
11:06 the Source of Hope brought hope to his life.
11:18 Joshua Miller and I went to Arunas and Neringa's home.
11:21 It had been a couple of years since I had been here,
11:24 and for Joshua and John, quite a number of years.
11:28 We're all like family.
11:45 Arunas wasted no time to tell us
11:47 about the latest activities with the paper,
11:49 the Source of Hope.
11:51 He explained how this paper
11:53 has really taken off across the country.
11:57 Many people just calling us back
11:59 and asking us to send them more copies to be sent
12:02 to their neighbors and many, many calls and text messages.
12:07 My wife Neringa is making lay-out
12:12 and just choosing all pictures.
12:16 And after that she is gets most calls
12:21 and text messages and sending to addresses
12:24 which people live, and they want to get copy,
12:28 sending the paper if they live far away in village.
12:32 If nearby Seventh-day Adventist,
12:34 she's giving these addresses to Adventist people
12:39 to visit to make a contact.
12:45 Speaking of contacts, Arunas and his wife Neringa
12:48 often visit people in the area where they live.
12:56 If people have questions, they give away books
12:59 and tracks and offer to deliver them personally.
13:04 In this case, an elderly woman showed an interest.
13:07 And a visit was made which led to giving her Bible studies.
13:12 People like this are often lonely
13:14 and are searching for a purpose in life.
13:18 Neringa loves playing her guitar and singing
13:21 to people like this.
13:40 This day, there were questions
13:41 about what the Bible said in contrast
13:43 to what she had learned in the Catholic Church.
13:46 She was finding discrepancies and was looking for answers.
13:54 This lady's husband had passed away
13:56 and her children had moved out of the country.
14:03 Today, we're meeting with the Bible workers.
14:04 Every time I come to Lithuania, I spend usually one or two days
14:07 with them just to kind of feel what's happening with them
14:10 in their lives and to encourage them
14:12 as they do outreach here in the Lithuania.
14:34 I always like to tell them about what's happening
14:37 with Laymen Ministries in other countries
14:39 and to share words of encouragement.
14:42 Our team of Bible workers
14:43 are scattered all across the country,
14:45 so getting together is a special time for them.
14:48 We then sit back in a circle and talk about the challenges
14:52 and blessings of the work
14:54 and how we can look for new ways to share the gospel.
14:58 Some of our Bible workers have been with Laymen Ministries
15:01 for many years such as Pastor Julius Pikunas.
15:04 We made a long drive about into the countryside
15:08 where Julius lives because we were told
15:10 he was holding a weekend youth camp at his home.
15:13 We were met by his wife Roma,
15:14 who served Laymen Ministries as a Bible worker for many years.
15:18 She recently retired
15:19 and now helps Julius with the youth camps.
15:22 So I guess they have kind of like...
15:23 They set the place up to be kind of like a youth camp.
15:26 And so they have like a kitchen in here.
15:30 It's all set up there,
15:31 and they have a church over there.
15:34 And this is all in Julius's property.
15:36 He was a Bible worker,
15:38 pastor that Laymen Ministries supports here.
15:41 Rainy-rainy.
15:42 This is Lithuania, you know, Lithuania is about
15:45 the same as the panhandle of Alaska.
15:48 So for all you folks in Alaska,
15:50 this is very similar to where you live.
15:56 Julius was just finishing having classes
15:58 and games with the younger children.
16:00 Many of our Bible workers are involved with youth
16:03 to a program very similar to that of Pathfinders.
16:06 He said he's just being evolved as a pastor.
16:08 He's also doing a lot of outreach with kids,
16:10 especially in the summertime they're having like camps here.
16:14 And then they have like another small chapel right over there
16:17 where they have meetings with kids.
16:19 He works with mostly younger kids on the side.
16:21 I mean, he's a pastor of a church,
16:23 involved with Bible studies,
16:24 handing out literature, and things like that.
16:26 But this is also something
16:27 that he and his wife have a burden for
16:29 as far as working with the young kids.
16:34 Yup, this is it.
16:38 I know you, how are you?
16:39 Yeah, I'm good. Good to see you.
16:40 How are you? Wonderful.
16:43 Jorgita, a longtime friend and church worker,
16:46 was holding meetings with some of the teens.
16:50 She uses creative and interactive group discussions,
16:53 where the youth are challenged spiritually.
16:56 It was obvious that they were really
16:57 enjoying this interaction.
17:00 I had a chance to share my testimony with them
17:03 about how I became an Adventist Christian.
17:15 Another one of our Bible workers named Robertas Grigas
17:18 holds summer camps for youths of all ages.
17:26 They have serious study times, group discussions,
17:30 and are taught teamwork,
17:33 survival skills...
17:40 And to go door to door with our paper,
17:42 the Source of Hope.
17:51 Often on Laymen Ministries' television programs,
17:53 we'd like to take you into the kitchen
17:55 in different countries where you can experience
17:57 some of the cultural food.
17:58 And Neringa and her sister Aagni, Aagna,
18:02 I think it's like Agnus,
18:03 but it's Agna, did I say it right?
18:05 She says, "Okay."
18:07 Yeah, but they're going to cook some kind of traditional
18:09 Lithuanian food today, and what is it called again?
18:14 Vertine.
18:15 Vertini? Vertine.
18:16 Okay, and from what I understand,
18:18 it's kind of like a potato dumpling,
18:20 but if you watched some of our other programs,
18:22 they made like zeppelins one time.
18:23 And those were kind of like
18:25 a football looking potato dumpling,
18:27 and those are pretty delicious actually.
18:29 But this is going to be something different.
18:31 So what are you going to do first?
18:36 First they're going to make a dough...
18:41 Then there is flour, eggs, salt, and water.
18:46 So it's basically, they're making like
18:48 a pastry crust of some sort.
18:50 Okay. Gerai.
18:51 That's what they say in Lithuania for good, gerai.
19:17 So what's the next thing on your list of things to do?
19:23 They're going to use cheese curds which, I guess,
19:26 the closest thing in the United States
19:28 that we would have...
19:29 It's common would be cottage cheese,
19:31 but you'd have to squeeze the liquid out it.
19:34 It's already dry here.
19:35 It's something that is really common in Europe
19:38 that you don't see as much in United States is kind of
19:40 like this like almost like mozzarella cheese,
19:43 but it's even fresher, and it has water in it.
19:46 And it's not like feta cheese, but it's...
19:49 Yeah, I guess you'll get to see
19:50 what it looks like here in a second.
20:12 Okay, so this one with the curds had been finished,
20:15 and now they're going to start on the potato fillings.
20:18 They're going to be two different fillings
20:19 for these dumplings.
20:21 Some of these are going to have potatoes inside of them?
20:25 Yeah. Okay, cool. Yeah.
20:55 So, Joshua, what is the next thing
20:56 she's going to do right now?
21:03 They've got the cheese curds ready.
21:08 And they're going to put...
21:09 So they'll take about half of them,
21:10 since we got potatoes and the cheese curds,
21:12 so they'll do about half of them
21:13 with the cheese curds,
21:15 and so they're going to put it inside.
21:16 Fold them up.
21:17 Fold them up and squeeze down the edges to make sure
21:19 no water can get inside them.
21:21 And then they're going to put in the pot and cook it.
21:23 We had a quite a bit of discussion about
21:26 what to call these because in Poland,
21:28 they make something similar to this,
21:30 and it's called the pierogi.
21:32 And in America, we make dumplings,
21:34 but dumplings usually are just like watered up
21:36 piece of dough that's boiled, but these are like dumplings
21:39 that have a stuffing inside,
21:41 so kind of little similar to the Polish pierogi.
21:44 This is the final product,
21:46 and it does look a lot like a Polish pierogi.
21:49 We have the mushroom sauce there,
21:51 and I'm going to give it a taste test.
21:54 And like most dumpling type things,
21:56 it's got a little bit of a soft texture.
22:07 It's actually pretty good.
22:10 In the mid 1990s, Laymen Ministries started
22:13 a Student Missionary Program in Lithuania.
22:16 We sent over youth such as Joshua Miller,
22:18 Jonathan Peoples, Jeremy Calkins,
22:21 and Shannon Parker.
22:23 Joshua ended staying a total of 12 years
22:26 and Jonathan around seven years.
22:29 Jonathan was later trained as a videographer
22:31 and traveled around the world with me shooting video
22:34 for our television programs.
22:36 They ended up helping pioneer
22:37 a lot of the work in this little country.
22:39 They both came with me on this trip
22:41 and spent some time
22:43 remembering about their years working here.
22:45 You know, John, it's amazing, 23 years later,
22:49 almost of the day that I first came to Lithuania.
22:53 It's long time ago.
22:54 It is.
22:55 It's hard to believe,
22:57 I mean, it seems like just yesterday now,
22:58 but here we are.
23:00 You know, I remember, it was almost a day like this,
23:03 maybe a little colder, maybe a little wetter.
23:05 You know, when I first landed, I didn't know
23:07 what we're getting into,
23:08 kind of scared, I was young, 19 years old,
23:11 first time away from Mom and Dad except for,
23:13 you know, academy, but...
23:14 Right.
23:16 So after graduation,
23:19 I had the opportunity to go sell books
23:21 which was actually partially my first opportunity
23:24 to learn how to sell books.
23:26 And it was during that time I learned
23:28 that maybe I could possible
23:29 teach others to how to sell books.
23:31 So Jeff Reich had already asked me
23:34 before during the school year
23:35 if I wanted to go to Lithuania and sell books,
23:37 and I had said, "No." I was going to go,
23:39 and I was going to go to Weimar,
23:40 to get some education.
23:42 But at the end of the summer,
23:43 it turned out that one of my friends
23:45 who had been going to go to Lithuania
23:48 had to back out because of family situation.
23:50 And so that left it open for me.
23:52 And so I told Jeff I would go.
23:55 So that's kind of the reason
23:56 why I showed up here in Lithuania the second year,
23:59 after you and Shannon had gone back home,
24:01 we returned together,
24:02 and that was the purpose of our step here in Lithuania.
24:05 And so, John, what was your first impression
24:09 when you got here? You know, see, like, for me,
24:11 you know, it was gray, dark,
24:12 it was cold, and it was about October
24:14 I think when you came back to this, you know, for the...
24:16 I think it was mid-October when I came over here.
24:19 And at that time, it was very cold.
24:21 I remember the first ministries meeting we had,
24:23 it was freezing cold.
24:24 We had snow.
24:25 And it was definitely a jury play.
24:34 In 1995, when Shannon and I first came to Lithuania,
24:38 Laymen Ministries had already established
24:41 a publishing work here in Lithuania.
24:44 You know, they were printing a lot of Ellen White books,
24:46 some health books, and even though
24:48 all of these books were being printed,
24:50 they were not being sold.
24:52 I mean, the church only had 300,
24:53 maybe 400 church members,
24:55 and that's not enough
24:57 to be able to support a publishing house.
24:59 They had a lot of books just sitting.
25:00 Yes. Yes, they did.
25:02 And so Jeff...
25:04 I asked Shannon and I to come to Lithuania
25:06 'cause he knew that we had Call Porter experience
25:09 and try to teach the locals how to sell books.
25:12 And so Shannon and I, that first year,
25:15 we spent a lot of time working with the youth
25:17 and young people, we took them out door to door,
25:20 and, you know, you take these five-storey
25:21 apartment buildings, like we have behind you here.
25:25 And when we'd go from door-to-door, it was amazing.
25:28 It was every single place that we visited, we sold the book.
25:32 Wow. I mean, it really was.
25:34 I mean, wow doesn't even describe it.
25:36 Yeah, that's amazing.
25:38 But we were told, you know,
25:39 it was a very communist way of thinking back in those days.
25:43 And they did not believe
25:44 that this was going to work.
25:47 And so when they saw that result, it's like,
25:49 "Well, you're only selling books
25:50 because you're Americans."
25:52 And, you know, we did, we'd knock on the door,
25:53 "Hi, my name is Josh. I'm from America."
25:55 Great opening wedge.
25:58 We told them, "Okay, tomorrow, you guys go out by yourselves
26:02 and let's see what happens."
26:04 So how did that work?
26:06 Amazingly, they did the same thing.
26:08 They were able to sell it almost every single door.
26:11 They didn't have to say, "Hi, my name is Arunas,
26:13 and I'm from Lithuania."
26:15 They still sold books.
26:18 People were...
26:19 I mean, they had a thirst for the knowledge,
26:22 and these Ellen White books, these health books,
26:25 it was exactly what was needed.
26:28 And at the end of those seven months,
26:30 the mission president came to Shannon and I,
26:32 and he said, "You know, would you guys
26:34 please bring back some more young people just like you."
26:37 They were impressed with what we had accomplished.
26:40 They loved the work that Laymen Ministries was doing here.
26:43 As I remember it,
26:45 during the 2-week summer program
26:47 that we had, the 23 people that were selling,
26:51 we sold over 10,000 books.
26:52 Yeah, yeah, it was...
26:54 And that's very impressive.
26:57 Yeah, we've accomplished a lot while we were here.
26:59 Yeah, it's true.
27:01 You certainly tried.
27:03 Yeah.
27:05 Joshua and Jonathan were responsible
27:07 were starting out orphanage projects
27:08 in Lithuania many years ago.
27:11 Laymen Ministries over the years
27:13 has purchased needed clothing, shoes, toothbrushes,
27:16 and other items for orphans across the country.
27:22 And on this trip again, we were helping orphan children.
27:28 We took the kids from the orphanage
27:30 in Ukmerge to a local shopping mall
27:32 and helped them purchase a couple thousand dollars
27:35 worth of needed clothing and shoes.
27:38 It was Christmas come early.
27:41 And, of course, Neringa was there handing
27:43 out spiritual books to the children and staff.
27:54 Over the years, we have seen God bless
27:56 the fruits of labor by people giving their lives to Christ.
28:01 Here are some of our current needs
28:04 as we pray that you would be impressed to help.


Revised 2022-12-26