For nearly ten years now, Lighthouse Trails has been publishing the works of Georgi Vins, the Baptist pastor who was persecuted under the former U.S.S.R., (spending a total of eight years in the communist prisons). To date, we have obtained the rights and published three of his books that had gone out of print: The Gospel in Bonds, Moscow Express, and most recently Three Generations of Suffering.
Below is an extract of one of the chapters from that last book, which is a portrayal of one of the men Georgi knew, who too was persecuted and imprisoned. It is our hope that as our readers learn about believers from the past who paid a dear price for serving the Lord in countries that forbid it that we ourselves will be strengthened in our faith, no matter what the future holds.
The Story of Georgi Ivanovich Shipkov
By Georgi Vins
From Three Generations of Suffering
Georgi Ivanovich Shipkov was called to be the exegete of our brotherhood. His spiritual articles were printed in many Evangelical Christian-Baptist journals. They were written in beautiful literary language and with deep reverence for the Person of the Savior. Even today, for the Russian brotherhood, they are a model of profound Russian thought in the study of the Book of Books.
In the journal The Baptist, No. 1, 1927, was printed Georgi Shipkov’s biography, written by Pavel Ivanov-Klyshnikov. I quote it here with a small abbreviation:
Georgi Ivanovich Shipkov was born on October 25th, 1865, near Samara. His father was a peasant, a member of the Molokan sect. Georgi received a strict religious education in his family. In 1878, the Shipkovs moved to Blagoveshchensk. Georgi, by then a young man, showed an intense love for reading and the study of languages. Having passed the examination for several classes of high school as an external student, he entered a postal-telegraph office as a clerk and continued studying languages and reading, being chiefly interested in history and philosophy. In 1889, Georgi Shipkov turned to the Lord. From that time, he began to be interested in literature on theological questions and read all the books in this field which could be obtained in Blagoveshchenk, in English, French, and German as well as Russian. In order to obtain a systematic theological education, in 1894, Shipkov entered the theological faculty of the American University in Peking where he received the degree of Doctor of Theology in 1898 and immediately returned to Blagoveshehenak. Here he went to work at the telegraph office once more and served there until 1921. As well as this, he was for eight years a lecturer in English in a technical high school and a polytechnic. This work earned brother Georgi the means to live, and at the same time, he undertook spiritual ministry; for about thirteen years, he was deputy pastor of the Blagoveshchensk Baptist community; for seven years, he was a teacher there; for six years, he was Chairman of the Far East Branch of the All-Russian Baptist Union; and for six years, Comrade Chairman of this Branch, which was subsequently re-named the Far East Baptist Union.
In 1928, Georgi Shipkov, as the delegate of the Far East brotherhood, took part in the work of the Fourth Baptist Congress in Toronto.
Shipkov lived almost all his life in Blagoveshchensk and worked zealously for about fifty years in the local church, which was the mother of all the communities of the Far East Evangelical Christian-Baptist brotherhood.
In 1930, as a consequence of the arrest of my father, Peter Vins, who served as pastor of the Blagoveshchensk church from 1927-1930, Georgi Shipkov once more took upon himself a responsible ministry as pastor, which lasted until 1937.
These years were especially hard for our whole brotherhood. The prayer-house in Blagoveshchensk, built by the believers’ own hands as long ago as 1910, was confiscated in 1930, and many preachers of the Gospel were forced into exile or were locked up in prisons. Georgi Shipkov was almost the only one left of the ministers of the church in Blagoveshchensk.
Under the influence of persecution in these years, there began to appear among the believers those who were fainthearted, fearful, and even time servers. Fallen and broken officers of the church emerged, and it was from these that the authorities began in subsequent years to form religious groupings obedient to atheism.
The majority of believers, however, courageously continued to serve God.
In 1938, Georgi Shipkov was sent [in excile] to Omsk. He settled down in a small room in a house belonging to believers. He was physically very weak. But the secret police did not leave him in peace: they often summoned him to interrogations and threatened him with a new exile even farther to the north, in the tundra.
I saw Georgi Shipkov once in Omsk in 1939. He was a short, thin old man with a pointed beard, very affectionate and kind, who laid his small hand on my head and asked about my father.
In the last years of his life (1934-1939), Georgi Shipkov did a great deal of work on the interpretation of the New Testament. His work was contained in a large manuscript book. Unfortunately, the fate of this material is unknown. Perhaps it is intact and is lying around somewhere unused? Perhaps believers are preserving letters, articles, and other manuscript legacies of dear Georgi Shipkov? I beg the Lord to rouse the hearts of believers to seek out the precious spiritual heritage of our heroes of the faith so that it may become the property of our whole Evangelical-Baptist brotherhood.
As an aged man, committed to the Lord to the end, Shipkov ended his earthly journey in prison.
From 1934-1935, there was a lively correspondence between my father and Georgi Shipkov. Unfortunately, only a small number of Shipkov’s letters have been preserved. Four of his letters are included in the present collection: a letter to my father from the Blagoveshchensk church (written by Shipkov at the commission of the church), and three personal letters from Shipkov (only a small part of the third letter has been preserved).
[Below is a fragment of one of the letters written by Shipkov to Peter Vins.]
People are bitterly disillusioned about swift help from God and usually first fall into despair and then into godlessness. In this way, their faith, like a spark from a crucible, first of all soars gleaming upward to the heavens, then is extinguished in the night air and falls as a speck of dust to the cold earth. Alas for such “believers”!
This is not the kind of faith in God and the kind of hope in His all-powerfulness and mercy that true Christians and reborn children of God should have. The central pillar in the church of God’s grace looks on the trial of believers by afflictions as a purifying fire, melting gold to give it greater value (1 Peter 1:3-7). Gold in the smelting furnace is not destroyed but is purified and gains in value. True faith is subject to the same process and attains the same result in the crucible of trial by afflictions. Another pillar of the same church orders believers to have not a simple but a great joy when they fall into many various trials, for the testing of their faith, leading to an increase of steadfastness, which has its full effect on those who are tried (James 1:2-4). And finally, the third pillar of the Gentile section of the same church reasons that the gift of God we have received, Faith, with its accompanying afflictions, evolves, not decreasing, but increasing in new experiences and raising itself by degrees higher and higher to the faultless sensation of the love of God, poured out in the hearts of believers by the Holy Spirit given to them in the day they turn to the Lord (Romans 5:1-5). On the basis of such an experience, the apostle asks: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). And at once, he answers with complete conviction:
I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels [fallen], nor principalities [those in command], nor powers [authorities], nor things present, nor things to come, nor height [worldly position], nor depth [humiliation in the world], nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
From the very beginning of Christianity, to us believers “it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). His redemptive sufferings for believers must necessarily be compensated for by their sufferings in thanks to Him.