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Welcome to Реформа!

This is a journal intended to inspire reformation among the Slavic diaspora in the English-speaking world. As such, it is consciously worldview-oriented and dedicated towards building a better future upon the solid ground of orthodox [proper] Christian faith and practice. We believe that truly sustainable reforms in the greater society begin through personal conviction, re-establishing family cohesion and a vibrant Church around which faithful communities develop. May you be blessed by the truths conveyed herein. Amen

When Church [Trans]plants Wither

November 23, 2016
by George

Every Christian must have a mental picture of the ideal local Church – a gathering place of the ‘called-out ones’ (ecclesia).

Old, white country church

Old, white country church with stained-glass windows

Mine would likely resemble something similar to this picture. A bit of old world charm and simplicity mixed with an escape from the harsh, cold reality of the post-modern western society we live in.

But I would be quick to point out the flaws in my own reasoning concerning this. For God has not called us out of the world to escape it, but rather the opposite – to reform it. We are to be in the world, though not of it.

Meaning not operating by the principles of fallen mankind, but by the ones revealed in the Scriptures. Yet we ourselves are recovering idolaters – coming from a background of State supremacy as Slavic immigrants from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and our children are besieged by humanist propaganda all around them – and within.

And that is the fundamental reality we ought to come to realize so as to not return to the gulag.

I love history. It portrays the consistent backdrop of human depravity on display for all to witness. If it even remotely states the facts, then it is practically impossible to miss the message of our need for a Savior.

Of course, He has already come. And His Kingdom with Him. It begins within all who receive Him and is visible among His followers, the Church. Eventually it will be made manifest to all.

But even sincere Christians often hinder the revelation of Christ’s present enthronement by not developing a consistent worldview and growing in knowledge of His will. When I first read the entire Bible (initially out of obedience) I had some faulty interpretations based upon my personal upbringing being projected on the Word. I didn’t question the doctrines of my childhood faith because I saw the sincerity of belief and the good works of many holding to this denominational viewpoint (Pentecostal).

The more times I read the Holy Bible, however, and became acquainted with Church history and thought, the more I started seeing that there were more consistent and justifiable interpretations of some passages and verses I had accepted as a baby Christian. I realized traditions can be good, but also need to be examined in the light of Scripture. This was before I studied the Protestant Reformation more thouroughly. Eventually I realized I was breaking tradition with some of the traditions that I had been raised in.

I remember hearing as a younger child who spent much time in church services, how we (the evangelical Slavic refugees who had overcome Soviet persecution) must have been sent here to the west to revive its faith. There was a recognition of the fact that the Christian character of the United States of America had been waning for awhile. And I was filled with awe and purpose by the works of God.

Twenty year later, I look back and see that there is not much the Slavic immigration wave of the 1990’s has saved here. On the contrary, it is more likely to hear among them now that, whereas their children were preserved despite the Soviet propaganda, they have been defecting the churches in significant proportions lately.

Instead of being like another Plymouth plantation, the church transplant has seemingly withered in a prosperous land. Don’t get me wrong – the Slavic evangelical community has become quite prosperous. The land of opportunity has not been a disappointment in this regard. But the character of the people has suffered, I find. What could be the reason for this?

I have an idea: instead of growing in faith, the knowledge of God, and developing a more consistently

The Church must know what it believes & confess it

The Church must know what it believes & confess it

Christian worldview (continuing biblical reformation) we have become complacent. Like other Christians who sought refuge in the land of the pilgrims’ pride. The local churches may increase in number, but decrease in quality. Everyone searches for his own ideal escape.

But few are willing to change themselves and build the Church by continuing in the reformation tradition. We are largely comfortable where we are at, even though the culture around us is deteriorating and our society may collapse into relativistic chaos. Because many churches are themselves unaware of God’s systematic truth and remain pietist, so how can it be otherwise?

Granted, some people are getting out of their comfort zones. Slavic evangelicals are moving away from the west coast mainly due to the inconveniences of socialism (which they ironically didn’t resist). Reasons include impracticably high cost of living, restrictions on parental rights, moral decay, etc. But if our churches don’t address the poor theology that leads to this, moving won’t help much other than perhaps buy some time.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any Slavic churches willing to examine the foundational issues (first within themeselves) and if necessary, then relocate for the advancement of the gospel, as the pilgrims.

Not just to live a bit more comfortably in a less threatening socialist state, but to confront its sinfulness and call it to repentance. And show by example that living biblically is better than stealing from your neighbor and redistributing the wealth. Consider the value of the Protestant work ethic, which was not about luxury or salvation but the godly task of taking dominion over the earth and doing everything for the glory of God.

Being drawn to my idea of the church building (pictured above) is isolationist and selfish. It takes hard work to reform and be reformed according to the Scriptures. But otherwise our churches will continue to wither in the midst of abundance and plenty, after withstanding the fiery storm and drought of the anti-Christian Soviet experiment. And the abundance won’t last here either if we continue to abandon its godly source.

So I am ready to say farewell to my comfortable white church with stained glass windows, and join other believers for the sake of a church transplant that doesn’t seek to escape society or conform to it, but rather intends to be transformed by the Word and in turn reform the culture as a light in its midst.

Christian reformers are welcome to join my family in this worthwhile endeavor.

Ukraine: How should Sacramento’s Christian Diaspora react?

September 6, 2014
by George

Most people who live in Sacramento, California know that there is a significant Slavic diaspora here. By some estimations, it numbers approximately 50,000, of which the plurality is Ukrainian, with Russian immigrants a close second. Both groups and likely other Slavic minorities in the State’s capital region emigrated here as religious refugees. I know, because my family was one of them. We came in 1991, soon after a wave of immigration began following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

25 year anniversary

25 year anniversary of Slavic immigration to Sacramento, California – Yuriy Popko

Regardless of which part of the USSR we or our parents came from, we hold a common bond, and I’m not referring to ethnicity. That’s obvious. We often all get lumped together and labeled “Russian” because we look alike in many ways, and Russia is the largest Slavic country. I was often addressed this way, especially throughout the school years, and I didn’t mind it so much, although many of my Ukrainian friends objected (I’m sure you can guess why now). But there’s something else that should bind us even closer together than our familial blood – and that is a common faith. Read more…

Here’s a Way to Support Ukraine:

March 16, 2014
by George

Recently, while considering how to help Ukraine in it’s struggle for independence, I was inspired with a unique idea: I designed this cloth patch in the form of a badge which can be sewn onto just about anything, such as clothing, backpacks, etc., and worn or displayed as a symbol of reliance upon the Supreme Ruler of the World for the preservation of Ukraine. It depicts the Ukrainian coat of arms symbol, the Trident, which developed over the course of the nation’s thousand year history of Christian influence. The two mirrored letters ‘B’ forming the outside designate Christ as King of kings, the central cross (from Kherson in Crimea) within the Holy Trinity. In a fascinating way the letters could also spell out ‘воля’ which means will, freedom or liberty. If you would like to make a donation of at least $5 to support efforts to promote a Christian reformation and bring hope to the Ukrainian people in the midst of the unpredictable events happening in their country, I will gladly send you this as a souvenir for your contribution. Thank you for supporting freedom around the world!

The Ukrainian coat of arms with inscription: God save (Ukrainian liberty)

The Ukrainian coat of arms with inscription: God save (Ukrainian faith and liberty) – Yuriy Popko

A Response to Slavic Protestant Silence on the Crisis in Ukraine

March 3, 2014
by George

The Real Olympic Games

       I have to make a confession: sometimes I act like a complacent American citizen. Although I was born in Ukraine (before it’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991) I haven’t followed its politics much. In fact, I have to admit that I was watching some of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, while half-way across the globe in my former country a revolution was taking place. To be sure, it was still nonviolent for most of the duration of the Olympic Games. It’s when people started dying in the streets of Kiev that my attention was sharply diverted to my birth country. Trying to put together the facts from both sides of the story, hoping to reconcile them, I watched Russia Today and searched for online news. It was then I realized Russia hasn’t changed much despite the collapse of the USSR. References to thousands of protesters as right-wing extremists and nationalists were obscured as I looked upon young and old faces of different social classes, ordinary men and women out praying together, providing medical aid for the injured, feeding the hungry, and helping each other in the midst of the chaos unleashed upon the Maidan. It reminded me of The Soviet Story, a documentary (2008) about Europe’s most brutal regime, which exterminated 20 million people by some approximations. Russia is the heir of the USSR, and Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent himself, isn’t just interested in any games. He knows how to wage a public relations campaign, many noting this years Olympic Games as an attempt to showcase the new, modern Russia. But even the extravagance of the Olympics couldn’t absolve him of the past. It’s not that easy to forget tyranny, especially for Ukraine.

Read more…