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Russell plays host to Russian pastors





RUSSELL -- A taste of Russian culture was served along with lunch Wednesday at Russell Senior Center.

Alexander Lapochenko, a pastor at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Arsenyev, Russia, and Evgeny Slinchenko, who recently completed his studies at the seminary and serves as congregation president, are guests of St. John Lutheran Church and Pastor Roger Dennis.

Lapochenko and Slinchenko speak only a smattering of English, so Petr Grigorev, who originally is from Russia and now lives in Great Bend, served as translator.

Arsenyev, a town of 56,000, is named for a noted scientist, Grigorev said. It's about 160 miles northeast of Vladivostok on the coast of the sea of Japan, on the southern point of Russia.

The Lutheran Church in Arsenyev was founded in 1998.

"It's just a regular house," Lapochenko said of the church, through his translator.

The building was in need of repair when the church took it over and still has no running water.

"Everything that is in there has been handmade by the visitors (congregation) of the Lutheran Church," Grigorev said.

Many of the members of the church aren't baptized, so Lapochenko baptizes more adults than American pastors, Dennis said.

However, people of all ages attend church there.

After the presentation, audience members had a chance to ask questions. They ranged from the country's economics to Sunday school.

"In Russia, there is a freedom of many religions," Grigorev said in response to a question.

There are 14 denominations in Arsenyev.

When asked about a military presence, Lapochenko replied through his interpreter, "We are a country of friendship."

Though "it's been a while since he farmed," John Kirgis was interested in the weather in Russia and its harvest.

Wheat usually is harvested in August, Grigorev said, but like the U.S., it depended on the weather.

"I would like to know how the women are treated," said Betty Brenner.

While it might vary in some families, in the government, women can be treated the same as men, Grigorev said.