Aberrant and unorthodox groups join Christians in filling Eastern Europe’s spiritual vacuum.
Kathleen Mickelsen’s eyes panned the crowded music hall in Leningrad as her church choir performed. “Halfway through the concert, my eyes were drawn to a woman in the audience—and I noticed her eyes were drawn to me,” recounts Mickelsen. “She just melted at our singing of ‘Love So Amazing, So Divine,’ a song about Christ on the cross. We kept looking at each other through the rest of the concert—and I sang the songs as my testimony to her with all my heart.”
Mickelsen’s testimony? She’s a Mormon, a member of the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which completed a highly successful tour through Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union last summer. The choir’s appearances, according to the Mormon publication The Ensign, which told Mickelsen’s story, revolved around a carefully planned, four-point strategy for spreading the Mormon message to formerly communist countries.
First, the choir “elicited waves of advance publicity”; second, its musical message drew people in; third, national dignitaries were invited to receptions and dinners held in several countries; finally, top U.S. Mormon leaders offered more information about their church at eight informal gatherings, reportedly attended by thousands.
If the Mormon campaign sounds highly organized, it is. And like the Latter-day Saints, other aberrant Christian groups, sects, and Eastern religions have big plans for growth in former Eastern Bloc countries.
“Cults are everywhere,” says Daryl McCarthy, executive director of the International Institute for Christian Studies, which sets up educational exchanges throughout Eastern Europe. “The people are ready to accept some form of religion. ...1
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