Beware when giving advice. That is the lesson Arthur DeKruyter learned after completing a preaching tour in the Soviet Union in 1986. DeKruyter, the founding pastor of the megasized Christ Church Oak Brook (Ill.), visited churches at the invitation of the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christian- Baptist Churches. Meeting Russian clergy caused the Chicago-area cleric to tell Union officials that their leaders needed better theological training. "So help us build a seminary," they responded.

And so he did. On June 20, the new 35,000-square-foot building for the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy, the only graduate-level Protestant seminary in Russia, was dedicated. In operation since 1990, shuffling between church basements and rented classrooms, the school has issued more than 300 degrees, ranging from associate's to a premaster's certificate, the latter accredited by Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, which allows students to receive an M.A. with only one year of additional study in the United States. Within the next few years, the school hopes to bestow an M.A. without students having to leave Russian soil. Fuller provides four faculty members a year, each undertaking a two-week stint of six-hour lectures, six days a week.

NEAR-DEATH VISION: The idea for the academy arose from a dramatic event in the life of Sergei Nikolaev, an evangelical minister from Saint Petersburg. Nikolaev suffered multiple fractures in a car accident in Norway in 1988. While near death, he says he was visited by the Lord, who told him to follow a three-pronged strategy for his ministry in Saint Petersburg: not only was he to build a church (the Temple of the Gospel Church, which quickly grew to 2,000 members), but also a mission (New Life ...

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