JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The president of the Baptist Union of Lithuania spent Aug. 18-25 in mid-Missouri to explore partnership projects, to share the story of Lithuanian Baptists and to be encouraged in kingdom work.
Irmantas Pinkoraitis worked with the Future Leadership Foundation throughout the week to review past partnerships and discuss future possibilities to assist with needs in that country. He also met with leaders from First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, currently a mission partner, and Baptist World Alliance representative Jim Hill.
Throughout his visit, Pinkoraitis shared that Lithuania, formerly part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic, had been hard hit by the 2009-2010 recession and is among the European Union's poorer members.
About 78 percent of the country's 3 million people are Roman Catholic. Evangelicals came into the country in the 19th and 20th centuries, with Baptists and Pentecostals as dominate indigenous faiths today. But Lithuania has one of the highest suicide and divorce rates in the world.
The Baptist Union includes eight churches and 300 members. Independent Baptist churches and other Christian congregations also exist. Christian higher education is available through Lithuanian Christian University and various Bible colleges.
Pinkoraitis has served New Testament Baptist Church in Vilniua for the past 21 years. With some government assistance, the congregation ministers to a poor neighborhood through a daycare center. It also provides a Christian school that currently serves 39 students.
In addition to their studies at the school, which has a strong teacher-student ratio, children have participated in events and emphases like a kindness campaign and a program that discourages bullying, a problem with which Americans also struggle, he noted.
Pinkoraitis said the congregation tries to use innovative weekday ministries and other forms of outreach to draw people in the community into relationships with church members, the church and with Christ, including after-school mentoring and care of neighborhood children.
A graduate of Vilnius Gediminas Technical University as an architect, Pinkoraitis accepted Christ in 1992 while a student. He had grown up in an unbelieving household and anger had driven him to alcohol and drugs.
He told the Wednesday night audience at First Baptist that one of his grandfathers was a devout and influential Communist. But God used the young man's mother's conversion and the testimony of a visiting professor from the United States to pull Pinkoraitis to Christ.
He was ordained and called as pastor of New Testament Baptist in 1993, and studied at International Baptist Seminary in Prague. He continues working as an architect and project manager.