Podin, Adam K. (1862-1940s?)
Adam K. Podin: evangelist and Baptist minister; born in 1862 in Lithuania to parents of Latvian origin. He received a good education and then became a teacher in a government school before pursuing a career as a minister. Although the majority of Baptists and Mennonites were forbidden to convert Russians to their churches, Adam Podin was one person who preached with the aim of conversion, with the full blessing and encouragement of the government.
Little is known about Adam’s early life, but a significant event was his conversion in 1889. He traveled to England to visit friends and then on his return home was baptized by Baron Stackelberg, pastor of the Baptist church in Kegel. Adam, under the supervision of Stackelberg, preached and evangelized in the villages around Kegel, and in time even made preaching tours into Estonia.
Podin returned to England, spending time at the Missionary Training Home at Drayton Park. Having completed his studies, he returned to Kegel, where he succeeded Stackelberg as pastor in 1900. He was a good linguist, familiar with seven languages, a skill that was useful in his work.
About 1904, Podin was approached by a highly-placed government official in St. Petersburg, who was also a Baptist. It was requested that Adam visit the prisons throughout the northern part of the Russian empire, as well as the exile camps in Siberia. He received documents which allowed him to hold gospel services in prisons and exile settlements, and in addition, he was given several copies of the New Testament for distribution among the prisoners. In this capacity, Adam Podin traveled long and arduous journeys by train, steamer, and droshky through storms and floods.
On one trip, in the spring of 1911, Adam distributed 3,400 New Testaments in seven different languages. On another occasion he preached at a series of meetings at Perm, the great exile forwarding station. Altogether, there were 6,000 prisoners. He spoke to them in groups; for instance, on the second day he preached to 800 manacled men, sentenced to 20 years in exile to be served near the Amur River. In a number of days, Podin had spoken to all of the prisoners, most of whom gladly accepted the gift of a New Testament. He spoke at up to 40 gatherings in one day, and although he was fatigued from the severe strain, he did not turn back from what he considered his call.
Likely through his travels to St. Petersburg, Podin came into contact with Jakob Kroeker, one of the organizers of the Halbstadt Bible Conference. This was also probably the personal connection with the Mennonite newspaper Friedensstimme, in which Adam published a series of articles about his prison ministry. Through these contacts, he was invited to be a speaker at the Bible Conference in Halbstadt from 20-23 August 1909. The next year, he was asked to be a guest speaker at the dedication of the Morija nursing home in the Molotschna Mennonite Settlement.
Throughout his career, Podin helped promote religious education, working as a teacher and also as a director of the Estonian Baptist Preachers’ Seminary in Tallinn until 1938. The date and place of his death are unknown, although he likely remained in Estonia after his retirement.
Adam K. Podin had a significant effect on the Mennonites of Russia and the Soviet Union through his writing, preaching, and visits with the exiles in Siberia. His contributions to religious life in the Soviet Union were felt among people of many different backgrounds, shaping communities for years to come.
Byford, Charles T. Peasants and Prophets, Second Edition. London: James Clarke and Co., 1914, pp. 127-134.
Friedensstimme (5 June 1910): 3, 4.
Huebert, Helmut T. Events and People: Events in Russian Mennonite History and the People that Made Them Happen. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield Publishers, 1999: 129-130.
Pilli, Toivo. “Finding a Balance Between Church and Academia: Baptist Theological Education in Estonia.” Religion in Eastern Europe XXVI, 3 (August 2006) http://www.georgefox.edu/academics/undergrad/departments/soc-swk/ree/Pilli_Finding%20a%20Balance_Aug%202006.pdf (accessed October 2009).
Podin, A. “Gefangenenmission.” Friedensstimme (14 February 1909): 5.
Podin, A. “Aus der Arbeit in den Gefängnissen.” Friedensstimme (28 February 1909): 4, 5.
Podin, A. “Arbeit Unter den Gefangenen.” Friedensstimme (18 July 1909): 6, 7.
Podin, A. “Gefängnismission.” Friedensstimme (3 April 1910): 3, 4.
Wardin, Albert W. Evangelical Sectarianism in the Russian Empire and the USSR. Lanham, USA: The American Theological Library Association and London, UK: Scarecrow Press, 1995.
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