Bishop Ruediger was our first bishop in the post-Soviet society. I remember my life in Moscow in early 1990s when I was a student. It was very difficult time. Imagine empty stores, crazy inflation, chaos and uncertainty about your future. God has been so gracious to send us bishop Ruediger. His love, wisdom and faith in us gave us wings to fly. I was always amazed how he as a German would speak Russian so well and know some words in Russian that even local people had to look them up in the dictionary to check their understanding. His language and cultural competence was amazing. And he loved to travel our vast land of Russia with its 11 time zones. He did it in such a simple and humble style that many of us in today’s Russia feel ashamed when we complain about some inconveniences of modern life. His example of simplicity and generosity contrasted so much with the growing secular trends of individualism and wanting more. Truly I can say that bishop Ruediger was like apostle Paul who said:
“…I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13 (CEB)
Being first bishop in new missionary area can be stressful. And many curious atheists might be looking to find your mistakes. But bishop Ruediger gentle and encouraging style of leadership proved to have fruitful legacy in Russia. For many of us he was our first bishop, teacher and shepherd. He was a spiritual pioneer in a dry land after the fall of Communism. We are forever grateful for bishop Ruediger and his ministry with us.
On a personal note, every time I come to my episcopal office in Moscow, I see a nameplate with the name of Bishop Ruediger and Gerlinde Minor. It is there to honor this wonderful couple who served with us in Eurasia for so many years. When I look at it now I remember many good conversations with my first bishop. In 1990s he encouraged me to develop youth ministry and then recommended me to continue my education in the USA. Later he ordained me as an elder and gave me different appointments, which seemed above my capacity. But he always believed in me and encouraged me. His wisdom, insight and faith in our people helped many of us in Eurasia to become servants of God. I thank God for him and his life.
Bishop Eduard Khegay