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Russia and Evangelical missionaries


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#21 Andrew

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 04:02 PM

Perhaps the simplest way of putting it is that Orthodoxy is spiritual. This implies, of course, that Protestantism isn't. But let them infer that instead of rubbing it in their noses.


I agree with you on this! The mystical nature of Orthodoxy that affects all aspects of human life and allows man to commune with God and God's people is something that you can't find anywhere else, and this spiritual "atmosphere" touches hearts. There is something different about our religion, and those who yearn for their hearts to be at peace feel that peace in the Church.

#22 Jacob

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 11:16 AM

Hello friends,
I haven't responded much to this thread (time reasons) but have found th responses to be very helpful. Thank you for your input.

#23 Shawn Lazar

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 06:41 AM

Is evangelicalism bubble gum religion? It can be. At other times, it can be quite deep. I've yet to read an Orthodox theologian write with the same depth on a Biblical topic, as many evangelicals have. I've yet to hear an Orthodox sermon that matched the same clarity, depth, and conviction as the sermons I listed to in my former evangelical churches.

Is Protestantism not spiritual? Again, it depends. As powerful as people like St. Theophan, St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, and Elder Paisios are, (among others) I don't think I've ever read any new spiritual insight in their writings that wasn't also present in, say, the Puritans (aside from the specifics of the Jesus prayer and all those mediation and breathing exercises). Prayer, repentance, humility, love, worship, awe, charity, asceticism, the virtues, etc. Its all there.

And let's be honest, Orthodoxy can be just as bubble-gum-y and unspiritual as the best of them (or the worst of them). On paper its great, but in practice.... It can become a purely nominal cultural/nationalist thing, no? with little or no reference to actually living for Christ. It all depends on the priest, the people and the jurisdictional culture.

#24 Father David Moser

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 02:02 PM

Is evangelicalism bubble gum religion? It can be. At other times, it can be quite deep. I've yet to read an Orthodox theologian write with the same depth on a Biblical topic, as many evangelicals have. I've yet to hear an Orthodox sermon that matched the same clarity, depth, and conviction as the sermons I listed to in my former evangelical churches.


When I was an evangelical prostestant - lo these many many years ago - I was (and still am) a voracious reader of spiritual books. I also took my undergrad degree in Religion from a Christian university and thus not only read the scripture and spiritual writers, but also had the chance to discuss what I had read with many learned people. Yes, there is the perception of depth within many protestant writers, but it is only a perception that will not bear scrutiny. One of the things that brought me to Orthodoxy was the multitude of unanswered and unanswerable questions that arose throughout my protestant life. In Orthodoxy, particularly in the Holy Fathers, I have found a depth and density to spiritual knowledge that is infinite.

But all of this speaks only to a depth of knowledge. If there is a depth in protestantism, that is the only kind of depth that does exist. The other thing that drove me to Orthodoxy was the complete lack of depth of experience in the spiritual world. The mystical life was something only hinted at and rarely if ever experienced. Once in a great while one could find a person who lived a deeply spiritual life, but that was the exception to the rule and such a life was not accessible to the average Joe-in-the-pew. In Orthodoxy there are people who are truly advanced in the spiritual life, and I have met some of them. But they are not the exception living a life that is not generally available to all. They are simply those who live out the same life that we live in the Church, but with more fervor, energy, love, consistency. The same path is open to all of us. And these same people who have been to me living example of spiritual depth have a whole different quality in their lives from those in the Protestant faith who can be considered spiritual - this is something that I cannot explain adequately in words - especially in the written word.

If you do not see the difference in your own experience, I can only say that you have yet to truly experience Orthodoxy. Stay the course, don't look back, (in fact don't look forward, but look only at Christ in your heart), immerse yourself in the life of Christ as it is made available to you on a day by day moment by moment basis by the practice and tradition of the Church.

As for spiritual writers - I have never in Protestantism experienced anyone who wrote about the spiritual life in any kind of even remotely comparable manner to those such as St Isaac of Syria or St Gregory Palamas. The writings in the Philocalia have no comparison for depth of spiritual life. The academic or scholasitic style writings of Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian about the nature of the Trinity or the Nicene fathers on the incarnation are again without compare -they are foundational to any and every protestant writer that can be considered within the mainstream of Christianity who writes on these topics - in fact all of the perceived depth of those protestant writers comes only when they are expressing what they have already read in Orthodoxy. Perhaps you have not yet read enough of the Fathers to see this, I don't know. But again immerse yourself in the fathers and you will see there a depth that is found no where else.

Fr David Moser

#25 Shawn Lazar

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 12:30 AM

Fr. David,

I hear what you're saying, and the convert in me wants to agree. I would love to say that Orthodoxy is head and shoulders above Protestantism, but if I'm really honest, I just can't do it.

Certainly, I can point my evangelical friends to certain saints whose lives don't have much parallel in Protestant literature. Then again, my evangelical friends might not agree that a life of isolation in the a forest, or a cave is a Christian life at all. And I agree that St. Isaac the Syrian is really in a league of his own, and I consider his Homilies to be tantamount to Scripture. But those are the exceptions.

For instance, and this is off the top of my head, when I compare the sermons of St. John Chrysostom or St. Macarius with Charles Spurgeon; Spurgeon, to me, is the much deeper, clearer, Christ-exalting thinker. If I compare Blessed Theophylact's commentaries with those of John Calvin, there's simply no comparison, Calvin is lightyears ahead (and much more nuanced than in his Institutes). Andrew Murray (the South African) compares favorably with St. Gregory Palamas; George Mueller's diaries are comparable to St. John of Kronstadt My Life in Chris; TF Torrance or Barth's works more edifying and instructive, at least to me, than St. John of Damascus' Exact Exposition or Pomazansky's Dogmatics. (And, also to be fair, there is a wealth of Catholic material that compares with both evangelical and Orthodox writings. Take 'Unseen Warfare' as an example. And what Orthodox ethicist can compare with John Paul II?)

Do Protestants only reach a significant spiritual depth so far as they express what they find in the Cappadocians (or Athanasius, etc) and other early Fathers? When it comes to the Trinity, undoubtedly. I mean, where would TF Torrance be, without his dependence on St. Athanasius? But beyond that... The early (and later) Fathers are little help in understanding Scripture (at least, history has not left us very much to work with), and in the area of Biblical exegesis, where evangelicals shine, the depths they have achieved really doesn't have any parallel in Orthodoxy.

Do my impressions in this area reflect the poverty of my own experience in Orthodoxy, and not necessarily a lack in Orthodoxy itself? Yes! I'm sure you're right about that. I converted primarily for historical reasons, not spiritual. If anything, my wife and I have tried to fight to retain the zeal for Christ, prayer, evangelism and reading our Bibles that we used to have, because Orthodox nominalism is so stifling. In any case, I certainly need and want a great deal of improvement. Jesus knows that! But at the same time, to be fair, couldn't an evangelical turn that around, and simply say that the poverty of your own experiences in evangelicalism had more to do with you, and less to do with it?

At the end of the day, maybe the Holy Spirit is much more loving and gracious to those outside the Church, and who call upon Jesus, than we expect.

#26 Mary

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 01:28 AM

Do my impressions in this area reflect the poverty of my own experience in Orthodoxy, and not necessarily a lack in Orthodoxy itself? Yes! I'm sure you're right about that. I converted primarily for historical reasons, not spiritual. If anything, my wife and I have tried to fight to retain the zeal for Christ, prayer, evangelism and reading our Bibles that we used to have, because Orthodox nominalism is so stifling. In any case, I certainly need and want a great deal of improvement. Jesus knows that! But at the same time, to be fair, couldn't an evangelical turn that around, and simply say that the poverty of your own experiences in evangelicalism had more to do with you, and less to do with it?

At the end of the day, maybe the Holy Spirit is much more loving and gracious to those outside the Church, and who call upon Jesus, than we expect.


Hi Shawn,

you're right, an evangelical could say that anything I found lacking in evangelicalism had more to do with me than with it. And the nominalism in Orthodoxy could be stifling, but that's always the danger with losing sight of the purpose of our Traditions. My protestant past didn't provide me with enough Traditions to hang my faith on to. It was all in my mind. And the way my mind works, every once in awhile, I lose it, and that causes me to despair.

Anyway - there is a good reason for all of our Traditions. I've often wondered why God gave the Israelites such details of how to worship Him. Was it just to keep the Israelites busy? According to my Protestant faith, once Jesus came, all that 'busy work' was no longer necessary. I was free, to do whatever I wanted and worship in any which way I pleased! The poor Israelites, all that work for nothing!

But is that really true? Does God really give us stuff to do that has no purpose? Does He Himself do anything that has no purpose other than to just kill the time while waiting for when it's all over and He can be free? From a Jewish family who is converting, I learned that our way of worship is very much identical to the Old Jewish ways. That was the most beautiful thing I'd heard in a long long time! Talk about history!

So what is the purpose of all these loads of Traditions that either gets too burdensome or else becomes an end in itself? I've been thinking about this a lot, and I wish I had the time to read stuff, but I'm guessing, there's a proper way to approach God, and that's what He taught the Israelites. And since God doesn't change, neither does the way we're supposed to approach His presence. The only changes that needed to be made to the old way of worship, was to add on all the parts to show how God had fulfilled all His promises, in Christ. And of course, to stop killing all those animals.

So, I'm guessing, since a lot of our Traditions are the same as the Jews, then, we too, are in the same dangers as they are - of becoming all bogged down in Traditions and forgetting that they're the way to get us close to God, and not an end in themselves. So, when we become hypocrits, we're exactly the same as the Pharisees; but when protestants are hypocrites, it's not such a big deal. At the same time, when we are able to keep focused, the results are much deeper, and more powerful than what happens in protestantism. However, God is merciful, and He is able to do powerful things in protesants too.

But ordinary people like myself, had no chance of experiencing such miracles in protestantism. I just dont' have the brain power or the discipline, to understand it all and self-hypnotise myself to such an extent that I never have doubts again, that I am loved, that my sins are all forgiven, and that I will be saved because Jesus died for me. It's so much easier to be Orthodox. I don't have to remember everything, because I'll hear it again next year. I don't have to understand everything, I just need to obey what I do understand. I know what to do with all my doubts and my sins... I can confess them, over and over and over again, till the day I die. And this, to me, is freedom, because these were the things that were weighing me down as a protestant, and I had no idea how to get rid of these burdens.

I have friends and family, who say they have experienced the same freedom that I describe, without having to become orthodox. I do not argue with them. How can I say that my freedom is different than theirs? I do not know. Only God knows. All I can say is, that I didn't have it before, and i have it now, although I haven't become more intelligent, or more spiritual, or more disciplined - and that makes Orthodoxy more real to me, more deeper to me, more meaningful to me, than all the protestantism in the world.

I'm sorry to hear that you've had to struggle to 'retain the zeal for Christ, prayer, evangelism and reading our Bibles that we used to have, because Orthodox nominalism is so stifling'. Don't look to others. Your spiritual life is between you and God, and theirs is between them and God. God won't ask me to list how the nominalism of someone else hindered my progress. He's only going to ask me what I've done with what I've been given. If we've been given the ability to not be nominal, then we better not be nominal! But we do not know what strengths and weaknesses others have been given.

In Christ,
Mary.

Edited by Mary, 17 September 2009 - 01:45 AM.


#27 Jacob

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 11:06 AM

Mr Shawn makes an interesting point. I think much of the reason that Evangelicals have such a tremendous biblical and scholarly output is that the Anglo-American world has reaped the benefits (and problems!) of capitalism. Paper is cheap and no one is trying to kill you. Our brothers in the East have suffered under Communism and Islam. There isn't as much impetus to simply go to school and write monographs when you are in the catacombs (I say this as an American who spent two years at a Calvinist seminary trying to figure out if I were called to the ministry--I wasn't).

Another reason is the Evangelical insistence on "word" and "learning." Of course that has its good parts. While the average evangelical bookstore is 85% nonsense, some good and learned works have been produced (Pelikan before he became Orthodox, for one). When you can reduce your faith to word and the priority of mental constructs, a result will be a proliferation of books and learning. (I realize there are drawbacks to that as well).

Ironically though, I think much of the scholarly evangelical output, especically on the Fathers, is making many Protestants question their own traditions and to look deeper into the well.

#28 Owen Jones

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 02:39 PM

I was in the Moscow airport in 1991, I think it was, and ran into an American protestant minister who was leading a group of evangelists. He stated quite bluntly that Russian Orthodoxy was spiritually dead, apparently not even considering how ignorant and arrogant he was being. I told him that I had converted to Orthodoxy because American protestantism was spiritually dead, and you could have knocked him over with a feather! So protestants want to know why Slavs are somewhat wary and resentful of American protestants evangelists?

#29 Jake A.

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 09:16 PM

I think its all a matter in what one views as spiritual. Are words and sermons spiritual? Sure, they can be. Different preachers can arise different feelings of emotion in people when on a stage talking, but in my opinion spirituality is deeper than just words and sermons, I think true spirituality lies in practice, self sacrifice, obedience, and everything else that the Orthodox Church possesses, and Protestantism doesn't.


Its a choice to the Orthodox individual to explore this spirituality, a Protestant can live the way Christ wants us to, but in my opinion he can never truly experience this deepness of spirituality and eventually will lose his faith in God, but to an Orthodox, he/she is like a drop of water in an ocean full of spiritual material which doesn't only consist of different sermons, and Bible studies.

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A person can only study and preach the Bible so much before he learns everything that is in it and gets to the point where he asks himself if "this is it".

If you go down to the South, like Texas, there is bubble gum religion everywhere, 30 minutes of sitting and 20 minutes of singing, the end, very 'fast food' and processed, and people usually have to resort to digging deeper in trying to express their spirituality with little posters that they hang on the wall and with other decorations and/or bumper stickers.

#30 Paul Cowan

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 03:01 AM

If you go down to the South, like Texas, there is bubble gum religion everywhere, 30 minutes of sitting and 20 minutes of singing, the end, very 'fast food' and processed, and people usually have to resort to digging deeper in trying to express their spirituality with little posters that they hang on the wall and with other decorations and/or bumper stickers.



Hey, hey, hey. Just cause we're the biggest and best at what we are accused of, don't single us out from our fellow southerners. I beleive Texas also has the most Orthodox churches in the South.

Paul

#31 Jake A.

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 05:07 AM

Hey, hey, hey. Just cause we're the biggest and best at what we are accused of, don't single us out from our fellow southerners. I beleive Texas also has the most Orthodox churches in the South.

Paul


I understand, I lived in Texas for 4 years, unfortunately at an age where I was young and not interested in Orthodoxy. Though I wasn't talking about Orthodoxy but some of the Protestant churches that I've visited and heard of, which completely turned me off of religion even more at the time.

#32 Paul Cowan

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 05:55 AM

Sorry, those were two separate comments.

#33 Priest Seraphim Holland

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 01:47 PM

Fr. David,

I hear what you're saying, and the convert in me wants to agree. I would love to say >that Orthodoxy is head and shoulders above Protestantism, but if I'm really honest, I just can't do it.


After years of fasting and attending and reading the services, which are the best biblical exegesis I have ever seen (but an acquired taste, which takes time and great effort and good shoes to develop), I have learned what true Christianity is, and am trying to attain it. Protestant thought and practice is not even close to the beauty and profundity of Orthodox Christian holiness.

>Certainly, I can point my evangelical friends to certain saints whose lives don't have much parallel in Protestant literature. Then again, my evangelical friends might not agree that a life of isolation in the a forest, or a cave is a Christian life at all.

This is because they have not entered into the Orthodox life. It is not as easy to understand as the "Protestant" life. They judge what they do not understand.

>For instance, and this is off the top of my head, when I compare the sermons of St. John Chrysostom or St. Macarius with Charles Spurgeon; Spurgeon, to me, is the much >deeper, clearer, Christ-exalting thinker. If I compare Blessed Theophylact's commentaries >with those of John Calvin, there's simply no comparison, Calvin is lightyears ahead (and much more nuanced than in his Institutes).

We cannot understand the writings of holy people without becoming holy. We will understand St John Chysostom when we have begun to live like he lived. Most of our understanding will come from our life's experiences and the grace of the Holy Spirit working within us, and not from our study.

>Do Protestants only reach a significant spiritual depth so far as they express what they >find in the Cappadocians (or Athanasius, etc) and other early Fathers? When it comes to >the Trinity, undoubtedly. I mean, where would TF Torrance be, without his dependence

Before there were "Protestants" the church carefully defined dogmas about God. The ENTIRE body of believers in the ENTIRE WORLD thought these things to be critically important. This is hard for the modern mind to understand.

>Do my impressions in this area reflect the poverty of my own experience in Orthodoxy, >and not necessarily a lack in Orthodoxy itself?

I am poor too, but I have always taken advantage of every opportunity to worship. This is the key for everyone. Now as a priest, I can serve even more services now, but from the beginning, when I had questions similar to your, I was in church all the time, from beginning to end. We have a saying - "the cliros is the seminary". I have seen this be true in my own life. It will take years to understand, and many long vigils. I can only say that it works.

Nothing happens in isolation. We cannot fast without prayer and hope to be benefited. We cannot read the scripture in isolation. We cannot study the Fathers (when I finish Chrysostom and a dozen others, maybe I will look more at Spurgeon) without attempting to submit our mind to the mind of the church. Evangelism without dogma is a sham. Dogma without evangelism is a sham. Anything without personal holiness will be a lie on some level.


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http://www.orthodox.net

#34 Owen Jones

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Posted 20 September 2009 - 12:55 PM

Thanks Father Seraphim. However, I think one of the main attractions of Protestantism is that you are promised a dramatic, sudden conversion by accepting Christ as your Savior. With all of the dogmatic and other problems associated with this, one cannot, I think, challenge its basic premise. So while the Orthodox worship discipline is good for the soul, I think sometimes we too easily dismiss the importance of sudden conversion. Christ demands that we give our lives to Him now! The Gospel is full of this message, and its dramatic results. I realize that you do not oppose this, but it is an inference easily drawn. And most people do not have the luxury of attending many services during the week because they are running businesses and raising families in the world. Also, I belong to a parish that does not exactly involve the faithful in the worship. The priests want the laity to attend more services (and arrive on time on Sunday!), but it is a struggle to get that message across, and part of the problem is that the way the worship is conducted, the laity are more or less passive observers.

#35 Oleg Anishchenkov

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 07:25 AM

Sadly enough and too often, Protestants have behaved here in my Mother Land like the spiritual gurus of post-Soviet fraudulent gas and oil businessmen, seeming to ignore any ethical, at least, restraints that might weaken their conversions.

Luxurious Moscow hotels settled for an American-style “prayer breakfast”; conferences delivered entirely in English giving an idea that we should adapt to the Westerners; immodest musical tunes; manipulative charity campaigns (dishonest technique used by some) Protestant missionaries - are unpleasant.

Fortunately, misbehavior by American missionaries in Russia are less common now than in the past. It is not "terribly healthy" now to continue living in Russia. Some of the reasons are the fall of the U.S. dollar, the difficulty of learning the Russian language, the increasing role! of the ROC.

My gut feeling is that we Russian people don't live here in Russia to get the Roman Catholic or Jewish or Buddhist or Atheist or Protestant view of Eastern Orthodoxy and this is why, when it comes to matters of the Faith teachers of the different and mixed background are not much welcomed here.

Rather than continue on, I'll just simply say that Orthodoxy here in Russia has always been very attractive to people, it is a part of them; we are attracted to Orthodoxy by what we know as Grace...

#36 Rick H.

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 01:31 PM

Christ demands that we give our lives to Him now!



To consider what is said here causes me to pause and then allow more room for the message of the Revivalist in Russia or anywhere else. This is too easily dismissed.

#37 Owen Jones

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 02:40 PM

Another point --many Protestant churches in the U.S. take up collections for mission work abroad, and encourage people to become personally involved in missionary trips, have training programs, etc.etc. I sense a frustration among the faithful in my own parish -- they WANT to become missionaries for Orthodoxy, at the very least in our own communities. But this desire is basically suppressed. So one good thing would be for the Russian Orthodox Church (in Russia that is) to send missionaries to the U.S.!!!!

#38 Eric Peterson

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 05:15 PM

St. Gregory Palamas says something to the effect that the Non-Orthodox who speak about spiritual things and say the same as the Orthodox, say so by coincidence. The Holy Fathers speak with the mind of Christ, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Outside Orthodoxy, truth is arrived at only partially and humanly. In Orthodoxy is the whole breadth and depth of truth and divine revelation. We accept for our own what is true spoken by Non-Orthodox, but the difference needs to be recognized. There is a fundamental spiritual difference. The Holy Fathers were enlightened by God, the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. We do not accept, however, that the same indwelling and enlightenment can occur in those who have not joined themselves to Christ and His Church through the Holy Mysteries. People make mistakes when they approach spiritual writings and instruction from a superficial intellectual state. The Holy Fathers can only be grasped in context of Orthodox life.

#39 Paul Cowan

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 05:15 AM

Another point --many Protestant churches in the U.S. take up collections for mission work abroad, and encourage people to become personally involved in missionary trips, have training programs, etc.etc. I sense a frustration among the faithful in my own parish -- they WANT to become missionaries for Orthodoxy, at the very least in our own communities. But this desire is basically suppressed. So one good thing would be for the Russian Orthodox Church (in Russia that is) to send missionaries to the U.S.!!!!


We had a man from the OCMC come talk to our parish last week about missionary work. So where the IOCC is relief efforts, the OCMC is evangelism. But yes, I agree. We might send missionaries into our own neighborhoods. But wait, didn't Jesus tell US to do that already?

Paul

#40 Oleg Anishchenkov

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 05:41 AM

I have decided to delete my account from the forum.
Unfortunately my last massage about the danger of Protestantism in Russia was not properly understood and resulted in misunderstanding and accusations. (It seems to me that brothers on this forum are ready to discuss only those topics that please very much (Russian expression) their ears.

Please forgive me and pray for me.

In Christ,
Oleg A.




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