God is great and His angels are amazing! During the week of ministry in Sakhalin, I felt very encouraged by the interest and enthusiasm of teachers and students. I also felt very sick from the cold and the winds of their shores and sea ports. One presentation per day was just enough for me and my hosts graciously allowed me to spend the rest of the time in my cell (rooms are called cells in the diocese dorm) taking in bottles of medicines, gallons of herb beverages and piles of pills. Planning this trip I was so much hoping to ski at least once on their beautiful resort that runs straight into one of the city parks. Alas! I was still too sick and the temps outside went even further down on my last day there. Seeing how exhausted I was after the lecture and probably feeling how much I needed a bit of encouragement at the moment, one of the students at the Pedagogical University offered her help in packing my projector and cables while saying: “You gave us so much today! Great food for the mind and for the soul!” Thank you, the Angel of Sakhalin!
I must still have been not quite 100% that same evening upon arrival to Khabarovsk airport and was, therefore, very thankful to hosts for picking me up there and driving me to my seminary dorm for the night. The driver was also willing to take me to my presentation location on the next morning and just needed directions so I put him on the speaker-phone with my contact at the university. Now, imagine me hearing the following conversation:
Driver: Oleg is saying that you are on Timiryazyeva Street, right?
Professor: Yes, in the city center. Where will you be coming from?
Driver: From Turgeneva Street?
Professor: Hm, where is it?
Driver: Right in the center. Next to the diocese office and to the seminary.
Professor: We do not have a seminary in Ussuriysk…
Driver: That’s what I was thinking: Khabarovsk University is not on Timiryazyeva Street…
Apparently, while talking through every little detail (date and time, street address and even room number) of my presentation at the University in our many e-mails, neither the professor nor I have ever mentioned what city their campus is in. To make the story short: I found myself 574 km off the mark. While I was still gradually recovering from the shocking news, my driver has already called a couple of friends and asked them to look up bus and railroad routs and schedules on their computers. In two minutes the report came back: Oleg should catch the train to Ussuriysk that leaves in about 45 minutes (and arrives there 2 hours before the lecture), deliver his lecture and hop on a return train that same evening for Khabarovsk where they will meet him on the next morning at the train station and drive him to the bus terminal just in time for the bus to Komsomolsk-na-Amure (arrives 30 min before the lecture there). It sounded a little complicated but I did exactly what they said and didn’t miss (and was not even late to) any of my events. Thank you, dear Angels of Khabarovsk!
I am now finishing my presentations in Komsomolsk – a typical soviet-times city with not much look at accept for the river of Amur all covered with ice and not much to hear accept for the deafening roar of fighter jets taking off maybe 500 yards away from my dorm several times a day (including nights). My teachers and my university students here were absolutely wonderful – curious and engaged in the process and very grateful at the end of the presentation. This provincial city with its rather harsh climate gives them very little in terms of recreation and entertainment, so they work hard and study hard. At least, my classes were not too difficult and many of them were expressing interest in using FSDiscovery material in their classrooms because it is, according to one of them: 1) absolutely unique, 2) fun and 3) absolutely essential in forming their students’ mindset and world outlook. Thank you, dear Angels of Komsomolsk!