I am already half-way through the trip and the Lord graciously keeps me safe, strong and healthy. I keep moving upstream the Volga River having started from its delta in Astrakhan where my suitcase (with all my cables and other computer accessories) caught up with me after spending an extra night somewhere between JFK and Sheremetyevo. Praise the Lord, Pastor Benjamin had extra cables to connect my notebook, projector and sound system and I was able start my first FaithSearch Discovery presentation on time – three hours after I landed on Russian soil. Almost fourteen hours of sleep and very nice airplane meals on three flights from Minnesota to Astrakhan gave me plenty of energy for the presentation and the Q&A session that night. Two young skeptics were following me all the way to the pastor’s car as I was answering their question and providing them with references for their subsequent research in the matter of faith. God bless their hearts!
My next morning started with a joyful nose of the worship service at the Pentecostal church that supplied me with enough power for a teaching event after the service and for a great walking tour around this historic city. A mixture of Muslim and Christian motifs in its past and present has given this whole area of Sothern Russia a very special look and flavor.
Four hours on a minivan across the endless steppe that vividly reminded me of my trips across the plains of North Dakota brought me to the capital of Kalmyk Republic – the city of Elista. It would have been a typical and most boring Soviet-times provincial town if not for a huge golden Buddhist temple – hurul – the largest in all Europe, in its very center. Kalmykia does not have much to offer economically and is trying to build its path to prosperity by attracting pilgrims and tourists from all over the globe to this “world wonder”. That, of course, created quite a stir in local churches and even in secular communities such as schools, colleges and universities. My presentation on the historic foundation of Christian faith including some comparison references to other religions were met with great interest and appreciation. I must go there again sometime soon to reach out to even wider audience as their church and education leaders have tasted our material and saw the impact it is having on the event participants.
I stuck my whole last week with Volgograd’s Evangelical churches: teaching a course on Apologetics at their Missions School, preaching at their communities and presenting at Volgograd teachers’ conferences. It was so great not having to hop on another bus or train or van or plane at the end of every other day! Teaching at the International Church attended mostly by exchange students from Africa was surely the highlight of that whole time in Volgograd – FaithSearch International has now extended its mission to yet another continent!
I have already seen Volga River fully covered by ice at its mouth and I have seen it freely flowing less than a mile downstream from Volgograd hydroelectric station and am seeing it again today frozen over in Saratov. I have just spent most of the day with a group of Baptist leaders training them to present the FaithSearch Discovery in their churches. I will spend the whole day tomorrow with public school teachers and Orthodox Catechism trainers before catching a red-eye flight up north. Good-bye, Volga! Hello, Moscow River! Ӏ