I am from Moscow. I love my city and its people. I love the challenge of teaching in Moscow schools where even the little kids seem to know how privileged they are compared to the rest of the country. They are not shy to prove it. They ask tough questions. They share their experiences. They interrupt the teacher to make themselves heard and noticed. Not all of them, of course, but much of the time.
One only needs to travel a few hours away from Moscow to see the difference in the kids’ attitudes and behavior. They listen. They think. They take their time before raising their hands to ask for a permission to make an inquiry. It is even more so in small towns and villages in the Russian provinces and remote areas. It is doubly so in the remote provinces where the traditional religious, ethnic, and family customs and values have been preserved even through the years of Communist oppression.
It is also where and when I always feel especially honored and privileged to teach and to share my faith. This trip started with the visit to the Republic of Mari El and the Central Siberian city of Novokuznetsk. I have already been in both of these locations but this time around my local ministry partners were able to arrange my events in the small ethnic communities and local schools and churches.
First of all, they are never in a hurry like most of the big city people are. They value the time the speaker must have spent travelling to their place and are willing to give them as much of theirs as needed for the presentation. They are also very appreciative of the speaker’s willingness to stay and to answer their many questions on–and sometimes even outside–the topic. For example: “How are the schools in Minnesota different from our local school?” or “What made you travel so far from your home to teach us the class on the Historic Foundations of Christian Faith?”
They also like to take a full advantage of the visiting teacher’s time and pack my classes with as many kids as they can. In small towns they would have me teach to all students of their senior high and high school grades – up to a hundred at a time. My largest elementary school grade class in Yoshkar-Ola was over seventy kids of the first through the fourth grades! I taught them my “Validity of the Bible” lesson, being assisted by their four classroom teachers, with lots of visuals on the screen and small group activities. They had fun and they have learned important lesson on how to tell that the Bible text we read today actually reflects the real-life events of Christ’s time on Earth 2,000 years ago.
My days in Novokuznetsk are filled with presentations in colleges and universities, churches, and Bible schools. I am also getting ready for three major conferences (local and national) next week, when I will be presenting papers on the experience of teaching the Historic Foundation of Christian Faith in secular schools all over the country to teachers and education professionals and academia. Those conferences are usually the best time to make new connections for my continuing ministry in the Russian-speaking countries.