The whole trip from Minnesota to Vladivostok went very smoothly, including the most worrisome part of it – the border crossing. My bus was only delayed by an hour-and-a-half which is considered to be “on time” by the Russian standards I am very familiar with. In fact, most of my first week went by “Russian style”: uncertainty, delays, endless “confirmations,” and last-minute cancelations.
One of the finest excuses (so far) for cancelling my presentation was: “We don’t want to waste the precious time of the scholar of your caliber on just a handful of babushkas attending the church in the peak of the vacation season.” I know I was supposed to be flattered but I was not, and simply suggested that they read Matthew 8:12 once again. My numerous PR meetings and conferences this past week will certainly bring the fruit when/if I am back in the area next time, but the country is so big, and I am not sure I will make it here again while those “babushkas” are still alive.
BTW, my presentation in a local Roman Catholic church, which actually took place on Sunday afternoon, attracted a mostly middle-aged audience. From their eyes and faces, I could tell how excited they were to be there and to ask many questions they had about their faith, the Bible, and church traditions. We went way over our scheduled time and had to stop when a whole group asked me to excuse them for leaving – they had to catch a train to the town from which they came to attend the presentation. “We used to have visiting lecturers and teachers regularly, but not lately. This event is truly a breath of fresh air in our spiritual life! Thank so very much for making this long trip for us,” one of them said.
Another lady later passed me a note saying that she is instructing her daughter to be very attentive and to make many notes of my presentation while attending the Youth Conference where I teach starting tomorrow. That was a sign for me that I was probably going too fast with my material, and I will make sure to speak a little slower next time.