I had only four days in the Samara Region, but each of them was special and beyond everybody’s wildest expectations. In two state technical colleges where I was invited to teach a class on the Historic Foundations of Christian Faith, the audience halls were packed as the organizers had made it available to the entire student body. In the evening, the Neftyannik “culture palace” was again filled to the brim when I presented the Intro to Christian Pedagogy for teachers and parents of the oil producing town of about five thousand people.
The two young local priests who invited me there were totally shocked and very encouraged by the success of their event. They joined me for the Q&A session at the end, to follow-up with the answers to many questions and inquiries from the audience. I was, in turn, inspired by their enthusiasm and faith in the Lord’s provision for their ministry: “Honestly, we first didn’t believe that a speaker from the USA would respond to our request and would just show up in our small town. We believed in miracles – now we’ve seen one.”
Then it was back to Moscow for three days, to teach in a seminary, a church, a teachers’ conference, and a Sunday school class. The last presentation was done in English – at an Anglican church in the very center of Moscow. It felt quite unusual to hear people worshiping in English with the widest variety of accents possible, while being only a mile away from the Kremlin, where diplomats, visiting professors, businessmen, and exchange students come from all over the globe. Our ministry name FaithSearch International fit perfectly into that crowd, and our material – manuscript and archeological evidence for the Gospel – seemed to have made quite an impression on the regulars of that church denomination. Many came to me afterwards, apparently “surprised by faith,” to shake my hand and to ask for more references and links to the subject.
Another surprise awaited me when I arrived to Novokuznetsk as the keynote speaker at their state university conference on… what I had mistakenly read as “meditation.” As I was polishing my presentation for the next morning in my hotel room the night before, and still wondering why would they ask me to speak on “Conflict and Forgiveness, A Christian Perspective” – the word “mediation” (NOT “meditation”) popped out at me. It took me only a couple of the remaining nighttime hours to edit and format my PowerPoint® slides for each of my three presentations at the forum. I should read my invitations more carefully next time.
Then it was back to Moscow, again – this time on my way for a one-day conference in Bryansk where yet another surprise was ready for me: this year’s Cyril and Methodius Annual Orthodox Church Conference was canceled “due to the circumstances” (nobody here calls it the “war”) and so was my presentation. Not wasting one minute on venting my frustration to organizers for forgetting to let me know about this, I contacted my local Baptist brothers and, sure enough, they had me speak (for three plus hours!) at the half-way-house for a most-appreciative audience of former drug addicts, alcoholics, and criminals. Their questions are always very honest and profound and their interest is sincere and practical. I needed that especially after spending maybe a little too much time in university settings and seminary auditoriums.