Done. Three weeks of travel, teaching, preaching, meeting new audiences, and fellowship with old ministry friends and partners in five cities in two countries were very exciting but also very exhausting. Except for the last four days, I slept every other night on the train, and every night on a different bed. Most of my accommodations were very nice – even the monastery cell in Kazan was well heated and came with a USB charger for my phone (somebody left one there). It’s XVII-century, six-foot-thick, brick walls allowed only very limited Internet connection, but made me feel well protected from every kind of enemy forces.
Back in Bryansk, on the other hand, I stayed in the comfortable house of pastor Yuri, our ministry associate. He set me up with two very different audiences: Bible college second-year students, and halfway-house rehab program participants. I cannot tell which of the two I enjoyed more: hitting the former hard with the “60 Arguments for the Existence of God,” or allowing the latter to walk with me through the “FaithSearch Discovery” at their own pace. Both events ended late at night and only after they heard me promising them to come again for more. I was not even halfway through my current trip when my next ones in March and in May were nearly filled with the requests from teachers in Stupino and Vidnoye (near Moscow), seminarians from Kolomna and St. Petersburg, and university in Minsk, Belarus.
Yet another “surprise” waited for me in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan (semi-autonomous republic within Russia) when my local contact suddenly called off all our events at the exact moment I was settling into the sleeping car of my overnight train to Kazan. Apparently, somebody on the very top of the regional Orthodox Church hierarchy unexpectedly changed their mind and nothing could be done without their “official blessing.” Interestingly, the secular colleges were also affected by that decision and also canceled our event with the students. It was already late, and my only option was to E-mail an old friend in Kazan, with whom I last talked eight years ago.
So I did, prayed and went to bed. Sure enough, Artyom had me set up for two events with his youth group by the time I woke up the next morning, as the train was slowing down at the terminal. One more presentation followed as soon as the word got out on their social network that “Oleg is back with his amazing Discoveries!” I was truly pleased to hear that many people still remember my teaching it there in 2013 and 2015, and now wanted to bring their friends to my events. After all, they were “officially blessed” …by a much higher Authority.
I am writing this from the departure gate of Sheremetyevo airport on my way home. Tired? Yes, but already looking forward to my arriving here in March.