I am flying at 40,000 feet over the steps of Kalmykia back to Moscow on a Russian made Sukhoy Superjet and praising God for the blessed time of teaching and preaching for the first half of my journey.[Read more…]
Out of four days in Moscow, I spent two in Mozhaysk, where Russians gave a decisive battle to Napoleon in 1812. Located just over 100 km from Moscow, it is also know as a “prison capital of Moscow Region.” Back in the Soviet Union times a 101 kilometer perimeter around Moscow was drawn to resettle the criminal and political opposition element. My FaithSearch Discovery presentation at the Juvenal Detention Facility lasted about two hours but felt much, much longer, due to the emotional tension I had to overcome first. A little humor and some personal stories helped to melt the protective barrier of cold rejection and opened these kids’ hearts to the truth and love of Christ.
The first three days in Moscow, followed by five days in Siberia, were very intense! I cannot believe I am only one third of the way through my trip. Hopefully, my next four days back in Moscow will give me some rest – there I will have “only” one presentation per day and no more rides of 300 km on beaten-up, local Siberian roads.
I did my first FaithSearch Discovery event on the evening of my arrival in Moscow in the open audience setting of a very popular presentation hall in the center of the city. The room was packed beyond capacity and the Q&A session lasted almost as long as the presentation itself. The adrenalin rush from presenting straight off the airplane after 13 hours in the air helps to deal with the jet lag and tunes me up for the whole trip.
The following weekend was packed with presentations and travel outside of Moscow. As I learned a little later, it also kept me out of trouble in the city where riot police were catching random pedestrians during the protest demonstrations and marches on Saturday. I prefer traveling at will in Siberia.
And I did. Each day they took me to a different town or a youth camp to present for a variety of audiences: young and old; farmers and city intelligentsia; clergy and professionals. Those villages and small towns are rarely visited by speakers from outside the region, let alone somebody from a different continent. The reception was always very warm and people were very open to receiving the Gospel with Evidence, as well as sharing their questions and life worries.
The trouble is that in Siberia they don’t count distance in kilometers but in hundreds of kilometers, and their roads – outside of a few state highways – do not allow for any reading or sleeping. On most trips, I usually rest during travel – here I have to rest from it.
After two extra-long layovers in JFK and SVO, and red-eye flight to KIV, I was met and greeted by my good friends and ministry partners in Moldova – Roman and Emily with their two most wonderful kids! What a joy to spend time in sharing and prayer! What a joy and a privilege to teach in the city library for an open audience – both believers and non-believers from the area. Partnership across the denominational and ethnic borders – with Russian and Romanian Orthodox churches – enabled us to reach out to a wider spectrum of the population in the city of Orhei.
On my first day of ministry in Chisinau the Lord blessed me with a three teaching/preaching/sharing opportunities almost back-to-back. First, after the morning Liturgy and with absolutely no warning, I was called up front “to give a word” on the Gospel reading of the day. Luckily, it was the story of Thomas the Doubter and I felt totally prepared to do that – I often use it as an intro to the FaithSearch Discovery presentation. It also worked as a teaser for my presentation at a Youth Church that night and half a dozen people from my morning “event” joined it along with their kids and friends. A less formal event around the table for yet another audience filled the day time. Sundays often end up to be the busiest days of the week.
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
This upcoming teaching trip will be very different from any other I have done before. First of all, it will be to a different country than the one I left in April of this year. Politically our two countries are now moving in exactly the opposite directions from where they seemed to be going only six months ago. There was so much hope and almost an expectation that the sanctions soon would be lifted, and that we would become good trade partners again. I am prepared to face some difficult questions from my audiences.
Secondly, I will not be traveling all alone. For the first week, a ministry partner from Grace Church will come along to teach in churches and (hopefully) in schools in Omsk and Bryansk. She will then take a train for Karelia while I will dive into a four-day in-depth course on Biblical History and Archeology at the World Of Life Church school in Moscow.
Thirdly, for my last week I will travel to the farthest point on the Russian map I have ever been before – to Kamchatka. I hope that teaching in their schools, churches… and prisons will leave me with some time to enjoy the natural wonders of this absolutely unique place on the planet.
I will then keep going East and will arrive to the USA from the other end – taking the Gospel With Evidence message all around the globe. Literally.
Thank you to all of you who contributed to this trip – in prayer and financially!