The last two weeks in Belarus and Russia were probably the most intense in many years, in terms of teaching and travel. I was moving from one city to another every other day (or night) and taught two and even three times almost every day. Praise the Lord for wonderful and caring host families and communities! [Read more…]
The joke I was told in Katowice – a coal mining region of Poland – goes like this: “Why are miners making their tunnels under Catholic churches? – They are looking for a foundation of their faith.” I will definitely use this as an icebreaker next time I teach my “Historic Foundations of Christian Faith” class there. And I need to make that “next time” happen sometime soon – to take advantage of a whole number of invitations from their Christian and secular universities and churches.
It seems our material as well as the whole approach to faith from the point of view of historic evidence is not very common here. Even in the Warsaw seminary, I was the first one to teach it in many ears! It was definitely worth it to “walk an extra mile” (flying from MSP to WAW with a stop in SVO!) to make an extra effort of overcoming the culture barrier (including some Catholic traditional teaching) and to get into some expense (I had to pay for the PowerPoint® presentation translation into Polish)!
I praise the Lord for wonderful friends and ministry partners He was sending my way throughout my travel and stay in Poland! My train is now taking me East, towards the city of Brest on the Belarus side of the border.
Will see you later, Poland!
Day one. First, I left my laptop at home and only made that discovery at the airport. A dear friend John, my early morning ride to the airport, had to make that trip twice and I didn’t even miss my flight.
Well, I didn’t miss that one but, due to a delayed departure from JFK and, consequently, late arrival to Moscow, I did miss the other two – to Warsaw and then to Katowice. It was a long day of hurrying and waiting, cancelling and re-booking, praying and praising the Lord for eventually bringing me to my final destination only two hours later than planned.
I had plenty of airplane food (there was a Great Lenten menu on Aeroflot flights!); airplane rest (stretching across empty seats!); and airplane entertainment (no comment!) with ample time for refreshing my first presentation for the teachers in Katowice Pedagogical Institute.
I am so looking forward to it as well as to my all other events in Poland, Belarus, and Russia!
Three countries in one week, connecting the Black Sea with Baltic Sea! I finished my Ukrainian journey by training a of group Odessa Preobrazhenskiy Cathedral catechism teachers and missionaries to use the FaithSearch Discovery curriculum in their work in local schools, churches and communities. They absolutely loved it! Due to the conflict (actually, a war) between Russia and Ukraine, all direct flights between the two countries are cancelled. I had to make a stop in Minsk, Belarus, on my way up north. It was only supposed to be for a change of planes, but a local youth ministry seized the opportunity and arranged an event for me in their city Cathedral between my flights. I have not seen such a hunger for the truth of God for a long time as they have in Belarus, sometimes called “the last dictatorship in Eastern Europe.” I am so glad the Lord made that presentation possible!
St. Petersburg in December is not the most weather-friendly place on the planet. It is wet, windy, and almost completely without sunlight. Luckily my schedule there was so full that I didn’t even have a chance to enjoy much of the “Venice of the North.” A quick run from a subway station to the University door; and then back under the gloomy skies through up-to-the-ankle wet snow was quite enough to appreciate the rough beauty of this city.
As a Moscovite by birth, I was happy to jump on the overnight train and to find myself on the streets of Moscow the next morning. Actually, I didn’t see much of it either as most of my events on this trip took place in the suburbs and towns within a 50 miles radius around it: Kolomna, Mytischi, Ruza, Zhukovsky, Reutov, Podolsk, Kashira, and others. As always, the school teachers were the most receptive audiences – and the most grateful. They know exactly why they need to know this material and how they will apply it in their History classrooms. My city youth and general audiences usually had two or more hardcore skeptics and agnostics who were making my presentation even more dynamic and fun. Seminarians and Bible college students, on the other hand, wanted to go into some deeper study of apologetics and biblical archeology. I love switching gears!
Thanks to many people praying for me and helping me practically on this trip, I was able to avoid extra stress and heavy lifting. I feel almost 100% recovered from my recent surgery at this point.
Week One had me presenting all over Ukraine: in Kiev, Kremenchug, Gorshni Plavni, Poltava, Dnepropetrovsk, and Odessa. I started with a two-day FaithSearch Discovery teaching in Poltava Orthodox Seminary with Missions Emphasis – the only Orthodox school in the country to train missionaries. These young men and women will be using our material in their ministry for many, many years. I did my best to provide them with the most-recent and most-convincing evidence from History, Archeology, and Paleography.
Three comfortable nights in their dormitory gave me a chance to recover from the long flight and the first leg of my ground travel. The roads in Ukraine are… even worse than in Russia. The bus driver was cursing and swearing out loud all the way from Poltava to Dnepr, shifting (manual transmission) up and down the gears as he slalomed around the potholes and cracks. Sure enough, he burned out the clutch a few miles short of our destination. He waved down another bus and transferred his passengers into it very matter-of-factly – it surely happens often here. Switching buses in the dark, in the middle of the highway was indeed a bit of a challenge for me as I still have to move slowly and carefully. Praise the Lord for graciously providing me with helpers and a spare seat for me.
Teaching a three-hour class right off the bus and through the rest of the evening gave me back all the energy I had lost on the road. My audience that night was a city youth group (and their non-believing friends) – full of energy, burning with interest and curiosity, firing great question and comments! I could hardly sleep that night as the images of that day – my early-morning tour through the beautiful city of Poltava; the terrible roads; and the shining eyes of my evening audience – were all flashing in front of my eyes.
Back in my first stop in Gorishni Plavni (formerly known as Komsomolsk) I was asked to stay after the church service and give a talk to a group of teens at their Sunday school. As I talked to their parents before the class, many of them asked if could present my FaithSearch Discovery impromptu, right there. Which I did for a full classroom of kids with their moms and dads. Some of them had just come to pick up their children and were even not believers! It is always fun to see the transformation on the face of a skeptic progressing through the course of the presentation: from a grin of arrogance, to a moment of disbelief, and then to the full-blown, well, surprise by faith!
One other powerful testimony came from a middle-aged businessman. As I finished my teaching at a Baptist church one evening, I was then invited to a late dinner with him. He insisted that we have a time to talk after the presentation and these were the first words he said as we sat down: “I had a dream. And it came true tonight. I have always wanted to know that what my heart tells me is true and that I can also believe it with my head.” God bless his heart! I rarely see the fruits of my labor as I move down my itinerary and leave the follow-up ministry to our local partners – churches, missionaries, Bible teachers – I work hand-in-hand with. I am so grateful to the Lord for occasionally sending me these encouraging “angels”!