Sometimes the best intentions can be taken off track. I attempted to log on to the internet while in Moscow for most of the past week but it is something of a complicated process – especially when the only instructions are in Russian. From what I understand, even when you get it all set up you never really know if it will work – and if it does, for how long. So time to store something to the flash drive and upload when we get to Glasgow.
This ministry time has been interesting and not quite as challenging as I anticipated. Thankfully we allowed a day of recovery after the long hours in two very crowded planes. On our first day in Moscow, we were able to enjoy some time getting a feel for the city of Moscow … wandering around the Museum for the Great Patriotic War (WWII) and enjoying the sights of Red Square and the Kremlin. Sunday included worship at the International Baptist Church, lunch at the Hard Rock Café, and a very scenic cruise along the Moscow River. Great weather … warm and sunny! Since this is our first visit to this country we found everything interesting, though the “rules” are a bit strange. Of course, every culture seems a bit odd to those who are just visiting. Our visit is fairly protected and short so we have not run into anything too complicated or annoying.
Then off for five days of ministry at a conference center an hour outside of Moscow. Over 50 pastors, church leaders and wives gathered for a week of encouragement, continued training, and worship. These wonderful Christians came from all over Russia and the former Soviet Union and the stories the tell were often astounding to us as American pastors. They are willing to sacrifice so much to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have some new heroes of the faith! These men and women make do on so little. The ministries can barely keep up with the rent much less pay the preacher. I do not understand how they are able to live on what they receive in support. Some live in one room houses with multiple kids (yep, bedroom, kitchen, living room all in one – bathroom outside). Few would have more than 3 rooms (maybe 400 s.f.) Yet the all seem to serve with a joyful and hopeful heart even though under-supported according to our standards. None have a relative level of support that any pastor in our church receives. Yet we did not hear one complaint – ever!
It was our privilege to serve these servants. I can’t tell if we encouraged or helped them much, but they seemed pleased to have us here. Our topics were focused on practical issues in church leadership — building teams, developing leaders, planning effective meetings, even the importance of financial planning. Linda and Carol had a great time connecting with many of the leaders’ wives – who are truly the unsung heroes!
John and Naomi work hard to make these conferences special for these alumni of the New Life Bible College. The conference center was very nice, the food excellent, the opportunities for fellowship were well thought out, and there was plenty of laughter. Things we take for granted, they still appreciate. As always this has been something of a humbling time for us.
No, there is really no connection between fish, Leonardo, and/or our trip to Russia but I might get ranked higher in a Google search. I guess it also reminds me of the silly ways that the enemy will go about distracting people from truth. Conspiracy theories about Jesus along with not-really-all-that-great novels can seem to take on bigger than life reality for some people – especially the media.
It also causes me to reflect on the lengths that Devil will go to to disrupt our mission – before and during the adventure. Last minute crises, discouragement for little reason, and subtle, but direct, attack all seem to be at work even as time to prepare runs out. Of course the Savior is greater than our enemy, and he will do His work through us, so I'm confident. Nothing fishy about that. Nothing fishy about that!
This Thursday, Linda and I will be off on an new adventure … ministry in Moscow. This is a new destination for us. We’ll be working with John and Naomi Musgrave – friends and “professional encouragers” to pastors and leaders scattered all over Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union. Along with Mark and Carol Wheeler (neighbors, friends, former colleagues, and current pastor of United Evangelical Free Church in Seattle) we’ll be assisting John with a leadership conference designed to encourage church leaders in the midst of their ministries. As we understand it most of these people are graduates of Bible College but are very much in need of additional practical training and skills – along with encouragement in the midst of tough ministry.
We feel a bit overwhelmed at being asked to help. Everyone from our church who has gone before us has been moved by the commitment on the part of these leaders. And the commitment of John and Naomi. We’ll let our three readers know how it unfolds!
… when things leak out of your brain?
It seems like I have very little bandwidth left in my mind. It’s one of those weeks when I have just too many high priority tasks that all seem to take brain cells to accomplish and I am usually running out of them. I am trying to remember some key truths about busy times:
- It really is God who does His work. All I can do is pursue faithfulness with the time I have. Of course, it has to be God’s work. And the assumption is that I work hard, I labor, when it is time to work.
"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." (Psalm 127:1, ESV)
- God gives to his own even in their sleep. I tend to want to stay up late and get more work done. Sleep is usually a better choice.
"It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." (Psalm 127:2, ESV)
- Watch the anxiety. Unfortunately I tend to be slower than I would wish in following the divine prescription.
"do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6, ESV)
- The priority of my life must not waver from the fundamental mission given by our Chief Shepherd. It is His kingdom that matters, not mine. I think it safe to say that the principle given by Jesus applies here. I seek his kingdom first, and he will take care of the things that seem to be undone.
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:33-34, ESV)
I feel better now. Thanks.