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.