Monday, August 22, 2011

Greetings from Russia!

This was our youth camp in Gurez Pudga,Udmurtia

It is early morning in Izhevsk, the capital city of beautiful, green Udmurtia, Russia. The apartment is still quiet and asleep.. except for me who rose up early so that I might find a bit of time to edit some photos and to write my very first update since arriving to Russia two weeks ago. We have all been so very busy, especially me, and have had next to no time for computers. In the last two weeks we have met with so many wonderful Christians, encouraging them and being encouraged by them, but also the Lord has given us much opportunity to share His gospel with those outside of faith. It is really amazing to see how the Lord works in the hearts of the hearers, bringing healing and joy to those who are already His own, but also, with wonder, opening the eyes and hearts of new believers.

Vlad, Marta, Taisaiand Sergie - This was Marta and Taisai first time in a Christian camp like this. They were filled with wonder and amazement the fellowship and gospel they found there!

Thomas with a young friend named, Nikita

The youth traveling with us are simply wonderful. All three of them, Thomas, Jaclyn and Debbie, began this journey with quiet and reserved hearts, but after two weeks here in Russia where people are so open and accepting, they are emerging, coming into their own, talking and laughing and ministering to people around them. Serving in the mission field is always a two way street for our hearts, meaning the more we give, the more we receive. It is truly a joy to see the Lord not only working through these youth, but working in them, opening their hearts to the wonder and love that surrounds His gospel presence.

Svetlana and Anna are Christians friends who are interpreting for us

Everything has been going very well so far, though things got a bit chaotic when we mistakenly arrived a day early on our host’s doorstep in the night. They had planned to host us in two apartments, but one apartment was not ready that evening as they weren’t expecting us until the next night, so some of us ended up finding a piece of floor to sleep on. I certainly felt silly about missing a day and arriving early, but our host, Diana Chetvertnykh, was so gracious and glad to see us that our chaos went unnoticed.

Student friends who we met last winter in the university came to be with us at the Volga River Picnic. It was simply wonderful to see them again and to share the gospel together!

I did have a rather stressful day earlier in the trip when a captain and another official from the Mari El Immigration Department pulled me from the middle of a church meeting to interrogate me for a couple of hours, making me write a confession that I was in Russia preaching the gospel. I really don’t know why these fellows sought me out on this particular trip or even how they knew where I was in that small Lutheran mission church. At first my interrogation didn’t go too badly. The officers seemed frustrated and even a bit embarrassed that there was nothing really criminal surrounding my presence there in Russia. I told them about how Jesus’ own disciples had been brought before the officials in ancient times and for what?.. for teaching truth and honesty and love! Sister Anna Kyzmakova who was helping me with interpretation, boldly reminded the officers that today we might have to answer to their boss, but there will come a time when they will have to answer to ours!

And so my interrogation went and just when I thought they might let me go, one of them suddenly noticed that my visa was marked as a tourist visa. Whey they saw that, they ordered me to show up at the immigration office the next day to explain why I was in Russia doing religious work on a tourist visa! At the immigration office the next day, the Lord gave me much more opportunity to preach the gospel to those officials and to their director. In the end, knowing I needed to compromise, I agreed to get a religious visa the next time I came to Mari El, they fined me the minimum fine they could, which was 2000 rubles (about 75 dollars). Before we left, the young captain took me aside privately to tell me how he hoped I had not been offended, and so he and I talked and shared our lives for some time together and now, by God’s grace, we will share more in the future, but this time as friends. God is truly amazing!

Our group and friends in the 1000 year old city, Kazan

I am not going to go into much more detail in this update even though I have much to write about, but instead will add some photos (portraits which I love to take) with faces and captions that will tell a better story of our journey here.

Please know that we feel your prayers and love. I have no doubt that much of our success is due to your intercession on our behalf.

Our dear brother and sister, Maxim and Oksana were married!

Me with some young friends, Misha and Milana:)...

Jaclyn with Anatoly, the father of Esa, who many of you met at convention in the summer.

Dennis Preaching Sunday Morning at the Youth Camp - Anna Interpreting

Beginning to gather for the Volga River Picnic in Cheboksary, the capital city of Chuvashia!

Me with Anna and Tanya!

Brian with Andrei

In Russia,

With Jesus, Gregory and all!

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