Sunday, September 18, 2005

From Russia With Love

Well we've just got back from Far East Russia. And that's not a phrase I ever expected to say. It was actually a bit embarrassing because we told everyone we were going to Siberia, we named the school "Siberian Leaders School" and we announced to the 100 Russian pastors that we were delighted to be in Siberia.

Cue looks of incomprehension and muttering in Russian (which sounded a little bit like this...zhschooyahschrrra...nyet...sczhschzhhhrrrrszhhhrzzzhyahna.....schzidiots.....
schrrrrnayagobacktoTorontolosersanya). Turns out we weren't in Siberia after all....nope, we were even more remote than that! Excellent. Thought that the 14 hour time difference was a little extreme for somewhere as local as Siberia!

Dave and I were leading the school with David & Faith Dalley from Bath City Church - they just happen to be the parents of my lovely friend in TO, Sarah. We first met on a Leaders School in Nigeria where I accidentally scarred David for life by pouring boiling water on his hand in a dimly lit corridor in Aba. And that's enough about that.

I've always wanted to go to Russia, partly because my mum speaks fluent Russian, but also because I've long loved their melancholy, soulful literature and their melancholy, soulful history. (It's ok, I'm not going to claim to be Anastasia the Tsar's long lost daughter...but only cos that would make me about 100 years old!).

Fortunately the pastors that we were with weren't melancholy in the least despite having spent about 48hours on a train to get from their obscure Russian villages to the location of the school. In fact they were pretty much the only people in Russia that we saw smile.

We couldn't believe it when on the first evening of the school, after David D. did a brief introduction to the Father Heart of God, these big Russian men were just weeping. One of the main local pastors, Eugeny, had an amazing encounter with God - a real Ed Piorek Central Event - while my Dave was giving him a "Father Heart" hug. He was completely overwhelmed by the love of God and pretty much drunk in the Holy Spirit for the next 2 weeks!!! We have never met a people group like the Russians - they were so hungry for God and so incredibly receptive, we were blown away. We had sessions from 9am till 11pm at night...when the team would stagger off to bed, exhausted. Meanwhile, the Russians would stay up and worship for another 3 hours! Many of them live in obscure villages where they are the only Christian (they call themselves Missionaries as they are going to places unreached by the gospel)...and the chance to meet up with fellow christians was very exciting!

You can still tell that Russia is not long free from Communist control - you still have to register with the government in every place that you go to so they know at all times exactly where you are. One Russian commented to me that she loved the faces of Americans because they were so open and free. It seems like under communism it didn't do to draw attention to yourself by smiling or laughing...and so there is this kind of blank Russian expression that lingers today.

Meanwhile, let me tell you about the exciting breakfasts we had at the Sanatorium we were staying favourite day was the day we came down to a huge bowl of pasta each, drizzled in oil and with a small sprinkling of cheese. Yum - who needs toast and tea??!!

We had an incredible team with us - the glamorous American Greg Veenstra (the Russians loved him so much they treated him to a national favourite....a pig fat sandwich with garlic cloves), the lovely Caroline Bone and Joel Freeborn from Bath, and our incredible interpreters...Oksana soon-to-be Dunnagan, Naomi and Yana.

Oh and by the way, an internal flight in Russia is an experience not to be missed....let's just say the No Smoking signs are taken as suggestions rather than as an actual instruction....

Nonetheless we would be very happy to return.... to Russia With Love.


Blogger A.J. said...

I found it.. I found it! Hey, Great Blog woman! I feel like I was there breathing the smoke filled air with you! I am so glad it was a great time.. it sounds like quite the adventure really. I am also very happy for you that Greg was such a favourite and that he got the horrible sandwich instead of you...
Much love!

6:20 AM  
Anonymous Richard Roblin said...

Hey, we miss you guys already!

8:53 PM  

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