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S: Russia: September 2011

BC: "Life is precarious and life is precious. Don't presume you will have it tomorrow and don't waste it today." - John Piper -

FC: Russia | September 2011

1: Russia September 4-30, 2011

2: Trying out blini at the airport in Moscow before our flight to Perm. | With Nancy Wespetal and Dianna Lang in front of one of Perm's many rivers. | Couples in Russia place padlocks on memorials to symbolize their love. | Perm: September 5-11

3: Perm 36: One of the only remaining Russian gulags | An "anti-god bible" found in the gulag. | Historical Soviet posters

4: The gulag is about a 2 hour drive from Perm. It has been preserved as a museum.

5: Watch towers were everywhere in this maximum security gulag. There were 5 rows of fences, each with a specialized system to prevent escape. The camp operated from 1946 until 1987 and no one in the Perm 36 prison labor camp ever escaped. | This was an original bed found at the gulag. Four prisoners slept on this bunk bed.

6: Pentecostal Union 20th Anniversary Conference: Perm, Russia

7: Dr. George Wood, the American AG General Superintendent was one of the speakers at the conference. | Bishop Edward, the Russian PU Bishop (on right in photo) honored these two men who suffered persecution for their trust in Christ under Soviet rule. The man in the center was imprisoned for his faith.

8: The first few days in Perm were spent in meetings with some of the Assemblies of God missionaries serving in Russia, as well as missionaries serving with YWAM and Students for Christ. Before the 20th anniversary conference started, Dr. Wood (left) spent time getting to know the missionaries and speaking to them. | Back row (L-R): Me, Scott Matthes, Tom Wespetal, Denise Matthes, Kara Cusic, Kirk & Karla Ford, Steve Hinson, John Wilson, Scott Martin, Nathan Johnson, Josh Payne, Hy and Vy Wood. Front row (L-R): Nancy Wespetal, Dianna & Rick Lang, Dr. Wood, John & Renee Michno, Eric Muzart.

9: Some tasty greek salad and borscht and the view from my room at the Hotel Ural.

10: Krasnodar: September 12-16 My week in Krasnodar was blessed with skyping my family, attending an English club and a Bible study, interacting with Russian students, and spending time with the missionaries who live and work in Southern Russia.

11: Two Russian university students from the church | Bible study group | The kind of place you probably want to avoid. | University ministry leaders

12: Before long, it was time to leave warm Southern Russia and fly over the Ural Mountains and across five time zones to get to Siberia.

13: Ulan-Ude, Siberia: September 17-24

15: A few hours after landing in Ulan Ude, Kara and I picked up my translator, Sasha, and we drove 3 hours east to a small village where we were working together with a local pastor and his wife to conduct a ladies' conference. The conference was the beginning of their new ministry to women in their church and community. I had the privilege of speaking at two of the conference sessions.

16: Spa Night On the last evening of our conference, we pampered the ladies (and some of their daughters) with manicures, pedicures, and facials. We had tea and tons of laughter.

20: Pastor Oleg and his wife, Lena, were so hospitable. I learned a special Russian custom from them. They taught me that people name their animals with American human names. Their dog's name? Jessica.

21: In order to eat posie, you take a small bite out of the bottom/side, slurp the broth out, and then eat the meatball and the wrapper together. The sign of a good posie eater is a plate that doesn't have any broth left on it when you're finished. | Posie is a specialty in Buryatia It is almost like a meatball that is placed inside a dough wrapper. The meatball and the wrapper are then steamed.

22: One morning, we drove to another village where there is a small home church. There are only a handful of believers in the whole community. | Many of the people of the Buryatia region are of Mongolian descent and they primarily practice Buddhism and Shamanism.

23: World's funniest roadside restroom . . . the leaning outhouse of Siberia. | Altars to their gods are everywhere along the roads.

25: Many families in Siberia own a dacha, which is a simple summer home and garden. They will frequently live in their dacha during summer months and work in the gardens to get ready for winter. Pastor Oleg and his wife, Lena, lave a beautiful dacha. There is a stream that runs directly behind their property.

26: 1) Temples 2) Rags tied to trees to beg gods for safe passage 3) Trains | Some of the most common sights when traveling in Buryatia . . .

27: Lake Baikal | Kara took me to Lake Baikal, the world's deepest freshwater lake. It was stunning. We were grateful to have seen the lake at all because about 45 minutes after we arrived, smoke from a forest fire started drifting over the lake and we could hardly see down the shoreline.

29: On our way out of town as we headed to Selenginsk, we passed the world's largest Lenin head - they say you could fit a small apartment inside his head. The fall scenery on our one hour drive was phenomenal. | Selenginsk

30: The church in Selenginsk is so healthy and vibrant. I had the opportunity to speak there about Biblical sexuality.

31: During my talk, we did the crowded bed skit. It was lots of fun and was sprinkled with plenty of nervous and embarrassed laughter. | Russian churches have harvest celebrations where people bring produce they have grown and they have a time of thanking God for providing for their needs. This church's harvest celebration was coming up. Someone had brought in what must seriously be the world's most enormous beet.

32: Besides speaking at the ladies' conference and at the church in Selenginsk, I also had the opportunity to speak about Biblical sexuality to the youth group at Bethlehem Church in Ulan Ude. My time in Ulan Ude and the surrounding villages was so rich in ministry and memories. Kara and I had a wonderful week together and we were both sad when it was time to for me to leave and head back to Moscow.

33: Moscow | September 24-30

34: Flora, Mariam, Dorothy, and I went out to lunch and then walked across the bridge over the Moscow River towards the Kremlin, St. Basil's Cathedral, and Red Square.

35: "It is a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." - Bilbo Baggins -

37: Dorothy and I got to tour the Armory and we saw just a bit of the inside of the Kremlin, but the guards wouldn't let us in any farther because we hadn't bought additional tickets.

38: The eternal flame . . . we missed the changing of the guards. We agreed that the guards were cheating since they stood inside shelters.

39: The famous GUM department store at Red Square is similar to a high-end mall, but it was 3 or 4 stories high. Running down the center of the building was a continuous skylight which supposedly contains over 20,000 panes of glass.

41: I was able to speak to about 40-50 university students at the weekly Students for Christ meeting. The topic was HIV/AIDS and why the church should be involved in ministering to those with the virus. Most of the students are from African countries, but are studying in Russia. HIV is rampant in Russia, but it is also rampant in many of the African nations represented that evening. | Students for Christ

42: Another evening, I had the privilege to speak to a group of African medical students about the Biblical basis for medical missions, as well as ways to be involved in compassionate ministry. Most of the students in this group attend ICA-Moscow, an international church, and they are passionate about using their profession for ministry. | DoctorsAct Medical Student Group

44: During my week in Moscow, I stayed with Pastor John and Olga Asachyova. They have a few students living with them. Lyuba is from Russia, but she lived for a few years in the US. Dorothy is from Kenya and is studying in Moscow before heading back to Kenya. We were fast friends. Dorothy and I spent almost every day together.

46: - Riding the Moscow Metro - Washing my hair in ice cold water in Siberia - Dancing with African students - International worship service - Eating posie at a roadside diner - Drinking enough tea to drown an elephant - Discovering how awful I look in a fur hat - Learning the Russian alphabet - Crossing multiple time zones 6 times in 4 weeks - 13 flights in 26 days - Going to market in a Buryat village - Communion with believers in a house church - Women pouring their hearts out to God - Long car rides with stops at Siberian gas stations -Stepping twice on a lady's boot in the metro . . . and her turning around and yelling at me in Russian - Amazing fall scenery - Relaxing at the Wilson's house - Lines at McDonalds in Krasnodar and Moscow - Beets, beets, beets - Idols and temples at every turn - 28 hours traveling home | Memorable Moments

47: "No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home to rest his head on his old, familiar pillow." - Lin Yutang -

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