Thanks to everyone who prayed and supported me as we traveled on mission to Russia in July! Here’s a brief recap with some pics!
In spite of war, airline catastrophes, and threats of canceled visas, God got us safely to Russia! The believers there were so glad to see us and so thankful that we came in spite of everything.
We stayed with our friends Pastor Yuri & Olga who were very hospitable and kind. They made us feel at home by cooking traditional Russian meals for us, supplying us with good things from their garden, and even serving us caviar for breakfast!
On our very first day in Bryansk, Russia, I (Steph) was scheduled to meet with the sisters who were gathering at a local church for tea. I spent the day preparing some American treats & discussion questions. The peanut butter fudge and chocolate no-bake cookies were a big hit! The discussion questions were not. The Russian female mindset is geared towards listening and being taught rather than asking questions or sharing their opinions. They are a very reserved group of people who take their faith very seriously. Gradually, though, they began to ask questions and I found that they struggle with the same things American women struggle with: wishing their husbands spent more time at home instead of at church, wanting to support their husband’s ministry while raising small children, and submitting to their husband’s leading when they’re not sure they agree with his decisions.
We talked about biblical perspectives on these things and spent a good deal of time praying for and encouraging one another. Afterwards, we gathered up the leftover treats and sent them with the church youth group who was heading out to minister to Ukrainian refugee children. I hope they enjoyed the fudge, too!
During the next several days of our trip we were able to visit the churches in Bryansk. There are only 8 Baptist churches ministering to a city of a half-million people. The prevalent religion is Russian Orthodox which is a very traditional mixture of Catholicism, Judaism & ancestor worship. The Baptists are the next largest church group with 4 large churches (200-700 members) and 4 small churches (10-40 members). We turned our focus to the small churches and spent several evenings encouraging them in their local ministries. The believers are full of faith and believe in praying about everything with the expectation that God will answer in tangible ways. It was encouraging to see their faith in action as they asked us to pray for their loved ones who are bound by addiction to alcohol and drugs. Each small church that we visited shared tea and snacks with us and were very eager to hear what believers in America live out their faith. What a blessing it was to pray for each individual need that they mentioned and to hear them pray for us by name as well!
An unexpected blessing was getting to visit a children’s summer camp run by our friend Oksana and meeting her dad, Peter. This camp is open specifically for children with difficult home lives, who are extremely poor, or whose parents are alcoholics. The camp is nothing fancy and the volunteers work hard to keep the facilities in working order. But the children there are clean, well-fed, happy and loved. We brought them gifts of candy and fruit. The children patiently waited for us to cut up watermelon, cantaloupes and bananas, then they dug in with enthusiasm! Within 15 minutes not a single bite was leftover! They shared their treats with us, then invited us to join their games before rest time.
While the children resting we were able to sit down with Oksana & Peter and hear many testimonies of God’s working in their lives and ministries. Peter had been imprisoned under the communist regime for being an outspoken pastor. When he was released, both he and Oksana were given the opportunity to defect to America in order to have more freedom. Oksana passed up this opportunity because she felt God calling her to minister to these needy children. God has used her ministry to change the direction of many lives, and it was wonderful to see that many of the volunteers at the camp had once been students there. God had saved them and their parents and turned their lives away from alcoholism and into Christian service! Mighty is the power of the Cross!
What an amazing trip! I’m glad God didn’t let anything keep us from going! We were encouraged by the faith & perseverance of the believers and challenged to live our faith more boldly upon our return home. We pray that we were also able to encourage the believers there through our words & smiles as well as our prayers & gifts. We look forward to continuing to support what God is doing in Russia and being a part of the church around the world!
Thank you for supporting me in this amazing adventure!
Any questions? I’d love to tell you more about the details if you’re interested! 🙂