Saturday, July 23, 2011

Top 10 Russia Highlights

Here is a list of my top 10 Russian highlights for you to enjoy:

10. Mastering the bus/trolley/tram system. I really enjoy public transportation, and being able to hop on a bus number 14 and get to the city centre, or a 5 and get to Brad's apartment. I like knowing what stops to get off and when to get off at them. I like having my 12 rubles ready to pay and challenging myself by standing up while the bus is in motion. Proud, you say? Yes, I am.

9. White Nights festival. I truly enjoyed the events put on by the festival by the city of Perm-- it enabled me to go to several art museums, fascinating dance events or exhibitions, and learn a LOT about the Russian culture and the city. Thanks, Tanya for being my tour guide...and getting me into many places for free. I also had a lot of good conversation with the women who accompanied me on these excursions, sharing a lot about my faith and the importance of Jesus to them.

8. Boat ride on the Kama River. I was invited by my friend Tanya and a girl named Anya joined us for this. It enabled me to see the city from the river and take some really cool pictures of buildings reflecting off the water. I was able to feel the coolness of Russia on this day, for it was colder and wet, and I was wearing a fleece jacket! The breeze on the boat was so enjoyable, and going up and down the river viewing Russian landscape and city skylines from the water was incredible. I also got to feed seagulls and dance to Russian trance and techno music with a group of Russian girls who thought I was SO interesting because I was an American-- they kept taking pictures with me like I was some sort of celebrity, and anytime I would try to slowly escape from the top deck dance floor, they would pull my arm and keep me going. It was a lot of fun, dancing on top of a river boat like that, enjoying music in Russian and being blinded by cameras.

7. Walking, walking, walking! I have come to absolutely LOVE walking everywhere. I walk to the store, I walk to the bus stop, I walk to the river, I walk to meet friends, I walk to Brad's apartment, I walk to Elizabeth's apartment-- and no, I don't always quite make it perfectly everywhere, but I feel like I have mastered most of the streets of Perm! There is nothing as relaxing as walking somewhere, especially when the sun has gone down a bit and there is a nice breeze, getting to people watch and indulge in Russian city life and the rich culture of the country here. I also love walking to and from places as a means to experience God in new ways, to delight in him and talk to him and sing to him in my head and feel him with me as I travel on foot.

6. Music making. I have done a lot of this in Russia, whether playing guitar for friends at picnics, recording a few songs with my friend Sasha in his friend's recording studio, playing with Mark at the American English camp, or singing for Russians on Tuesday nights and teaching them simple English songs. My callouses on my fingers have reformed, my ability to play an F chord and switch from it has improved, and I have been really humbled being able to lead Russian bible studies or church groups in worship. It's amazing to me how God can use a simple gift like this to bring people together.

5. Feasting and tea-ing with Russians. My favorite times with Russian people have been simple gatherings of cucumber-tomato-meat-and-cheese sandwiches, cut up fruit and vegetables, banana-strawberry bread, and lots and lots and lots of tea. LOTS of tea. I have so enjoyed getting together and everyone bringing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, enjoying one another's company as we create a masterpiece of finger foods for everyone to snack on. It created wonderful atmospheres for myself along with Elizabeth or other missionaries/Americans to have meaningful interactions and conversations with the Russian people we spend time with, whether we discuss the importance of God's word, who Jesus was and why he matters, the standards of good and evil, or why believers shouldn't marry non-believers. The conversations were endless-- so many great opportunities to share truth with people came out of simple gatherings centered around traditional Russian food and tea. And yes, I have bought a Russian tea set to bring home so I can continue on with such a tradition in Texas.

4. Hohlofka. I have already posted about this place and this day, but it still warms my heart to think about it. I loved the sense of unity and family and togetherness that was present during our time in this little wooden log cabin village. Americans + Russians + lots of picture taking + bubbles + amazing landscape + cute little village + incredible lake and trees = a wonderful time of community and fellowship, conversation, and God-inspired love.

3. The missionaries here. Brad, Jeanine, Janet, Elizabeth, Dave, and Debbie-- a fantastic team of missionaries living in Perm who all have a heart for the Russian people. I have been blessed to live with Brad and Jeanine as well as with Janet, to interact and learn from Dave's leadership and devotion to students at American camp, to see and witness Debbie's love for the students and Russian people at the home church, and to spend lots of intentional time with Elizabeth as we planned activities or get togethers for us to entertain and spend time with Russians. I am so encouraged by each of their hearts and also by their response to the call God has on their lives to be here and invest in the lives of the people here. I have learned so much from each one of them, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to have served with them as well.

2. English camp. 14 Americans + 14 Russians = a stinkin' AWESOME time! English camp is such a highlight for me, in that it was the middle of my 5 weeks spent here. The American team that came enabled us to put on a camp in a quaint little Russian village and host 14 Russians there, where we were able to get to know them and share life with them and get super close with them in a matter of 3-4 days. I thank GOD for this camp, in that it brought so many new students into our lives, and allowed my following 2 weeks after camp to be busy and fruitful as I met with so many of them so often! I had such a fantastic time at camp sharing the gospel with people, having deep and intentional conversations about God, playing ultimate frisbee, visiting an old Soviet style communistic store, experiencing the beauty of a Russian Orthodox monastery, and building some incredible relationships.

1. Sharing Jesus with Russian students. This encompasses camp, any time we gathered, my amazing time at Rinat's house and cycling-- I cannot express to you how much the past 5 weeks have meant to me, and that God, in his kindness and rich, sweet mercy, has allowed me to partake in his plan of spreading his story and his gospel to the world. He has allowed me to share in his work here, has given me this sweet opportunity, blessed me by the financial and prayer support of so many people to get here and begin, has been faithful in orchestrating each meeting with each student and each relationship I have made here, has been so good to me in showing me my weaknesses and my sin while I have been here and has helped me see his forgiveness and restoration of my soul in that, has made me stronger and allowed me to learn to trust him even when I feel like I can't... I praise Him for the beautiful, God-given opportunities to share Him with the Russian people here. I love the students I have met and spent so much time with. I pray that God continues to work in their hearts and stir their affections for him, that they will see his goodness and the precious gift of life and love that he offers through belief in his son, and that they too will enter into his marvelous light.

I love you, Russia. Thanks for an unforgettable 5 weeks.


  1. piece of 7, 6 (so much pleasure), piece of 5, 2 - i'm not so bad in your top 10! would be so happy to be in every number

  2. Love it! I'm sure it's been a life changing event in your walk. Many blessings to you!

  3. Be safe on your trip home you.