Saturday, August 25, 2007

Russian Reflections after Re-entry

I was on the phone to Canada yesterday and my friend Marj was giving me a bit of stick for not blogging enough. She's right, I've been getting lazy. Time to type!

So I'm back from Moscow. It was an amazing experience and it has changed me. I've been thinking about what I would write in this blog for a couple of days and to be honest even as I type I am not sure what I am supposed to say and what I am supposed to treasure in my heart.

Maybe I should start by telling you what we were doing and why we were there.
On Monday morning at 5am Malcolm (Regional Director YFC Eastern Europe) and I left Belfast and flew to Moscow via Heathrow. Malcolm is a visionary leader who is pioneering new ministry through local teams of youth and childrens workers working with Kids at Risk. YFC have a small team in Moscow and the purpose of this trip was meet with senior church leaders and organisations to talk about strategy and partnership in working with these broken young kids in Eastern Europe. YFC's vision in this region is to equip local churches for working in this specific area of ministry. It was an action packed three days beating around Moscow and its underground metro in temperatures in the high 30s. Here are some pics.
This is Pastor Pavel Okara. He leads the Pentacostal Union in Russia. This is a movement of about 3000 believers worshipping in churches all across the nation. Pavel was an awesome man of God with a real heart for Jesus. The Pentacostal church is one of the strongest protestant churches in Russia. Although everything here in terms of church is small. Only about 1 or 2 % of the population is evangelical. These guys like most of the guys we met are amazing, serving the Lord and reaching the world, but the reality is they are only scratching the surface. Moscow alone has only 200 churches for its 15 million of a population, thats the equivilent of 1 church for every 75,000 people, slightly different that here in Ulster. Russia needs the gospel.
This is Malcolm and I in Red Square. Amazing to stand in the bastion of Communism on our way back from McDonalds. It was a beautiful place to visit. Today the Kremlin (over my right shoulder) is occupied by Mr Putin, another power crazed Russian leader, we need to pray that his successor will be more open to God. Christians here are really up against it. The state church and the government call evangelicals a Sect and make it nearly impossible for the work of God to gather momentum as they make the believers jump through lots of hoops to do their work. While we were there the YFC Moscow team had to send copies of their proposed Day Camp (next week) to the local government offices to be checked for religious content! Really..we don't know how blessed we are.

Here Malcolm and I are with two amazing servants of Jesus. Pastors Pavel and Marina Savelyev lead Dew 'Rosa' Church in Moscow. It is a large charismatic church which is pioneering Alpha and Youth Alpha into Russia. They are doing some amazing stuff working across the denominations (rarely done here, in some conversations it sounded just like home). This year for the first time Alpha has started making a movement into the state Othodox Church. That's big news...but don't tell to many people. The Priests who have started using it are being thrown out of their parishes.

From left to Right this is Nick (our amazing guide in Moscow) Director of YFC South Russia, Pavel Torchuk (Russian Minstries) Malcolm and Marina (Moscow YFC). It was such a privilege for me to meet and hang out with these amazing believers. These are the guys who are the real greats in the Kingdom of God. They are really giving their all for Gospel. Another wee snap in Red Sqare.

This last guy hugging Mal and I is Pastor Eugene, leader of Baptist Youth for Russia. This guy was really interesting. I was drawn to his passion and strategic mind but at the same time frustrated by his outdated approaches to ministry and his dislike of other churches outside of the Baptists. Our meeting with Eugene was a tough one but a great learning experience for me in Russian Christian Culture.

So what did I learn on my travels...God is Lord over the nations, It is possible to live for Jesus fully, the world still needs reached with the love and grace of Jesus, Russia needs missionaries, McDonalds tastes the same everywhere, Russian people are beautiful, the church in Russia needs annointed for its mission, prayer works and Jesus is Lord.

Being in Russia has led to some deep stuff happening in my own life and heart. I need to treasure it in my heart for a while and then I'll hopefully get to share it with you all.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Prayer and Preparation

Last Saturday night I preached a message at The SummerServe BBQ. If it had a title it would have been called something like "a proper response to the holiness of God"

I challenged the couple of hundred young people to make a response to God's call on his people into mission in the world.
Just two days after ushering such a high call to these kids, I laughed at God's sense of humour when Malcolm Johnston, the Regional Director for YFC across Eastern Europe called asking me to come with him to Moscow. Unfortunately I was moved into a place where I only response was, Yes Lord your servant is listening. So next Monday, Mal and I are heading across to Russia. I am terrified but also excited. I am sure my role will be minor but nevertheless I am willing to do whatever. Malcolm has called our trip a blind date. We are meeting with Bishops from the Baptist Union for Russia and also the Pentacostal church. The meetings are to discuss reaching young people across the nation. Russia is so massive. YFC have a staff member in St Petersburg on the western side, when she travels home to her family on the east coast, it takes 10 days by train.
I have a globe sitting on my desk in the office. Everyday I sit and spin it and then pray for cities, islands, nations, just wherever comes to me as this little ball spins. Since I agreed to tag along to Moscow with Mal, I have found that my globe has not been spinning, Russia is so big, I could be stuck there for a while.
Would value your prayers!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Holiday Reflections

So I have been home for almost two weeks. Week 1 was messed up. My jetlag was intense. I found myself sleeping constantly and even in week 2 I am still having to drag myself out of bed in the mornings. I am starting to feel more normal though. I love travelling but this time it has affected me so much.

This summer has been brilliant. It was just what the doctor ordered. Awesome experiences, adventure, quality time with Becci, new things, great food and good friends.

Bec has put some our holiday pictures online, so feel free to check them out. PICS

My favourite destination was Hong Kong. It was so different to anything I had experienced before. We soaked in the asian culture, ate local cuisine, did some class tours and laughed a lot.

Hong Kong is an amazing place and I think Rebecca and I would like to go back there in the future.

Everywhere we visited on our round the world trip was brilliant. It was like 5 separate holidays, each so unique with new experiences and its own memories engraved into our lives. My only regret was not taking longer in each destination and possibly adding in one or two more stops.

But I should not be greedy. I have lots more travelling to do this year. I am heading to Thailand with YFC in September and Canada later in the Autumn.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pics!