Traveling Feet

The Mystery of God’s Grace in Russia

It’s been a month and a half now since I’ve been home from Russia. And yes, I realize this blog post is very late in coming. Perhaps you’ve even forgotten by now that I went! But I couldn’t let the experience pass without a closing re-cap on it … to share with you, however briefly, some of the beauty that was given to me in a land across the sea.

How is it possible to sum up a two-week, breathtaking experience in just a few short words on a blog post? When people ask me how my time was in Russia, my only response to them can be, “It was amazing. Simply amazing.” Because an experience like that can’t be summed up in just two words, but that’s all that can come to my mind when they ask. God truly did have this time designed for me to go, and I couldn’t be more thankful that I listened to His voice and opened myself up to receive the blessings He had in store.

Perhaps it will be best if I do this by referencing some of the things I mentioned in my pre-Russia post … with the perspective of one looking back.

Meet New Friends …

Ohhhh the friendships. The beautiful relationships built in just fourteen days’ time. This, to me, was the absolute best part of the trip. I fell in love with these Russian people, just as my dear friend, Libby, said I would the morning that we left. Getting to know their hearts … their hearts for God and for others … their precious, giving, loving hearts … was the best part of the whole trip. Their eagerness to reach out to US as the American team just blew me away and humbled me … and forced me to ask myself if I am that selfless and giving to others. Unfortunately, most of the time I’m not … and thus, I was challenged, as well as blessed, the more I got to know these beautiful people. Each of their names still lives in my hearts … and I can’t wait for the day when we are reunited again – either in this life, or in the next.

See New Sights …

Buildings that look more like colorful ice cream cones. Magnificent architecture. Dazzling white coupled with gleaming gold. Tropical palm trees next to familiar conifers. The Black Sea … at any time of day, by sunrise, midday, or sunset … always breathtaking, always soothing to the soul. A city that houses millions of people always on the go. A resort town in the midst of being prepped for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Billboards in every direction whose messages always remained mysterious to me. Local markets filled with fresh fruit and bread. Bugs bigger than I’ve ever seen … along with jellyfish that I got to hold in my hand. Twisters forming over the sea. The sights to see were never-ending … and continually smile-inducing.

Breathe in New Aromas …

Let me just say that SOME aromas I perhaps could have dealt with not breathing in! AND a trip to the primitive bathrooms … well, that deserves a blog-post all to itself! Suffice it to say that after such adventures, I no longer fear any kind of wild conditions. Send me to the jungle! I’d learn to survive it. 🙂 And yes, showering with a frog sitting right next to the shower-head … just proves that I can endure things I never thought I could!

Taste New Foods

Sometimes we weren’t always sure of what we were eating. Sometimes we WERE and we wished we weren’t! Sometimes we discovered beans in our breakfast food or a little too much tomato sauce among the rice … sometimes we gave back more food than we actually ate, and felt terribly about it. But overall, I thought it was fascinating trying all kinds of new food … the porridge for breakfast was quite delicious, and the non-alcoholic Mojitos sold in soda bottles were simply the best refreshment on a hot teaching day.

Kvas was not high on my list of delectable Russian cuisine … but I very much loved the blinies that we had once we were in Moscow!

Hot dogs wrapped in tortillas … chips shaped like crabs [with the same flavor!] … or bacon chips … or a simple meal of bread and cheese with a little bit of chicken thrown in there – it was adventure from Day 1!

Record Precious New Memories …

Too many to even count … of the best hot tea at breakfast and dinner … of little Nikita and Theodor drawing me pictures on the whiteboards … of the linen curtains that cover open dining hall windows filling with air and billowing in the approaching evening … of gathering with the girls in our room in the morning to pray and feeling the spirit of God … of laughing so hard with Nastya about synchronized swimming in the sea … of feeling God’s peace roll over me literally with the waves … the boys and their “rock band” under water … worship in the open air meeting room … the beautiful words of “Who Am I” that still whisper “Russia” to me so dearly … early mornings spent with my Jesus as the sun rose over waves breaking on the shore … Katya teaching me Russian phrases … washing clothes in the sink … learning that we’re really all the same, even though we just speak different languages … the sound of roosters waking up the world and seagulls calling out above the crashing waves … being open to God’s voice and having conversations at midnight that stretch for perhaps an hour or more – and discovering that sharing your testimony is no rote formula – simply a sharing of the love & joy within you that you so desperately want for others to have … all the games we played in our lessons … the laughter that came from “Zip-Bong,” “Twister” and so many others … introducing the word “nerpy” to the vocabulary of not only the Russians, but also the Americans! 😀 … decorating for the American party while the band practiced “Tonight’s gonna be a good night …” … Michael’s 101 Creepy Pictures of Lydia … dancing to Cotton-Eyed Joe … the Miami Beach Party … bonfires at night, toasting bread on bamboo sticks & drizzling raw local honey on top … swing dancing in the Kremlin … a river boat ride down the Moscow River just after sunset … market shopping in Moscow … a mad dash to the theater to see “The Nutcracker” … late night treats at Starbucks … talks with so many people as our feet trod the city, mile by mile …

And ohhh, the Russian sunsets …

God’s voice was so clear to me all along this journey. I read back through my missions journal, and page after page is filled with His reminders. If only I could keep them fresh in my heart day by day to stir me to that same kind of action. But if anything, let me remember 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 ~ “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

He can use even weak little me. And I wish I had the time and space to share with you all that He whispered to me along this journey … to open your eyes to the mysteries He spoke to me … but just know that your support made all the difference to me. Your prayers kept you as partners with me along the way, allowing my feet to walk out the mission that He had prepared for me. And I pray that I may continue walking out that mission, day by day, for His mission is not done yet! All glory be to God for His work in Russia … for the Russian Bible Church eagerly spreading the Gospel in darkened Moscow … for the English camp and all those who came to it … for lives that were changed and impacted … for the sacrificial service of those who planned the camp and carried it out … and for every dear Russian brother and sister who poured into my life and showed me such love. I’m overwhelmed by such a gift. And I will treasure it always.

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