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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Serving the Russian Church

With young Russian leaders

As missionaries to Russia, Karen and I believe that our primary responsibility is to serve the existing Russian Church. For us, this chiefly means teaching, counseling individuals and couples, mentoring young emerging leaders and discipling new converts. Late last year we purchased our Russian jeep with the purpose of using it primarily for ministry and service to the church and now, often, we are asked if we can drive people to various points of ministry.

On Sunday afternoon, after a great church service, Karen and I had the opportunity to spend the rest of the day with some of our young, former drug addict friends who now work in the Cornerstone Church rehab centers. We are always delighted to spend time with these young believers. Their new faith is contagious, and it is difficult to remember that there is an average age difference between us of 35 years.

Two of them asked if we could drive them out to the rehab which is situated nearly 75 kilometers outside of Nizhny Novgorod. It is in a very small, remote village which has limited bus service.

The weather had turned quite cold by the time we left church and as we made our way through the city and across the Volga River it began to snow. In the small city of Bor we stopped at the only supermarket so our friends could stock up on the week’s supplies for the Rehab Center. After loading up the jeep we drove away from civilization and headed off down a very rough road through the swirling snow. It was dusk and the road was becoming snow covered and slippery. We drove for over and hour passing small towns and villages and only occasionally seeing other cars. Suddenly the paved road ended and we continued on, bouncing along a deeply rutted dirt road. It is for places like this that we are happy to have a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

Soon we came to a one lane, log bridge. The bridge was covered in ice and snow and as you can see from the photo, the side rails on the bridge are less than a foot high. There isn’t much to keep your car from slipping over the side and plunging you into the stream below!

The Bridge

We joked about it with our Russian friends, snapped these photos and proceeded to crawl across the bridge. After making it safely across, we continued along the ruts and into the small village. The entire trip took about two hours.

One of the things that we admire about the Cornerstone people is that when they find an affordable place to rent they immediately begin to improve it. An “affordable place to rent” means that they found a place so run down that no one else wants it, but they move right in and go to work fixing it up to be habitable. This Rehab is located in a large, but typical Russian village house. The home has electricity but no indoor plumbing and is heated by two large brick ovens.

Tending the fire in one of the ovensWater is carried in from a hand pump out on the street. The only washing facility indoors is a small sink next to one of the brick stoves and the water drains down a pipe through the floor and onto the ground under the house. (for bathing, see “Banya” story above).

Since last October the team has been working on the house and turned part of the enclosed porch into an unheated kitchen. They have some free standing cabinets and a propane stove. The living quarters, though rustic, are warm, clean and comfortable.

We hung around for 3 hours relaxing, drinking tea, eating, drinking more tea and having fun.

Sharing a meal


Here we are with leaders and recovering addicts

We arrived home near midnight making it a very long but enjoyable day. When we spend time with these former, and recovering drug addicts who are finding new life in Christ, we feel privileged to be a small part of what the Lord is doing in their lives.

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