For those of you not familiar with Russian life and culture here is some background. Russia has a sauna or steam bath which is called the banya. It is a bit different from a sauna in that a sauna has "dry" steam and a banya has "wet" steam. You have to experience it to understand. The banya is a big deal in Russian culture. In the banya you relax. ave fun. and real relationships are built. It was when I began attending the banya, something which many American missionaries will not do, that I really found my place with my Russian brothers.
Last week I was in Chelyabinsk Russia for a ministry trip. I was preaching at two churches and teaching at several rehab centers. One church was celebrating their 5th anniversary. On the night of the celebration all of the guys went out after the service to a local banya. I was the only American there. I was surprised when we drove up to a Holiday Inn! This is the only Holiday Inn that I have seen in Russia.
Inside was a large banya, a swimming pool with a slide, a pool table and a long row of tables were we sat, snacked and chatted. In the nude of course. In a Russian banya you are naked, buck naked, though because this banya was at a Holiday Inn we were provided with optional towels for covering. This was a good thing as several times there were women from the hotel staff who came into the banya to discuss things with the person who organized the banya! In Russia this is not unusual. It is also not unusual to have a cleaning lady cleaning the public restroom, even in McDonald's while you are at the urinal!
Anyway, about 25 guys went to the banya, we chatted, snacked, swam, steamed, and repeated the whole process for 3 hours. It was a great for renewing and strengthening relationships. I personally really love the banya, I am hoping to find one in the Boston area when we are home during the winter. I had an awesome time in Chelyabinsk, and will post more stories and photos soon.
Come and visit us someday and I will personally introduce you to the joys of the Russian banya.