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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Discipleship and Mentoring in a Russian Context

Preparing for a cookout - Russian Style

Karen and I came to Russia with the plan to church plant. Our desire was to plant a church that would reproduce itself and hopefully spark a church planting movement. We were surprised when the Lord changed our focus from ‘our plans’ and brought us alongside an existing indigenous church planting movement. Within the context of that movement our primary ministry is discipling young believers.

Discipling young believers has both a formal and informal component. The formal typically comes though times of teaching, observing ministry and helping hone ministry skills, one on one mentoring and giving books and other study tools to developing leaders.

Informal mentoring and discipleship is more of a natural process of sharing lives together. In Russia this means drinking lots of tea, going to the banya and other relational activities. Shared meals, and ministry trips together are also ways to mentor/disciple young believers. Often in these settings we are asked just to share from our years as living as a Christian couple. During these times we seldom see immediate evidence of our ministry, but often we later hear comments about things we said which touched people’s lives challenging or encouraging them in their walk as believers.

Last week we had our regular schedule of formal discipleship times, teaching at 3 rehabilitation centers and one house group. During the week Karen asked some of the leaders in Balakhna/Gorodets if we could plan a cook-out / banya day. Everyone thought it was a great idea, so went to work to make it happen. We bought meat, prepared some salads, brought along some pickles, jams and relishes that we made last fall.

Pastor Oleg cooking shashlik

Just enjoying our friendship

The cookout took place at the recently opened Gorodetski Social Center. This is a typical Russian village home which the church has rented as a shelter/rehab for homeless people. As is common with most village houses there is a garden behind the house and a banya. When we arrived the brothers were starting a campfire for the cookout, and the wood stove in the banya was heated and waiting.

Pastor Oleg after the Banya

Karen made pasta salad, and American style cole slaw. These are always a hit with our Russian friends. Most Russians who have not tasted these look at them with a “what is this” look, but after a taste they quickly load their plates. There was enough shashlik (Russian Shish kabobs) so everyone could stuff themselves.

We enjoyed the day sharing our food and our lives. After the meal, over a cup of tea and cookies we discussed the possibility of organizing a children’s neighborhood evangelistic outreach. The weather was wonderful, warm and sunny. After dinner we all gathered in the house for a couple of hours of music and worship together.

Anya and Ira

Natasha playing with the resident kitten

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