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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A day of testing aka Character Development

This past Sunday Michael and I went our separate ways to preach in two different churches.  Michael stayed in Nizhny Novgorod to preach in Cornerstone Church and I went to Gorodetz to preach in that Cornerstone church.  There was a conference in Moscow for Russian pastors and so we were asked to cover the churches while the pastors went to get refreshed.

We were both preaching on the subject of baptism because this coming Saturday both churches will come together for a baptism celebration in the olympic swimming pool of a resort.  “Resort” is somewhat of a euphemism for this place, but it was the only English word I could think of to describe it.  More about this will be coming in the next story.

It was a day of testing for me.  I enjoy teaching, but I am not a preacher.  My choice would be to turn down any invitation to preach, but I have told the Lord that if ever I am asked I will receive it as His request and do it in obedience.  That said, and sounding so very spiritual, I have to say that it is intensely uncomfortable for me and my self doubting goes wild.

The resistance to my task began before I left home.  Michael’s and my relationship, normally placid and peaceful, flared up into barking at each other. I don’t even remember what it was about.  Then, when I went out to the car it would not start.  The ignition was locked and the key would not turn.  Jogging the steering wheel is always enough to unlock the key, but of course, not this time.  It took 5 or 6 tries before it worked with each unsuccessful try causing my tension level to go up.

When driving to Gorodets there is only one, two lane bridge to cross the river and in regular traffic it can take up to an hour just to get across.  On any given Sunday though, traffic is light around the city so I estimated the time it would take to get to church accordingly, including the bridge crossing.  My plan was to arrive at church with my interpreter 15-20 minutes before the service started.  As expected, traffic was light and I breezed across the city to the bridge only to find that the police had stopped all outgoing traffic across the bridge. YIKES!  We sat without moving an inch.  In fact when this happens everyone stops their engines and gets out of their cars for a smoke.  After the longest ten minutes of my life I was just feeling the first pangs of nausea when I saw people getting back into their cars and starting them up again.  Very slowly we crawled the final kilometer to the bridge and then across.  The final trial on the drive came when we had to cross a double train track and had to wait in line for two trains before we could cross and continue on our way.

From that point on the road was clear, but we were still a little less than half way.   We arrived at exactly 11:05 AM.  Everyone was there and waiting for us. 

reading from a selected scripture

"Baptizing" a piece of cloth

The old has past away, behold the new has come

The service was good despite my inner turmoil and those who will be baptized this coming Saturday seemed to listen intently. They liked my object lesson.  When I ‘baptized’ a piece of white cotton cloth into grape juice they were able to visualize how our identity is changed, not by an outward action, but by Christ in us, indelibly changing our identity by His grace.

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