This morning we arose early to travel to Ryazhsk then to Korablino. We made the long drive to Ryazhsk, where Jeannie and I both were excited about seeing Pastor Oleg and any other members of the Ryazhsk church that might be present. We had spent a week there in 2008, helping with renovations to their facility and leading a Vacation Bible School. When we arrived at the church building a lot of memories came back to Jeannie and me — we immediately began looking around the place to see what had changed. We hugged Pastor Oleg, and after touring the facility (including a good look at his new sanctuary), we sat down with the rest of the team and listened to him share his story. He spoke of how God had been moving in the congregation and of the challenges he still faced. While he was sharing with us, his daughter Christina joined him. She is now his worship leader and administrative assistant — she has become a key part of his ministry. He is hoping that she won’t get married and leave the church right away — he needs her too much! We talked for some time, took some pictures, then left for Korablino. Korablino is only a short distance from Ryazhsk, so the trip went quickly.
When we arrived at Korablino we went to Pastor Dima’s home to fellowship with him and his family for the afternoon. We enjoyed talking with them. Jeannie and I were reminded of all the wonderful things we had experienced in that apartment on our first mission trip to Russia in 2007. The entire team had stayed in their small flat, and we had a wonderful time of fellowship and ministry together. Dima and his wife had made a few renovations to the place since we had been there last. We had a long conversation in their small kitchen around the table. Greg extended Dima and his wife Helen an invitation to come to West Virginia this fall. They accepted, and were very excited and honored at the prospect. Dima will be an excellent spokesperson for the WVBC/Russia partnership as he travels from church to church. I’m not sure if Olga or someone else will come with them as a translator — we’ll take care of that detail later.
After our visit together, we decided to walk from Dima’s apartment to the Korablino church building. On a typical day it would be a short hike, but it was very cold and windy. On the trip over Jon and I tried to take a few pictures outdoors, and experienced the pain of “frost nip” on our fingers. No harm was done, just some aching fingers for a hour or so due to pulling off gloves in windy, sub-zero weather. On the walk to the church building God gave us the opportunity to show the love of Jesus to an unknown Russian man, so the effort wasn’t a completely stupid idea — the Lord knew someone needed to have our company for a few minutes.
Before getting everything ready for the first evangelism training seminar, we took a tour of Dima’s auto parts shop, which adjoins the church building. He appears to have a good business there. His auto parts store is a vivid success story for the WVBC/Russia economic development efforts. Our partnership not only works directly with Russian Baptist churches to reach their communities, but also helps pastors and leaders to begin businesses that will produce income for ministry support. Rather than just continuing to give them financial assistance from our West Virginia churches, we enable them to stand on their own.
The evangelism training seminar went smoothly, with a good attendance not only from the Korablino congregation but from members of churches in nearby towns. The highlight of the evening was the testimonies of two young women missionaries who had begun working in Ryazhsk. They were on fire with a passion to reach people in Ryazhsk for Christ. After they shared, our meeting concluded. Before hitting the road for the trip back to Ryazan, we enjoyed a meal with our Russian friends. Upon arriving in Ryazan, we were tired but fulfilled by all the things we had experienced.