It was privilege to teach with the Discipleship Training School students in Vladivostock, Russia this past week with our friends David & Masha Wittwer.
Due to the political problems between Russia and Ukraine, you can no longer fly directly from one country to the other. So, I took a train from Kiev to Moscow (14hrs), then flew from Moscow direct to Vladivostok (9hrs).
The train arrived at 5am, so I had plenty of time to wander around the impressive Metro System. They are as deep as Kiev’s, but with three times as many stations and lines – huge underground fortresses of art and history on display. It’s a cheap way to enjoy some of Russia’s history. But it was so cold!
During my stopover in Moscow I had several hours to fill, and met up with a former Union director (church network) Alexander. We have common friends in Minsk, where we’ve both taught at the Bible School there. Alex didn’t speak English, so it was a healthy test of my Russian. For ten years Alex oversaw 900 churches in Russia within the Pentecostal church. He has since stepped down and God is using him in some really cool ways as he completes his doctorate in theology. He’s able with his personal property in the center to enable/support local churches in Moscow – rented and used by over 15 different church gathering and outreaches weekly.
We shared some of the very same desires for this next generation, to pioneer and see God expand upon the limited effectiveness of local church gatherings – as a way of winning the culture for Christ. The Russian church has copied the west for the most part in ‘how to do church’ – and even persecutes and looks down upon fresh ways of engaging the lost all around. Alex started a Cafe 10yrs ago in Moscow, and we share several other similar experiences. He has 7 kids and a few grandkids. We look forward to coming back to Moscow and building on this friendship for the Kingdom!
Vladivostok is nestled next to China and the Sea of Japan. It’s Asian influence is clear to see from the people mulling around the city, to the many restaurants and products available. This photo was from our final evening (above), it is not even edited! Beauty.
During the week I taught on the Kingdom of God. We traced through some of Israel’s history and understanding of God’s Kingdom, the promises of God’s restoration, and it’s ultimate fulfillment in the King coming to ransom men from sin. It’s an amazing study which greatly encouraged my own understanding of God’s overarching plan. Where the King goes, His power and rule is established. This King will reign forever, His Kingdom will know no end – but for now, a battle ensues between another Kingdom, one of this age, who’s power is visible and real today.
It’s also cool to see how a small act of faith, with our friends David and Masha (whom we met in Rostov teaching few years ago) God is blessing. God is raising up a generation in Russia to serve and take His light into the darkness – and how does He do this? Through humble normal folks who take steps of faith. We love you guys.
What King dominates your heart? Have you surrendered and put your trust in the eternal King who is Jesus Christ? Don’t be on the outside looking in! So many parables (read Matthew 13 alone!) on the Kingdom, it was the central message of John the Baptist, and Jesus. He was crucified for being King in the end – He was crucified by His own creation, for His creation, and raised to life to save us. In fact, scripture says that God Himself was in Christ, reconciling the world (us) to Himself. He does the heavy lifting, the unshackling from sin – we simply must surrender and believe it. It’s not about performance, it’s about faith. The battle is in believing.
Was really cool to get to know some more young people, ages 19-25 range that are offering their lives in service of the King. Some from Far North Russia (no sunlight in the winter), to even further East towards Alaska where they host international dog sled competitions. Even an American from Oregon mixed in there among the group 🙂
There was a second group which met on Saturday and Tuesday. We talked about dreams, and callings. This is something that has recently become a favorite topic of mine as I navigate through my own journey and continued discovery. I don’t think we should ever stop learning, nor in faith taking steps of faith in our service to the King. To many of us get sidelined with serving in areas we aren’t gifted in, nor lack legitimate God-given passion for – We talked about determining our personality make-up, whether we are Pioneers or Settlers, and how God’s Kingdom advances with both.
So I’m back. Back with my amazing bride and family. I love returning home. I love relishing in God’s blessings, which stand out all the more when you’ve been away. I am typing from the Cafe, where my friends labor around and with us to bring the Kingdom of God in and around us every day. God is so great, so patient, and loving isn’t He? Some day we will see the King face to face – but not yet. Until then we rejoice in Christ, the only way into the Kingdom, by His righteousness and power. Let your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, it was Jesus prayer – I’m trying to realize that more every day.
Lots of catching up to do, thank you for your prayers and support. God encourage you to live for eternal things – love those around you today, it’s the Kingdoms greatest weapon.
Bruce & Deb