Back from Russia

photo 1You don’t realize the size of Russia until you fly across it for 8hrs.  Nestled on the Sea of Japan, Vladivostock’s landscape is quite unique, and very beautiful.  Large mountains loom in the distance, and the sea is sprinkled with islands.  The city itself is less than 200yrs old, so it has a very distinct ‘newer’ feel over other historic Russian Cities.   Japanese and Korean tourists make up 90% of the visitors.

As a Navy Port, there's some cool WWII museums, like this submarine.

As a Navy Port, there’s some cool WWII museums, like this submarine.

The people were very friendly, and hospitable in and around the City.  Much like Rostov, english speaking foreigners are fairly rare, and folks are eager to practice their many years of English studies, no matter how much Russian you attempt to throw at them.

A week in Far East Russia flew by.  Simeon and I taught on the Nature and Character of God to a small group of DTS (Discipleship Training School) students with Youth With a Mission.  In addition to the full time students, another group of part time students have classes twice weekly.  They love God, hungry to learn, and belong to praying churches.  One church, while we were there, hosted a 24hr prayer evening at the top of a local mountain.  Most of the students were ages 19-25yrs old, but a few older believers mixed in there.  There was even a Canadian (hi Spencer!).

Full time DTS group, it was a lot of fun guys - thanks for inviting us!

Full time DTS group, it was a lot of fun guys – thanks for inviting us!

How do you grow in your relationship with God?   This was a key theme in our teaching time.   We learn about God through intellectual and experiential knowledge, both of which are God-Designed methods of revealing Himself to us.  Without knowledge we really can’t grow in a meaningful relationship.  So we looked at the primary ways God has elected to reveal Himself to us:

1) Creation

2) Scripture

3) The person of Jesus Christ

We spent most of our time looking Jesus in scripture, God in the flesh.  I feel like we believers underestimate the comprehensive ‘revelation of God’ Jesus was intended to be.  We struggle at times grasping that Jesus was actually ‘in the beginning’, as the Word, and through Him all things were created.  It blows our mind that Jesus was the fullness of God in human flesh, He was the exact representation of God’s nature.

God wants to reveal Himself, His nature and character to us, He wants us to know what He likes, doesn’t like, what He values and finds offensive – the clearest view of God is in Christ – Jesus is the communication of God.  

Although Jesus was sent from the Father for the sins of the world, the Father also was pleased to reveal Himself through the Son.   If you aren’t sure what God is like – look to Jesus.  Jesus hates outward, hypocritical religion – therefor God hates it too.  Jesus hung out with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors – God is seeking a relationship with everyone who will humble themselves and turn to Him.  Jesus really loves faith, and distinctly rejects self righteousness – God gives grace to the humble, but rejects the proud.

Want to know the Creator of the Universe?  It’s not Zeus.  It’s Jesus Christ.  Fully God, fully man – I really like Jesus, He is an amazing attractive figure, because God is an amazing and attractive God.   Jesus offered up His innocent life for us on the Cross – as an atoning sacrifice for OUR sin – this is what Love is, this is what our God is like.

A group of us went to a soccer game at their 10k seat stadium.  Our taxi driver Pavel, a 21yr old student came with us.

A group of us went to a soccer game at their 10k seat stadium. Our taxi driver Pavel, a 21yr old student came with us.

It was physically exhausting, yet a spiritually refreshing week.  Taught 10 times in 5 days.  God stirred once again the desire to provide a similar equipping/discipleship ministry in our area.   My faith was encouraged to see our friends David and Masha invest in an apartment which hosts the full time students and the program.  They stepped out in faith, without any students and are beginning to see fruit already – encouraging believers from several churches in the areas to be missional minded, grow in their relationship with Christ and become even more effective witnesses in their world.   In a couple months they will be leading a team to Cambodia as part of the school’s teaching + mission focus.

The political tensions seem a distant land away in far East Russia.  Life is normal for the Russian people, families are out strolling with kids, it feels very much like a vacation city.  I asked about the sanctions, but nobody seemed to find them very noticeable aside from Barry the British Cafe owner who said cheese and some other products are either no longer available or more costly as they are imported from India/China.  The gas stations are also feeling it, as some have a very limited and random supply of gas.  The ruble is at a 20yr low against the dollar – you get the feeling that the government as done a decent job propping up the economy through the past few months, but things are starting to crack.

Would you pray with us this month?  We are asking for wisdom in a few key areas and want to hear from God:

This was a Christian run Cafe - they serve Pizza as well and have a youth center that sparked several ideas.  Their Latte's are over $4 US - Take that Dema!  He is worried our $1.40 Lattes are too expensive.

This was a Christian run Cafe – they serve Pizza as well and have a youth center that sparked several ideas. Their Latte’s are over $4 US – Take that Dema! He is worried our $1.40 Lattes are too expensive.

Prayer #1 – Discipleship Ministry: That God would guide the timing and grant the wisdom to start assembling the various pieces for this.  We will do this on the 2nd level of the Cafe.  Also for workers, teachers, curriculum – I have a general vision in my heart for this, but want to be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit here at the start.

Prayer #2 – Baby #8, Winter, and the Cafe:  Seems like multiple things here, but really the concern is regarding this winter’s ability to heat and care for the family.  By having a baby in less than a month, we’re sort of stuck here until December at least, which is probably when things will really get cold.  If we have gas to heat, all will be well I think – however if we don’t, we’ll need to make other plans for living and also close the Cafe.    This would also obviously put on hold any sort of discipleship ministry.

Prayer #3 – Ukraine: While the fighting has lessened in the past 2 weeks, the situation is still very unstable.  We are praying for our brother Alyosha and his family.  We are also planning to bless the families in our town who have a loved one in the battle (more to come on this).  So much instability bringing open doors to care and share.  Pray with us for peace and government officials to arrange for the best scenarios for people to stay warm this winter.

A short clip below of the crazy youth on our last night, a birthday party for Elza – this is the youth center.

Looking forward to this week!  I have so many ideas for the Cafe after visiting several in Russia, taking many photos and talking to one owner in particular.  It looks like we were pretty slow at the Lighthouse Cafe this past week, which is fine while I’m gone – but we need to continue evolving and improving if we’re going to become sustainable.

Thanks for checking in!

Bruce & Deb

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