Wayfaring Stranger

Parting thoughts

Well I've been back "stateside" since Sunday Oct 24th and, yes, I am still jetlagged.

I am not the introspective type, but I'd like to remember my time in Russia.

We met with hundreds if not thousands of university and elementary students. We experienced Russia through the people we met, not necessarily via sightseeing and/or tours. And what I've found in my 2 trips is that you see two sides to the Russian people.

First you notice that people on the street are very quiet and don't look you in the eye. In fact, they don't really look at you at all; they mainly look at their feet. I guess the fear and repression of communisim and the KGB is still ingrained in many of the Russian people. Nobody wanted to stand out because that would get you "noticed", and it could be bad to get "noticed".

The second side you will only see when you meet a Russian indoors, i.e. the classroom, their home, etc... That side is very hospitable, warm, friendly, and outgoing. This is the side that wins you over. This side can remind you of "southern hospitality".

Luckily the younger generation has not known the some of the fears of communism and they are breaking the first sterotype. You see more students walking down the street talking to each other, jamming to music on their MP3 players, or talking on their "mobiles". While some of the older people may look on with displeasure, I hope they keep it up. I hope they inject new life, freedom, and ideas into the culture.

This trip was extra special for me because I got to see some of the students from my 2003 english class. 4 students Pasha, Alex, Natasha, and Ignat became believers this last year. On Thursday Compass has an evening worship and Bible study. It was great to see them singing praises to God, lifting their eyes to heaven, and studying the Word together.

Pasha :
Pasha 2003
Natasha :
Natasha 2003
Alex :
Alex 2004

Once my film is developed, I'll show you a pic of the Thursday night meeting. There is a hammer and sickle plaque on both sides of the stage where we are singing to God and reading the Word. Who'd of thought?

The reason we met with so many students outside of the English classes is so we could tell them about Compass. Sometime we would have an opportunity to tell them about Jesus over lunch. But more often we were trying to get them plugged in w/Darin and his team.

There are 2 main ways for students to get plugged in, the Thursday night Bible study (which I mentioned) and Wednesday night basketball. Darin told us that the largest Thursday night meeting they had was ~25 people. The Thursday night meeting during the 2 weeks of classes averaged ~50 people. Double! And the largest b-ball turnout had been ~12 people. The 2nd week b-ball turnout was ~25 people. Double again! Coincidence? No way. One of our main goals was to get as many follow up contacts as possible for Compass and God really came through.

I think God is really at work and Yekaterinburg Russia is on the precipice of something great.

Please pray for Darin, his family, and Yekaterinburg. Darin's website is The McFarland Family. And please pray for Northwest Bible Church as they partner with Compass and plan for a church plant in Yekaterinburg.

God bless ...

Getting close to the end

Preevyet Americancies,

We are having a great time here. Our schedule is beginning to wear on those of us here for 2 weeks. But we are having a blast.

Good news, 2 students have accepted Christ this week! This is awesome news since it took months before we heard of people coming to God last year.

Each night I feel like I don't want the day to end because that brings us 1 day closer to leaving. Some encouraging things we've seen is the Thursday meeting with students was twice as big as any Thursday meething that Compass has had in Yekaterinburg. And on Wednesday Darin plays b-ball with students, they had double the number of students show up to play. That means that the part of our mission which is to introduce students to Compass is working!

Please keep praying for us as we finish up our weeks and start our return home. And please pray for us to adjust back to American life and time as we arrive back home on Sunday.

Thx!! Rodney

Thursday in RU

On Thursday, we did not have an English class. Instead of the class, we had a scavenger hunt. We had to run all over Ekat getting digital pictures of different things. One of the items was find a policeman and get him to command you to stand in a funny pose and get a pic. We all had a blast.

The "finish line" was a meeting hall where Compas has its Thursday student meetings. We have soda, water, cookies, etc... for the students. While everybody was eating and talking, Oleg (a Russian staffer) downloaded all the pictures and made a slideshow on a big screen. We passed out info on the "Forrest Party" retreat next Saturday.

After that Oleg invited all of the English class students to stay for the normal Thursday night meeting. Some left, but many stayed. Darin told us that the meeting that night was at least twice the size of any previous meeting! Slava Boga (Praise God)! I was encouraged (and surprised) to see who from my class stayed. One guy in my class had a video camera, and I saw other students with video cameras. That means when they want to remember this week, they will have a worship service on tape. Wow! The lesson was given by one of our team members. That's cool, but what is really cool is that both sides of the stage had a hammer and sickle. So here is 10 Americans in Russia reading from the Bible inside a Soviet Union building! God really does work beyond all that we can ask or think.

Please pray for the retreat next Saturday. Pray that all the students will attend and that they will continue to build relationships w/ Compas. And that they will not be afraid to have faith in God.

Later ...

Saturday ~ noon in RU

Just thought you might like to see what the weather has been like here in Russia:
Hey whats the weather like over there?

It started snowing on Tuesday and lasted until Thursday night; which is longer than they expected. On Friday, all the snow started melting and we had to hike in slush everywhere we went. So far today (Saturday), it looks like the temp is going to dip below freezing again, which means we will be getting around on ice once again.

BTW, (as some of the people on our team found out) if you visit Russia in the winter don't pack laceless Nikes or hard/flat-soled dress shoes. You'll be sliding on your backside more than walking. :-P

On Tuesday we were supposed to visit an orphanage but they had an outbreak of dysentery and quarantined the building. So we changed our plans and went to Ural State University instead.

On a typical day:

  • we eat breakfast at the hotel (8a)
  • we head out to a local university or primary school (9:30a)
  • eat lunch with students (1p)
  • prepare our English lessons back at the hotel (3p)
  • head out for class (ride the trolley, hail a car, etc...) (4:30p)
  • meet the students and have class from 5:30p till about 8 or 8:30p
  • meet up with the team to have supper (~ 9 to 9:30p)
  • crash at the hotel (11p)

When we visit a school, a teacher comes and gets 1-4 of us (depending on the number of classes to visit) and takes us to their room. On Friday, when we got to the teacher's room and they had a table with tea, cookies, candy bars, cakes, etc... all spread out on the table. That was cool, they really put on the hospitality. In fact, everybody goes out of their way to make us feel welcome. And they beg us to come back and visit them again. This is really encouraging because, besides the teaching the English classes, one of our main goals is to make students aware of Compas and to build relationships that will benefit both Compas and the students.

Breakfast costs about 3 bucks and you get eggs and ham, yogurt, bread, cheese, juice, coffee, tea, and sausage. The hotel staff is nice and helpful. BTW, the yogurt here is *real* yogurt (aka. it actually tastes good).

When we go out to a restaurant, I am surprised at how much the Russians eat (men and women); they can really put it away. I was talking with one of the Compas staff (aka. Campus Crusade for Christ) and they said a Russian will pick up something in the supermarket and put it back if it does not have _enough_ calories. They not only need to make the most of their money, but they walk to and from the train, from the train stop to work/school, to the market, etc... A lot of walking. With all they eat, I have only seen 1 overweight Russian since I have been here.

We have been so busy that it hardly seems like a week has passed. We have meet hundreds of students and many teachers. It has been a lot of fun and our schedule can be hard, but I would not trade the time over here for anything.

Kseniya, one of the staffers from Ekaterinburg, moved to St. Petersburg this year to get married. She came down from St. Pete by train to visit us; I did not expect to get to see her this year, so it was fun to talk and catch up on everything. She would like to have all of us visit her and Daniel in St. Pete. The church looked at scheduling that route on the return trip, but it did not work. I would like to visit St. Pete, that might be a good non-rev/interline adventure for later.

Please pray for us:

  • Some of the team had a hard time getting over jet lag and got little sleep, 7 of our team left for home today and 7 more will join with us tonight. So pray for their jet lag and that they can get some sleep this week. The 7 who left today will spend 1 day and night in Moscow (as will I next Saturday). Please pray for safe travel and a fun/relaxing time in Moscow.
  • I have made some good "connections" in my English class and I got to share a full Gospel presentation in Friday's class. Please pray for the seeds we have sown (in the schools as well as the English classes) and for the seed we will get to sow. Also pray for lasting friendships, even in Dallas we can continue to encourage these students via email and the internet.
  • Many of the students are atheists or post modern, so pray for an openness to the message.

I know I must have left out 100 things, but I'm trying to regurgitate a week's worth of activity. Hope to post more later. If not, see ya stateside!


Update from RU

Hello all,

A lot is happening and we've had no "down time" to tell our tale.

This is the first time I've had to visit an internet cafe and check email. Thanks for all the comments and encouragement.

It started snowing on Tuesday and is still going. It isn't too bad, but for the native Texans in our group, it is quite a novelty.

We are making good contacts for the Compass team and getting to meet all sorts of people. We are going to play a scavenger hunt tonight before the Thursday meeting ... ummm that's a scavenger hunt in the snow!! Should be fun for the Russian students and the Americans both.

Thanks again for all who are praying for us, keep it up!

With love from Russia (just hadda say that ...)


P.S. remind me to tell ya about Wed. night; funny story.

Arrived in Russia

Hello all,

It is about 4pm here is Russia. We arrived last night after about 20 hours of traveling. It was a lot easier this year compared to last. But it was still tiring. We had a good night sleep and are ready to go.

We got to have lunch with Darin and his staff and some of our friends we made last year.

Answered prayer! We only had about 40 students enroll before last week. On Wednesday of this week 130 additional students enrolled and tested and so we can fill all 5 classes!

Keep praying for us ...

P.S. when we got here, Gene (intern w/ NBC) handed out a bunch of letters of encouragement from friends and family back home. That was so cool. Thanks to all who took time to wite to us!! Thx again.

Whoah ... is it here already?

Wow, Russia here I come!!! Is it really here? Yes, it is really here. Seems like yesterday I had a month to prepare. Today it feels like I have 1 day to prepare ... checking ... checking ... yes I really do leave tomorrow!

There are always a million and 1 details to work out before a missions trip and this one is no different.

I had to copy visa, passport, itinerary, etc... Blow up pictures. Pack EVERYTHING that I can imagine that I might need. Unpack everything I wont really need because of weight restrictions. Repack what I second guess that I might need. Finish up my "ministry notebook" (lessions, family/friends/coworker pics, Russia culture info, prayer requests, and more oh my!). Get power bars and water for the travel from here to Ekat ... you never know what might or might not be available / consumable in other countries. Aka. I dont plan on spending my 2 weeks over there in the bathroom <G>. Get gifts for our interpreters and our missionary hosts. And anon and anon ....

Once I settled on what to pack, re-re-review what I decided.

The night before leaving, do the last bit of laundry and re-re-re-review on what to pack. Great plan BUT, not so great when the POWER GOES OUT! Doh! All those plans were put on hold. Fortunately I got things together earlier this year than I did last year. When the power finally did come back on I quickly finished up with what I could do. But I forgot to print my lessons when I was at work ... ooops. I forgot my last few support checks at work ... ooops.

As you might be able to guess, I am a *bit* frazzled. But keeping a bright and sunny outlook, I proceed forward and know that details will work themselves out. God always provides.

Speaking of God's provision, the English classes only had ~40 students apply by this week. Wow. That's only about 1 class and we have enough teachers for 5 classes. But, on the final testing date, Darin had 120 additional students apply! Yeah! Darin was able to fill all 5 classes, God is good! Last year we saw a lot of spiritual warfare and God always came through ... and that usually at the last minute. Looks like this year will be no different.

Plz keep our team and the Russian student and Russian citizen we will encounter. Pray for God's provision and for "good soil" for all the seed we are able to cast.

Hopefully I will be able to post a couple of times from Russia.

Eileen and Ivan's Wedding

Gallery title image for Eileen and Ivan's Wedding

Welcome to my photo gallery for Eileen and Ivan's Wedding. Click the image above or click here. Enjoy. :-)