WF Report – January-February, 2011
Adventures of Australians in Russia
21st of December my (Julia’s) relatives met us at Moscow airport and managed to squeeze our 3 suitcases in the boot of my sister’s car. We packed ourselves in the back seat, and the car crawled off through Moscow peakk hour traffic. A few stops to refill the leaking anti-freeze and at 1am we arrived to have a midnight feast at my mum’s house. At 3 am Polina was outside playing in the snow which she had never seen before.
After a day with my dad in Yefremov we were tightly stuffed (because our big bus broke down) into a maxi taxi along with our big suitcase and 12 other people going to Moscow, all with big bags. “Never again”, said Stephen as he had a headache next day from being squished into that “tin”. Polina was fine everywhere, she slept in transport wherever we went. The ‘tin’ was running half an hour late and we were concerned if we’ll make it in time for flight to Tomsk. Thanks to God all our Russian adventures went well.
On the flight to Tomsk I heard one flight attendant talking to the other, “Minus 15. That’s a beauty. We flew yesterday, it was minus 50.” God has looked after us. Dima said later that their family had been fervently praying to God so we would have mild weather over the weekend. The frosts had been shocking, and suddenly the weather got mild just before we came.
5am on Friday the 24th we arrived at Tomsk airport, we waited for Dima and he took us, his mum (sister Luba) and sister Valentina to the venue, pioneer camp for children, which was empty then. With these lovely 2 sisters we spent the day, chatting. Polina has adopted them as her grandmas. There was lots of snow for Polina to play in, having never seen snow before she came to Russia, she seems to have been trying to make up for lost time. Stephen had a nap with his “tin” headache. By 7 pm Friday the crowd of friendly Tomsk ecclesia has arrived ready for dinner in the canteen. Most of them we have never seen before, only heard of. It was exciting to meet everybody.
During the weekend we did daily readings and had studies about Prophecy, the Passover, about our attitude to criticism. Both Marina and Ksenya did a superb job translating over the weekend. I am greatly thankful I didn’t need to translate. I tried to have some Bible lessons with Dima’s boys and Polina, which was tricky, and it was a blessing to have a helping hand from Dima’s mother-in-law, “grandma” Tanya, as Polina adopted her. A baptism was planned for Valya, Dima’s aunt. But there was no swimming pool at the venue, and people were worried Valya might get a cold if they travel somewhere else for a baptism. So it was postponed.
Late Sunday afternoon we said good-byes to our Tomsk brothers and sisters and drove off to Tomsk hotel, where I was to meet my uncle, whom I haven’t seen for 20 years. How wonderful it was to witness to everybody that we believe in God and how I met Stephen at a Siberian bible school. Even if people don’t care about God, it’s great feeling to sew a seed. Only God knows where it will lead to. I have a hope that when Christ comes back, my friends will be interested in Him. On the way to the hotel all trees were like in a fairy tale, white with hoarfrost. I couldn’t take photos and I thought we might not see it again in Russia, as it’s quite a rare thing.
Too much snow stopped all flights in Moscow airports, our flight from Tomsk was 5 hours late, aplus Domodedovo airport in Moscow has lost power for next week I think and grand mess moved in other Moscow airports. We were offered drinks and a meal while waiting for our flight in Tomsk. A representative of UtAir booked us a later flight from Moscow to St-Petersburg and advised that in Vnukovo we should go to the representative of UtAir to make sure they can put us on that flight. How fortunate we were, that we had to wait in Tomsk only 5 hours and 7 in Moscow. At Vnukovo UtAir office we met angry Russians, who were sent to hotels to wait for flights for indefinite times.
We said extra prayer when we boarded TU 154, which had some seats that wouldn’t stay in upright positions because the plane was that old, and hadn’t been maintained much (internally anyway). We safely landed in St-Pertesburg at midnight, originally it should have been midday. God’s hand was over us, my cousin met us, even though my mobile battery was flat and I couldn’t ring him from Moscow to let him know we were very late. If he hadn’t met us, we’d try to find some hotel. But my cousin drove us to a flat we booked in advanced. Midnight St-Petersburg before New Year was quiet and stunning. We had been offered the best choices of flats as the company leader is my cousin’s friend. Next day in that flat we had a bible study and a breaking of bread with Brother Omoh, sisters Ludmila and Iraida.
Unfortunately too many things needed my attention and I forgot to ring Brother Valerij, whom I used to meet in St-Petersburg when I lived there for a year. It was wonderful to meet them all, quiet brother Omoh, helpful sister Ludmila, to whom I talked on the phone a few times, and sister Iraida. They brought yummy food to share. We discussed some of their questions about life and the bible. Next day it was very nice to meet Roman, a son of sister Elena from near Kazan. He couldn’t come to the breaking of bread because of Uni, and joined us the day after for a quick trip around Hermitage.
Sister Ludmila suggested we visit special exhibition in Russian Museum, we met my friend (my former student) and her mum and had enough time to see that special exhibition “Heroes and villains of Russian history”. Then train to Yefremov took us back to my relatives for New Year break.
YELETS and YEFREMOV
Three Russian sisters were planning to come to Yelets Bible weekend. Sister Valya and sister Zhenya messaged later that they changed their mind. Brother Oleg couldn’t come because of his work. So we went to Yelets Friday morning, the 7th of January, sister Nina met us, her husband brother Vladimir and interested friend Pavel joined us, we had hot soup for lunch at the cafe. Nina tried to contact other brothers and sisters in Yelets, but they couldn’t come. All trees were covered with hoarfrost, astonishing fairy tale view.
We took lots of photos on our walks. Later sister Nina invited us to Esperanto club that evening, it was club’s birthday I think. We played games there and told about ourselves. I have met Christadelphians through Esperanto club. David Pearce had visited Yelets for a few years, and now it was our turn to witness about our faith. We met lots of lovely people in the club and exchanged presents.
On Saturday we were joined by sister Valya from Yefremov, did daily bible readings, had a Bible study, talked about lots of bible related questions, had lunch together, were joined by my friend Galya and Stephen’s friend Pavel, who both are interested in the bible. Another bible study, dinner together and Bible games finished the day. We broke bread on Sunday with Nina, Vladimir and Valya, and it was time to check out of Yelets hotel. Sister Valya went back to Yefremov, and we spent time with our friends and my English teacher from Yelets Uni.
It was a blessing we were offered 2 seats in the bus to Yefremov, because we had Polina. Otherwise we’d have to stand for an hour and a half in a bus stuffed with people. I am used to it, as I often had to do it when I studied in Yelets. I felt for Stephen though.
The next day in Yefremov we arranged a meeting with brother Oleg and sisters Alevtina and again Valya. It took place late Monday at Oleg’s place, we listened to Stephen’s exhortation, did 2 daily readings, sang a couple of songs with Valya and listened to a few songs Oleg turned for us on video. After a cup of tea we ventured to my dad’s place. On Tuesday we packed suitcases and saw my mum’s relatives. What a great feeling it is to answer their questions about our beliefs. In Yefremov area I stuck a dozen of adds for free correspondence bible course, next day I noticed some interest in the course, some addresses were torn off. Today I have received 2 dozen emails with answers for online correspondence course, hopefully some are from Yefremov. May God help us all to represent Him well.
We packed suitcases on the 12th of January and caught early morning train to Moscow. I worried about so many things to organise, but God cleared a road for us everywhere. In Moscow bro Alexey looked after us, and guided us in so many things, it was so special to have his help. Alexey and Vika invited us for a meal at their flat. Next day, on Sunday we managed to have breaking of bread with brother Alexey, brother Emmanuel and blind brother Eduard from Bryansk, whom we met at the railway station that morning. Sister Vika came later with the baby to see brother Eduard.
Unfortunately none of other Moscow brothers, sisters or interested friends were able to come to hired business center. Stephen and I are not planning to hire it again, even though it’s more professional to meet interested friends there. It cost almost as much as hiring our flat for a day, apart from that they charged us for every person we had in the room, they even charged us outrageous price for markers, which Alexey offered Polina to use. Next time God willing, we will just hire a flat and invite people there. A bible correspondence student had got stuck in the traffic that day, so he rang to ask if he could see us on Monday morning instead. It was very good to meet him. Another correspondence student didn’t make it on Monday as he broke his arm on Sunday, and cancelled as soon as he could.
If Christ is not back yet, hopefully we’ll be able to meet all those people who are interested in God, in a few years time. Our love to all those brothers, sisters and interested friends, whether we managed to meet them or not. May they let God direct them all in such hard times.
We are greatly thankful to Dorrigo ecclesia, Coffs Harbour ecclesia and Williamsburg Christadelphian Foundation for their donations, which helped us run the Bible weekends.
I am also grateful to God, that though we have a child, He let organise bible studies and cope with the travelling. And we hope to see everybody again.
Julia, Stephen, and Polina Downs