On Tuesday I depart for Vladivostok, which is the most easterly of Russia’s major cities. You should look it up on a map, it lies just above North Korea and China. (There is a tiny sliver of land where North Korea and Russia share a border.) I will connect through Seoul on my way there, and then through Tokyo on my way home. I’ve been to Chita before, but now this will be my most easterly visit to Russia. My host is Sergey Shidlovskiy who has operated an annual youth camp in this area for 11 years. (Sergey was also my host this year in Novosibirsk.) My friend Lenny LaGuardia is the main guest at this year’s camp. As I arrive, the youth camp will be concluding and we will be moving over to a weekend conference in the city. Also ministering with us is Paul Zink from FL. I am scheduled to minister once daily on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. My Sunday afternoon departure is too early to allow me to minister anywhere Sunday morning.
I’m feeling a bit wistful about this trip because it’s possible it may be several years before I manage to return to Russia, given the recent changes in their religious laws. Thankfully, I received my visa just before those new, restrictive laws were inaugurated. The new laws were intended primarily to target terrorism, and in the process they put biting restrictions on evangelical churches. But nothing binds the word of God!
Wednesday midnight: I had assumed that my arrival into Vladivostok tonight would get me here too late to speak in tonight’s meeting. I was wrong. I got to the camp at 8 pm, just when the evening service was launching. So I was able to speak tonight. I hadn’t prepared a message for tonight, so I went with the spontaneity of the moment and just told stories. After I was done, Lenny LaGuardia got up and invited everyone to respond to what was shared (I spoke of how God responds to desperate prayers). As I was leaving, the spirit in the tent was strong and everyone seemed eager to press into the Lord for more.
Tonight they’re lodging me at a hotel that is quite swanky by Russian standards, possibly the swankiest hotel I’ve been lodged in, in Russia. Their restaurant is famous for being the meeting place of Gerald Ford and Gorbachev. Tomorrow I’ll be moved to more modest lodging, but tonight I’m being pampered.
Thursday 3:30 pm: There are lots of changes happening as we go. I was supposed to be moved today from my hotel to another facility, but that facility has no power — it’s an area-wide power outage that the city is working on — so I will lodge in the same hotel for one more night. Then Friday they will move me to another place. I am writing right now from a place where we’re having a pastors conference for 2 days, and this is where the power is out. They have found a generator, however, and I could tell from the amplified song rehearsal I heard coming down the hall that they have power to the sound system. So hopefully I’ll be able to speak. I am scheduled for the 4 pm session, the first session of the pastors conference, and then supper at 6:00, and then Paul Zink is speaking tonight. Pastors are here from as far as 3000 kilometers (3 hours by plane). Way up north, where they have 3 months a year without snow (June thru August). I asked if these pastors gather every year, and they said this gathering is somewhat unusual. Each denomination (union) in the far east will have their own annual events, but to have pastors gathering from all streams like this is unusual. They are expecting just over 100 pastors and spouses, which is a sizable gathering for these parts. While this region represents a third of Russia’s land mass, the population of the region is around 8 million, people are spread far and wide.
Thursday 8:30 pm: I’m back in my room now, after ministering this afternoon and then having supper together. I spoke on being a friend of the Bridegroom. I’m not sure how to read the response, so am trusting it into the Lord’s hands. I hope the message was helpful and edifying to the pastors gathered — a great group of leaders!
I have Friday off, no teaching sessions tomorrow. Then Saturday I have an hour session in the afternoon. Then Sunday I return home.
Saturday morning: Vladivostok reminds me a lot of where I was raised on the west coast of BC, Canada. Ocean, meandering shoreline, plenty of islands, tons of greenery. The big difference as regards weather is that to Vladivostok’s west is the largest land mass on earth, and to BC’s west is the largest ocean on earth. So even though Vladivostok is at 43 degrees latitude, and where I lived in BC is at the 49th parallel, the winters are colder and the summers warmer in Vladivostok.
The main conference at the arena in Vladivostok launched last night, runs all day Saturday (today), and then concludes with a Sunday evening service (no Sunday morning service is held at the conference). I will have just one session at the conference, today at 3:45 p.m. I have under an hour, and since I’m working with a translator, that means I need to choose one of my shorter teachings. So I’m prepared to speak on God writing a story with our lives. I was told I will get Alex as my translator today, which is fabulous.
Sunday 8:00 a.m.: Good morning! I’ve had a good rest, and am now getting ready for my 11:00 a.m. ride to the airport. Yesterday’s event was clearly graced by the Lord’s presence and blessing. This event has drawn an attendance that they were saying was the largest they’ve seen in this area in 10 years. So the local pastors seemed very pleased with what God has done. Paul Zink from Jacksonville FL was the main speaker, and I was blessed to be a support. My 4:00 pm session yesterday went very well, and the people responded in accordance with their eager spirits. I tried to get my Russian books here, but that never happened. It’s difficult to figure out what went wrong because both my publishers said “yes, yes” when I asked them to send books here. Oh well, you have to be flexible when doing Russia. The evening concluded with a time of extended intercession for revival in Russia. The pastors who were present took the stage and each took a turn at leading the prayer time. Philip Renner from Moscow (Rick Renner’s son) was the worship leader, and supported the intercession in a very strong way with his music ministry. A fabulous young man. What was unique about this event was to have pastors from across the various streams of the body of Christ standing together, in intercession together, for their region and nation. There is a remarkable grace on Sergey’s life to be able to draw the leaders of various streams together like this, like few can do. Bless Sergey Shidlovskiy and BOG TV in prayer!