Wednesday morning: Our flight to Tomsk is delayed. And it’s snowing right now here in Nizhnevartovsk, on May 3. Welcome to Siberia, Bob. Looking at the weather forecast, Tomsk will be cold and rainy this week.
Wednesday 5:30 pm: Our plane is sick. They are bringing another plane to Nizhnevartovsk to fly us to Tomsk, and they say we will be departing around 2:30 a.m. Which means we have another 9 hours before departure. Which means, yes, the BANYA! So we’re preparing for a banya time together.
Thursday 2:00 a.m.: We’re back at the airport again. Just about the longest check-in process I’ve ever experienced. And we’re finally through Security and ready to board another plane which, miraculously, appears to be out on the runway. So we did supper, then banya, then got an hour of shut-eye in a hotel, and now we’re back at the airport. Siberian adventures. I least I got the chance to beat Sergey with the bunch of branches in the banya.
Thursday 10:30 a.m.: I’m now in the breakfast area of my hotel, have just finished, and am enjoying that they have the Stanley Cup playoffs on the TV. Our drive through the main drag in Tomsk was lined with ornate buildings, a nice Main Street. Population of 600,000, 100,000 of those apparently students in the local universities. Flat as a pancake. Lots of white birch everywhere. They also have piles of snow still sitting around. After arriving and getting settled, I was able to sleep for 1.5 hours before I had to get up before breakfast closed down. So today is just a series of little naps rather than an overnight sleep. My room is a very spacious, nicely furnished suite. I’m spacey, but need to find direction in the Holy Spirit for the meetings, it’s been fuzzy for me.
My sessions in Tomsk:
Thursday 5:00 pm (we are 12 hours difference from Kansas City)
Sunday 11:20 a.m.
Thursday 10:00 pm: I think this afternoon’s session went very well. After much ambivalence, I ended up speaking on the life of Lot, and sensed during the message that we were going in a good direction. The group responded with enthusiasm. But this group is so enthusiastic, I think if I had just stood there they would have been enthusiastic. I asked how many had come from over 100 kilometers away, almost every hand in the room went up. Stunning, these folks have come from all over. One woman greeted me afterwards who has come 2000 kilometers by train. They’ve exerted strong effort to be here, and now that they’re here they’re ready to roll.
The facilities of our host ministry are quite impressive, especially for this part of the world. And they continue to build on their complex grounds. This camp is being held in a room that holds around 200 people, and I’m guessing close to 180 people were in the room. And four years ago, they purchased a large facility in the city that will be our venue for the Sat/Sun conference. I’m told it’s a vast sanctuary. So after being moved by our tour of their facilities at this one location, on the weekend I’ll see their main meeting place. I’m told that 1,000 people gather typically on a Sunday. While there are other small churches in this city, this is apparently the only large evangelical church in Tomsk.
My translator told me that in this region they are able to grow potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onions, squash, berries. Nizhnevartovsk is further enough north that I think their crops would be more limited.
Friday 3:30 pm: Today I spoke at noon on the groaning prayers of the Holy Spirit. (Rom 8:26-27) The room was very alert and engaged. At the end we had time for questions, and they asked some excellent questions. Then we had a time of practice—activating the groans of the Holy Spirit in prayer. I’ve never heard anyone speak on this topic, so my hunch is that most everyone in the room hasn’t either. They seemed interested and eager for a new way to pray in the Holy Spirit.
Next session: I’m speaking Saturday 3:00-4:00 pm in the afternoon session of the conference. My participation on Sunday has not been finalized yet. Because of major hassles with Aeroflot Airlines, I have been forced (at no small expense) to change my outgoing flights. Their service starts Sunday at 11:00 a.m., and I have to hit the road around noon. So if I am to preach on Sunday, they’ll need to mix up their service order on my account and get me on the platform earlier than usual. I may end up not speaking at all on Sunday, we’ll see.
Saturday 6:00 pm: Today I spoke on “a word-centered secret place,” and the grace of the Lord seemed to be upon us. Working with the translator, I took 70 minutes—which means it was a 35-minute message. I had to cut out chunks of the message to make it fit in the time we had. It’s virtually impossible in a context like this for me to know how well the message was translated, or how effectively they caught what was being expressed. I must release all that to the Lord. Despite several limitations, the call to the secret place went forth. I give thanks to God.
Today’s meeting was larger, in their main sanctuary. I would guess close to 600 folks were gathered. This event is catalytic for this region, helping to spark and empower the prayer movement in this part of the world. I believe many more events like this will happen in Russia under Sergey’s leadership, but for now I think it's perhaps the fourth such conference in Russia that is specifically calling the nation to prayer.
Tomorrow (Sunday) I will start the long trip home (it’s not easy to get home from here). If you’re interested, here’s my travel tale. When I checked in with Aeroflot in Barcelona Spain, to fly to Moscow and then Nizhnevartovsk on Tuesday, they would not check my bag to Nizhnevartovsk. I had bought two separate one-way tickets (Barcelona-Moscow, and then Moscow-Nizhnevartovsk), and they would not check my bag to the second destination. Their policy is that on a single one-way ticket they will check bags only to the first destination. No matter that the next flight is the same airline and same day. No. I must exit Security, go to baggage claim, retrieve my bag, go back to the airline counter, recheck my bag and get a new ticket for the next leg of the journey. This is their company policy, and nobody will make an exception for any reason. So it was in Barcelona that I realized my return itinerary is bad. I had assumed Aeroflot would check my bag all the way to Kansas City. I was wrong, real wrong. They will check it only to Moscow. And then the next flight, they will check it only to Amsterdam. And then in Amsterdam I must check in at the counter to Delta. It would be impossible to do all that and make my connections. Aeroflot is the only airline in the SkyTeam Alliance that has this insane policy. So bottom line, I have had to change a ticket twice, buy an entirely new Moscow-Amsterdam ticket, and purchase an overnight hotel in Moscow. All because Aeroflot refused to hit a couple computer buttons and check my back through for me to my final destination. That unique policy is costing me nearly $1000. Sometimes education is expensive.