Saturday, October 07, 2006

Arrived: After such long travel- 2 flights and a 14 hour layover it was great to finally arrive to our destination of Krasnodar, Russia. I was a little nervous about immigration but I made sure I had all my forms out and filled out correctly and before long I was through immigration and ready to get my luggage.

Only when I went to get my luggage there was none. The moment you learn to prepare for when you travel overseas had happened once again. I asked some questions of my new Russian friends who were returning from Ocean City, Maryland. They told me that the luggage was never put on the plane and that we can expect the luggage next Friday. I looked at my watch and realized they meant next Friday October 3rd. This was going to be fun.

I passed the news onto my group and we stood in line for another 2 hours waiting to fill out a lost baggage form in line with the other 200 passengers on board. One of the students said it right when he said “Welcome to Russia”. The only city where they can totally miss a while planes worth of luggage, tell you they’ll get it to you in a week and act somehow you are bothering them.

Russia: But I brought a full change of clothes and my toothbrush so besides having to wash clothes every other night until I get to Berlin it’s not a big deal. I even have my laptop with me. It’s great to be with JB and iris. They are doing so well here and while I know they have had their share of trials I am impressed so much by how they are learning the culture and language.

I really love being with them and the only regret I have is that our entire families can’t be together on things like this. But times will come and I know we’ll take advantage when we can get together the entire family and enjoy one another.

More tomorrow on Russia pizza, manholes and missions. But for now I need to catch up on some of that sleep I’ve been missing. I’ve gotten 4 hours of sleep in the last 50+ hours.

I’ve been in Russia a few days now and have had the cultural experience I thought I would have but in different ways than how I thought I would have them.

Russia is intriguing and yesterday in going to a Cafe, the main downtown street, riding the tram and going to the market I got to experience Krasnodar, Russia. The CafĂ© was nice, well decorated and played American music…The main downtown street, like much of the city, has the eastern European feel like Krakow and Prague but seems to lack the history and culture of both of those cities. This was communist Russia no more than 15 years ago and it shows. But like American there are cell phone stores but the primary difference is that nothing is in the same place. Like the markets of old (I assume) you have to buy everything here at a separate place. You don’t buy soap, toilet paper or tooth paste at the same place as you would buy your groceries and you don’t buy your groceries at the same place you’d buy your fresh produce or cheese. Even electronics have a separate store. All products at the toy store are behind the counter and the whole store has a counter running around it. Unlike other European cities, I’ve been to you really need to speak Russian here and at times its frustrating that I know NOTHING of the language but then at other times it’s kind of like being in a play and all the characters are going on about their business and then there’s you…

Cell Phones: Cell phones here are cool looking and they are also cool because every phone is like a trak phone and you purchase and then just repurchase when you need more. No monthly charge no calling plans.

*Authentic: Tonight I had authentic Russian food. JB and Iris treated me to a great dinner. IN the south of Russia there used to live a people group called the Cossack. This restaurant serves Cossack and Georgian food.

Shell Shock: Last night I laid on my bed and I wrote JB and Iris a letter. In the letter I told them how proud I was of them and how much I loved them and valued them. It was hard to type through the tears but the words were too important to let pass. The more I typed the more I cried but they were tears that I wasn’t ashamed to shed. I was missing Heather and Nathan and I was missing JB and Iris and I was trying to process the idea of coming from Russia and my responsibility as a church pastor to the mission field. I was shell-shocked.

Today we had a great facilitator meet with all of the Mid-Atlantic District people that went on the trip. He helped us debrief what we experienced, told me that my tears were normal and helped me figure out how to use that passion back home. Because to be honest I was trying to figure out how in the world I was going to be able to go back home and still have my passion for JB and Iris and the Southern Russian field.

Berlin: What I’ve seen of Berlin has been very beautiful. Today we visited a bombed cathedral from WWII. Berlin was the last city defeated in the war and so instead of repairing the cathedral they left it bombed in honor of the war dead. From the stained glass that fell out of the windows they created the windows in the new Lutheran church that was built directly beside the old cathedral.

*Possibly offensive note- a very nice lady from the Berlin Church took us to the cathedral. She was talking to me and told me that the Germans suffered greatly in WWII. Even though they started the war they still had to endure the burning in the streets. She even made a comment as to the effect that the Germans suffered the most in WWII. I must not have been thinking or perhaps I was in learning mode and not debate mode because about 2 minutes after she said it I said in my head “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard uttered from a human mouth. What about the millions of Poles that were killed through various forms of TORTURE in concentration camps and the millions of Jews that were also destroyed through various forms of TORTURE. So frankly any suffering the Germans had to endure during the war and even the generation after…they deserved it.”

So here we are several generations removed and all is forgiven but lets not get crazy.


The plan was to blog about these things as they happened but like most trips I take the days were long and downtime short- which means little time to blog about my trip. But right now while sitting in the Frankfurt airport and through the day traveling I will try to recall important or interesting events that happened.

Bread: On Sunday we went to the Russian service. I understood what was happening but understood none of the language. Communion however was a wonderful experience. They serve the elements by row and when the server comes to the end of your row you stand. As the elements are passed and you take them you are very careful not to spill.
The bread is so important as the body of Christ that to drop any is frowned upon. When I took the bread I was careful not to drop crumbs and I used two hands for this small morsel of bread. I expected…but what I got was the strong flavor of bread it was hearty and sweet and I remembered that the body of Christ was strong and was hearty and it was broken to redeem us from our sins.

And then the wine was passed. Again being careful not to spill we stood and received the wine. The wine was strong and sweet, like the blood of Christ. I saw how it would stain your clothes but this was redeeming blood not the staining kind.
The communion experience was incredible.

Ghetto: The security in Frankfurt is intense. You go through metal detectors and baggage at least twice and one of the times- at the international terminal they not only check your bags but give everyone a free pat down to make sure no one is smuggling liquids on their person. It’s intense but the security agents are friendly, do their best to speak English and never treat you like a criminal.

Then I connected in the states. Where they don’t make much of an effort to communicate to the foreigners, security instead raise their voices as if yelling will get their point across better. The also gab among themselves and act altogether unprofessional but proud of their power! I think I’m going to write a letter to TSA about my observations.

Mark: I had the privilege of praying for a German brother last night. He asked for prayer because he says he loves God but has a hard time living it out. A couple of us prayed for him and I could tell God was working so hard on his heart and that this guy was changing. After we prayed we all hugged Mark and he thanked us. Then later he came over and asked if I needed prayer for anything. For a split second piety rose it’s nappy little head and I almost told him now. But before I could speak God told me to shut my mouth and this time open it and tell Mark that I did indeed need prayer. I knew exactly what I need prayer for…against bitterness. So Mark prayed for me and I felt a release from this bitterness and I haven’t thought about it since.

Tip: Malcolm Gladwell mentions in the Tipping Point that things “tipping” is not always a positive thing. He uses the communication of STD particularly in large intravenous drug use areas like Baltimore. He mentions suicide being a tip and generally when one person in the community takes their own life it is followed by repeated suicides. The initial person “gives permission” by their actions for others to follow suit. I suppose to add to this study would be that of school shootings. 3 in one week is a horrific thought and the copycat style of one to the other is chilling.

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