Tag Archives: Russia

Homecoming Joy

moscow4 copy

Mike & Friends. Red Square Christmas.

Our phone calls out directions to a Christmas party as we drive past the festive lights in the new neighborhood. We collect our gifts from the car and walk towards the door. Laughter filters through a window, then our host greets us at the door. “Welcome! Merry Christmas!” The first round of hugs and kisses give way to “Here, let me take your coat, put those presents over by the tree, what would you like to drink?” The scent of fresh baked pies, clove spiced wassail and a cinnamon candle waft over us. Warm drink now in hand, the first, “Hi, how are you?!” is followed by more hugs … Later by a crackling fire someone reads about shepherds tending flocks, angels singing, wise men delivering gifts and the wonder-filled sight of the newly born child humbly nestled in Bethlehem’s manger. He is the Son of David, our Savior, Christ, the Lord!

Isn’t this how we start to learn joy? Warm and safe in a place where caring people welcome us unconditionally, not judging whether our year passed “successfully” or “painfully.” We want help to laugh with loved ones and be content!

Now let’s take this picture multiply the intensity times ten, square the welcome and then add the comfort to infinity! This is the level of joy waiting for us when our Savior, once swaddled in a manger, welcomes us to His feast in our true home we will enter when heavenly Jerusalem descends to earth.

As long as we are imagining that day picture too the hosts of believers waiting to say “Hi! Welcome to the wedding feast of the Lamb!” Pavel and Julia will want to greet you. Zbyszek from Poland, Sasha from Ukraine, Roman and Viktor from Russia too. Zvonko and Maritsa … Did you really think heaven only holds personal family and friends for us to see again. Won’t all the ones you’ve prayed for, supported, sent messengers with the gospel be waiting there too?

May the love of God, the joy of Jesus Christ and the peace of the Holy Spirit fill you this Christmas!


Blessed are the Peacemakers

Cross at Maidan

Cross at Maidan

Photos of flaming tires, police in riot gear and sniper victims in Kyiv finally grabbed the attention of all the major television networks. Conspiracy theories, rumors of higher prices and lost jobs are blowing up Facebook and Twitter. For the Americans just beginning to pay attention to demonstrations that started 3 months ago over a conflict that goes back over 10 years, the swirl of lies, betrayals and ominous warnings make it hard to tell the “good guys” from the bad. Who should we believe? Putin says this – “Aren’t Russians our friends now?” Merckel says that – “The EU may be our competitors, but also our best allies.”

Jesus said. “Blessed are the shalommakers for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Making peace Jesus’ way does not mean taking a quiet seat next to a still pond watching the birds sing. It is costly and dangerous.

Anti war demonstrator in Moscow

Anti war demonstrator in Moscow

One one eventful day Jesus stood before: his top religious and judicial leaders — Annas & Caiaphas, then the hastily assembled Sanhedrin court; his political rulers — Herod and Pilate; the military — temple soldiers arrested him; then Herod’s soldiers mocked him and the Roman soldiers flogged him. Finally, he stood before the public, his own people who had turned into the Jerusalem mob. He never displayed fear in the face of his persecutors. He prepared for his enoromous, awful day with a prayer vigil. We cannot tell if the strain he displayed speaking privately to His Father was over the execution he knew was coming or the unprecedented separation death would create between the Father and the Son of God.

Jesus told his followers they would be blessed for making peace. But he also said standing for peace for the gospel’s sake would be costly. Following his example requires physical courage and the will to risk one’s personal reputation to be a peacemaker like him. Like Him we are expected to tear down barriers and speak from a kingdom-of-God perspective, rather than a nationalist one.

Priest outside Crimean army base.

Priest outside Crimean army base.

I have observed that grounded believers are acting as peacemakers and ambassadors for Christ. They are choosing what to say in the pulpit, the market and the town square in their neighborhood in light of their Savior’s example. How do they stand with their Lord in these situations?

Orthodox priests have taken to standing between demonstrators and riot police and praying for them both. Some of our Protestant friends have prayed with demonstrators at Maidan Square and served all comers with cell tents, blankets, warm food and a cell phone charge. Last week a lay preacher from a Kyiv Baptist church became the acting president of the nation until Ukraine votes what to do next.

UK Foreign Sec. Hague & Interim President Turchynov

UK Foreign Sec. Hague & Interim President Turchynov

Imagine you are Turchynov and must pick up the phone to talk with a regional govenor who refuses to recognize your authority or respond to a mafia boss or oligarch who is offering to help, an ambitious politician who wants influence in your administration, an army general with soldiers facing a roadblock, a reporter, a police chief, a foreign banker, …

Shall we not pray for our friends making decisions right now in Ukraine, Poland and Russia? Pray for believers choosing today to say kingdom words of peace to neighbors in Ukraine, Poland and Russia!

Seeking for Truth and finding Propaganda

Thirty years ago while walking and praying along the bank of the Neva River in Leningrad, USSR, I scanned the incredible vista of the Winter Palace, church cupolas and golden spires. Jutting out in the distance on the roof of an old industrial building, in huge aluminum block letters, gleamed the phrases, “We Will Complete the 5 Year Plan” and “Praise to the Communist Party”. And I thought, “Does anyone still believe these slogans?”

Neva "vista"

We just endured two months of intense political advertising before the mid-term elections. Does anyone really believe those awful television ads full of quotes ripped out of context that attempt to make an opponent into a caricature? I’m so glad I don’t live in Iowa where they will endure six more months of this next year for the “privilege” of narrowing down the 20-30 presidential wannabes to 5 or 6 the rest of us will vote for! What happened to: “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”? Thomas Jefferson et al.

Unfortunately, political consultants aren’t the only deceivers left on earth. The apostle John said, “many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Watch out …” II John 7-8. But it isn’t just those “bad people on TV” we have to watch out for. Don’t we regularly deceive our friends, our family, even ourselves. How long do we spend listening to the master deceiver, Satan, and making up our own lies to cover up that nasty hole in our heart that only Jesus can fill?

No wonder John felt “great joy” discovering children of a lady he knew who were “walking in the truth”. What a thrill we have knowing Jesus, who is the truth,lives in us and will be with us for ever”!

Next Generation

Sipping tea with lemon and eating a slice of cake, I looked across the table at the Integra Russia staff and thought, “This is the next generation! They do care for their people and the gospel! Sure they have problems, but they are facing them.”

That evening, I listened at another Moscow table crowded with young people Neil was attempting to feed before their train left that night. They recalled fantastic adventures during a mission trip to the Caucasus. Then a newlywed couple dropped by and said thanks to them all for coming to their wedding.

Three days later while I was adding up my expenses at the kitchen table, a Russian mom and dad seated behind me had a heart to heart with a son who wanted to borrow money. He laid out his plan. By Christmas he would pay them back, set up his apartment and then be ready to get married to his sweetheart. I overheard the word “responsibility”, then something like “… rely on God.“ I don’t think he was going to get the money.

Plans, ideas, energy, zest for life, romance, joy and tears – the next generation in Eurasia is stepping up!