Russia Day 8 – Preaching in a new church

In five pulpits in Russia, this Sunday morning, members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference preached messages of Pentecost, David and Goliath and the theme “In Christ there is no east or west.”

In the back seat of a small taxi, the Rev. David Simpson drove with the Rev. Galina Kolesnikova and interpreter Elena Kristina to the village of Latraya.

Simpson became emotional as he reflected on the day with Kolesnikova.  When he was growing up, he said, Khrushchev and Eisenhower were in power. The U.S. and the Soviet Union were adversaries. “How could I ever imagine this day would be possible in my life. I’ve spent most of my life in the Cold War. I lived through the Cuban missile crisis. But I’m persuaded this day is possible because somebody had a dream – they dreamed peace would prevail, they dreamed more about feeding our children than arming weapons.”

Simpson said that when he looks back on his life, preaching at Revival UMC would be one of the high points of his ministry and his life. The day was also a special one for Kolesnikova, who ten years before felt called to the village, where crime, alcoholism, drug addiction and poverty pose challenges. She and her husband Alexander looked at a small three room house in a small weedy field and saw a church. And so they began.

“God sent us into this place. I think God has a plan,” Kolesnikova said. “God does everything with our hands.” With the help of United Methodists from Mississippi, they’ve begun building a brick building and on Sunday, the 12-member congregation worshipped in the still unfinished space, sitting on benches made of logs and plywood, and giving thanks to God for dreams answers and those still undreamt.

Maria Konovalova, an old woman in a white head scarf who has believed in God even when the Communists told her God didn’t exist, was one of the first members of Revival.

“We need this church to gather together to speak about God, so God will be present here in our village and hear from our hearts,” she said. “This is God’s building and it won’t be empty.”

After blessing the new worship space, the congregation gathered in the yard under the apple trees. The men grilled pork kabobs over a fire while the women chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers fresh from the garden. Kolesnikova’s son played the guitar.

Sitting back content on a summer Sunday afternoon in Russia, Simpson smiled. “Miracles,” he said, “will happen here.”

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