Russia Day 9 – Faith pioneers in Veronezh

The city of Voronezh is divided by water and has a left and right bank with distinct personalities. They’re almost a metaphor of the churches in that city of a million souls, connected by the life-giving water of Jesus.

On a tour of Voronezh, the Rev. Irina Mitina of Resurrection UMC showed the group the spot near Lenin’s Square where, when working as an interpreter 10 years ago, she gave her life to Christ and United Methodism was born in this
450-year-old city.

A modern-day Robert Strawbridge, the maverick who brought Methodism to Maryland, Mitiva cares most about being fully alive and creating a joyful and meaningful testimony to Christ’s love. This love pours from her torch-song voice, the radical care she shares with all she encounters and the boldness of her leadership.

Sharing the bus with Mitiva on the tour of the city was Katya Guseva, an interpreter from Peter and Paul UMC who is a theologically astute, intensely faithful leader of the district’s youth and young adults.

Guseva, who revels in the empowerment of lay people, recently led a leadership program for six youth. The principles she shared were simple, but life-changing. As the program progressed, these youth became mentors to teen orphans. The authorities of the orphanage never expected the program would work. But under Guseva’s care, the orphans and the youth blossomed. Like Francis Asbury, the first Methodist bishop in America, she believes in good plans tempered with grace.

These two women differ dramatically in their leadership and the expression of their faith, but they share a common bond in Christ and their differences are indicative of a diversity that will create a new flavor ofMethodism in Russia.

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