And so we come to the end of my 2005 fantastic trip to Russia. I've told about our work and visits and meeting with the nice people--adults and childdren alike. Everywhere we were welcomed because of our United Methodist Church connection, and in public we were noticed and protected.
But all wasn't work--we saw the "sights." We rode local buses to the church and to a new luxury house being built for our director. We rode a cable car up the mountain and gazed at Pyatigorsk, then went to an Orthodox Church to see unbelievable icons. We went to the fountains to taste different kinds of healing water. We went to the Caucasus mountains, 30 miles south, and saw the Palace of Love and Treachery--the young daughter was denied marriage to an unapproved suitor and when they agreed to jump into the river, she jumped and he deceived her and ran away. Up the side of a dusty mountain local ladies displayed handmade sweaters, shawls and socks for impossibly cheap prices--but it was just too far up to explore the caves at the top!
Then we flew in a smaller Russian plane to Moscow one day to visit the Kremlin. In Moscow was the most beautiful mosque with bright colored domes and the streets were spotless and wet because it's continually being washed! On July 4th we went to the Russian Circus and were greeted with our Star Spangled Banner played by a small band on the front steps.
One more overnight train trip to St Petersburg where we saw famous paintings and statues at Hermitage Museum. Inlaid wood floors were not to be walked on and we wore slippers to cover our shoes. Took a boat trip thru the manmade canals, past old official buildings and mosques and on the Neva River past the Palace of the Czars and monuments to famous people. Then we went to the summer palace built for Empress Catherine by the Emporer Nicholas II--uncountable fountains and indescrible landscaping and flowers and trees. Fountains flow from the Gulf of Finland.
Our final lunch in the restaurant produced Pepsi-Colas with frost on the glass bottles!--one of the very few times we saw ice. (We were told that there are two ice cubes in Russia, one in Moscow and the other melting in your hand...)
For me this is probably the finale, but Sam, our director, has returned two times in these 4 months. A several-story building in Moscow has been rebuilt by some of our team members, for Methodist headquarters. Offices for the Bishop and leaders and safe living quarters for seminary students are being built. All of these things further God's Christianity in unchurched Russia, and make our ventures as missionaries---both long and short term--valuable.
We cannot forget the opportunities that remain, and as Christians we must continue our support.