At church on Sunday, everyone asked me how the trip to Russia went. And the standard answer was: “Great.”
And I mean it.
Eight of us from Good Shepherd travelled to Moscow on July 23. From Moscow, we then took a bus to a Soviet-era camp that is today used as a retreat center for various business and educational groups. The accomodations were much more “Soviet-era” than “retreat center.”
Altogether, we had 35 volunteers from four different US churches who led what’s called the English Exchange. Our long-time missionary partners Jon & Sonnet Barr are the overall directors of the English Exchange.
The 35 volunteers led 65 Russian college-age students in classes, games, and skits all designed to grow abilities in conversational English. I personally taught several modules on how to make verbal presentations; I based much of my talk on the book Making It Stick.
The purpose of the English Exchange is not evangelism per se. Instead, the Exchange focuses on relationship building and cultural sharing — all designed as aids in the long process of getting Russian people interested in both the gospel and a bible believing church. So we didn’t talk too much about religion — though when word got out about what I do for a living (as it tends to do), there were many opportunities to speak about what God is doing through Good Shepherd and other churches.
Here are a few of highlights:
- The eagerness of the Russian people. They really want to improve their English — which in many cases is already very good.
- The dedication of the Good Shepherd team. You Good Shepherd-ers back in the Carolinas have much to be proud of. Our folks represented you well — no complaining, positive attitudes, and willingness to serve at every level.
- An “MTV Unplugged”-type concert by our very own Chris Macedo. More on that tomorrow.
- The commitment — often against long odds –of missionaries who work in Russia. Seventy years of state atheism under the Soviet system have made church planting very difficult. The Barrs and other missionaries we met cope with the slow progress by focusing on their love for Russian people. And Russian people are, admittedly, easy to love.