To Russia with Love pt 1

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Hey y’all! Happy national milk day!

That really has nothing to do with what I am going to be writing about, but I was just very disappointed that this is a thing and I didn’t even drink milk today.

But anyway, today and next week I want to tell you about the time when God completely changed my life.

The year is 2013. I am 16 years old. During the cold month of January, my best friend invited me to a friends house for a meeting about a potential mission trip. Now, I’d have you know that I have been praying to go on a mission trip since i was 13. I thought, “this is my chance, Jesus!”

We started a small group of about 9 people who had a passion to give love to people in need. Within this group was my best friend, my dad, and other people who are now my good friends for life.

The next 6 months consisted of fundraising (making chebureki and selling them at my church), learning how to talk and evangelize to the Russian people, and getting to know each other as a group.

When I look back at it now, we had no idea what circumstances were awaiting for us during that summer, but I know now that God was there waaayyy before we were. And that gives me peace.

That month in Russia, we visited 4 cities, a couple small villages, and ended in Moscow.

Whenever I tell this story, I get really emotional because this was the year right after my repentance, and right before I got baptized. This was the time in my life when God showed himself to me in ways that I will never understand. I think that’s what makes a Christian life so special. We don’t always know whats waiting for us, but we do know WHO’S waiting for us. 

During our stay there, we visited orphanages, rehab centers, showed puppet plays around the villages, woke up at 4am to clean the town, played with local children, put up a bouncy house, hung out and played soccer with the kids, helped build a church, and encouraged, prayed, and made lifelong friends with the local Christians.

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But wait. There’s more.

We got arrested. “What?! Olesya. You’re totally messing with me.” No dear reader, I am not. Our group got arrested. And guess on what day? That’s right. July 4th. The birthday of the country that was on our passports.

Our group had gotten permission to travel to a different village and put up our bouncy house, play soccer, and make crafts with the kids that were in the “camp” there. Of course we also had bibles with us that we were giving to anyone that wanted one. We also made bracelets that looked like this:

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Black for our sins. Red for the blood of Christ. White for our clean heart. Blue for our salvation. Green for our spiritual growth. Yellow for heaven with Jesus.

As I was making those with some kids (thats not me in the picture by the way), a man came up and started arguing with me that the colors could mean different things. Like, yellow could mean the sun and green, the grass. Well, after he stated that fact, he started asking me where I was from. We were told by our leaders not to say “United States” because, well, we all know history.

He then asked our whole group for our passports, but….our passports, unfortunately, were in another city with the pastor, because we didn’t want to lose them.

Well, he didn’t like that very much. And then he found out we were from the US. He didn’t like that either.

He was apparently the KGB. Yes dear reader, from the moment we stepped out of the plane into Russia, we were watched by the KGB. Our every move, every car ride, every village that we went to…he was watching. I’m pretty sure this is as creepy as it gets. But you know what? God was also watching.

We all got into his van, and this was around 6pm, and we just started singing. I don’t remember why, and who started it, but it was like that was really all we could do in a time like that. Worship.

At the police station, we got our fingerprints taken, we were videotaped, and now I am a “criminal” in the country of Russia. The whole spiel ended around midnight and we had to pay a fine, and told not to do “missionary” work because our visas were “tourist” ones. But the devil wasn’t stopping there. Because my best friend and I were only 17, we had to go through a whole meeting the next day with my dad and some super special people about how they thought we were there to take Russia’s gas….i mean…really?! That’s not aaaalllll America wants, is it?

Now, my favorite person in the bible is Apostle Paul. He’s the second person I want to talk to when I get to heaven (my savior is the first). His story in Acts is so encouraging and so are all of his letters.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) 

The only thing that kept us going was Jesus and scripture. 

How amazing it is to look back now and realize that Jesus was already there. He knew my weaknesses and he knew what was going to happen. He knew we were going to sing. He knew that our patience, compassion, and ability to remain calm in a situation like this were going to influence people’s lives that were in the police station. He knew. And maybe I don’t know the whole story. Maybe I don’t know what happened after we left. And that’s okay. When we suffer for Christ, he always sees that. He always works. Because His plan is so much better than ours. And for that, I will always be thankful.

… to be continued…

 

 

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