These last two weeks have taught me quite a lot about myself, pushing me further on, leaving my comfort zone somewhere back in October.....so I thought it'd be a good time to write something, seeing as I've got a little time right now and it won't stay like that for long!
Last week was a week of firsts - firstly, I played football in Russia for the first time. Now, clearly, playing football doesn't sound that scary, but get this. I was going on my own (out of anyone else who spoke English!), going somewhere I hadn't been before, playing in a hall that I didn't know, and therefore was unclear on what could or couldn't be done. All of this I would just have to pick up on the spot. Then there is the issue of language, though football is a little more universal.
Apart from it being a tiring time, it was good and I went back again this week feeling a lot more confident that now I knew what I was doing.
Also last week I was covering for Hansie who was away, and therefore got to teach my first English class. While I was expecting there to be 4 people, it actually turned out to be a class of 7, with two of the ladies there for their first English lesson...ever!
Ninety minutes later I had made it through. My 'students' seemed to enjoy it. I think it helps that I'm also learning Russian so I know what it feels like to be in class and not understanding much! Someone who seemed to be in charge then took my number, and in rather fast Russian, seemed to say about me teaching a second group of students...but no call to date (or the time to actually fit it in) so I don't think anything will come of that, for now. And besides, I'm back in England 5 weeks today anyway.
And then last Sunday morning, I was preaching for the first time at Hope Church, it also being my first preach in Russia. And because it was a prophetic message that had been growing in me for three weeks, I was also therefore trying to birth this thing into the church, speaking on a culture of honour, which I have previously written about. It was made easier though on two counts - firstly, preaching with a translator has one great advantage. Every 20 seconds you get a break, so that I could scan my notes for the next bit, while all eyes were on the translator, before continuing, without looking at my notes, to make a much more free-flowing preach.
The other thing that made it easier was that because it was something I knew God wanted to bring, my part was just bringing the subject to the table. It was God's job to then do His work in our hearts so that we all receive directly from Him what He wanted to impart in the first place.
And one immediate outworking of the talk was that when it came to serving the lunch after, service being one of the things touched upon in the preach, there was a noticeable crowd in the kitchen last week all helping.
And then, as if not tired enough already, we had our first family meeting in the evening, inviting all those that saw Hope Church as their home church to come along to break bread together, as well as be caught up on news and inspired with our visions for the future. It was a great time, if not a long meeting, and Dave, Hansie & I all took it in turns to speak on different parts, modelling team leadership as is our style.
Life does seem to happen so fast that it takes certain moments when you stop and wonder at the glory God is doing in your life. It's been a week already since this all happened, another Sunday morning tomorrow and some more firsts, no doubt. We will try and work more as a three on Sunday mornings, which having spoken last week, I should find easier to do. I'm talking about the offering tomorrow, trying something new because up to now, it's been something we've put in the corner and asked people to contribute to. I feel already God wanting to speak about generosity so I will prepare my 3 minutes along those lines - how God has first been generous with us (Love, Time, Patience, Money...) so that we can be generous with Him.
But in these times, once on Monday night this week at football, and then again in our new office, I had one of those check points that just says "Wow God - you are awesome!"
Because to be standing in a hall with many Russian men, playing football but not understanding their language. Being in a country so different, in a city so far from my roots. It makes me marvel at what God is capable off. And then again on Tuesday this week, when we were loading the brand new Ikea furniture into the office we have got, to think "Wow, now we have an office in the middle of the city....God is Good!" We had our first team meeting there yesterday afternoon (we usually meet Monday mornings, but getting delayed until last thing on a Friday is just a little example of how life goes here!) It'll serve us all well I think.
Of course, in all this, it is a very busy season. In someways, at such an early stage in the church plant, there is just no way around it. We've had 10 Sundays already since the launch in early September, and its been 10 consistent weeks of just pressing in, pushing on, getting on with the job. Working usually 7 days, my end in sight being the trip back to England 5 weeks today for me, when I'll be taking the Christmas & New Year period as a long needed holiday. Lately I've been hitting the start of every new week just a little more tired than I was the same time the week before. But I know I get to rest soon so I'm not too concerned health wise. But it is a real hazard for people going through this kind of situation, and something you should be aware off. Every situation is of course different as well.
But God is great and doing many amazing things here in St Petersburg. This next season looks to be very exciting, and for my family to be in England during that time will be a little hard as I know some important months are approaching for the church here which will be exciting for all concerned. Of course, there are things I'll be doing in the UK that will benefit all in the longer term, so my eyes will soon adjust to that, but not before I leave, as there is much more to fit into these next five weeks, including the final version of our promotion church DVD and the website, which we also hope will be finished before Christmas (and therefore before I've left).
Every blessing to you where ever you are based, in whatever stage of the journey you are on.
Until next time, be blessed!