As an overview, it was quite a tiring week. Emotionally, probably more so than physically, I was carrying a lot during my time there and just kept going.....so on arriving back, my immune system having taken a knock, I seemed to suffer more than I normally do. But that has passed now, thank God.
The team of 8, from various parts of the UK, arrived two days after my arrival, on the 2nd April. I met them with the guys at the airport.
Of course, I was also just adjusting back to life in Russia after a few months out myself. Having traveled all day on the 31st March, I arrived back home at the flat at around 4pm Russia time (I left Oxford at 1:40am UK time that same day). I was not alone though, because working away in the bathroom was a tradesman. There had been a leak, and the repairs were clearly underway. This meant though, on arrival, there was no water, no toilet, no shower. I stayed about 20 minutes and realised I needed to get out, so collected some things together and headed down to Dave & Hannah's, where I was able to catch up a bit, and have a shower! Before leaving, I had seen first hand the 3x3 foot hole in the ceiling left after the water had come pouring in - which would take me the whole week to finally clean up. I hope the repair work is now underway and it will all be finished long before we return as a family.
But what I had gone back for was the exciting extra week and opportunity of mission presented by the arrival of these keen, willing young people from England. And while they were some what eased into the first few days, with more time being given for social, city site-seeing opportunities, the week would soon kick into gear with a lot more structure.
Between the Tuesday to Saturday (which happened on the lunch time on the Saturday but mornings for the rest) we gathered for worship, some teaching and then going out onto the streets of the city, Treasure Hunting. For those unaware of what this is, it's simply asking God for words of knowledge, 'clues', about people we are to speak to, and writing down what we hear/feel/think. We particularly ask for 5 areas - Name, Appearance, Location, Ailment (or illness) and Other, where we put anything we get that doesn't fit into one of the first 4 sections.
I had real faith that some great things would happen (which they did...), helped by the fact that we were going out every day so a momentum could be built (the team from England, clearly warn out by the pace of city life, opted to have a rest on the Friday morning, but I went out anyway, joined by a returning friend who had just spent a week in Siberia doing exactly this - this session, personally speaking, was the most powerful I'd seen). It also helped keep a momentum going for the Saturday, when many from the church were able to join us, learning quickly what happens and then leading (being native speakers, that made things a lot more easier!) It was a really encouraging, final session on the Saturday, and a great platform for the rest of the church to continue with ourselves!
What was encouraging was that by the end of the week, most teams were finding people who matched 4 or 5 clues from their sheets. These starting including names! One encounter, on the Friday, followed a really encouraging chat we'd had with a lady in a Green Jacket standing by some Railings. She had just let us pray for her for a back condition (I can't remember if that was one of the clues, but we aren't limited to what we have written down anyway!).
Crossing the main street through St Petersburg, Nevski Prospekt, we walked straight up to a man handing out adverts, an 'A-board' hanging over his shoulders advertising something. We had intended on asking him where a Chocolate Shop was, another of our clues, but actually, both at the same time but without having the chance to say to each other, we realised HE was our treasure, the man we were to speak with. We asked his name, which we had exactly written on one of our sheets, and then he proceeded to go through the list, pointing out 4 or 5 other clues that also related to him! (We hadn't even spotted the Red Top he was wearing underneath!) We prayed for his Legs and then again, each time an improvement happening. Chatting some more, we asked about whether he had Finance Problems, which he hadn't pointed out from the list but which he confirmed he had. We prayed blessing over him, gave him an invite to church, which he warmly received and said he'd come.
We walked away from those two encounters, in the space of a minute from each other, praising God! Only God could give you someones name, what they are wearing, where they are standing, what is around them and what's wrong with them, then take you to the exact place so that you meet the exact person! Wonderful!
But it wasn't finished there. After a short lunch, I went home. On my list I had the name Sergei, but I hadn't found him. About a mile from home, a drunk man literally fell at my feet (just being a child of God puts us in places where people need our help!) Having helped him sit up, refusing his request to buy him a 'drink', I turned the corner and instantly saw a man begging by some Railings, at the entrance to a church building that had a Yellow, Arched Doorway. His name was Sergei! We chatted (I forgot to say, all the above had to be conducted in Russian...!)
I was able to pray (in English) over him, and invited him to church. (I saw him again on the Saturday on my way home, the first thing he said was that he'd see me tomorrow at church). On the Sunday, he did come, for part of it, though had left before the end, going for a cigarette but not coming back. He is a homeless man. A yet God wanted to reveal His love and heart for him. Be blessed Sergei, where ever you are!
There were many other similar and encouraging encounters - even the most unusual of clues turned out to be accurate - you can't out guess God (anyway, even if some were just made up, isn't God able to even make these ones happen...!)
Some of the evenings were spent going to some university dormitories. Students from another city church here that we are relating into, live in each location and have a group there. So we came in small teams to these, and then, where possible, chatted to the other students living there, giving them a free DVD (the one on the website) and an invite to church.
The final Sunday saw about half a dozen come as a result of this week - on the surface not as many as we may have hoped, but God looks at the deeper work and impact made. It's He that waters the seed thrown out. It's He that brings in the harvest.
I didn't see all the things that I was contending for in my spirit - there is so much more to come. But I saw the beginnings of something that we will continue to walk into as a church. I saw the church catch the vision, the faith to believe God for miracles on the streets as we walk around bringing Heaven to the city.
I'm now back in the UK, awaiting for our family visa to come through so that we can get back home....knowing that we'll be waiting a few more weeks yet.
So pray for all that happened in that week. For those people that responded on the streets, some crying as they were touched, maybe for the first time, by the fact that God loves them as individuals and speaks to his children today concerning them.