Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Email #8 - 7/6

Date: Wed, 6 Jul 2005 05:42:24 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Gerald Flinchbaugh"
Subject: VIM Russia 2005 E-mail #8
To: "Gerald Flinchbaugh"

VIM Russia 2005 E-mail #8

Dear Friends,

Below is newsletter #8.

I just received the following newsletter this morning. I hope you enjoy it.

Blessings to all of you.


VIM Russia # 8
July 6, 2005- Newsletter from Pyatigorsk, except now we’re in St. Petersburg!

We are here on the last leg of our wonderful trip, in St. Petersburg, getting to understand more about the Russian people we have grown to love so much.

On the Friday after our home visits, it was time to say good-bye to our Pyatigorsk friends. Day school wrapped up in the morning, the finishing touches were put on the Dance Room, and we met in the Dining Room for the Farewell Lunch with the Boarding School Staff. We were so impressed with the hospitality shown us by our Russian friends, that it was hard to say “Until next time!” The Kitchen Staff have kept us well fed so we could play and work hard. The Boarding School Staff have worked side-by-side with us in their environment. Our Interpreters were wonderful, and certainly went a step beyond what was expected in always being there for us to translate what was going on into words we could understand, whether it be speech, or customs. Yes, the Lord’s hand has certainly been in the making of this work trip to Pyatigorsk!

In the afternoon, we met up with several of our friends from the Pyatigorsk United Methodist Church and went to dinner at a neat restaurant out in the country on a lake. We enjoyed our time with Victor and Olga, Pastor Alexander and his bride Olga, and many other friends from the church. After admiring the minnows, watching the frog and the swallows, trying our feet again at a little Russian (and popular!) dancing, and visiting with each other, we said “Until next time” to these kind people, our brothers and sisters in Christ in this Russian church.

We went “home” to the Boarding School for one last night, to pack our bags, and pull out enough stuff to get them down to 42 pounds! Our final Team Meeting was one of much thanksgiving for the opportunities that God had given us to minister to others, but mostly, to be ministered to, for the physical work completed in the Boarding School, but mostly for the friends we made among the Team of Americans and of Russians.

Early the next morning, we headed for the airport and Moscow! We all voted unanimously to keep the same Interpreters the next time we come! They went with us to the airport, and helped us through the hard parts, except they were no help when it was time to part from them! I do believe that in the days we were together, we did all become one team, working for the Lord.

In Moscow we had a full day of sightseeing with a little shopping, more eating, and more fun together. We got to visit the Kremlin, see the Russian Circus, and take a bus tour of Moscow. Our guide was wonderful. She gave us an overview of the history, and kept us on track for where we were going. Late in the evening, we boarded the overnight train to St. Petersburg. It didn’t take us long to settle in to our beds and close our eyes for much needed rest, only to hear Bill Wynn pounding on each door as he moved down the hall: “Got any snacks??” I think he was looking for some for Sam, but it was too late for anyone to want to share! (Now that I think of it, I wonder if this was a test??!!)

We arrived in St. Petersburg at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 3, and the sun was already high in the sky! We were able to check in at the Moscow Hotel (this is St. Petersburg, remember?), get a hot shower and clean up before we hit the road running. We learned quickly about the buffet-system of meals at the hotel, and then reboarded our bus to explore at the wonderful museum called The Hermitage. Lena, our guide is so knowledgeable about all of Russian history, that she made the tour (and all the rest!) quite fascinating with facts and details about the Russian rulers and what was going on around the area at the time.

Lena our guide, is not only Christian, she is United Methodist! When she started giving tours, she was so impressed with the Methodists and the work that they do with and for children here, that she became a Methodist. She and her Methodist husband were married in the Methodist Church! Don’t you know that God is at work even when we don’t think about it?!

We are in the “Time of White Nights”, when, in St. Petersburg, the sun barely goes down before it is up again for another day! When the clock says 10:30 p.m., it looks outside and feels as if it should be only about 4:30! We have taken full advantage of the many day-light hours, by getting to know St. Petersburg: bus tour around the city with stops at Palaces and Cathedrals of the great rulers, a boat ride on the Neva River, a view of the Peter and Paul Fortress from all angles outside and even from the inside, and of course, more shopping for just the right gifts for those at home. We were surprised with little American flags on the Fourth of July that were shared by a Team Member who received them in one of the devotionals that someone sent with her. Just a little bit of home in a foreign country… We saw a performance by a local Folk Group with much Russian dancing, and music played by local musicians. and as we arrived to see the performance by the Folk Group, we were greeted by a horn and tuba playing the Star Spangled Banner! As the Team went on the bus to go sight-seeing, Julia Brooks was always with us, perched in the front seat of the bus. Because of a problem with her leg, she couldn’t get along without her walker, but we all learned a lot about handicaps on this trip. Just because someone can’t walk doesn’t mean they can’t see. Just because someone can’t speak eloquently doesn’t mean they can’t share God’s love. Just because you have always been self-sufficient doesn’t mean you can’t accept help from others when you need it. Receiving graciously is as much a gift as the gift given. Julia learned this first-hand while the team were out seeing the sights, as she sat on the bus and waited for our return. The bus driver spoke not much English, and Julia knows not much Russian, but they communicated quite well. He offered to bring her a soda, and didn’t leave her for long at a time, just so she would feel safe. Once while he was gone, a couple of fellows came to the bus to sell Julia a cracked CD. She declined. They came back, and tried again, and as one was talking to her, she caught a glimpse of the other one trying to take the bus driver’s jacket. She grabbed the jacket and emphatically told them “You can’t have that jacket and Go Away!”, which they promptly did. Fortunately, Julia was safe, and so was the bus driver’s jacket! He was so thankful, that he gave Miss Julia a bottle of wine!

I think we all have enjoyed our time in this metropolitan hotel, seeing tourists and business people from all over the world, Japan, Korea, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and who knows where else. We are on our own this morning, until check-out at noon, then lunch and then to the airport for the last part of our trip.

We all thank the Lord for health, safety, and a feeling of worth on this mission trip where we have been more blessed than we could ever imagine. Thanks you for your support, your love, and your prayers. We may very well see you before you see this!

Yours in Christ,

UMVIM-Russia 2005 Team, Jean Taylor reporting

PS – Many thanks to Jean Taylor for her tanacious spirit, and willing heart in providing the insights of our trip. In a few hours we will board a plane for the USA eagerly awaiting our family and friends. Many thanks for your prayers. Sam NeSmith, team leader.

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