Celebrations at Smolensk Central Baptist Church

WP_20130929_011 (1)On Sunday morning we were invited to be a part of a celebration service for Harvest Day.  As soon as we arrived, we could see this was an important event.  I’ve never seen so much action prior to a morning service!  There were baskets of food, vegetables, fruit, and bread everywhere.  We walked past a doorway and there were a group of men peeling vegetables; we walked past another and there were women preparing soup, and then another had children preparing for an item.  Then we took our seats in the main auditorium.  Soon the church was full and the service began.  The singing is rich and strong, as I have experienced in services in the Ukraine.  And such beautiful items!  They seemed to go on and one, one after another.  The children’s choir was a special delight.  Everyone of those kids gave it all they had.

WP_20130929_009There were a number of people involved in praying publicly; I was surprised how long each of them were.  It didn’t seem to bother anyone.  And then I was asked to come and bring God’s word.  I was able to bring greetings from Howick Baptist at home in Russian and then I had someone read my passage before I began (Exodus 32 – where Moses cries out “Show me your glory”). From that  point on you are dependent entirely on your interpreter.  She (often a woman) makes or breaks the message.  Natasha did a great job.  She was so quick at times I could start a new sentence before she had finished with the last one.  It speeds things up.  I could see people tracking.  Hearts were being moved.  Praise God, it was going well.

After I sat down the pastor asked if there were prayer needs.  There was a woman in the front who spoke.  She was visibly moved and crying.  I could not understand what she was saying.  Later I learned she was one of the directors of the orphanages who was invited to attend – an unbeliever.  She wanted help in understanding what she needed to do to repent.  I prayed someone would spend time with her.

Then, after the service closed I was warmly greeted my many individuals – the old first, and then later several young men came to me personally.  This was so encouraging.  But the best was yet to come!  A large man came in and started shouting, “Everyone out – we need to set up for lunch.” And sure enough all the bodies were hustled out in great hasted and these massive fold-out tables were brought into the auditorium.

WP_20130929_024We would sit and eat where we worshiped (makes perfect sense when you think of what Scripture teaches about the kingdom of heaven).  While we ate there were more items, more sharing and more celebrations.  I was then asked to give my testimony in Russian (I had shared this with our driver on the way from Moscow to Smolensk in Russian).  I should have read it, because it was a real struggle in a big setting like that with so many distractions.  But it didn’t seem to bother anyone.  Then Sergei (MC for the lunch) wanted to ask me some questions about this.  Another interpreter stepped forward and I was more relaxed and spoke pointedly to the teens and young people about not selling out to people pressure and find contentment and joy in Jesus alone.

A big day.  And that was only half of it.  I’ll have to leave the rest for another post.

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