As the sun sets over Ufa on our last night there we had some great opportunities to fellowship together with brothers and sisters who have become very deer to us. These are all servants of God who are being used to reach people for God in different ways and with different gifts.
First, I want to introduce you to Peter Zhuk and his wife, Tamara. Peter is the head of the Russian Baptist Union in Bashkortostan and has been our key partner in the area welcoming us in, treating us with a Christ-like hospitality and is an example of fatherhood and love. He and Tamara have eight children and have adopted at least six children — I’ve lost count. They have both been honored by the Mayor of Ufa for their care and love for children and the adopted. Although he looks rather intimidating he is really a gentle bear and is committed to the care of his family as well as for all the pastors and church planters under his care.
Next, I want to introduce to you three young ladies: Marina, Elena & Karina. I met Marina on my first trip to Ufa in 2005 one week after she embraced the Jesus as her Lord and Savior. When I returned in 2007 with a team of eight Marina was one of our key translators both in the classroom and as we went out into the churches. Marina did an excellent job translating for us on this trip and is a godly young lady who’s heart is fully committed to serving the Lord in the Street Kids Ministry. Elena is Marina’s roommate and very close friend. Both of them have worked together for a number of years in the Street Kids Ministry as well as with Summer Camp. She has a warm and encouraging spirit and is always smiling. She loves the Lord and is humble. Karina is a beautiful young lady, and her story of grace is amazingly wonderful. She was a Street Kid, living in abandoned homes, in basements and attics of buildings, walking the streets with a band of other kids just trying to survive.
You can just imagine the kind of life she had to endure while on the street, yet God, through the Street Kids Ministry was at work drawing her close to Himself. She is a living example of why ministries like the Street Kids Ministry and Camp are so important. Add to that the reality of her thankfulness that drives her to work with the ministry that God used to change her life.
Finally, there is Arkaday and Goulia. I don’ t know their last name, but I do know that they are a wonderful couple that serve the brothers extremely well. Arkaday works as Peter’s secretary (and no, I have never seen his legs). He is gifted at administration, getting breakfast ready for American pastors, packing large suitcases into extremely small vehicles and generally overseeing the details of the Baptist Union. He is humble, teachable and has a very gentle spirit. His wife, Goulia, has the gift of hospitality and extended it to us in Pavel’s home as well as in their own. They have three children and have just recently moved into their first house in a village outside of Ufa – think duplex and think old. Since they had just moved in we pastors decided to bless her and Arkaday with a housewarming gift of a Tea Set with matching plates, etc. she was overwhelmed with joy and we were overwhelmed with the opportunity to give and meet a need.
So, last night we said goodbye, hugged one another and prayed for God’s blessing on lives. This morning we left Ufa thankful for a trip that we believe was successful and accomplished the goals that we had set out to accomplish. We were able to download our insights with the meetings we had with both groups (Baptist Union & those who have left). There is still much that both sides need to do and we challenged them to take initiative to move in some specific ways. There have been some extremely hard conversations with all the groups and even at the end with Peter. I, Bud and Genry are still talking through our insights and understandings of the “state of the union” and our responsibilities as we all reflect on our last seven years of ministry together.
God is not done with the believers in Bashkiria just like He is not done with us. Sometimes it takes someone whom we trust and is on the outside to see the blind spots in our ministries. We trust that we have been faithful to do that and to glorify God in the process.
Thank you for your continued prayers. Your obedience to go before the Lord on our behalf is greatly appreciated. We just wish that you could spend time with our friends as we have. I am sure that you would love our brothers and sisters as we all do.
O.K. I am getting seriously drowsy…my body clock is starting to kick in…
God bless…and pray us home!