We left Tsibanobalka & Anapa yesterday morning, Monday, and flew to Moscow. John arranged for a taxi to take us into the center of town where we stayed at the Holiday Inn. It was about an hour’s drive. After relaxing for a couple of hours, we rode the Metro a few stops down in order to meet some old friends of John & Naomi’s for dinner. Back in the 90’s, John taught at an international school operated by Tatiana. Her daughter, Marina, was a kindergartener in one of John’s classes. Marina is now a teacher at the same school. It was encouraging to see old friends reconnect.
This morning, Tuesday, a taxi picked us up at the hotel and took us to the Domodedevo Airport where we will catch a flight to Elista. We allowed two hours for the trip but arrived in one. As I write this note, we have a three hour wait until our flight this afternoon. Sheremetyevo Airport, where we arrived last week and flew to Anapa, is in the northwest suburb of Moscow. Domodedevo is in the southeast sector.
My first arrival in Moscow was in 1992. I continue to be impressed that Moscow is a study in contrasts. In the past 20+ years, everything has changed, but nothing has changed. There are signs of affluence and prosperity. You see Burger King across the street from the statue of Lenin. You find Cinnabon and Subway in the Domodedevo Airport. But you also see babushkas (old women) sweeping the streets with handmade brooms. You see new cars and upscale malls near every Metro stop. But the average person cannot buy fresh vegetables because the cost of tomatoes has tripled in the past year due to inflation. Inflation has affected the cost of food—meat, fresh fruits & vegetables—but the taxis have not raised their rates for transportation.
We are all healthy, but weary. The travel, and especially the layovers and waiting wear one out. Yesterday’s travel was an all-day affair. Leaving early, waiting at the airport, flying, taxi ride. Today is a similar story. No complaints, it’s just part of the process. As I explain to folks, I enjoy the ministry part of these trips, but tolerate the travel.
A few years back, some suggested sending DVDs or teaching via Skype rather than going myself. On the one hand, that would be more efficient, cost less, and be easier on my body. On the other hand, it tends to be too formal and impersonal. It puts the emphasis on conveying information rather than building relationships. I have discovered the ministry of presence on these trips. There is great benefit to sitting across the table and sharing eyeball to eyeball. Not only am I able to teach the material, but I can adapt the applications to specific situations as I hear the stories of the people and what it means to be a Christ follower in their city. Since this is my fourth trip in five years and many of the men have been in previous classes I’ve taught, I’m able to build on existing relationships.
We’ve begun to talk about next year. When we started the classes five years ago, John asked if I was interested in coming back. This time he said, “When you come next year …” We’ve talked about possibly doing a marriage retreat or teaching some aspect of theology, rather than doing a book or biographical study like I’m doing on this trip. We’ll see how God leads.
Thanks for praying. I’m in your debt. We’ll keep you posted.