After two days of driving, we arrived Monday afternoon in Elista. Sunday afternoon, our driver took us 4 hours east to Krasnodar. On Monday, a different driver took us 7.5 hours further east to Elista in Kalmykia.
Kalmykia is in the steppes region of the Caucasus Mountains near the Caspian Sea. The land is as flat, flat, flat as the eye can see. There are no trees or topography to break the horizon. The Kalmyk people are descended from the Mongols who migrated to the area in the 400’s. They are the only Buddhist people group in Europe.
We are staying at a place called City Chess. It was built in 1998 and used to host the World Chess Championships in 2006. It is a familiar place as we stayed here the previous two years. Whereas before we were in a townhouse, this time we are in a 4-bedroom apartment with a large living room.
I have 11 people in my class on Romans and John Musgrave has six men in his class on church leadership. My class meets in our apartment while John’s class meets in Sandzhik’s home. Sandzhik is the pastor the church in Elista and the class is made up of his elders.
When I started the class this morning, I asked each person to share their name and how long they had been a believer. One person trusted Christ last year, several have been Christians for three years, one for seven years, and one for 24 years. Spiritually speaking, it is a young group.
We started at 10AM and worked until lunchtime at 12Noon. Then we went from 1PM to 5:30PM with two 15 minutes breaks during the afternoon.
During today’s sessions, we covered Romans 9-11. I explained that chapter 9 emphasizes God’s sovereignty. God chooses, God elects, God has a plan and a purpose. Chapter 10 emphasizes free will. God holds us responsible for our choices. Rather than choose one or the other, you have to hold the two truths in tension since Scripture teaches both. Chapter 11 explains God’s plan for Israel in the future.
There were many good questions asked during the sessions. Can you lose your salvation? Do I have doubts about God’s sovereignty? Do young children go to heaven when they die if they weren’t old enough to accept Christ? were some of the more challenging and difficult questions I dealt with.
In the evening, we had dinner at the home of Sandzhik and Elza. Vadma and Julia, who live in Tsagan-Aman (another 4 hours east) and are staying with Sandzhik during the conference, were there as well. It was a wonderful evening of food and fellowship.
I have now been asked by five different people in two cities to return next year to teach Revelation. As my wife pointed out in an email exchange, perhaps our friends in persecuted countries are more aware of the signs of the times than we are. Either way, it appears I have 12 months to study and prepare for next year’s class.
Thanks for praying.