Ekaterinburg September 04 Trip Report

Fifteen from our church, several first-timers, and four more fellow missionaries from East-West made up our September Orphanage Ministry Team to Ekaterinburg, Russia. Add in an interpreter for each of us and the AWANA team we partnered with and our number increased to fifty.

It had been a year and a half since we last took a team to Ekaterinburg and once again we teamed with the AWANA team from the Church of the Good News.

The Awana team?s ministry had grown and matured since our last visit. They?ve now incorporated an excellent puppet show that really captures the kids attention and affectively presents the Gospel.

They continue to expand their reach in the region, now working in 13 orphanages and boarding schools. We visited 5 of them on this trip, half the number we visited last time.

Our team had a few people with real expertise in construction, so in addition to our visits to the orphanages, we invested part of everyday helping make some physical improvements to the Christian Center that serves as their church and their base of operations for the Awana team.

Our construction crew built one wall and tore down another, to enlarge the main meeting hall for the church, knocking a hole in another wall and installing new double doors in the back of the room.

Adapting well to the Russian spirit of resourcefulness, a cabinet craftsman on our team constructed a table saw by mounting an inverted Russian-made circular saw into the tabletop. He managed to cut and build a precision cabinet using not-so-precise tools. He was assisted in part by Slava, one of the churches youth workers.

The cabinet they constructed was a heavy-duty AV cabinet with secure locking doors that now houses a closed-circuit video feed from the meeting hall into an adjacent room now used for overflow and fellowships. We also hear that the room has become quite popular during the services for new moms with crying kids. They can still enjoy the church service without disturbing those around them.

This trip saw us working with more teenagers than normal. Since we had so many older kids and we had some wood working tools with us, we decided to incorporate a more ambitious object lesson. Before going out to each orphanage we pre-cut enough short sections of wood for each small group in addition to smaller blocks of wood for each child.

In the opening sessions with the teens we discussed the concept of sin. We then used the block of wood as an illustration of how we are all dead when we?re cut off from our source of life. Like a wooden piece of a tree cut off from it?s roots, we are cut off from God because of our sin.

Then working in small groups with an American team member and interpreter, the kids nailed our theme verse to the small blocks as something to take with them back to their rooms. Then they secretly wrote something on a piece of folded paper that they thought seperated them from God (sin), and nailed it to their group?s section of wood.

Theme verse was Romans 6:6  "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin."

When the groups came back together at the end, their wooden sections, covered with their sins, were assembled into one large cross, as the Gospel message concluded with a graphic representation of what Jesus Christ did for each of us on the cross.

Afterward, the cross was carried by some of the teens into the main assembly where we joined the younger kids. The American and Russian team members with flags from our respective countries then came to the stage and inserted the flags into the based of the cross, signifying our unity in Christ. The entire cross object lesson, with the flags, was then presented as a gift to the orphanage from our team.

As always, leaving can be one of the hardest parts, but it?s made a bit easier knowing that such a capable team of Russians is continuing to carry the message of Hope into these institutions throughout the year.

From the weeks of training and preparation before our trip, to the weeks of re-entry that followed, our team bonded like no team we?ve had before. Part of that bonding took place in a bowling alley in Moscow, late, the night before our 4am departure to the airport for our return flight home.

Robert and Ann, with their translators, Zhenya and Natalia, and the composite cross object lessons gift to the orphanage Robert and Ann, with their translators, Zhenya and Natalia, and the composite cross object lessons gift to the orphanage

None of us will ever be the same. God definitely redeems, but I?m so thankful that He also transforms us ? continually, as He conforms us more and more to Himself, through the Power of the cross.

Jesus said, ?But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.?     John 12:32