Greetings from Russia! This is the first opportunity for internet since we arrived, so I apologize for the delayed posting. And we will only be here for one night, so I am trying to get the first posts updated as the excitement and energy continue to build here. Please excuse the brevity of these first few posts as sleep may take a higher priority than trying to find the perfect word! Thanks for understanding.
First of all, in writing this first post from our trip, I realize that this blog has three distinct groups that might be reading:
- Those who attended the recent Mission 1:27 meeting on Sunday and might be exploring the blog for the first. I encourage you to go back to the earlier posts for a recounting of our first trip to get a sense of what all the excitement is about.
- Those who might have followed the initial trip via the blog and are coming back to learn more about the efforts of Mission 1:27 and what is happening in the Kirov Region thanks to our partnership with Children’s HopeChest.
- Those who went on the first trip to Russia and, in addition to the point above, also want to hear stories about familiar places and faces.
So I will do my best to serve each constituency with the upcoming posts – and ask for your leniency if some of the posts lean one way more than the other.
First, for background, this trip includes a small group of people passionate about Russia and the opportunity to serve orphans there. The six people on the trip:
- Craig W. – from Mission 1:27 team in Chapel Hill
- Bob M. – COO of Children’s HopeChest (CHC)
- Vince G. – Outreach Director of Children’s HopeChest
- Ernie A. – retired leader from Birmingham, AL with tremendous connections and a passion for the Kirov Region
- Doug D. – business leader from outside Pittsburgh and Board Member of CHC
- Steve W. – business leader from San Fran area and Board Member of CHC
This is a great visionary group of leaders who want to explore ways to better serve the orphan population in Russia, especially in helping transition graduating orphans to lead productive lives as Russian citizens.
The first two days were filled with travel – no surprises there (except for Vince whose flight to London was canceled due to ash and arrives on Wed). For those who may not know the route, here it is again:
The plane ride was thankfully uneventful on our end. Ernie, Doug and I were on the same flight and spent the time chatting about everything and anything ranging from the amazing way God is pulling everything together to college baseball scores. I got a little sleep (about 3.5 hours) but the time flew thanks to great conversation with these guys…and enjoying how Ernie coached the two ladies sitting behind us who were making their first trip to Moscow. Ernie has never met a stranger and by the end of the flight, we were helping our new friends with their immigration forms and coaching them on how to get through customs.
The first thing I noticed upon arrival was the lack of snow. We were here just six weeks ago and there was still a great deal of snow that needed melting. Just six weeks later, all the snow is gone, everything is green, the flowers are blooming and it seems like a different place. The temperature was in the mid 60’s upon arrival and a nice spring thunderstorm announced our arrival to everyone.
We had about seven hours before our overnight train to Kirov, so we took our time. We explored the Metro (subway), which we had avoided on our last trip due to the bombing there. Lots of people on a busy Monday lunchtime. After a nice lunch at My My (pronounced Moo Moo) on Arbot Street, we headed back to the train station to get Bob and head to Kirov.
The train ride was also uneventful. I must admit that the train is one of my favorite parts of the trip. It is such a chance to explore Russian tradition. This is the main train line in Russia and the route Dr. Zhivago took 🙂 And it’s an even more exciting trip with Ernie, who can share the history of every landscape or add color to every situation. It stays light for a long time being this far north, so we stayed up late…forgetting that it also gets light very early, as the three folks in our cabin all woke up at 4:45 a.m. local time when the sun came up. More great conversation in the morning as we anticipated our 9:00 a.m. arrival in Kirov.
On this trip, we were joined by Katya C. and Masha, who are the two national leaders of Nadezhda Fund, which is really the operating arm of Children’s HopeChest in Russia. They are incredible leaders with a heart for God and a passion to serve the least of these in their home country. We will learn a lot from these women and their staff – I was a sponge during the conversation, listening to these experts and their opinions/insights.
About 40 hours after leaving our home in Chapel Hill, our train pulled up in Kirov and another exciting (and whirlwind) journey to Russia was underway. It was already Tuesday morning and some important meetings were about to begin. But not before an eye-opening experience awaited us at our hotel…