“Why do you go to Russia?”
I get asked this a lot. It is a good question, one I enjoy answering. The quick answer is “Because God told me to.” This is rarely enough of an answer to satisfy someone. Often their immediate response is “but… but… how do you know that?” The “knowing” part of what God wants you to do can come to a person in several different ways. Sometimes it is like intuition, you just feel it. Sometimes it is a firmly established desire or certainty that is built over years of making faithful choices. It can even be a confidence that is built over years of putting ourselves in position to be used by God, then watching God go to work (via us). In my case it began back in the summer of 1989. On faith, I had decide to offer up my summer to God. I had been challenged by someone to give God a summer of your life, and watch what God can do. So I found myself traveling to Austria to work in a refugee ministry. That summer I met many Russians who were living in a camp, without their families, home or careers. I listened to them describe lives that were lived without hope. It is the countless life stories that I have heard over the years and how God continually uses me to bring truth, grace, forgiveness, and hope into them, that has fueled my desire to minister in Russia.
One such story comes from a conversation I had a few years back. I had met with an old friend to catch up on life. After a while the conversation took an unexpected turn. My friend began to talk about how guilt has shaped him as a person. “I feel weighed down by guilt. Sometimes it feels as if all my life I have had this incredible burden that presses down on me.” When I asked how this effected his life he responded. “It makes me doubt myself in all kinds of situations. My culture, my parents, my in-laws, everyone seems to criticize me on a regular basis. I don’t know what to do about it. It is not just me by the way, many of my friends feel the same way. It feels as if guilt is a big chain weighing everyone down.” This man had been a Christian for well over 10 years, so I was surprised to hear this. I inquired about forgiveness from God and the freedom from guilt that Jesus brings into our lives, but he just looked at me dejectedly and said “forgiveness and freedom those are just words to me.” Based on this conversation I incorporated some teachings on guilt and freedom in Christ into one of my sermons the next week, repeating some of what my friend had said. Afterwards several other people come up to me and said that they could easily identify with those feelings they feel the same way. One thing I have learned is that I can never assume just because someone goes to church, reads their Bible, and prays along side of me, that they have experienced the freedom that comes with knowing Jesus. My friend also happens to be a key leader in his church. One of the main ministries that I have in Russia (apart from preaching) is to help guide and mentor Christian leaders. Sitting with them, listening, encouraging, and counseling them is what I treasure most about the time that I am able to spend in Russia.
This September I am excited to have the opportunity to travel to Russia and reconnect with many of these leaders throughout the Urals region in Russia. I will be leaving around Sept 21st, returning about two weeks later. Please pray for this trip. I will need help, guidance, funding, strength, and wisdom from God’s community to help make this mission trip a success.
For more information please visit our blog http://wynardrussia.blogspot.com/ Lucy and I set this up many years ago to help our supporters follow us as we travel and minister in Russia. You can find lots of stories, pictures, statistics, and very important prayer requests.
If you would like to support this mission, donations can be made through Alpine Lutheran Church. Designate your gifts for “Russia Mission” Thank you so much for all your prayers, encouragement and support!
– Pastor Dan
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