Yesterday wrapped up our time of rest. We played ping pong until there was no tomorrow so it was not like rest and relaxation but it was good to get my mind off of all of the teaching! I lost once to the Bishop’s son, David, but was able to win every other game and there were many, many, many games to 11 and a few to 21. Not much to do other than to play table tennis in their den, UNO, and cards.

It was nice to drive around Kemerovo, Siberia, and “sightsee” if you can call it that. Wow, the poverty is amazing and the living conditions are dire. Please pray that God’s Spirit will go forth in a greater way in coming days and that He will lead more of these precious people in Sibersia to Himself. 600,000 people live in Kemerovo and it is an important industrial city to Russia. We visited a coal mining museum and it was really nice. We walked around it and took pictures. We did not go inside. The museum was an American colony at one time where Americans came to live while mining coal. It was very clean and well cared for.

Then, we went to a “Friendship on the River” restaurant to eat shish-kabobs with the bishop and his wife. It was a scenic area with delicious food, electronic music, dancing, and the “whole nine yards” as Artyom likes to say. The dancing was very low key, not much movement, which is my kind of dancing though I stayed far away from the dance floor. We feasted and the bishop and his wife were glad we treated them because they are not wealthy.

The Bishop here oversees 24 churches and had meetings for his 3 districts: north, middle, and south. He had to fly to Moscow for the week so he will not be in the training module with the students. Pastors from all over will be in the module and it will be fun for me to teach the same lessons over but better this week than last, prayerfully!

On Sunday, I preached again on Luke 15, the prodigal son parable as it is commonly called. The people are precious and it is much fun to experience the culture. The church is 70 km from Kemerovo so I am in a different town and that is the location of the training this week. So we are not in the big city of Kemerovo anymore.

We can do some laundry here at the church and are doing it which is a welcome blessing. It’s not like laundry in America but it will do.

Mark Jr. found a guitar. He and David, the bishop’s son, jammed out together. That was really cool! They sounded pretty amazing together as they are both very gifted musicians. We all loved it, especially the bishop’s wife (that sounds like a movie title). She is so kind. We took over her home with loud ping pong playing (ok, I was kinda loud and into it since everyone was trying to knock me off) and just served us meals and in so many other ways. She really loved the two scarves my daughters made for her. She was as excited as the other pastor’s wife back in St. Pete! My girls must have a gift for scarf making.

We gave them some Hershey bars and I gave the bishop two American ties. Not sure if he wears them so he may need to sell them on Ebay. Who knows…I might get them back one day! They like homemade gifts and that was as close to homemade as I can get.

One more VERY cool note. The Bishop took my son to the youth event at the church from 3 to 6 pm. He had no interpreter and was immersed in Ruski (roos-key is how they say “Russian”) culture. We haven’t talked about it yet so I’m eager to hear how it went but I could tell at the church that the other children were treating him like a celebrity. He may be the most popular kid in Siberia now. That was a once in a lifetime experience: youth group in Siberia. Not too many people can say they have experienced that!

I know the bishop’s 3 sons look up to Mark Jr. and asked him to come down for tea at 10 pm. He didn’t because we had only 3 hours of sleep and had to go to bed but they asked him twice. I have a celebrity son here in Siberia. I guess if you can make it in Siberia, you can make it anywhere…well, maybe not.

It’s been fun and we’ve had a lot of laughs again. Now, the serious work begins…

-Mark (grateful to God)