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We were able to get a wi-fi connection for about 30 minutes on Monday to post a Day 11 blog. The pastor loaned us his modem to send email and post a quick blog. It was a nice blessing.

We began the module with a bang with Artyom reviewing the last 2 modules. I then shared “What Biblical Counseling Has Meant to the Life, Family, and Ministry of One Man.” It is a wise way to begin because it allows me to share my testimony and talk about our family, ministry, and God’s grace. Wayne Vanderweir is very wise to begin this way. I taught my “From Slavery to Freedom” talk and then unpacked Genesis 1-4. Everywhere I go and teach that Genesis stuff about the origin of “addiction,” it is met with attentiveness and gratefulness. This group particularly listened well and asked great questions. It was interactive and I knew they were learning much.

We have a smaller group of students here in Siberia as compared to St. Pete. Pastors are poorer in this region, more spread out, and it is difficult to take off work for a week of training. The ones here are committed and it is great. One husband-wife team is here and the rest are men. Obviously, if they are here, they are “all in” and it’s fun teaching student who really want to study the Word of God.

Some funny lines:

1) A Russian saying: “Make yourself at home but don’t forget you are a guest!”

2) Each meal ends with a cup of hot tea so I thought I would try something different. Asking Artyom about one kind, he said it’s ok. After I got the new type of tea going, Artyom added me: “It’s not my favorite. It’s a little sour.” Thanks for the timely advice, Buddy!

3) I made a comment to the church that I saw more snow Sunday morning than I had in the past year in Alabama. One woman said that I should come back for one winter month. It would change my life, I’m sure. They have no school for 1 month in the winter.

4) Another Russian saying: “Listen to what a woman says to do and do the opposite.” Don’t shoot the messenger, Ladies. I’m just telling you what they told me Russians say!

5) Russian saying: “An unexpected guest is worse than a barbarian.” That is funny!

An important prayer request was answered by God: we found a fourth for ping pong. Andrew (that’s his English name) played with us so that we could play doubles. We have a lot of room to play and doubles is a nice change from playing singles. The administrator, Anatoly, challenged me, too, and is an excellent player. He hit well but I pulled out the win and remained undefeated in singles in Lenin-Kuznetski (sp?). I am improving my ping pong play and hope to play David, the bishop’s son, when we return to their home in Kemerovo prior to flying home on Friday. David is the best opponent I have faced on this trip who beat me once and I am up for the challenge: America vs. Russia. Youth vs. Wisdom. Skinny vs. — well, you get the idea! David was surprised I beat him twice before he was able to beat me. He got used to my style and adjusted. Now, after playing here in the church, I am adding a few new shots to my repertoire. We’ll see if the rematch happens and if I can hit my shots against him! He will probably annihilate me but I like a challenge.

Life is slow. I am cleaning up my computer, resting, and not taking showers. Strange new life but I am kind of liking it, other than no internet and my personal odor!

One different aspect of life here is that you open the window since it there is no way to adjust the heat. You have 2 options: crack the window at the top OR open it all of the way. We have been keeping it open both in St. Pete and here in Siberia. Yesterday was the first time we had to close it due to the cold.

The questions have been good. One man asked if this problem of drunkenness and addiction was too big for the church to handle (of course, not!). Another asked if you have to be an addict to help an addict. I cited II Cor. 1:3-4 but said that I would rather have a mature believer saturated in Scripture helping an addict than someone who was just an addict. There’s nothing magical about being an addict – that’s a myth propagated by A.A. and it has spread around the world. I wish the Gospel would spread that way (and it is by God’s grace through His committed servants).

A couple of students offer a little “push back” and I have to be tough with them. I remind them constantly that God by His Spirit has to change the heart and that we are not powerful enough to do so yet that is NOT an excuse to quit or give up.

We went to the pastor’s home and ate a second dinner (kinda like the Hobbit, eating a second breakfast!). I said “no thank you” but the interpreter said it was rude to do that so I ate. And I did not regret it. They feast well here when they have a reason to celebrate.

This pastor has 8 children (2 adopted) and one on the way. Those of you who know me know that I have something similar to a “spiritual gift” with 4 year olds. I get them and they get me. Well, this family had a 4 year old girl named Yawnya (sp?) and she and I hit it off quite well. She spoke English better than the other kids in the family and we laughed and played with her elephant. I taught her to “fist bump” and she showed me family pictures. It was really fun. She laughed so much as did I. Call it a gift but it is only with 4 year olds – not sure why other than I guess that’s my maturity level. I also like that they ask questions and explain big concepts in their own little ways with their little vocabulary. One of the highlights of the trip and I wish this family could visit us in America. They are special.

-Mark (meeting gifted, called, and precious people who are my brothers and sisters in Christ – though we cannot communicate directly here on earth, we will in heaven and that’s a cool thought!)