I hope you enjoy these blogs. It’s been fun to write them and to reflect on all that is happening. Of course, it’s impossible to tell you all that has happened and is happening but I do want to hit the highlights. A couple of funny things first:

1) I’ll never get used to watching someone lick and use their spoon for their own food and then stick it in the container of jelly to spread on their bread and then back again into their mouth. The same is to be said for sugar. Then, watching as the next guy does the same exact thing. And then a third and so on. Lick a used spoon clean, stick it in a container of food like jelly, then spread it on your bread, and then back into the jelly again. Then repeat with 2 more folks.

I think this is one custom that America need NEVER adopt. I am not for “double-dipping” in this way, ever. Made my stomach turn to be honest with you and I am grateful for your prayers for obvious reasons!

2) Driving in Siberia and even St. Petersburg is not for the faint of heart. Cars pass each other and there are only two lanes. One such car passed someone and we just moved slightly to the right. It was very close but no big deal to the man driving us. I am glad I am going to heaven when I die…just not eager to get there today.

3) The main roads are great but the side roads where people live are terrible. Little holes, deep holes, and some holes as big as a moon crater in the ground and filled with water. Scary, bumpy, indeed…can anyone say, “the transmission car business is booming here in Russia”?

4) Let’s just say, our conditions were very rustic and I didn’t take many showers. I did take a bath today but that’s it for 2 days. No internet other than a modem for 15-30 minutes per day and even then, family was 12 hours behind so there was little communication with family and friends.

5) Mark Jr. has been composing an electronic “symphony” for Artyom called “Artyom’s Symphony” of course. We were hoping to have it finished so we could dance and flash mob at the Moscow airport. I think it’s almost ready so if you hear about two Americans and a Ukrainian arrested in Moscow’s airport, you might call Mary for me. Thanks.

We finished up teaching today and ate lunch before heading off to Kemerovo (about 75 km from where we were). Teaching was great today and they were very attentive and respectful. My one defiant “student” left last night so it was a very enjoyable day of teaching. We finished strong and I was able to pray for these precious servants who love Christ, His Word, and serve selflessly. The prayer was from God and it touched my heart as well as theirs. I did not get to pray until the end because a pastor would pray in their own language each time. It was a privilege and I hope I remember to keep praying for these faithful students who are serving in their churches in Siberia, Russia.

One pastor worked 34 years as a coal miner and is the one who drove us home. He knows his Bible VERY well and quoted many, many Scriptures. I have not had a student like him in many years, to be honest, because he knew how to apply the Word. To think, he worked in a dark coal mine for over 3 decades and now is using his abilities to advance the kingdom in Siberia. Wow, my hero…and he drove us to the bishop’s home without good directions. It was a long, hard drive and now he headed north another 150 km. Service and sacrifice.

We are in the bishop’s home now with internet access. We go to bed at 9 pm and get up on Friday at 3:50 am to be at the airport in time for our 6:50 am flight to Moscow. We then fly from Moscow to New York, U.S.A. (That was nice to type.) Then from NY to Atlanta then to B’ham. 4 flights in all: 27 hours of travel. One very long day with 3 extra hours and little sleep. Thanks for your prayers.

It’s funny because the flight tickets make it look like we fly out of Siberia at 6:50 a.m. and land in B’ham at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, the same day. That would be great except we go back 12 hours so it’s going to be a long, long day. We hope the plane to NY has some movies or something to keep us occupied. It cannot be worse than what we have just experienced in terms of things to do and sitting on a plane might be better than sitting in the Lenin-Kuznetsky church all day for 5 days and 4 nights.

The wind really blows here in Siberia. Not sure why. I will have to ask my brother-in-law who is a meteorologist (sp?) at the University of Alabama. This wind could knock you down. I heard it banging around stuff on the roof all night.

I made sure we got a picture of me wearing shorts outside in Siberia. I’ll spare you the details but oh, yeah, that happened. I think my great grandfather was a member of the polar bear club so it must run in our family. Plus, I have a very thick beard now which helped. Are we losing our minds? Yes, I think it’s safe to say that may have already happened.

Looking forward to sleeping in this home in a great bed tonight. I have not slept well, having lots of dreams which is an indication that I did not have deep sleep. Since we’ve been taking JuicePlus, I never dream, never wake up, and sleep like a rock for 8-10 hours. It’s a great benefit of that food product.

We ate Borsch (sp?) for dinner and are relaxing now. It’s good to be an American. Now, let’s pray we are able to get back to the homeland safely and in our right minds, if it’s not too late.

-Mark (blessed by the Creator and One True God who is Sovereign over all things)

P.S. Thankful to OIC for allowing me the privilege to serve the Lord in Russia. www.discoveroic.org