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Ok, we are heading home now after a wonderfully fruitful trip to Russia by God’s amazing grace.

First, thanks to Wayne and Susie Vanderweir for allowing me to serve with them. I hope this is not the last time. I made some rookie mistakes but have learned from them and will be a much better all-around teacher after this experience.

Second, thanks to Artyom who interpreted and translated for us. He is a rare interpreter who “get it” so I could trust him even when I didn’t say it very well, I knew he would say it better. And he did because he is a great teacher, servant of Christ, and passionate about biblical counseling.

Third, thanks to my son, Mark Jr. who finished up the “Symphony of Artyom” (I had the title backwards in last blog post). I love this song and we hope to have some pics of the trip set to this song in days ahead. You won’t want to miss that! Stay tuned…

Fourth, thanks to my wife for holding down the fort. We are in the middle of transitioning the Regional Office of Truth in Love Ministries by leaving it in the hands of Bill Dill in Birmingham, we have an offer on our home so we have inspections and repairs, and we are packing to move to Indiana. Plus, we need a place to live so she is researching. that plus doing TIL work and JuicePlus work and raising 3 children at home. The label, “Superwoman” comes to mind…

Fifth, thanks to all the great students who really showed interest in learning and were so very knowledgeable in the Word. It was refreshing to be honest with you. Sometimes we have to schedule training sessions around the Alabama and/or Auburn games but in St. Pete and Siberia, they brave the snow, wind, rain, subway, lack of funds, and other major obstacles to find an excuse to come. They are invested and it frankly reminds me of how weak our Christian faith can be in America, me included in that. Still, I’m grateful for America and eager to get back there though I long for a staunch faith in Christ!

Sixth, thanks to the Russians who were so sacrificial. The Kemerovo bishop’s family has given up their beds and rooms for us. They fixed us dinner and blessed us so much that we cannot thank them enough. What a wonderful reflection of Christ!

Seventh, thanks to all of you for praying for us. God allowed us so few problems that it is truly evident His Hands were upon us the entire way.

*****

One student in Siberia was a delightful, older woman who actually writes for a published newspaper that is sent to three places in the USA for Russians living in the states. She gave me a paper and a bunch of individualized souvenirs for my family so I don’t have to spend gobs of money on things for them. She has a gift of making things beautiful and it is precious. She reminded me of my daughters, Sarah and Rachel, in that way.

Ping pong update. We were unable to play at the bishop’s home as they had something to do until 9 pm. No rematch for me. I have improved my game immensely and it will just have to be witnessed in the states alone now. Sorry, Siberia.

I learned that I don’t have to spend time on the disease concept of addiction here in Russia. They had not heard of that approach much, though they had heard of A.A., so when I explained it to them, they responded with: “Oh, that sounds like heresy.” To which, I just smiled because they are right. Why don’t Americans see the man-centered, self-help lies behind this “disease concept” of addiction? Maybe it’s that we don’t know our Bibles well enough…

We did lots of interactive activities and it really enhanced learning. I think the 2nd week went much better than the first because I knew the culture better and what worked and didn’t work last week. Less students received a greater benefit, praise God!

We are in Moscow airport awaiting 12 hour flight to New York. If we can make it there (NY), we can make it anywhere!

-Mark (glad to be flying home and praying for those precious traveling mercies)

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