Each day gets better and better. I guess we are getting used to Russian culture and lifestyle. I don’t know if one ever gets used to being crammed in like sardines on a subway car with total strangers but it doesn’t seem to bother the Russian citizens. Plus, we tried a McDonald’s here and it tasted better than in the USA. I was surprised.

Today was a strong day of teaching. We did my “bread and butter” case study and Preferences Inventory (formerly Truth-Grace Inventory) and it was a huge hit just like it has been almost everywhere I’ve taught it: Romania and places in the States! People love doing team counseling and wrestling through that case study.

These students at OIC are phenomenal. They love the Word and better yet, they KNOW and OBEY the Word. This is the cream of the crop pastors, rehab workers, and other ministry leaders. Their answers are quick since they know the Bible so well and we have very thoughtful, lively discussions. I enjoyed today’s lectures and exercises and it seems we are all getting more comfortable with each other and the unique teaching style. I hate to say it but I wish some of the Americans I have taught would know the Bible this well. I’m reminded about what Jesus said to the Pharisees: “You err not knowing the Scriptures…” and I think that is common place in the States. You would be blown away at their insightful answers and biblical thought processes. This is no group of baby Christians and we are going deep.

Wayne Vanderweir has taught these Russian students well and it is a pleasure to add to the foundation of Christ in biblical counseling that Wayne has laid.

We are sleeping fairly well now and that helps a lot. The food is really great and really healthy. These precious, elderly Russian women cook, feed, serve, and care for us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is really nice. I thought I would lose weight on this trip but they serve me such large portions and are insulted if I do not eat it all. They like hot tea after each meal and even serve a dessert like a cookie or piece of cake.

The church building where I am teaching is beautiful and unique outside and inside. It is a scenic place to do ministry.

We walk about 30 minutes each day through ice, snow, and mud and there is no way around it. The weather is nice and this afternoon felt like light jacket weather. We were sweating heavily today due to the warmth.

I saw a very unique site: a woman who either worked or lived in a portable toilet. We call them “port-a-potties” at home and I’ve never seen someone sitting inside one that was decorated like a home. It was very sad if that is her home. I hope she was just working there taking money since you have to pay to use one of them. Artyom didn’t know and I wasn’t going to find out. You see some sad things when you are in a country like this and the countenance on people’s faces is very serious. They are a sober-minded people and their Christianity is focused and serious which is actually refreshing. Some of these pastors only have 12-15 people in their churches but they are serving Christ regardless and loving it.

We have 2 days of teaching left and I have so much to teach that I’m not sure I can cover all that I had planned. I guess when you write 8 books and 8 booklets, you have a lot to say about what you are passionate about and I certainly love helping “addicts.” After the next 2 days, we have 2 days off for travel to Siberia. We will essentially miss a night’s sleep as we take a plane at 6 pm and then a second plane at 10:30 pm landing in Siberia at 6 am the next day (losing 3 more hours due to time zone changes). So we will have to adjust before I preach in Siberia on Sunday and then teach again Monday-Thursday. It will be weird being a half day ahead of Birmingham. Then, we fly home at 6 am on Friday, April 26th, which will be the longest day of our lives as we come back 12 time zones. Yikes! Siberia will be tough for us: no internet, no leaving the dorm facility/church, no comforts, and sleeping with a bunch of people we cannot communicate with, but we think we will have a bed and maybe a private room. I hope so!

We’ll probably have 3 more updates at the most and then it will be off to Siberia, a place where they used to send people for banishment. I certainly hope that trend has been discontinued…

-Mark (were it not for grace)

Check out the OIC website at www.discoveroic.org