What do Russia, Jan 2012 and Nashville, May 2012 have in common?
My first trip to Russia was full of unknowns. 25-30 women would travel to Russia with Debbi Bryson and CCCPM. I only knew Maryann Willer and had just met a few of the gals going down in Oceanside a couple months prior.
I was on my way to see MaryAnn, whom I call, "My Home Away From Home". She was down in Oceanside helping with a women's conference. Perry and MaryAnn have become such dear friends to me as they gave me a home while I was recording "Five O'Clock" with Danny Donnelly in 2010 for about 6-8 weeks in Northern California.
The thought crossed my mind, "I want to go to Russia with MaryAnn," as I drove down 45 minutes to Oceanside where MaryAnn was visiting. I thought that was a strange thought because I hadn't thought of going to Russia since we had "almost" gone to Russia in 2008 when our church missions trip was changed to go to Africa. When MaryAnn opened the door of the house, her first words were, "Do you want to go to Russia?" I intended only to visit for an hour or so, when circumstances turned and I ended up staying the entire evening. I went to dinner with the girls where we shared life stories, prayed for each other, and attended the women's Bible Study taught by Debbi. At the study, we covered a verse that I felt was the verse that confirmed me going, but I didn't want to acknowledge it till I could pray with my husband about it.
Long story short--- I found myself in Russia with these girls a couple months later. Non-stop work and fellowship with the ladies from Russia and America. When we arrived at the Women's Retreat, we all went straight to work in the areas for which we were each responsible.
When the Russian women arrived to the women's retreat, we greeted them and laughed with them. Oh it was SOOO cold outside.
They each walked from the train in the dark, cold and bitter air. It was so cold, you cannot leave your smart phone exposed and out of your pocket without it shutting down in just a few minutes. We tried standing out there to watch them arrive, but not without a heavy coat you couldn't!
The weekend was filled with worship, teaching, workshops, praying with girls, crying and laughing with the girls, listening to them, sitting with them, drinking coffee and tea with them, standing arm and arm with them as we sang or prayed, and sitting and eating with the girls.
Some brought their children and the American girls took such good care of them. Some of the Russian girls served together with the American team and we all bonded in a special way.
There were moments of "sitting in the river" (that's another story I would have to write about). There were moments with the staff who worked at the retreat center.
I couldn't remember the last time I had cried and laughed with this many women in this short amount of time. It was such a time of healing. I loved every moment.
Sherri Youngward, a worship leader and singer/songwriter I respect and love very much, gave me the opportunity to minister to the girls through music in a little optional concert the 2nd day. It was such a sweet time sharing what God has been teaching me put to lyric and music.
I also had the opportunity to speak during a workshop session: Responding to Your Call. So many girls came that we had to add seats. We prayed Jesus would send who we wanted to hear that message. So many of the ladies requested prayer and a listening ear after the workshop, that those moments went on throughout the retreat!
There were so many moments that would probably keep this "short" blog going on and on and on. It was an IMMENSELY sweet time at the retreat which I shall ALWAYS cherish and hope to be able to partake in again EVERY year… but that's up to Jesus.
We then made our way to an orphanage where we shared the hope and message of Jesus through song, plays, and gifts. As I shared my testimony, I asked the children if they thought God was mad at me that I had walked away from Him. So many raised their hands believing that He was. We were able to share with them that He is NOT angry with them, but that He loves them, died for sin, and wants to save us from death that sin causes in every person. Everyone who spoke or shared had such a deep impact on the children and a few even committed their lives to Jesus!
I was the last to leave the theatre/auditorium when the director of the orphanage spouted a bunch of Russian words with a huge smile, squeezed my cheeks, and gave me a hug. I can only imagine that her heart was also touched by The Savior, as it was a beautiful moment. I know God knows what she said.
We also shared Gospels of John with random people at coffee shops, trains, train stations, metros, metro trains, airplanes, and wherever and whoever came our way as a group. The CCCPM folks on the ground made our "tourist-y" day an opportunity for shining light in darkness while buying souvenirs. :) It was a joy.
The answers to the unknowns were answered in 10 short days: What will it be like? Who will I meet? What will I do? How cold will it feel in the dead of winter? How will God use me there? What will it be like serving with so many women I don't know? What friendships and relationships will result from this time?
Had I not gone to Russia, I would not have met Sandy and the girls from Nashville. Had Sandy from Millersville not invited me to stay at her home in Millersville, my band and I would have never stumbled into the Millersville Waffle House.
Had we not stumbled into the Millersville Waffle House one sweet girl would not have known she could give her life to Jesus after an impromptu concert at that Waffle House and the other gals and patrons there would not have heard that night how much Jesus cares, loves, and chases them!
Had we never met them, they would not have known about Calvary Chapel at Rivergate as their new home and community of believers who can come alongside and encourage them, love them, and walk with them in this life.
Russia was not just about Russia. Nashville was not just about Nashville. All of this is about Jesus and leaving the 99 to go find the ONE! Where does He want to send you? Where will He send me?
I leave for Russia AGAIN in June! Praying for more lost sheep to find their Shepherd to bring them into fold and find protection for their souls and hope for their lives in Him!