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Spiritual Tourism 101

Today Anna and I joined our visiting friends from Eastern Washington on a trip to Christ the Savior Cathedral downtown. Often, when we host visitors, we try to resist the temptation to tell them everything we think we know about the people and places around them. From our own experience, we've learned that one of the greatest joys of travel involves coming into contact with a new culture, new ideas, and new traditions, and learning about those things first hand from the people who live there - that is what really creates a lasting impression and connection with any new place and people. 
We've created a spiritual tourism guide for Moscow which embraces this concept based on the Field Observation Process (FOP) featuring first hand interaction with the places and traditions of Russia, all within the context of building new friendships with the people that live here. The first trip, Spiritual Tourism 101, involves two of Russia's most spiritual locations: Christ the Savior Cat…
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Winter Bible Conference 2017

Peter was hunched up against the window of the high-speed train to Saint Petersburg, trying desperately to see how the train rolled along the rails when we got the message: "the health department has closed the location for the conference, please pray."
Many of the 115 students and staff from 17 cities across Russia were already en route, like us, to our annual Winter Bible Conference when this unexpected news hit. We arrived in St. Pete, shaking the softly falling snow from our luggage and hats, not fully knowing what to think or expect for this year's conference. However, while we were flying across Russia's rails, praying for help and provision, staff in St. Pete had hit the ground searching for a new location to fit our demographic and budget - not an easy task. In the end, we got our answer and miraculously nobody was lost in the shuffle.


The opening meeting emerged from non-stop logistical, physical, and relational chaos and met an audience surprisingly humble…

Neighbors

We saw him coming from about 10 yards away, uncontrolled lunges throwing him across the sidewalk, then small steps sending him stumbling into fence and icy overgrowth as we approached, breathing heavy, just having joked about the early winter and its influence on our running speed. “Careful,” I whispered, probably just as much to myself as my two companions. I’d forgotten it was a holiday weekend, or as most Russians joke, just another excuse to drink. The streets' stillness and relative emptiness seemed even more unusual than what we experience most early Saturday mornings and this guy’s drunken gait immediately pushed into my mind the Embassy’s weekend emergency message: “In the past, some rallies celebrating National Unity Day have been marred by violence, including targeting of non-ethnic Russians. In the last week, the U.S. Embassy has received two reports of American citizens being assaulted in what appear to be acts of anti-western/American sentiment.” Probably harmless, I …

World Youth Day

It was a remarkable experience.

Nuns in habits sharing tents in fields.


"Papa Francesco!" chanted at full volume while stampedes of young people followed the Pope-mobile.


Endless bushels of tomatoes and paté donated for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for volunteers.


Small gatherings of mini-masses constantly taking place all over the city.


Sleeping on a gym floor with a hundred of my closest friends.


People and flags stretching beyond what the the eye can see.


It was an incredible two weeks: meeting young people from all over the world, learning about faith from a different viewpoint, and dialoguing openly and earnestly with believers, seekers, and agnostics alike. Our group of volunteers primarily ran charging stations where people could recharge their phones and other devices. While they waited, we explained that we were official evangelists and our job was to talk to pilgrims about the gospel and to ask them if they had made a decision to follow Jesus.



I got to talk about …

Great-Pa

At the time, it tasted like the perfect combination of spicy salsa over scrambled eggs, just the way I liked it.
But now, I can see, it's not only enduring 8 ruckus cousins piled on the floor for the summer,  but making their favorite breakfasts for them each day.
At the time, it was glimmer of the holiday decorations around the house;  the lantern and lights were always bright, inviting, always welcoming to me.
But now, it's a man who fought for the right to celebrate holidays in this country  whatever way we please, and embraces that right.
At the time, it was the delight of finding the extra few treats on  Halloween that appeared in my pumpkin and seeing the hand which slipped them in.
But now, it's a man who is generous and kind to his children's children.
At the time, it was the joy of walking from Holly Hills to have candy with Grandpa after school instead of going home to carrots and apples.
But now, it's a man who enjoys life and enjoys making life more enjoyable.
At the…

More than Margin

Since arriving back in Moscow with 3 little ones in tow, I've been struggling to find a good rhythm for our family.  I often feel as though I have somehow, between child 2 and 3, lost any sense of margin.  It's difficult to explain, but this one new child, despite the fact that she's the easiest baby we've had, feels as though any kind of space or time to catch up, to cover up, or clean up has suddenly vanished. 
Walking home late the other night from a women's day party with our Russian friends and coworkers, I glanced at the time and cringed. I estimated about four hours of sleep that night between feedings for Evie and Peter's joyous, but early, wake up call. The 3rd night in a row. That sleep is gone for good. There is no space to sleep in for another two weeks or so, going to bed early depends mostly on Evie and her evening routine. For perhaps the first time in my mothering life, I have lost control over the basics I didn't realize I had until now. I c…

Evangelina Hope

She's here!
She's beautiful!
And we couldn't be more overjoyed.
Evangelina Hope made her way speedily into the world at 3pm on December 4th. She weighed 7lb 12oz and measured 20".

Evangelina comes from the Greek εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion) which literally translates to "good news," where we get our word "gospel." Evangelina means "bearer of good news." During this season of Advent, we're daily reminded of the hope we have in Christ's first appearance as a child. Jessica Snell said it well: "In the first coming, when He became human and walked among us and redeemed us, He made us right. And when He comes again, He will make everything right." This is good news indeed! Evangelina Hope, in her Advent birth, reminds us of Christ's beginning and also of His end purpose.
As Evangelina Hope is a rather large name for such a small person, she also goes by Evie or Eva for Russian speakers.
Welcome to our world, little Evie.

You …