Moscow, Porridge, and the Grace of God
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of leading a team to Moscow for a pastor’s conference sponsored by Global Advance. The team was actually just me and my friend John Gillespie so there wasn’t a lot of leading going on…but I was still the leader, so that made me in charge and stuff. One of the benefits of traveling with John was that he has traveled internationally a lot more than I have, so when I got to the airport I was his guest in the American Airlines admiral’s club. (You can see my stellar leadership skills in action here as I delegated to John the choice of lounges we would use.)
Our flights were uneventful as we had a short stop in London to connect with our flight on into Moscow. Our host for the conference was Pastor Mikhail (Misha) Murza. Misha’s son, Lot, met us at the airport late on a Wednesday afternoon and took us to their home where Misha was cooking us a traditional Russian dinner of beef sausage, potatoes, and some red stuff that I’m still not sure what it was. We spent the night at Misha’s house, had a late breakfast of porridge (I didn’t know that stuff actually existed outside of fairytales), then headed over to the conference center to check into our room and get ready for the conference that began that afternoon.
The conference was attended by about 200 pastors and leaders from the region around Moscow though some had traveled a great distance (two or three days) to attend. These wonderful people were extremely gracious and seemed genuinely thankful that we had traveled such a long way to minister to them. I honestly hadn’t thought about that because I consider it such an honor to serve these men and women that work so hard, some in harsh conditions, for the sake of the gospel.
Each year Global Advance hosts and sponsors pastor’s conferences, roundtables and other training initiatives for indigenous pastors around the world. Over 90% of pastors in developing nations will never have the chance to attend seminary or receive formal Bible training. Many are in desperate need of encouragement. Global Advance training events are catalysts for church planting, discipleship and indigenous transformational efforts. Global Advance provides national pastors and church leaders with a vision in their hearts and tools in their hands for the advance of the Gospel worldwide.
Our conference was held in a conference center on the outskirts of Moscow with an attached hotel as well as a cafeteria so we were able to have all our meals together (Btw, each morning we had more porridge…I’m starting to like that stuff). At each meal, John and I were able to interact with different pastors through our translator Michael, and got a feel for the climate that they are serving in. Many of the pastors were older, had lived under communism and still struggled with the changing worldview and culture of their nation. They find it difficult to get the people in their churches very motivated or excited about sharing the gospel.
Because of the oppressive nature of communism, many of the Russian people still lack much ambition or motivation to improve or grow. Consequently, many of their churches remain small and ineffective and, of course, finances are very tight. Many of the pastors would tell us, with tears in their eyes, of the difficulties they face trying to reach the country that they still love so much. It was such a privilege for John and I to be a source of encouragement and training for these precious people.
As I do almost every chance I get, I spoke on the amazing power of God’s grace in each of my messages. Every time I spoke, it was so humbling to watch as they took notes on almost everything I said. And, as I have come to expect, it was awesome to watch as God set their hearts free, began to heal their brokenness, and gave them hope and vision for the future. God loves his people so much; the church is, after all, His bride. It is such a joy for me to watch as he pours out his love and grace, by the power of His word.
On the third day, one of the pastors asked to speak with John and I during a break. We found a quiet room where we had some privacy and this pastor began to pour out his heart. He spread a map of the region he was from out on the table and begin to show us and tell us about each city where he feels God is calling him to plant churches. He is the pastor of a small church but is consumed with the call of the gospel and the compulsion of the Holy Spirit to be part of fulfilling the great commission. Tears ran down his face as he circled city after city and told us about the people there and their great need. Honestly, the skeptic in me was waiting for him to ask us for money. But he never did. He just asked us over and over again to pray for him, to ask people to pray for Russia, and to ask people to come and serve.
The conference came to a close on Saturday afternoon and person after person came up and thanked us for coming. Many would bring an interpreter and tell us of their renewed passion for ministry and their desire to plant new churches and reach out to their communities. Many simply hugged us and thanked us in Russian but the looks on their faces and the light in their eyes needed no interpretation. The grace of God had invaded Moscow and none of us will ever be the same again.
Want to help with the next conference?
If you do nothing else, please help by praying for these pastor’s conferences. You can pray specifically for me and the other speakers; pray for our safety and health, pray for travel logistics, pray for team dynamics, and more than anything else, pray that we receive a word from God specifically for those who will be in attendance. Please pray that we will be both an encouragement and challenge to them.
Also please be in prayer for those that will be attending the conferences. Many of these pastors travel long distances through difficult and dangerous environments just to receive what God has for them these conferences. Please pray that their hearts will be prepared for what God has for them. Pray that they will be inspired and motivated to put into action the convictions God lays in their hearts. Pray that they will receive new vision and passion for ministry. And please pray for their families. Pray for their health and safety, and they will be supportive of the ministries each of these pastors are called to.
For a more detailed prayer guide for you can specifically and intentionally intercede for our conferences please click here.
All of the pastor’s conferences that I participate in are completely at my expense. If you would like to help support me financially on these trips, you can do so on the Grace Community Church donor page. Simply enter the amount you would like to give and choose “International Pastor’s Training” from the drop down menu. These funds are placed in an account for my trip expenses only. I do not, nor will I ever, receive any personal income from this account. After each trip, I present an expense report to our elder board for approval before receiving any level of reimbursement. In this way, I remain accountable to our elders for all of my travel expenses.
Your prayers and financial gifts are deeply appreciated by myself as well as the thousands of pastors I am able to invest in each year. Thank you so much for your support.