I'm a complex person. I need a great deal of encouragement to survive the difficulties of life. At home and at school I surround myself with people who build others up and generally avoid those who tear down. The downside of this, however, is that when I am away from that support system I need to find encouragement in other places.
I found that encouragement today. We drove several hours on busy highways to a little town off the beaten path call Otratney. The Methodist church building here looks like most Methodist churches in America. The largest problem is a lack of men in the church. We are here to try to engage a few of the men and get them in contact with the pastor. It's been a long time traveling and I was fairly discouraged. We are staying with the pastor, which is fine. I was quite surprised, however, when I went to my bedroom to see a familiar picture of Jesus hanging over my bed. The portrait of Jesus is a copy of the one that hangs in my church, which an artist did live, in front of my home congregation. I'm sure he does the same painting over and over, but I had never seen it before I started attending Toccoa First ... and here, in a little town off the beaten path - I find the same picture where I lay my head.
A strange thought occurred to me today. My mother tells me that my great grandmother belonged to the Salvation Army. When her oldest son came home with tales of being picked on for being in the "army of the Lord" they decided to go to a mainline church - the United Methodist Church. I grew up in this church, became a Christian in this church, and have chosen to follow God in vocation through this church. Here in Russia, because it is new and different it is sometimes viewed as a "sect" or a cult - how we might view the Jehovah's Witnesses. We fight against this designation every day. However, I notice the beautiful, gentle irony in the fact that it is precisely because my great grandmother left a church that was considered too abnormal that I stand here today telling Russian youth and young adults to join and stick with a church that many consider too abnormal. Only a God so big could orchestrate such a beautiful irony.