Russia is a vast country and I am just beginning to explore! I have slept in 10 different beds these last 20 nights. Here’s a little update on what I have been doing these last few days. For more stories and updates you can visit my blog at michaelairgood.blogspot.com
I spent a few days getting adjusted to culture and language by visiting old friends in Konakovo, where I was a high school exchange student. It helped to bring back many words. Language is still a daily struggle as I wasn’t that great three years ago when I left and haven’t studied since.
I spent one week in Otradney. Patrick Whaley and I helped run a children’s camp. The children were wonderful to work with – and the children’s director was superb. Every day she ran most of the programs, cooked two meals for 12 people, and scrubbed every floor in the church. She begged me to come back after I graduate, what an ego boost! We also spent time with the un-churched husbands of church women. The pastor translated for us. Our goal was for the men to get to know him. We succeeded and maybe a few of the men will join their wives in church.
Currently I’m working at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Samara, Russia. There are a dozen people living at the center. It is a one year program. There is no smoking, drinking, cussing, sex, drugs or non-Christian music, TV, or movies. There is a lot of prayer. We wake at 6AM for prayer, breakfast, prayer, work, Bible study, lunch, prayer, work, dinner, and then the really intense prayer and Bible study begins. No fooling around after dinner – it’s a time for serious worship, prayer, and preaching. We go to bed after prayer, usually around midnight.
After church on Sunday, we went to a park to feed the homeless, as I have done on many youth trips. Arture and Andrey talked with two of the homeless men for quite a while. Arture shared his testimony of drug addiction and recovery. When our car came to pick us up I was very surprised when the two homeless men also got in the car. I couldn’t image where we would drop them off. Half-way home I realized these men were coming to the rehab center with us. I have few doubts that in a year both men will be drug and alcohol free, passionately serving the Lord. What a tremendous witness the United Methodist Church in Russia has; to not just feed the homeless but to offer them a new life!
A dacha is a country home surrounded by vegetable gardens. Every Russian who has shown me their dacha has faithfully pointed out every row and described what was planted where. I could care less. Here at the rehab center I have worked every day in our garden. I now understand why Russian people are so eager to share every row and plant with me – where I have seen endless greenery they see hard work, sweat, and blood. After putting in my own time in the garden, I get it. I hope in this letter you don’t see row after row of meaningless activities, but that you can see a little bit of the hard work, sweat, and prayer that goes into every day.
Next week I will travel to Voronezh to work with a team of Americans remodeling the United Methodist church camp there. Following that I will be headed to Khirov – Kira Volkova is a 24 year old church planter working to start a church in Khirov. She is training university students to start and lead a small group – the goal is that when these students leave the university for home they will have the skills and faith to start small groups in every town and village across the region. It’s a brilliant strategy and reminds me a bit of how Methodism was founded. I and two Auburn students will be working with her for a few weeks. Love, Michael Airgood.