Amazing Belarus – 2013 (Part 1)

After a somewhat long hiatus from blogging, I’m finally able to post about my trip to Belarus.  In order to tell all about it, I’ve decided to break it up into several parts.

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Belarus:  What can I say?  It was beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking, uplifting, historical, challenging, exhausting, C-O-L-D, fun, and full of the most heartwarming, sincere people I’ve ever met.

This was my first trip to Belarus, and my decision to go was “last minute” as a result of someone else not being able to go.  Like most people in my situation, I was expecting a “parting of the sea” or a “burning bush” moment where I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was calling me to make this trip.  There was no such moment; there was just a constant “tugging” on the strings of my heart to go and teach conversational English and share the love of Christ with the people of Belarus.

After traveling over 24 hours, we arrived in Minsk, Belarus, in the early morning hours.  As I went through customs, I was pulled aside by customs agents to have my luggage put through the x-ray machine.  I told myself, “Be calm; you have nothing to hide.”  Yea….that worked!!  <<sarcasm>>  They said something in their language, and, of course, I didn’t understand.  Then the customs lady asked in broken English if I had coins, and I answered that I did not.  Then they took me around to the screen and asked me what all these small dots on the screen were.  I was perplexed at first, as they asked me to open my suitcase.  Now I am beginning to get somewhat concerned, but I was amazingly peaceful inside.  God was showing me He was in control and He would provide for all  my needs during this trip.  Suddenly I realized what the “dots” were!  As I began unzipping my bag, I explained I had occasional back spasms and the “dots” were my Therma Care heat wraps that I had brought with me in case my back acted up.  I took several out and showed them the packaging with the pictures, and explained it was the little “heat” packs that showed up as the “dots” on the x-ray machine.  They were satisfied and said I could go.

We were scheduled to take about an hour riding tour of the city and some of the historical sites.  Since I hadn’t really slept at all while traveling the past 24 hours, I was very tired and the last thing I wanted was to ride around in the extreme cold in a van with a heater that couldn’t manage to put out much heat.  However, as we drove and listened to some of the history of this country, my exhaustion melted away and my interest in this country and its history piqued.  God once again provided for my needs in a most unusual way.  Here are a few pictures of Minsk.

The National Library

The National Library

The house where communism was "born."

The house where communism was “born.”

Monument honoring those who fought in the war.

Monument honoring those who fought in the war.

KGB building.

KGB building.

Memorial to the Jews that died in WWII.

Memorial to the Jews that died in WWII.

More of the memorial to the Jews that died in WWII.

More of the memorial to the Jews that died in WWII.

Well, that’s enough for today.  I’ll tell more about my Belarus trip soon!

BIG DECISION: Mission Trip

I have made a big decision in the last week. I have decided to go on a mission trip with our church group to Belarus. Our church has taken a couple of trips to Belarus, so our leaders know all the requirements, restrictions, etc. I will be part of a team going into Minsk to teach Conversational English.

The course is free to the Belarussians who want to learn how to speak English. It does not involve grammar rules or sentence structure. We will teach them how to pronounce words correctly and how to say something in English the way we would say it when just conversing with friends. Therefore, ANYONE can do this kind of teaching — all you have to be able to do is speak English! I just hope they don’t pick up my southeast Missourian accent!

We will be going in January, and it will be VERY cold there. Since I seem to be REALLY hot all the time now days, I’m sure I will be just fine! We will be holding the classes and staying in a seminary. Our accommodations will be dormitory-style and all our meals will be provided by the church. We will be teaching four two hour classes each day for five days.

Our group will be leaving January 24 (the day after my birthday) and returning in the wee hours on February 3. As I said earlier, it will be VERY cold there. It will also be the time of year when they only have about 7 hours of daylight. I have a request: I ask that you keep me and the whole team in your prayers. Please pray for us as we prepare to go on this trip, that God will give us traveling mercies, and to prepare our hearts and minds to show the light of His son to all people with whom we come in contact. Also, please pray for our physical stamina with such long work day schedules and that each of us will stay healthy throughout the trip. Pray that He will multiply our skills while we teach English to these people, as they view being able to speak English as a way to better their lives and their future. Please pray that as each of us “share” (give our testimony) our story of how our “friend” (Jesus Christ) has helped us in our lives that those who hear will have a desire in their hearts to know more about our God.

I can’t wait to return and share my experience with you. Rest assured, there will be lots of pictures!

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