January 3, 2018

16 people gathered for a retreat on Tuesday Jan. 2 – Wednesday Jan. 3
We ranged in age from 6 to 70’s. The scripture basis for the retreat was the story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids in Matthew 25:1-13. We had several intense times of study and sharing. It was great to hear how people wanted to be ready for God to come into their lives and were daily preparing for His coming. We considered what spiritual gifts we have and those we would like to cultivate and grow. We also enjoyed a wonderful marinated chicken dinner grilled outside our cabin by Pastor Nadya ‘s husband Stas. Several of the women had brought food and we really had a feast.We walked in the snow and looked at the stars.  Our evening prayer service was one in which we each shared a picture of a wise woman or even several wise women who have led us, loved us, encouraged us, and strengthened our faith in God by their example.  Each person had moving heartfelt stories to share and many tears of joy and thanksgiving were shed. We also has lots of fun singing together both in Russian and English.  Vika and Gleb helped us all communicate by sharing translation duties.

We heard several testimonies of how different people had come to accept Christ in their hearts. It was amazing  to see the work of God spread through the years and lives even before the UMC came to Ulyanovsk.  We could see God preparing the people and then how they responded to the opportunity to believe and have fellowship with Him.  It was a blessing to see some of the fruits that are growing now and know that we continue to be part of God’s plan in Ulyanovsk.

After a good night’s rest and sharing breakfast at the Cafe, we spent the morning today talking about the Biblical stories of families and the women in them from Adam and Eve to Abraham and Sarah to Noah and  to Ruth and Naomi and Mary and Elizabeth.

We saw how the power of choice played in a big role in what God did and we talked about how we too often try to take matters into our own hands and “help” God along to our own detriment.  We did an interesting individual, private questionnaire that Vika prepared for us to look at different aspects of our behavior and choices in the areas of service, spirituality, family/home life, learning/education, physical health, finance and career.  We then prayed about where we saw we needed to grow and improve.

Pastor Nadya led us in a project to pick an outline of the bottle that holds our oil – – – since the bridesmaids that were wise had kept their oil jar full and ready, they were able to light their lamps and welcome the bridegroom into the house. If our life is the bottle of oil and God fills it for us to pour out in His service then the shape, the sturdiness, whether it is easy to fill and pour out of—all this makes  a difference.  We hope to be vessels both easily filled and easily emptied by God and sturdy to last our lifetime. She also had different pictures cut from magazines and we were to choose what represented what is in our bottle now and then what we would like to have in it in the future. We discussed these in groups of 2 and shared and prayed with each other.

Yes , like any retreat or camp we also had a craft – Lyuba showed us how to make angels out of felt and we each made one to bring home including those of us who are challenged in the sewing and crafting departments.  We finished with a time in the Russian banya / sauna and pool.

We can’t believe our time is drawing to a close . We will visit the St Luke’s church in the retirement home on Thursday morning and then have lunch and go to a local education museum (see how schools looked, what the students were taught etc  in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s).

We leave on the evening train Thursday night and will be back in Moscow Friday morning where we hope to do more sightseeing and a little shopping.

We fly home Saturday morning.

Thank you for your prayers