So it has been quite a while since I last updated you all about how things are going here in Russia–two and a half weeks to be exact–I have been quite busy here, but the following is just a bit about what I have been doing since you last heard from me!
The week after my last update I spent helping to prepare the church here in Novgorod for the new teams that would be arriving. Beds needed to be set up, furniture moved, and just preparation in general needed to be done. Marina and I headed to St. Petersburg that Thursday morning and got ready to receive the new teams a few hours later. The CBU team arrived first, and I headed back with them to where we stay in St. Pete while Marina took the bus to go and pick up the Vanguard team from the airport they would be flying into. By the time that both teams arrived, it was already getting to be late in the day, and after a quick run down of the house rules the teams went to bed and slept through their first “white night”.
With excitement building for the upcoming ministry to be done, the teams began the three day orientation/training process that SunErgos begins each trip with. This time around, I was asked to lead one of the days of orientation, as well as help with some of the later content. Throughout the training process, whether at home or out seeing the sights, I served as an aide to Marina to help make sure everything was running smoothly, and that the teams were feeling prepared for the time that they would be spending in Russia.
The third day of orientation, Sunday, opened with some time spent focusing on Russian culture and Orthodoxy. The teams spent the morning period working together, and in the afternoon the CBU team was sent off on an assignment in the city while the Vanguard team did some final sightseeing before heading out to Novgorod. When the bus came, Marina stayed in St. Petersburg, while one of our translators, Misha, and I headed out with the Vanguard team to the town where their ministry would be taking place. We were greeted warmly by the people that would be helping out in Novgorod, and I felt like I was returning home after a week spent away.
The first week of Vanguard’s ministry at the TB center began slowly, as only a third of the children were at the center due to the holiday weekend that was only just passing. But even so, there was plenty to be done, and once the rest of the kids returned there would not be a single moment’s downtime. I got into the swing of my duties once again, helping the team out with their camp (Olympic themed, and I passed the torch at the “opening ceremonies”, which I feel is both ironic and appropriate), keeping up with accounting and expenses, traveling with Ksusha to the store (daily it seems) to make sure the food supply was at all times adequate (buying “kethcup”, so to say), and just doing whatever I could to help out.
The weekend came and the team was able to get some much needed rest. Marina rejoined us here in Novgorod, and we took Vanguard for some sightseeing around the city, and let them experience a Russian Banya! On Sunday, I was asked to share my testimony with the Church, and to help out the team with a few songs by once again taking up the bass. This week is now halfway through, and I have been getting right back to helping the team out with their camp. The kids have taken an excursion every day (to the amusement park, to the circus, and even on a boat ride! See above Vanguard posts for details) and every pair of hands and eyes to watch over the kids helps out.
As of today I have only one week left here in Russia. It is incredible how fast the time has gone by. The first team I helped has already been gone longer than they were here, and the current team is already in the process of figuring out how they will be wrapping up camp. Please keep me and the team in your prayers as the week reaches its conclusion, and as we prepare to head back to the states. Each of the people that have travelled here this summer has made such on impact on the children that they came to serve, and each and every child has touched these student’s hearts as well.
God has such great works in store, and it has been such a blessing to be a part of what he is doing through this ministry this summer. I’ll put up one more update before I leave, but until then, thank you all so much for your prayers and support!
Paca! ~ Sean Stiles