Daily Journal – Kirov 2005

 


- Wednesday, August 31, 7:20 a.m. -

 

It was a dark and stormy night … yes it really was!  Yesterday was sure one long, long, long day.  We arrived at the church office at 9:15 a.m. on Monday morning to meet the team going to Russia.  The team was finally packed and ready to go by 10:00 a.m. and we piled into the vans and trucks and off we went to LAX.  After arriving at the airport, we met up with the folks from Calvary Chapel Open Door, and then made a trip over to the Customs office to register all of our band gear.    The rest of the team was quite bored because they had to wait for us to get processed – nothing’s ever easy.  Then we went through the security checks and had about an hour to get lunch at the airport before boarding our flight.  We boarded at 2:30 p.m., and our flight took off about 3:30 p.m. We flew a Boeing 777, Air France, lots of cool things like little TV screens in the seat backs in front of you.  The first leg of the flight to Paris is a long one, about 10 hours.  Much of it was dark as we headed east.  We were served a lot of food, pretty good stuff on this leg of the flight.  For dinner we had a choice of veal or ravioli – some people didn’t get the ravioli because Greg took the last one (a big joke for a lot of us).  Actually the veal was very, very good.  Tres Magnifique (hey it was Air France)! We all tried to get a few winks (more like restless turning) towards the end of the flight as we headed towards Paris.  We landed in Paris (Charles De Gaulle airport) around noontime.  The airplane emptied out onto a big parking lot where we were picked up by a bus and taken to the terminals.  After finding our way to our next plane terminal, we had about a half hour to wander the airport (our little group bought a couple bottles of sodas and water, 5 drinks for $24).  We boarded our next airplane, an Airbus 330, also Air France, and headed off to Moscow.  The plane was smaller and didn’t have any movies. The food on this leg was a little strange as well – a cold salmon/pasta salad thing and a very strange looking soft-boiled-egg-and-mysterious-things dish – nobody in our immediate vicinity was brave enough to try it – though Deb graciously gave her egg thing to the people sitting next to her, who gobbled it right up!  They were Russians, of course!

  We landed on time at Moscow, 6:30 p.m. Moscow time – we had been traveling a LONG time.  We had to wait in more lines as we made our way through passport control and getting our luggage.  The folks that were going to pick us up in Moscow had got stuck in that horrible Moscow traffic (and you thought the Orange County traffic was bad – not even close!) and they were a little bit late in picking us up – but we spent the time exchanging our money into rubles, powdering our noses, and stretching our legs.  After loading our gear and excess luggage onto a truck bound for Kirov, we piled onto a chartered bus and headed off to a brand new mall in Moscow called “Mega Mall”.  And yes, it was dark and stormy.  By the time we arrived at the mall (around 8:45 p.m.) we were all watching the big storm clouds – a little thunder, a lot of lightning.  It looked as if it had been raining all day in Moscow, the streets were shiny and wet.  When we got to the mall, we wondered if we had even left Orange County.  The mall was very similar to Brea Mall (or more like South Coast Plaza).  It had a big food court – McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Sbarro, and a few Russian places as well.  We had KFC.  After dinner, we made our way back to the bus through the sprinkling rain and then another 45 minute bus trip to our hotel called the Hotel Molodyozhry.  The hotel is a big one, we’re on the 11th floor.  Pretty nice hotel for Russia.  Hot water, nice beds, clean rooms.  It was close to midnight when we turned off the lights – what a LONG day.  We had left the church office about 27 hours ago.  We’ll be heading off to breakfast with the rest of the team at the hotel restaurant at 9:00 a.m., group devotions are at 10:00, and we’ll be getting onto the bus at 11:00 a.m.  We’ll be spending the day sightseeing in Moscow, then heading to the train station sometime after 6:00 p.m. where we will board the overnight train to Kirov.  We should arrive in Kirov on Thursday morning around 8:00 a.m.  The plan in Kirov is to have four concerts (not five), with the first concert starting on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. – so gang, that means we could use your prayers on Friday morning, at 8:00 a.m.  I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to shoot off an e-mail – we’ll try and stay in touch.

 


 

 - Thursday morning, September 1, 7:00 a.m. -

 

Yesterday morning began with breakfast at the hotel restaurant in Moscow.  Breakfast consisted of sliced ham, cheese, a pastry thing with fruit filling, blintzes with meat filling, bread with honey, tea (pronounced “chi” in Russian), and juice.  After breakfast we had our first group devotions, led by Pastor Roger from Open Door.  He spoke about spiritual warfare and our need to be prepared (1Pet. 5).  After devotions, we packed up, got onto the bus and went back out into the lovely Moscow (pronounced “Moskvain Russian) traffic (Dave says I’m not being truthful, there’s nothing “lovely” about the traffic in Moscow – a cow walks faster than the traffic).  We eventually wound up at Red Square and parked the bus.  We broke up into small groups to play the “tourist” game.  We walked around Red Square, some went to Arbok street.  At times it was sprinkling.  We spent some more time in another Russian Mall – packed with young people.  We got an early dinner (our group went to Sbarro’s pizza) and then headed back to rendezvous with the rest of the group back at the bus.  Then we got back into the wonderful Moscow traffic (faster than a speeding snail – David says that what’s sad is that I’m not really kidding) and made our way to the train station.  Yesterday’s joke was “Where’s Lauren?”  It’s not that Lauren was even ever lost, it’s that everybody simply wanted to know where Lauren was.  We got lots of mileage out of that one.  Again, more sprinkles and rain on the way to the train station.  At the train station we boarded our train to Kirov and left around 6:20 p.m.  The train is that old “Orient Express” type with four people to a compartment, toilets at each end of the car.  Our group took up the entire car.  The team settled into their compartments and by 9:00 p.m. it was pretty quiet.  A long, bumpy night.  For those of us in the compartment next to the toilet it was a little odiferous as well.  We’re now about an hour outside of Kirov.  We’ll be in touch!

  


- Thursday evening, September 1 -

 

It’s been a whirlwind couple of days with hardly a chance to sit down and jot down some of the things that we’ve experienced.  On Thursday morning we pulled into the station at Kirov around 8:30 a.m.  We were met by the team from the church in Kirov – lots of hugs and greetings as we met up again with the friends we’ve made over the last couple of years.  We got our gear together and boarded a bus, then made our way to the music hall we would be using – our suitcases and music gear had been shipped by truck and were locked up in a storage room at the music hall.  After picking up our suitcases, we made our way to the now-famous Vyatka Hotel in Kirov, our homebase for the last couple of trips to Russia.  We had a late breakfast in the dining room (the main dish was kasha - a rice pudding like thing with butter), checked into our hotel rooms, got a quick shower, and then met with the team for group devotions.  I shared about the importance of love – 1Corinthians 13.  Then we divided up for our first afternoon of outreach.  We split up into teams to pass out flyers for the upcoming concerts.  Some of us walked to the music hall to get acquainted with how to get there – it’s “close enough to walk to” we were told, but we weren’t told that it was a twenty minute walk, up and down some hills.  The musicians broke into two groups and found places in a local park to make some noise while others passed out flyers.  We had dinner back at the hotel (real Russian Beef Stroganoff), then the musicians went to the music hall to begin setting up for the concerts.  We got the stage pretty well situated before walking back to the hotel around 9:00 p.m.  We met for a group “de-briefing” and went to bed around 10:00 p.m.

 


- Friday September 2 -

 

We met for breakfast at the hotel restaurant at 8:00 (the main dish was something that tasted like cottage cheese), then had devotions at 9:00.  Pastor Bruce from New Jersey shared from Acts 4 about how people were impacted by the lives of Peter and John, uneducated men, men who had been with Jesus.  Then it was off to hit the streets and invite people to the concerts.  We’re trying to be selective with who we invite – children are off limits (it’s against the law in Russia to evangelize children without their parents permission), we were encouraged not to spend a lot of time inviting the old folks (they wouldn’t like our music anyway), so we focus on the youth – and boy are their lots of youth in Kirov.  It seems like 8 out of every 10 people you come across is between the ages of 16 and 24.  On Thursday there were hundreds of them walking on the streets. Today, on Friday, perhaps because school had started, perhaps because it was cold and rainy, there weren’t too many on the streets.  But we still passed out some flyers.  The musicians went to the music hall around noon to start rehearsals while the rest kept passing out flyers. Because we have come so early in the school year, it’s possible we might not be able to get invited into the classrooms, so we’re not sure what the turnout is going to be like.  We had dinner back at the hotel around 4:00 (all except one of the bands – the guys helping out the Russian band, they were still rehearsing).  Dinner was a carrot salad (but it didn’t taste like you expected), bread, soup, rice, and a chicken dish.  We walked back to the music hall and got ready for the evening concert.  The concerts are going to start at 6:00 p.m. instead of 7:00 p.m.  We have three bands – the Cathers’ family band, a Russian band led by Alexie, the worship leader in Kirov, and our main band.  The main band did a couple of songs, followed by the Cathers’ band with a couple of songs, then the Russian band, then ending with the main band.  George Bryson shared a very stirring message, challenging the Russian kids to think about death.  He talked about the recent death of his sister and about the people in the United States who were affected by the recent hurricane.  Awesome presentation of the gospel.  We weren’t sure if we’d have more than twenty or thirty kids show up, but we think there must have been somewhere around 150.  The music hall we’re renting this year holds around 800 people, and because we expect the group to grow each night, we’re wondering if it won’t be possible to fill the place.  That would be incredible.  We had to keep the evening short because we were supposed to be out of the hall by 8:00, but we’ think we’ll be able to stretch that out in the coming nights.  After walking back to the hotel (it’s also been sprinkling all day off and on), we had another evening debriefing and were encouraged by the things that God has been doing all day – lots of “divine appointments” by the team members.  It’s now about midnight and I’m ready for bed!

  


- Saturday September 3 –

 

Saturday morning started off with breakfast at 8:00 a.m. in the hotel restaurant.  Breakfast was a rolled pancake with a meat filling along with the daily plate of rolls, butter, cheese, and yogurt.  We had devotions at 9:00 a.m. and Don from Calvary Open Door shared about being an ambassador for Christ.  Then we split up into teams for the days’ outreaches.  Some folks went to parks to pass out flyers, others went to the “tunnel”, a sidewalk that goes under the street – lots of pedestrian traffic.  I got stuck on my computer all day.  I had been thinking it was a big mistake taking my laptop since I can’t seem to get an internet connection and it’s kind of heavy lugging it around all day in your backpack – that trip walking to the music hall and back is pretty tough as it is let alone adding another ten pounds to your back.  But today I found out why – we had been planning on trying to project the lyrics of our songs, translated into Russian.  We had even sent the song text ahead to be translated before we got here, and the Church Planting team had brought a video projector that they someone had donated.  But no one had apparently thought of bringing a computer, let alone the software to run it.  I guess that was where I came in.  So I spent the day with one of the Russian translators as we put together the slides for the songs.  It’s strange to see Cyrillic characters on my computer.  We didn’t have the same amount of time for rehearsals on Saturday, we had to pack three bands’ rehearsals into two hours, but by the time the concert started at 6:00, we were all pretty ready.  There were more kids at the concert than Friday night, perhaps 300 kids or so.  Pastor Bruce from New Jersey gave a message and invited those kids who wanted to know Jesus to stand up – a LOT of kids stood up.  One of the neat things happening this year is the support from the church in Kirov.  Keep in mind they are a young church, most of them are in their early twenties, and there’s about 30 people in the church.  At the concerts they set up prayer teams that prayed during the entire concert – everyone felt that this was a huge impact – the concerts just seemed “different”.  We had a surprise on Saturday night, getting to see a fellow named Alexie that I had met two years ago and Deb had met last year.  He’s a friend of some of the Russian kids that Deb and I had been trying to keep in contact with over the last two years.  We set up a lunch date to meet with our old friends.  After the concert we headed back to the hotel, met together for another “debriefing” and heard some of the neat things that God had been doing throughout the day.  God is certainly at work.  One of the sad things of the day was for George Bryson.  After he had arrived in Kirov, he found out that his sister had passed away back in the United States – so he’s heading back to the States on a quickly patched together trip to perform his sister’s funeral.  We headed off to bed around 10:00 p.m.

 


– Sunday September 4 –

 

Sunday morning started with breakfast at 8:00 a.m. in the hotel restaurant, breakfast was a kind of porridge, a thick creamy oatmeal – pretty yummy.  Instead of having devotions, we had church at 9:30.  The church in Kirov normally meets on Saturday nights, but today they moved their service to Sunday morning and we met at the hotel restaurant.  The worship team from Kirov led us in worship – some of the songs we didn’t know (being in Russian), but some of the songs we were able to sing along with because they were American tunes (like, “Lord I Lift Your Name on High”).  I was asked by Pastor Roger to give the message on Sunday morning and it was an honor to share with the church in Russia.  I shared from John 5 – the fellow laying by the pool of Bethesda.  After the service, the teams again went out to hit the streets.  There aren’t many things cooler than being able to sit down and jam with your own sons – I’m definitely having a great time here.  Daniel has this drum-box-thing (called a “Cajon”) and it seems to get a lot of attention every time he takes it out to the streets and begins to play.  At 1:00 p.m. our family (including Mark Bessey) and our translator (Katya) met our friends Sergey and Anna back at the hotel.  They had brought along some other friends as well (Tanya and Andre).  We walked to a coffee house that had a menu with items in English – they thought we might like that.  Alexie also met us at the coffee shop.  We ordered some lunch – we had “pancakes” and coffee.  Pancakes in Russia are thine crepes – and they come stuffed with a variety of fillings – we all had the ham and cheese pancakes.  We also ordered “Mochachinos”, coffee with chocolate – and boy was that good.  We sat around the tables and had a chance ask questions about each other – learning about life in Russia and sharing about life in America.  Timothy told me later in the day that it had been the highlight of his trip so far.  We then walked back to the hotel and some of us headed off to the music hall to get ready for the night’s concert.  David helped put together the Powerpoint song slides and even took some of the digital pictures that Kim Hollingsworth had been taking and added them to the evening’s presentation.  The concert Sunday night seems to have been the best so far.  The evening was laid out much like the previous evenings – the old guys (Dave and company) led off with a couple of songs, followed by the Cathers band.  The Cathers band has been doing the song “Trading my sorrows” (you might know it as “Yes Lord”) and each night we’ve been teaching the kids a little more of the song – tonight we had the kids jumping up and down with the chorus “Yes Lord, Yes Lord” – we even had Pastor Dennis from Kirov up on stage with us jumping up and down.  I think it went over pretty well.  Then the band from Kirov played theirset – they are led by Alexie, the worship leader from Kirov.  He’s a very talented young musician – writes his own music.  Jim Hollingsworth and Greg have been also helping out with their band – they are sure working hard each night.  I think Greg definitely does well as a rock star.  The Russian kids sure flock around him – and he in turn not only loves the kids, but is faithful to tell them about Jesus.  On Sunday night Pastor Dennis from Kirov shared his testimony, and a message was given by Jim Lawson, who heads up the Bible College in Moscow and is running the outreach here.  The evening ended with another set by us old guys.  Dave Dunagan is sure a gem – he has done a great job in pulling together these old guys and Kirov is rockin’!  We’re thinking that there must have been close to 500 kids at the concert.  After the concert we moved the crowd out into the foyer of the concert hall and had about an hour to share with the kids.  This time consists of signing autographs, speaking through translators, and sharing the gospel.  Many seeds were planted.  As we headed back up the hill to the hotel it was sprinkling again.  We met for another debriefing and again we are blessed to hear the stories of how God had worked through the day.  But boy oh boy are we all tired.  If anyone has this idea that going to Russia is just one big vacation – they don’t have a clue – we are all working long hard hours to share the gospel with Kirov.

 


- Monday September 5 –

 

The day started like the last few days, breakfast at 8:00 a.m. – today we had something like scrambled eggs, along with a biscuit with sliced ham.  Deb has been buying juice at the hotel gift shop and that’s been an extra treat for our family at breakfast time.  The juice comes in little one liter box/containers and is very good.  After breakfast we met for devotions at 9:00 – Greg shared a wonderful message with the group about contentment – encouraging us that we need to find contentment in the Lord and not in the “things” we have in our lives.  After devotions, the group split up into teams to begin one last day of outreach.  Some of the leaders got together to plan out the final concert.  We’re going to have each band cut a song from their sets in order to leave room for an altar call, follow-up, and some worship at the end of the evening.  Our whole goal is to bring in the net of those who have made commitments to Christ and place them in the hands of the church in Kirov.  Pastor Dennis will be a key component of the evening as we try to introduce these new believers to their pastor.  The various teams spread throughout the city, some going to parks, others to malls, universities, anywhere to invite people to the concerts.  Timothy was part of a group that was invited to speak in a classroom.  A big effort also began to produce CDs for the kids.  The night before we promised the kids that we would have a free CD of Sunday’s concert for each one that comes.  Even though we had brought along 200 blank CDs, that won’t be enough.  The music hall holds 800 kids and George warned us that if we don’t have enough CDs, we could have a riot on our hands.  Jim Lawson headed up the effort to reproduce and label the CDs – it was a day-long, very tiring process – Mark Bessey was also a great help during the afternoon in getting labels on the CDs.  By noontime, the rest of us had run out of flyers to pass out, so while we waited for more flyers to be made, our group went to the coffee shop we had gone to the previous day and we had some coffee, milkshakes, and pancakes.  After a couple thousand flyers were made, the rest of the teams continued to pass out flyers while the musicians headed to the music hall for one last rehearsal.  When the final concert began, we were ready.  When we started, it looked like the crowd might be a little on the low side.  The “Sons of Thunder” began the evening, followed by the Cathers’ band (which got everyone jumping on the song “Trading My Sorrows”).  Kids continued to come into the hall.  Pastor Dennis shared a brief message from God’s Word, then the team from Kirov rocked the house.  More kids continued to enter the hall.  The music finished up with the Sons of Thunder singing their voices hoarse.  The hall was pretty full – there must have been over 700 kids there.  Pastor Roger then shared the closing message and gave the altar call.  We felt like we were at a miniature Harvest Crusade.  Well over 100 kids came down to the front to make commitments to Christ.  One of our interpreters, Marina, was in the group coming forward.  Some of us had tears in our eyes.  It is such a blessing to let God use you and then see how He can affect lives.  After the altar call, Pastor Dennis gave a few words of encouragement to the kids – it seemed to me that he too was a bit overwhelmed with the response from the crowd.  The worship team from Kirov led in a few worship choruses and then we began to talk with the kids, collecting names and phone numbers for the church to follow up on.  It was a blessing to see many of the kids make their way to talk to Pastor Dennis – our whole goal is to build the church in Kirov, not to make a following for ourselves, and I think we accomplished that goal.  We serve a truly wonderful and merciful God.  By 8:00 p.m., we had moved the group into the lobby of the hall, and by 9:00 p.m. we invited everyone to a local coffee house to share and fellowship.  The plan was to line up a place close by the hall – and we’re not sure who located the coffee house, but it seemed to be a 45 minute walk to the place.  I guess the idea of “just around the corner” means something different in Russian than it does to us Americans!  But again, God was good, the fellowship sweet.  We went to bed exhausted.  A good, good day.

 


 

- Tuesday, September 6 -

 

Today was an “off” day.  Breakfast started late at 9:00 with poached eggs and ham.  We had devotions at 10:00 with Chris from Pennsylvania sharing about “finishing well”.  After devotions, the men headed to the music hall to break down and pack up the equipment.  We got the truck packed up with our gear by noon and headed back to the hotel where we put all of our luggage except for an overnight bag onto the truck.  The truck will meet us at the airport on Thursday morning.  I’d say that the wear and tear of hard work and long days is catching up to the team.  Gary Turner battled some kind of flu the first couple of days.  Jim Hollingsworth was battling the flu and a sore throat the last two nights.  Dave Dunagan has totally lost his voice – he blew it out on the final concert.  Kim Hollingsworth has come down with the stomach flu, Drew has been pounding down the vitamin C to battle a cold coming on, and we’re beginning to see some runny noses and such throughout the group.  God has been good to us to have kept most of the sicknesses off until the end of the trip.  Then we got ready for a day on the town.  Our group headed off with two translators (Katya and Katya).  We went to an entertainment center that had movies, video games, and a restaurant.  The restaurant was called “Hollyland”.  Some of us ordered pizzas – which were absolutely delicious – others had pancakes with sourcream, others ordered “dumplings” (think of stuffed tortellini, some stuffed with cheese, others with hamburger), some of us topped it off with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce.  After lunch we headed across the street to the “central mall”.  The mall was a three story building filled with various little shops – it didn’t quite look like an American mall – but it was packed with shoppers.  We looked at souveniers, some looked at clothes, the guys went to look at the music store but it was closed, we walked through the electronics store (it was funny to see DVDs of current movies, except you wouldn’t have recognized them from their titles, only the pictures on the front).  After we finished up at the mall we walked outside where there was an outdoor coffee shop and an outdoor bazaar.  We had some delicious coffee and sat around and talked.  As we were getting ready to head back to the hotel for dinner, it began to rain on us.  Our dinner at the hotel (5:00 p.m.) was dumplings (just like our lunch!) and for those of us who had just finished lunch, we were really, really stuffed.  After dinner we sat around in the hotel lobby waiting for the bus to take us to the train station.  We left for the train station around 7:00 p.m..  This is one of the hardest parts of a mission trip – saying goodbye to our Russian friends.  There were lots of pictures taken, lots of hugs, a few tears, and some precious prayers.  Our train left at 8:15 p.m. and we settled into our cabins.  The train is a little different than the one we came to Kirov on.  This one is a bit nicer.  Each cabin had a table set with a lot of food – rolls, salami, yoghurt, instant potatoes, juice, cookies, bottled water (with gas), cheese, chocolate, tea, coffee, and sugar – we’ll try and save it for breakfast in the morning.  The bathroom on the train was also a bit nicer as well – Drew said it this way – “Our last train’s bathroom was a tin can with a hole in the bottom, this one is an aluminum one” – well it even has toilet seat covers, toilet paper, and a nice sink with soap and water – we’re doing pretty good!

 

It’s now 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning and I think our cabin has slept pretty well through the night.  We think we probably have a couple of hours to go until Moscow where we’ll spend the day sightseeing and get ready for an extra early morning flight home.

  


- Wednesday, September 7 -

 

We arrived in Moscow by train around 10:00 a.m. and were taken by bus to our hotel.  It took awhile to check the group into the hotel and get our passports registered.  It was around 1:30 p.m. before we set off for a day of sightseeing in Moscow.  Our group headed off for some shopping on Arbok Street.  We walked about a half mile and got on the world famous Moscow Metro.  The Metro is a super-fast subway.  To get to the Metro you have to take these long escalators that take you about 300 miles into the center of the earth (okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but you do go pretty far underground).  The trains come screaming into the station, and there’s about 10 seconds where people pile off of the train and you have to cram your group onto the train.  And then it’s off – whooooosh – I don’t know how fast they travel, but it’s quite a rush, especially if you’re standing up – definitely an “E-ticket” ride.  We rode the Metro through six stops and got our group off near Arbok Street.  It was another half-mile walk to get to Arbok.  We stopped for a snack at a donut shop – we got ice-cream cones, sodas, and donuts.  Then we headed down Arbok Street.  Arbok Street is a couple of miles long, and is closed to traffic, pedestrians only.  The center of the street is filled with all sorts of venders, street performers, artists, and stuff like that.  The sides of the street are filled with shops of all kinds and restaurants.  We passed the Hard Rock Café, Baskin Robbins, and a multitude of other places to eat.  Our group’s translator, Genia, was a neat gal who knew the ins and outs of bartering with the street vendors.  Daniel wanted to get a Soviet era jet pilot’s helmet and mask, but they wanted to 3000 rubles (about $120) for it.  Genia got them talked way down and Daniel got a cool deal.  We bought various other things along the way as well: a chess set, T-shirts, lazer etched cubes, hand made lace table coverings, toys for children, etc.  We met up with another group at 5:00 for dinner at a place that had a big cow out front with the sign that read “My-My”, but pronounced in Russian as “Moo-moo”.  Inside was something right out of Disneyland.  It was decorated with all sorts of wooden beams, farm implements and flowers on the walls, very neat atmosphere.  We went through a sort of buffet line and filled up our trays with food.  And boy was that food good!  Some of us had chicken and noodle soup, others had “blinies” (like stuffed Ravioli), there was a mushroom and cheese dish, “chicken pancakes”, rolls, we ate very well.  Then we headed back through Arbok street to make our way to the Metro and back to our hotel.  We arrived at the hotel around 8:00 p.m. and got off to bed around 9:00 p.m.

 


- Thursday, September 8 -

 

This is our final travel day.  We got up real early, our bus needed to leave the hotel by 3:45 a.m.  There were lots of sleepy eyes as we got our bodies and bags onto the bus.  And even though I’ve complained about Moscow traffic, hey, it’s not so bad at 4:00 a.m.

When we got to the airport, we met the truck that had taken our main luggage and music gear from Kirov.  Everybody gathered up their stuff and we made our way into the airport to begin our trek through security.  I think we went through three separate scanners before getting onto our plane.  Even though we had arrived at the airport pretty early, we certainly needed the time – we didn’t get to our boarding gate much before they were ready start loading us on our plane.  Our Air France flight took off from Moscow around 7:15 a.m. and we were on our way home!  The four hour flight to Paris went pretty smooth – except for a little disturbance in the back of the plane with a passenger who was drunk – we were served a breakfast of rolls, ham, and cheese, and we landed in Paris early, a little before 9:00 a.m. (if you’re counting hours, don’t forget to take off the two hour time difference between Moscow and Paris).  Charles De Gaulle airport is huge – we landed at one terminal and had to take a tram to another terminal to catch our flight to Los Angeles.  Even though we had a little over an hour, we barely made it to our plane in time.  Our flight to Los Angeles was … long.  This time it seemed that most of the team was spread throughout the entire cabin rather than sitting together as a group.  We watched movies, played video games (all on the little screen on the seat back in front of you), we talked, walked around from time to time, were served several meals (chicken for lunch, and I can’t remember what we had for dinner), and we took little cat naps.  When we arrived in Los Angeles, it had been about 24 hours since we boarded the bus at the hotel.  We made our way through several passport lines, custom lines, baggage lines, and were met outside the terminal by a wonderful group of very familiar faces from Calvary Fullerton.  I’m sure some of us weren’t very coherent as these loving folks put us and our gear into their vans, cars, and trucks, but we were sure glad to be home. 

 

What an amazing couple of weeks we’ve had.  It was a lot of work preparing for the trip.  The trip itself was a marathon – long days, adjusting to a different culture, meeting new people, eating different food.  It was tough keeping track of all the people as you went from place to place (much thanks to Olivia who was always ready at a moment’s notice to let me know if everyone was there, as well as the multitude of other things she did behind the scenes).  It was an expensive trip – pretty costly to sent all those people to such a distant land.  But I think I can speak for all of us on the team when I say that it was all worth it.  To think back to the last night of the concerts and seeing all those kids that came forward to follow Christ.  It was worth it.  Would we ever do it again?  In a heart beat.