They're on their way! Pray for the Russia team: Rich Cathers, David Cathers, Daniel Cathers, Dave Dunagan, Neil Gulassa & Gay Hendrie
Monday, August 2 (Los Angeles)
Well gang, we're off to Russia! We've made it through
baggage check-in (I was checked in by a gal named Grace, Neil was checked in by
Timothy Hosea), had lunch at McDonald's, and passed through security (even
though Neil looked pretty scary!). We are now sitting at gate 105 at the Bradley
International Terminal - our flight leaves in an hour and a half. We have a ten
hour flight to London, then another five hour flight to Moscow where we will be
met by Drew and should make it to the Dorm by midnight Tuesday (Moscow time).
Pray for us!
In picture above: Gay, Neil, David C., Daniel, and Dave D. waiting in the airport at LAX
Wednesday, August 4,
Yesterday was a long, long day. When I last wrote, we
were sitting comfortable at LAX waiting for our flight. We boarded our 747 to
London. We like British Air. Pretty classy airline. But the flight was long.
Nine and a half hours. Not easy to sleep. We arrived at Heathrow airport, London
and had about three hours until our next flight to Moscow. We sat. We ate. We
wandered. Heathrow is like a little city inside. The flight to Moscow was
uneventful, but also British Air. As we descended into Moscow it was pretty
cloudy, we didn’t see the ground until about twenty seconds before landing.
There was a reason. Moscow is pretty smoky right now. Have you seen the news
reports about the wildfires around Moscow? Sounds pretty familiar for us
Southern California folks. The air here is thick and smokey. And hot. Did I say
it was hot? Yes, it’s hot. I’m guessing that the air conditioning at Domodedovo
Airport must not have been working, if they have air conditioning. We waiting at
least forty-five minutes in the slowest, longest lines I ever want to see,
waiting to go through passport control. Hot, sticky, and crowded. Daniel was the
last to make it through – I think he was in the line with the brand new passport
control trainee – it seemed to take forever. After hunting a bit, we found all
of our luggage and started out of the baggage claim area. I got pulled aside and
they wanted to x-ray my luggage and stuff. I probably looked pretty scary after
the day we’d had. We got out of the baggage area only to find our smiling Drew
waiting to meet us. We got loaded onto a bus and spent another two hours driving
to the Dorm in Snegiri, outside of Moscow. It was still hot at midnight when we
began to hit the sack. Dave and I decided to sleep out on the porch (it was a
little cooler out there). This morning our bags and music equipment will be put
on a truck to Kirovo-chepetsk and we will spend the day either hanging out here
at the dorm or sightseeing in Moscow (hopefully at a nice air conditioned
mall!). Our train to Kirov leaves around 7:00pm tonight. Drew says our train
will be travelling through the area burnt by the fires, so that ought to be
exciting. We’ll arrive on Thursday morning in Kirov, take a bus to
Kirovo-chepetsk, check into our hotel … and … well we’ll let you know what
Pray for us!
Pictures above: Dave & Neil on the plane, Heathrow (London) Airport, Drew at the airport, Moscow Airport
Wednesday Evening, August 4, 7:30pm
(On the train headed for Kirov)
Our day is beginning to slow down and I thought I’d take the time to catch you all up while I could. Today was a hot day. Just to let you know, it was hot today. Really, really hot. After a quiet morning, we had breakfast down in the dining hall at the dorm and I was asked to help lead the devotions. It was really cool worshipping with people from Russia, Pennsylvania, and California. We all know the same Lord and God is just as close to us in Russia as He is in Fullerton. We serve an awesome God. Oh, and it’s was hot today.
Drew is kind of in charge here, so he gave us a few hours to kind of just hang out before we started off to Moscow. I was still tired and went for the “morning nap” option. It was warm, but the nap was nice. Drew hired a truck to take our luggage and instruments to Kirovo-chepetsk, so we headed off to Moscow with just our backpacks. We rode the train from Snegiri (the Dorm) into Moscow, oh, and it was hot. From the train we got onto the world famous “Metro”, the world’s fastest e-ticket kind of subway train. From the Metro we did the first thing that seemed logical, headed for the Mall where there was AIR-CONDITIONING!!! Woo hoo! I don’t think I’ve ever loved air conditioning more than I have today. We got lunch at a food court, my table decided to dine at Sbarro – pizza and pasta. But after lunch, all things must come to an end, and our air conditioning ended as we headed out of the mall to visit Red Square. Did I tell you it was hot today? We took the requisite Russia-trip photographs, the band decided to throw in a little tribute to Abbey Road (see the photo Beatle fans). After about ten minutes in the sun some of us headed back to the most logical place, the shade. Then we headed for the supermarket (we hung out by the frozen food for awhile), picked up some snacks for supper and breakfast and headed for the train station. There was a pleasant surprise waiting for us at the train station. The train now has AIR-CONDITIONING!!! Woo-hoo!!! Okay, I think I have a new favorite love for air-conditioning, the train!!! We are still drying out from probably the most heavily sweated day I can recall in a very long time. David and I are paired up with two of the folks from Pennsylvania where we were regaled by entertaining stories from the East Coast. We’re traveling right now through some pretty heavy smoke (check out the Russian wildfires in the news).
That’s about all for now. We’ll be in touch. Please keep praying.
Pictures above: Abbey Road tribute, Cooling off at Red Square, Listening to train stories, East Coast Story Tellers, Lunch at the mall
Friday, August 6 (in Kirovo-chepetsk)
It’s Friday morning, so I’ll try to remember best I can what happened yesterday on Thursday. We pulled into the Kirov train station around 8:30 am and were met by the lovely face of Alexi Bobii, the young pastor we’ve come to help out (and for whom many of you have been praying). Alexi led the motley crew on foot (there are about 20 of us, six from Fullerton, six from Pennsylvania, and assorted others from Russia) to the bus station where we waited to catch the “express” bus to Kirovo-chepetsk. Did I ever tell you how hot it is here? When our bus arrived, we loaded up and took the “express” bus to our city ten miles away, though it took us an hour, I don’t get it, we moved pretty fast, but it still took an hour. We arrived at Kirovo-chepetsk and then were led to our hotel that was “just around the block”. Actually, the hotel was pretty close to bus station, but we walked around the block anyway. Did I forget to tell you how hot it was? Our bags had been shipped by truck from Moscow, but hadn’t arrived yet. We checked into the hotel and then headed off to breakfast – the restaurant is only two doors down from the hotel. Excellent food – “blinis” (blintzes filled with ham and cheese).
Then we went back to the hotel and took some quick showers even though we didn’t have any clean clothes or toiletries with us (remember they are on the truck that hadn’t arrived). The hotel is actually pretty nice, by far the best hotel we’ve ever stayed at in Russia, though I would have to admit it’s lacking one thing – air conditioning. But at least the windows open. And there’s free wi-fi, and free water (bottled water, a HUGE bonus). After some time for showers, we met at the hotel lobby and split into work teams. Most of the teams hit the streets to pass out flyers for the upcoming concerts. One team stayed back to wait for the truck, unload it, and begin setting up at the concert hall. The concert hall is right across the street from the hotel, which is another awesome thing. Oh, and best yet, the concert hall is AIR-CONDITIONED. Woo-hoo!!! By 6:00pm we made our way back to the restaurant (also air-conditioned) and had dinner. Dinner started off with a “salad” (a plate with peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, onions, and mayonnaise). Next was a dish with some sort of meat (some think it was pork), topped with onions, tomoatoes, cheese, and French fries on the side. We had warm lemonade and little bottles of coke to drink. Great meal!! After dinner, we were done for the day. Some went out to hang (and play basketball) with the Russian kids that are starting to follow us. Some went back to our rooms, I know our room took another set of showers, and then settled down for bed by 9pm. It was nice to sleep in beds (not on a train), but it was a warm night. Did I say that it was hot? We still haven’t quite adjusted to the time shift (11 hours), but we’re getting there. We’ll head off to breakfast in a few minutes.
Please be praying for us today. We are going to start the concerts tonight at the concert hall.
Pictures above: Alexi at concert hall, David C. & Drew at concert hall, Dave D. at concert hall
Friday, August 6
Our day tends to start early, we aren’t quite adjusted to Russia time yet. Besides the time shift, the sun sets around 10pm and rises around 4:30am. We eventually met the team for breakfast at the restaurant next to the hotel. I’ve decided to include more food pics today, so you can see the pizza and breakfast burrito we had for breakfast. Notice the pickles on top of the pizza. David says, “that was pizza?” Morning devotions were led by one of the ministry interns, a young fellow named David (not any of our Davids). After breakfast, the team split into groups and hit the streets with flyers for the evening concert. We handed out flyers to anyone that looked over the age of 15, but under the age of 25. It’s against the law to be speaking to kids under age 15, and the people over the age of 25 probably won’t enjoy the music. Our group also tried to see if we could locate any fans to purchase for the group. Did we mention that it’s hot? The rooms in the hotel have a tough time cooling down without air conditioning. Around midnight you wake up soaked with sweat, though it gets better in the wee early morning hours. We are dying to get a fan, but alas, all the stores are sold out (at least for now). As we were on the street, I’d say that our teams are pretty effective because we kept running into people who already had the flyers. Kirovo-chepetsk is a little smaller than Kirov, so it seems like the entire town knows that we’re here. Our small group met up with another group and decided to have lunch back at our local restaurant (see picture). Then we headed back to our room, some of us took cold showers, soaked our shirts to cool down, and got ready for the afternoon sound checks. Other groups headed back out to the streets. After the sound checks were over for the musicians, we all had an early dinner (see pic) at our next door restaurant (notice the hammer and sickle in front of it).
The concert started at 6:00 pm with your favorite band from Fullerton (we’re calling ourselves “Inspired Behavior”). George Bryson acted as “host” for the evening, introducing each act. We did five songs and then a preacher you know with a Hawaiian shirt (me) did a short message from John 3, “You must be born again”. I was surprised at how quiet the kids were during the message. Even some of the kids with tattoos and no shirts were paying attention to me – I think you all must have been praying real hard. After the preacher, one of the former missionaries (Darren) got up and did a drum solo. Everyone’s mouths were open in awe as he played. Then Alexi and his band (they call themselves “The Price of Sin”) got up and played. They are just a little more hard core than us (like WAY more). They were going to do five songs, but Alexi’s voice gave out and they stopped after three songs. Even though the concert was over a little earlier than we had planned, the Russian kids stayed and hung out with us and it was quite cool. We are guessing that there were close to 75 kids at the concert, a great turnout for a first night ever in Kirovo-chepetsk. After the concert, we hung out in front of the hall for a bit watching some of the kids play basketball (there’s a court right in front of the hall) and we ate some of that famous Russian ice-cream. We got to bed somewhere around 10pm., kind of tired, and maybe just a little bit hot.
Pictured above: Breakfast, Dinner, Drew setting up equipment, Front of hotel, Lunch, On the streets, Our restaurant next door, Russian kids after concert, the Music Hall
Saturday, August 7
The official start of the day comes with breakfast each morning. Drew has been very nice to us with scheduling breakfast at 9:00am. Breakfast this morning was a delicious omelette (though it didn’t look like an omelette) with eggs, ham, cheese, and tomatoes (or was that peppers?). We also had some sweet bread, yogurt, and tea. Our time of devotions was led by one of the fellows from Pennsylvania, Chris, who shared on the power of the gospel. After breakfast we split into teams and hit the town one more time to pass out flyers (I passed on a copy for you to get a peek at a flyer). We only had about an hour and a half before meeting back at the hotel to reconnect with everyone and head down to the river. Some of the group didn’t hand out flyers, but played soccer and American football with some of the Russian kids they had met the day before. Our group made the loop of what we’ve come to see as the major streets. Sometimes when you hand out a flyer, the person has already gotten one or has heard of the concerts. Back at the hotel we all headed down to the river where Alexi was going to hold a baptism. I’ve attached a few pictures so you could get an idea of the baptism. Alexi said this was the first time he had ever baptized anyone. He baptized two of the members of his band (Zhenya, and Daniel) and one of the kids on the American ministry team (Seth). It was a really, really cool thing to see. There is fruit here in Russia. After that we all laid hands on Alexi, anointed him with oil, and asked God’s blessing on him and his ministry. After the baptism we walked back to the hotel (about a mile and a half). If you haven’t noticed, we do a lot of walking in Russia. This year our music hall, hotel, and restaurants are all very close to each other, but when you hand out flyers, you do a lot of walking. Up hills, down hills, lots of walking. I think we’re going to be in awesome shape by the end of the trip! Back at the hotel and music hall we did some sound checks and headed off to an early dinner (4:30pm) a stir fried chicken & beef dish with rice, cucumber salad, and veggies. Daniel says it was one of the best meals we’ve had so far. After dinner, our band did a quick rehearsal back at the hall and we got ready to see who would show up.
Then the concert (or “show”) started. I’d say we had twice the crowd of the previous night, perhaps 150 or so kids. The evening’s “show” started with one of the fellows from Pennsylvania briefly sharing his testimony (Dave – a guy who has been connecting with the Russian kids playing soccer, basketball, and American football). Then came our band, we did seven songs (the kind of stuff we sing every Sunday morning). Next came a skit from the Pennsylvania group. They did a pantomime with a Christian song playing in the background, the theme of the skit was a kid who gets caught in sin and is rescued by a friend and Jesus. Powerful stuff. Next, I again had the privilege to share the gospel, this time sharing from the story of the Prodigal Son. Darren the super drummer got up and did another amazing demonstration of his drumming skills, and then Alexi’s band got up. This time Alexi’s voice didn’t give out and they did a complete set. Lots of kids were out of their seats, up front, dancing with the music. At the end of Alexi’s set, I came up and gave the group a chance to pray and accept Christ. We were encouraged not to do an official altar call (the Russian Orthodox church might claim that we are somehow brainwashing kids), but we did give them a chance to pray. Then Alexi invited the whole crowd to church on Sunday afternoon, as well as a “coffee house” we are going to set up at the music hall for Sunday and Monday evenings. We brought a case of our church music CDs, and we are going to give them out to the kids that show up.
After the concert, we packed up all the sound and band equipment and hauled it off to a storage room and then headed out for … ice cream. It has been a good couple of days of ministry. Looking forward to seeing what God will be doing over the next two days of smaller events like the coffee houses, aimed at getting the kids connected to the new church.
Pray for us!
Alexi and baptism guys, Alexi's first baptism, Daniel and Alexi, Flyer,
Gathering at the river, Greg handing out flyers, Post concert ice cream
Sunday, August 8
It’s Sunday morning and we’re done with the “big” shows. Today is starting off a little easier. We started with breakfast at 9am (fried bread things with sour cream, apple turnovers, yogurt, coffee). Devotions were led by Drew who shared a story about a neighbor he grew up with, slurpees, and how important it is to be thankful. For the rest of the day we were saying “spuh-see-bah” (thank you) to just about everyone we ran into. We had the rest of the morning off, a free morning before church. Daniel and I decided to take a walk on the town to refill our 5 liter water jugs and George Bryson hitched along with us to see if he could buy a new shirt. We probably walked a couple of miles, but got the water, a new shirt, and Daniel and I were entertained with George’s stories. Others played football with the Russian kids, or just hung out at the hotel.
Church started at 1:00pm, and Alexi is renting a small dance studio located in the music hall. It will be a great place to start a church. We got to be at the very first service of Calvary Chapel Kirovo-chepetsk! Alexi, Zhenya, and Sveta led us in worship, and we knew all but one of the songs (of course they were singing in Russian while we sang in English). Then Alexi taught briefly from Acts 2:42 on the purpose of the church – read your Bible, pray, and fellowship. Next I taught for a few minutes from John 12 – what you in church heard last Sunday, but greatly condensed. I had Nadya as my translator – she’s the accountant for the Calvary Church Planting ministry, a very sweet and wonderful gal. There were about three or four kids from the concert that showed up for church, along with Alexi’s team and the American team. It was a sweet service. We then had the afternoon off. I don’t know about everyone else, but our room decided to take a nap. Dinner was at 4:30pm at the café next door. There was a salad with cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, meat, and mayonnaise. That was followed by a chicken thing covered with cheese, mushrooms, and onions with steamed veggies on the side. We had warm Kool-aid and cold cokes to drink.
After dinner we set up for the coffee night. The music hall has a small café in it that can hold thirty people, but we squeezed sixty kids in it at a time. No air conditioning, lots of bodies, it was just a little warm. I’ve attached pictures. We weren’t sure what to expect, but the evening turned out wonderful. Our band shared a couple of songs at the beginning, then there was lot of different “acts”, people sharing music, Zhenya shared his testimony, Alexi shared a story, and the kids were listening. We ended the night with our band doing a couple more songs, and then Alexi handed out some of the CDs that we brought (we brought a case of the church album with us for this very thing). The kids ate up the CDs, and some of the group spent the next couple minutes autographing the CDs. When the crowd thinned out, we put the equipment away, hit the store for some ice cream, and headed to bed. That’s about when I did my little “Skype” thing and got to speak briefly to the folks at the beginning of the second service in Fullerton.
Today is going to be a fellowship time at the River, and then one last coffee night. Pray for us!
Pictured above: Alexi at church, Alexi speaking to the coffee crowd, Daniel and George, Dave the rock star signing autographs, Neil makes lots of friends, Playing at the coffee house, Standing room only, The coffee house crowd
Monday, August 9
Our day began today with breakfast, a very tasty feast of bleenies (crepes filled with ham and cheese) and a delicious cheese Danish, along with yogurt and coffee. After breakfast, we met at the hotel lobby to head down to the river. We were going to spend the morning and afternoon hanging out with the folks from the church and any of the kids from the concert who wanted to come. Altogether there were probably forty of us. Some people swam in the river. We had some snacks at the snack bar (all flavors of Lay’s potato chips, some you’ve never heard of like “mushroom and sour cream” and “bacon” flavored chips). We also had lots of bees visiting us. Then we played some games like volleyball, football, and something called “ninja”. We headed back to the hotel around 3:00pm, cleaned up, did some setup for the coffee night, and went to dinner. Dinner was … well we weren’t exactly sure what it was. Let’s just say it was meat and potatoes with a cucumber chicken salad with pineapple and nuts. It was mysterious, but good.
The evening coffee house started at 6:00pm and before the kids even got into the room it was pretty hot. I’m thinking bake-some-cookies kind of hot. For a long time. And the kids, they showed up. Just like the previous night, something like sixty kids packed into the place. I forgot to take pictures, but the pictures from last night would do. Except we seemed to be sweating more than last night. We started the evening with four songs. Some of the kids who had gotten CDs the previous night seemed to recognize some of the songs. Then there was a variety of musicians and testimonies. We did four more songs in there somewhere and the evening ended with Alexi doing a couple of songs that he’s written. The whole goal this week has been to reach kids for Christ and then hand them off to Alexi and the church in Kirovo-chepetsk. We heard from one of the translators that Alexi asked the room how many of them were going to come to church on Sunday, and most of the kids raised their hands. Time will tell just how we did, but perhaps we’re on track to do what we set out to do.
Tomorrow will begin our trek back home. Our bags will leave first on a truck to Moscow, and then we board the overnight train (14 hours) in the evening, arriving in Moscow on Wednesday morning. Pray for us in Moscow – there are heavy smoke conditions due to the fires that are in the Moscow area. We will have a little time before our flight leaves on early Thursday morning (5am). We will be eventually arriving in Los Angeles Thursday evening (5pm your time, a total of 23 flying/layover hours).
We sure appreciate all your prayers.
Pictured above: Daniel, Neil and Sergei; Games at the river; Gay at the river; Mystery Meat Dinner; Why don't they make ice cream like this in America; Yummy breakfast
P.S. Tuesday morning we received a text message from Rich saying, "We are on the train to Moscow. Air conditioned train when it's moving. Air is off when at the station and it's HOT. Will be in Moscow around 10am (Wed) Russia time." (Tues 11pm our time)
Tuesday, August 10 - Thursday, August 12 (On
the way back home)
Day Ten -
We’ve been doing some serious travelling. And we still have a very, very long day ahead of us. For us it is Thursday morning, 4:30am. We’ve been up since midnight (Dave didn’t even go to sleep last night, the rest of us caught a two hour nap) so things are a little blurry, but since we’ve got a little time to burn in the airport in Moscow, I thought I’d catch you up.
On Tuesday we loaded the truck with our sound equipment and luggage and then hung out at the square in front of the music hall. Some of the kids showed up and we had a chance to take some group pictures. By late afternoon we got on a bus to go from the city of Kirovo-chepetsk to the city of Kirov. The bus dropped us off in front of a supermarket where we stocked up on food and drink for the train ride to Moscow. After a short walk to the train station, we said our good-byes to Alexi and the folks from the church in Kirovo-chepetsk. Even though our train would be air-conditioned, the air-conditioning doesn’t come on when the train is sitting in the station, so our car pretended to be a sauna for awhile until the train got going. Our train left the station around 8:00pm. In these overnight trains, we’ve been travelling “third class” which means that there is an aisle that runs down the length of the train, but it’s all pretty much open. Beds are grouped in fours on one side of the aisle and two beds on the other side of the aisle. Not much privacy, but no one seems to mind. We arrived in Moscow at 9:30am, and the weather has shifted just a little. The winds have changed direction and the smoke from the wildfires surrounding Moscow is no longer blanketing the city. And to top it off, the temperatures were in the low 90s, very nice indeed. At the train station, our ministry group split in two. Some wanted to go site-seeing in Moscow, the others headed back to the Dorm in Snegiri to rest and regroup before flying home. The Fullertonians chose the latter, but before starting back to the Dorm, we stopped at a couple of malls to pick up a few souveniers and even stopped at Starbucks. It takes a very smart person to navigate the maze of the world famous Moscow “Metro” subway, but our translators didn’t have a problem getting us to the train that would take us back to Snegiri. Back at the dorm we enjoyed a lunch of borshch (cabbage and beet soup), SHOWERS, repack and reorganize the suitcases, and get a little rest. George Bryson pulled the teams together in the evening and we did a little wrap up for the week’s ministry. Some of us headed to bed to see if we could get a couple of hours of sleep, others chose to stay up.
So that’s how we got here. We left the Dorm around 1am on a special charter bus that Drew arranged for us. We arrived at Domodedovo airport around 2:30am, and waited for the checkin counters to open at 3am. We checked in our bags, went through immigration control, security scans, and are waiting to board our flight which leaves at 5:50am to Heathrow airport in London. We’ll have a five hour layover in London, and then on to LAX where we arrive somewhere around 3pm your time. It’s been a good trip. It’s been a God-kind of trip. We’ve seen God work and we have had first row seats. God is at work!
Pray for us!