Thursday, 31 January 2008

Russian Trip January 2008

31 January 2008

Dear brethren,

I have just returned from a trip to Russia with Mike Criswell and my son Jamie. Mike had suggested I accompany him on this trip in the middle of last year and I was very happy to be able to reacquaint myself with the work in Russia and to see, once again, my many friends there.

On this trip we first went to Tula, the town where Mike has done most of his work in Russia. This was the first time I had visited this congregation, so I was very happy to get to know these brethren and their work. I was very impressed with the preacher who is working with them, Boris. The congregation in Tula is very small and meets in a very difficult situation, yet Boris continues to teach and encourage these brethren. He is a very able man with a very good knowledge of the Word of God and an amazing command of languages including English, Japanese and a smattering of other languages. I was very happy to be able to work with Boris and, hopefully, to be an encouragement to him.

We arrived in Russia on Friday the 11th of January and stayed in Tula until the Sunday 20th. Everyday, bar two, we met for services, with the brethren coming out in difficult weather conditions. Mike and I shared the teaching, day about, and I was impressed by the interest that the brethren showed in the Word. It is always a great encouragement for me to worship with brethren in different parts of the world where life is, at times, very difficult yet still they put service to God first. These brethren are an example to all of us.

On the 20th we took the train to Moscow and from there another over night train to Penza. Boris came with us to help us with the travel and to help and encourage the brethren in Penza.
It brought back very good memories for me to arrive at the Penza railway station early in the morning with it blanketed in snow. The scene was very reminiscent of the first time I arrived there in 1995. I have been very fortunate to have been back there several times over the years, with my last trip in 2004. Some wonderful Christians and dear friends of mine, Vitali, Marina and Maria, met us. They took us safely to the flat where we were staying and we got settled in.

Once again we met with the brethren each night for worship services and our teaching followed the pattern we established in Tula. After the services the brethren generally stayed back for questions and discussions about the topics taught. On Wednesday night my son Jamie taught for his first time using an interpreter. He did a very good job and the brethren we very pleased to listen to him. They knew him well when he was a little boy and were delighted that he had grown up and came back to see them. The older women particularly enjoyed him being there, many call him their “son”.

While we were there Boris had his 40th birthday and we were able to surprise him with a surprise birthday party. It was very good to see the love and respect that the brethren in Penza hold him in.

We left Penza on the afternoon train of Sunday the 27th and went again overnight to Moscow. We said a warm farewell to Boris, who had once again assisted us very ably with our travels. The three of us travelled together to Paris from where I went to Singapore and home and Mike and Jamie flew back to the U.S., Mike to go home and Jamie to finish off his University Summer break vacation, and then return to Perth.

Visits like this one are very important because of the isolated nature of the brethren in these parts. Living in Perth, Western Australia, I know very well about isolation and the importance of encouragement and good gospel teaching. Travelling to places like Russia is far from glamorous and at times can be very difficult but is worth it when you see the dedication the brethren show just to come out to meetings and the interest they show in the teaching. I know of many places where life is a lot easier and yet people have trouble getting out of their houses and travelling in comfortable cars to hear God’s word.

I thank the brethren who have supported this trip, especially the 85th street congregation in Kansas City, Missouri. I thank all those who have prayed for our work and for us. The Lord certainly has answered those prayers and helped us in all our endeavours.

In Christ’s service,

Keith Thomson

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