August 7th - The Journey Home
We headed home today. Our taxi driver managed to get us through morning rush hour in Moscow and leave us with plenty of time to check in, bid farewell to Al, go through immigration and customs, clear security and get to our gate. Aeroflot was only able to check us in as far as Chicago, which is normal when leaving Moscow.
After a short 90-minute flight to Helsinki, we went through security again and Finnair was kind enough to check us in for our flight to Las Vegas. The flight to Chicago was uneventful until we were about 30 minutes from landing. The weather in Chicago was horrible with big thunderstorms and lots of rain. After holding over Lake Michigan for about 45 minutes we were low on fuel and O'Hare was closed so we landed . . . in Milwaukee. It took about an hour for O'Hare to re-open and to get fuel on the plane but we eventually took off for the 30 minute flight to O'Hare and arrived about 2 hours late . . . in bright sunshine!
Immigration and Customs in Chicago are pretty efficient and we were soon ready to re-check our bags for the flight to Las Vegas . . . which had been delayed until 10:54 pm and which was now . . . canceled. American rebooked us on a flight at 3:00 pm on Wednesday and suggested that we go an talk with Finnair about a hotel room. Turns out that Finnair had rebooked us on United, leaving at 10:24 pm and, after about 30 minutes of talking between Finnair and American, that became the plan. Finnair suggested that we check in in Terminal 5 since we had a bit more than two hours to go to Terminal 1 and be ready to board.
Terminal 5 check in was a big mistake. United had 3 agents working and there were about 30 people in line. We waited nearly an hour but finally got checked in. That left us with an hour to get to Terminal 1, go through security (again) and get to the gate. That is eminently doable if the train is running but they are doing upgrades to the rail system so we had to take a bus to Terminal 1.
Finally, with about 40 minutes until boarding time, we arrived at Terminal 1. Security in Terminal 1 is not like security in any other airport I have been in. It took about 10 minutes to get cleared and we arrived at the gate with about 10 minutes to spare until we noticed that they had rescheduled the flight to leave at 11:15 pm.
Both of us slept most of the three and a half hours we were on the way to Vegas and arrived at about 12:30 am. Baggage claim and two shuttles later we were at the car and on our way to St. George. Chris dropped Gloria off at about 4:40 in the morning and arrived at home just before 5:00 am, 32 hours after waking up in Moscow.
The trip was phenomenal. The Christian love and fellowship shared with the congregation in Dorogobuzh and the hospitality of Sergei, Nina and their family is wonderful. We can't wait to go back.
We'll have lots to talk about when we present at Soup & Fellowship in October. Plan to join us!
Gloria and Chris
August 6th - Moscow
This morning was spent visiting Cathedral Square in the Kremlin, the Tsar Cannon and Tsar Bell. The cathedrals are beautiful examples of Russian Orthodox architecture and date from the 14th to the 16th Centuries. Gloria found them to be quite interesting and inspiring. Of course, when we came out of the last cathedral, the heavens opened up. At least we were able to find an area that was under cover to wait out the rain.
From the Kremlin we went to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. It is always inspiring to see so many icons depicting the life of Christ. We also went out to the pedestrian bridge behind the cathedral to look at the Peter the Great statue and the Moscow River. The statue is not particularly popular in Moscow. To find out why, you'll have to join us for Soup and Fellowship in October.
We fly tomorrow morning to Helsinki then on to Chicago and, finally, Las Vegas. The trip has been outstanding, but it will be good to be home.
We hope to see all of you on Sunday!
Gloria and Chris
August 5th - Moscow
After breakfast this morning we decided to go to visit the Kremlin Armoury Museum. It is extremely difficult to get tickets for the museum and the website reported that no tickets were available, but we went and got in line anyway. After waiting for about 30 minutes, a Russian tour guide approached us and asked how many of us there were. When we told her three, she said that her group had canceled and asked if we would like to use the tickets she had for them. We asked her how much she wanted for them and she told us 900 Rubles (about $14.50 - the face value is 700 Rubles or about $11.25). We agreed that the price was reasonable, so we paid her and had tickets.
Gloria could not find the charging cable for her iPhone, so we went to GUM at Red Square to get her a new one at the Apple Store. With the cable in hand, we headed for the entrance to the museum. The collection in the museum is phenomenal. We spent nearly three hours exploring the exhibits, which date the 4th to the 20th centuries.
After the museum, we took the Metro to the Arbat District for some lunch and shopping. Then it was back to the hotel for some rest. We rested so long that we didn't eat dinner.
Tomorrow, we're going back to the Kremlin, will visit Christ the Savior Cathedral, take some photos near the Moscow River and head back to the hotel to re-pack and get ready to head home on Tuesday morning. It's been a tiring trip but well worth the time and effort.
Gloria and Chris
August 4th - Back to Moscow
After breakfast this morning Sergei took us to the church where Volodya met us to record a video for the Russia Mission Network Conference. We talked about their perceptions of the relationship between our churches as well as what we do well and what needs improvement. They were very honest and positive about what we are accomplishing together.
When the video was done, we returned to the house for lunch and to get our final packing done before heading for Safonovo and the train back to Moscow. Before lunch Gloria and Nina sat down to talk on video about the Bible Camp. That video will be in our presentation on the trip at Soup and Fellowship in October.
The train ride back to Moscow was quite pleasant. Southwest Russia is quite green and pretty, although the architecture can be a bit stark in places. When we arrived at the station, we got a cab and, after one of the most hair-raising rides of our lives, arrived at the hotel for some much needed sleep.
Gloria and Chris
August 3rd - Dorogobuzh - Bible Camp Wraps Up
Al, Gloria and Chris went shopping this morning for items for today's Secret Santa activity. Gloria needed some things for Nadia, the girl who Chris and Ralph first met in 2015 and Chris needed a gift bag and a couple of other items for Timothy, a seven-year-old boy who has been described as a stamped-out miniature of Chris when he was that age. Gloria ended up buying not only things for Nadia but, also, several first and second grade picture books to help her to learn Russian. Chris found two harnesses with leashes that he had been looking for to add to his emergency kit in case he has to leave the house during a disaster. Cinnamon and Callie will love them (not).
Gloria gave Nadia a couple of books, some candy and other small items. Chris gave Timothy a Good Shepherd baseball cap, a toy car and a package of chocolates from Germany. When he looked in the bag, the look on his face was worth the price of admission. He was beaming. It was good to see him so happy.
Pastor Sergei gave Chris and Gloria small picture Bibles that have both the English and Russian text. That will help us to learn more Russian before our next trip, which Pastor Sergei would like to be in 2020.
Bible Camp was a wonderful experience and one in which we wish everyone in the congregation could have the opportunity to participate. We made new friends, Chris renewed some old friendships and we truly grew closer as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Tomorrow afternoon, we'll head back to Moscow but not before we shoot an interview with Pastors Sergei and Volodya about their experiences with the twinning program, the things that they like and the things that the wish were different. We plan to use the video as a part of the Russia Mission Network Conference in September.
Gloria and Chris
August 2nd - Dorogobuzh - Bible Camp Day 4
We had a really quiet day. We got up about 7:30, ate breakfast and headed to church for Day 4 of Bible Camp. Al needed to send some Rubles to a friend in Russia so, while Gloria taught her English classes, he and Chris walked down into town to visit a bank and two post offices, hoping to send the money via Western Union. It turns out that you can only send money within Russia via Western Union if you have a Russian Passport which, obviously, neither Al nor Chris have, but Sergei does. We saved that discussion for later.
After camp was over and we had met for a short prayer service, Al and Sergei put their heads together and determined that if the money was deposited into Sergei's account, his son, Kostya, could transfer the money via telephone from their bank to the friend's bank. Mission accomplished.
Bible camp wraps up tomorrow and we'll all participate in a summer version of Secret Santa before sending the kids off.
It's been a very good week.
Gloria and Chris
August 1st - Dorogobuzh - Bible Camp Day 3
Another uneventful day of Bible Camp. Gloria taught her English classes, and Chris and Al walked down to the store to get some groceries for Sergei and Nina and the children did water-based games (relays where they bobbed for apples, waiter races, a game where they filled cups with water with the next person's cup behind their heads - the team that spilled the least water wins - and, finally, a water balloon fight complete with sprayers). Needless to say, they were soaked when it was all over.
On the way home from camp Sergei took us to visit the Boldin Monastery, which was destroyed during the War and has been rebuilt. Services were in progress in one of the chapels and, unfortunately, the main sanctuary was closed for some renovations. It is still an impressive building and well worth the drive to visit.
It will cool off more tonight with lows in the 50's and a high in the low- to mid-70's tomorrow. Great weather for the next to last day of Bible Camp.
Gloria and Chris
July 31st - Dorogobuzh - Bible Camp Day 2
Bible Camp was pretty uneventful. Gloria taught her English classes again and Chris and Al walked down to the store to get some batteries for Al's Bluetooth keyboard and to get some snacks. Other than that, it was "smooth sailing."
After dinner, the three of us sat at the dinner table with Sergei talking about St. George, our educational and work backgrounds, the Interfaith Council and a host of other subjects. Sergei was interested in Gloria's background in teaching and Chris's work in the Olympics and the fact that he's a licensed pilot. He also noted that he would like either Al or Chris, during the Thursday-evening worship service, to read a long passage of scripture, say a few words about it and lead the prayer. For efficiency's sake, Al will do it since he can do it in Russian.
It has cooled off A LOT. The low tonight is expected to be around 60 so we are looking forward to another good night's sleep and another day of Bible Camp tomorrow.
Gloria and Chris
July 30th - Dorogobuzh - Bible Camp Day 1
We got to sleep in a bit this morning as Bible Camp didn't being until 11:00 am. We arrived at church to find several children waiting for us and, by the time the day was over, about 15 children had joined the group. The theme of this year's camp is "Christ, Our Ship's Captain."
Nina led the children in a morning lesson and they split into two groups - older and younger. After a Bible study, the children were entertained by Pasha (Paul), the pastor of the church in Vyazma, and Valeria who led the children in pirate-themed games. Then the older children spent 20 minutes learning English with Gloria while the younger kids played in the bounce house. Next, the two groups swapped with Gloria teaching English (words like Ahoy!, ocean, sea, sail, boat, sailboat, etc.) the younger ones and the older ones invading the bounce house. Next was lunch (Gloria managed to avoid cooking by teaching), a craft session, a snack and then it was time to head home for a much-needed nap and shower.
After a dinner of lunch leftovers, we had a quiet evening with everyone doing their own things. Gloria worked on her lesson for tomorrow while Chris, Pastor Sergei and Sergei, Pastor Sergei's daughter's boyfriend (who will be referred to as young Sergei from now on) looked at videos and photos of Washington Capitals' captain Alex Ovechkin' visit to Red Square with the Stanley Cup.
Then it was off to bed for a few hours of sleep. More, as they say, tomorrow.
Gloria and Chris
July 29th - Dorogobuzh - Day 2
Today was church day. With 13 people staying in Pastor Sergei's house, we, as we do every day, ate breakfast in shifts, waited in line to use the bathroom then got dressed and headed to church for Sunday service.
Volodya preached a sermon on Proverbs followed by Gloria introducing herself and telling everyone how she came to Christ. Chris then read a letter from Rev. Ralph to Pastor Sergei and his congregation and spoke on bridges between our congregations, children and how we can work together to make the world a better place. Al then preached a short sermon and we adjourned to the fellowship room for lunch. While the service is quite a bit longer than our usual services (today's service was about 2 hours and 40 minutes), it is a moving experience to see the devotion to the Lord shown by this church.
On the way home from church, Pastor Sergei took us to the original site of Dorogobuzh which is now the town's Victory Park. As always it is moving to see the names of everyone in Dorogobuzh who was killed in World War II.
We had the rest of the afternoon off as we prepare for Bible Camp and the approximately 20 young people who will join us tomorrow. All of us took a short nap in preparation for dinner.
During the evening we enjoyed Skyping with our congregation, even though the audio was not working as we had hoped. Chris commented that the solution of using the phone to get the audio to St. George reminded him of his early days in radio when telephone remote broadcasts were the norm.
We continue to thank God for our trip, the love this congregation shows and for the opportunity to share our faith with them.
Gloria and Chris
July 28th - Dorogobuzh
Our train left Moscow at a very early 7:10 this morning and we arrived, after passing through two Cities of Military Glory, in Safonovo, where Brother Volodya met us and drove us to Pastor Sergei's home in Dorogobuzh. After introductions for Gloria with Nina and the family and reunions for Chris, we had tea, a nap and some lunch before heading to the Saturday prayer service at the church.
The prayer service is always a moving experience. After an opening prayer and a couple of hymns, the congregation divides up into groups of two or three and Volodya gives topics for the groups to pray about. Each group prays among themselves, Volodya says "Amin" (Amen) and moves on to the next topic. Finally, each person in the room tells the whole congregation something for which they would like to have prayers and, when everyone has spoken, the groups pray for those needs.
After the prayer service, everyone gathers in the fellowship room for tea and cookies. There will be A LOT of tea and cookies this week.
Tomorrow morning Gloria will tell the congregation something about herself and how she came to Christ and Chris and Al, along with Volodya and Sergei, will preach sermons. The service will be followed by lunch.
Gloria has already been adopted by the "Kitchen Ladies" and in addition, along with Masha who comes from Moscow to help with the camp, will be teaching the 11 to 14-year-olds. She brought two potato peelers with her and we're sure the "Kitchen Ladies" will find them to be a gift that keeps on giving as they peel pounds and pounds of potatoes for meals for the campers and staff. We're not sure yet exactly what Chris's and Al's assignments will be but we're sure it will involve something outdoors.
We're looking forward to the Skype call with you tomorrow. Please continue to pray for us as we move on to the next chapter of the trip.
Gloria and Chris
July 27th - More Sightseeing in Moscow
We spent today finishing up our first visit to Moscow with a trip to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War. They have some incredible dioramas depicting some of the major battles on Russian soil during World War II, as well as extensive displays of war hardware and personal items collected during and after the War. It's always interesting to see how other nations remember the War. After some lunch we took the Metro across town to the Museum of Cosmonautics where they have exhibits from the beginnings of the Soviet space program through Russia's current participation in the International Space Station. In addition to hardware, they also have the stuffed remains of Belka and Strelka, the two dogs who were sent into space on the USSR's second "manned" mission. They were two mutts that were found on the streets of Moscow and were "recruited" because they were thought to be tougher than pure bread dogs that had been pampered their whole lives.
Tomorrow morning at 7:10 am we board the train for the trip to Safonovo where Pastor Sergei will meet us and take us to Dorogobuzh. More from there tomorrow.
Gloria and Chris
July 26th - Sightseeing in Moscow
We had a busy day today. After a good night's sleep (most welcome with our jet lag) we went to the bank to change some dollars into rubles then took the Metro to Red Square. It was not as crowded as usual, but it was hard to see some of the sights because they are still tearing down presentation venues from the World Cup. We couldn't take the standard photo with St. Basil's in the background and they have more than quadrupled the cost of a ticket to visit so we decided to forego St. Basil's and went to GUM (the big shopping mall that forms the west side of Red Square) for some drinks and ice cream.
After a refreshing sit and some much-needed rest we headed to the State Historical Museum, adjacent to Red Square, which traces Russian civilization from the early Stone Age to the 20th Century. The collection in this museum is like nothing we had seen before and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
We had one more errand to run before heading back to the hotel. When you come to Russia you are required to get a Letter of Invitation from a Russian entity to qualify for a visa. Our LOIs come from the Russian Baptist Union and we had sent them money to cover the cost of the LOIs (nothing in Russia is free) plus money to ship the completed documents to the US. When the LOIs were issued, they were transmitted electronically to the Russian Consulate in Washington, eliminating the need to ship them, which meant that we had some money coming back to us. Elena, our contact at the Baptist Union suggested that we stop by to pick up our change, so we took the Metro and a tram to their office. It was good to finally meet Elena who also provided LOIs for Chris and Ralph in 2015. When we get ready to come in the future, we can put a face to the name.
When we got back to the hotel, Chris's suitcase was waiting for him. Having additional clothes to put on will make the rest of the trip much easier.
Tomorrow, we are going to the Museum of Cosmonautics and the Museum of the Great Patriotic War before we finish up our first visit to Moscow and head to Dorogobuzh very early Saturday morning.
Gloria and Chris
July 25th - Gloria and Chris Arrive in Russia
We're in Russia! We arrived here in Moscow at about 6:55 pm today (9:25 am St. George time) after making a not so easy connection in Frankfurt. Our flight from Las Vegas to Frankfurt was delayed because the incoming plane was late, causing us to miss our connection in Frankfurt. Then, when we arrived in Moscow, it took more than an hour for Gloria's bag to appear. Chris's, it turned out, was still in Frankfurt due to "a problem with the x-ray." It should arrive in the morning.
Al Smith. our Mission Co-Worker, guide and translator for this trip, met us at the airport and after a quick snack at the Golden Arches, got us safely to the hotel via taxi.
Tomorrow we will change some money and do some sightseeing around Moscow. Friday will be a sightseeing day and Saturday, Chris, Gloria and Al will take the train to Safonovo, where Pastor Sergei will meet us and drive us to Dorogobuzh.
Sunday, we'll attend worship at the church then join the members for fellowship. Chris will be sharing a devotional during the service. We'll also try to hook up by Skype with St. George during fellowship after morning worship in Utah.
Bible Camp begins on Monday and we're looking forward to spending the week spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to the children.
We're looking forward to our adventure continuing to unfold and will try to post something each day so you can follow our progress.
Gloria and Chris
July 22nd - Gloria McGilloway and Chris Schleter Commissioned as Missionaries
During worship on Sunday, July 22nd, Fellowship Elder Gloria McGilloway and Mission Elder Chris Schleter were commissioned as missionaries for their upcoming trip to Russia. They will be leaving on Tuesday, July 24th, spending two days in Moscow then going on to Dorogobuzh, returning to St. George on August 7th.
Their mission is to visit our partner congregation - the Word of Life Evangelical Baptist Church of Dorogobuzh, Russia - to participate in their annual Bible Camp, to get to know each other better, to build our common faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to form and renew relationships that will be enhanced and built upon for years to come.
While in Dorogobuzh, they will be staying with Pastor Sergei and his family.
Of course, while they are gone, they will be keeping in touch with us here in St. George! They have promised to try to put updates on their activities on the website as often as possible and, on July 29th during post-worship fellowship, we will attempt to have a video chat with them via Skype. Check in here while they are gone to see what they are up to!
Please keep Gloria and Chris in your prayers as they venture forth to share the faith of our congregation with our sisters and brothers in Christ in Russia.