IF YOU WILL INDULGE ME THIS MONTH, I’D LIKE TO TELL YOU about my recent adventure. Three of us Presbyterian ministers were privileged to be the first Americans to teach at the Moscow Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but there really is a Presbyterian seminary in Russia, founded about 10 years ago by the Presbyterian Church of Korea. So there we were, sitting in the middle of Moscow, eating Korean food and coping with translation among three languages: Russian, Korean and English!
Our classes consisted of an inspiring group of 200 theological students and the pastors of 98 fledgling churches scattered across an incredibly broad geographical area. Our task was to teach theology, Bible and the practical aspects of leading a church. It was an experience I will not soon forget. Some of the students had done prison time for their faith under the Soviet regime. Some had been part of illegal, underground churches. And we were supposed to teach them; in reality, they taught us, inspired us and challenged us with the depth of their faith and intensity of their commitment.
A highlight of the experience was meeting Serge, a young pastor and newlywed who served a tiny congregation founded only six months before. As he spoke to us, he mentioned that his “dream” was to have their very own keyboard, so that they could have better music in their worship services. It just happened that, only two weeks before, a member of the church I serve had given some money to a discretionary fund, and now a light bulb lit up brightly in my head. You guessed it – a couple of days later I was shopping with Serge in downtown Moscow for his church’s first instrument. The smile on the young man’s face made the whole trip worth it. I asked what song they would play first with the new keyboard. His answer: “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.”
I cannot even count the number of times in my ministry when a need and the resources to meet it have come together. Some may call it a coincidence; I call it providence. After all, coincidence is when God acts and chooses not to leave a calling card.
So this Sunday, somewhere in Russia, a little congregation is singing with gusto, accompanied by a brand-new keyboard. But the best part of all will be the smile that will radiate from the face of a young pastor. Praise God from whom even unexpected blessings flow, and who can do new things in unexpected places.
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