Privyet from Russia! It’s Sarah Krott and Gretchen Thomas writing to you. We are going to be writing about our adventures and experiences while here in Russia.
Most of the team arrived in Samara late last night (or early morning) after a long day of travel. Pastors Doug and Cathy unfortunately experienced travels delays but they arrived today just in time for lunch. The rest of the team was able to sleep in this morning gathering after a late breakfast for devotionals led by Pastor Laura. The focus of her devotions challenged us to look for suprises throughout our trip here.
After the devotion, we went to the church to meet everyone. Team members that had previously come to Samara were warmly greeted at the doors while first time team members were welcomed enthusiastically. We then had a wonderfully made lunch where we started to get to know one another while others caught up. Then, we took a tour of the church. We saw the current renovations of the youth space, which will soon be a youth cafe with heated floors so they can comfortably host bible studies and events with the youth able to sit on the floor. Last trip to Samara we painted some rooms and we were able to see the final product. We ended in the sanctuary where we were greeted with more members of Samara United Methodist Church.
We started with a series of ice-breaker activities lead by Max, our main translator. The first game we took a personal object and exchanged it with another person as well as our name. We continued exchanging for a couple of minutes, and then attempted to correctly return the object by saying their names. It was hard for us to understand and remember the Russian names as well as for the Russians to remember our names. The next game that we played was snowball. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s when one person says their name and makes a motion. Then, the next person must repeat what the person before them did and recite their name. As it goes around the circle, it creates a list of names and motions. Shout out to Tanya from Samra and Pastor Laura, who repeated everyone’s names and gestures.
In small groups, we created a Russian and English dictionary. In our group, Allah, a member of the church here spoke very little English but was an enthusiastic teacher helping us to pronounce each little word and phrase and curious to improve her English. Now we can at least reply in Russian when we do not understand the Russian being said to us. Gretchen and Allah spoke their English and Russian in front of everyone and got a round of applause.
Next, we went around the room and introduced ourselves and gave our expectations and hopes. Another shout out, huge thanks to Max for translating everyone’s introductions, so we could better understand each other’s lives. We are so grateful to be in fellowship with these amazing people.
We had a lovely dinner with some of our old and some of our new friends. Following dinner, we took a walk through the historic part of Samra. We ended in the town square where there is a festival for the new year. In the center of the square, there is a large New Years Tree and Sarama sign. They have many activities including ice skating, Christmas market booths, a mini-carousel, a tube slide, and a mini-train rides with music playing throughout. Our friend, Albina from Samara, took Elena, Eva and us on the tube ride. We couldn’t have imagined s better way to end the day.
We cannot wait to see what the rest of the week holds. We will keep you updated along the way!