Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. – Philipians 2:3
We saw this verse several times today brought up by multiple people. Starting the day, Linda did a wonderful devotional on Philipians 2 where we discussed the meaning of this passage. A theme of what we have seen here is humility, so this verse fits perfectly. When we arrived at church, we were greeted with Anna and Alla rehearsing to “Here I Am to Worship.” Once everyone entered the sanctuary, we joined them in song. The praise songs were sung together in both English and Russian, a powerful experience that embodied the feeling of the unity through God on our unique individual faith journeys.
Today was filled with interactions where we got the chance to discuss and share these faith journeys with small groups. Pastor Cathy led a leadership workshop that felt like a bible study. Something important that Cathy focused on was our spiritual gifts and how we use those to grow our communities. We were able to learn about each other’s gifts and understand how the church communities have fostered these gifts. In the small groups, we found ourselves being inspired by hearing where people see God interact in their life. At the end of the spiritual gift conversations, people in our small group said what they thought our gift was and we shared what we though each person’s was. It was incredible to highlight other people’s talents as well as hearing what people thought our gifts and other’s in the circle were. Then, we came together as a big group, and a few people shared their testimonials to the whole room, which was incredibly brave. It was inspiring to hear their walk with Christ.
Something important to discuss is the food. There is no such thing as to much food. First was a coffee and tea break with pastries in the morning. An hour later, we were fed a delicious three course lunch. Two hours later, we had our second coffee break. Personally, the two of us couldn’t handle another meal, so we played foosball with a some “professional” Russian players. Before dinner, Alla and Anna led us in more songs.
Before dinner we worked in small groups led by Aliona to decorate doves with a certain theme in mind. We worked on the same dove with our new friend and tireless interpreter Misha and a young member of the church, Maria. We agreed on a theme of Jesus as king to start but it quickly became something else. We apologize, Misha, that we couldn’t keep up with your perfectionist vision. However, we all took from that a lesson of finding beauty in chaos. A common theme of the doves was the love and unity between the Russian and American communities.
So then, back to food again, we had a wonderful dinner where Sarah barely ate a thing because she had several children all over her.
After dinner, we had an amazing and moving prayer service organized by Samara Methodist Church. They set up different prayer exercises based off Bible verses around the room that we could individually and leisurely partake in. Each person had their own powerful and unique experience that we cannot speak for, but it was a beautiful evening and the perfect way to end a long day.