Thoughts on Easter Experience in Russia:
Although we have been travelling to Russia since 1992, this year was the first time that we could be present on Easter Sunday in Ulyanovsk. The United Methodist churches in Russia celebrate this on the Orthodox calendar, so since it fell on a different day from western calendar for Easter, I was able to celebrate first with St. Lukes in OKC and then on May 1, 2016, joyfully greeted our brothers and sisters with Христос Воскрес ! (Christ is Risen!)
Every month on the third Sunday we share prayer and Bible study with each other by skype but nothing takes the place of physically being together. Taking communion, praying and singing together with all the hugs and warmth of our relationship is especially moving. As we prepared for the Easter retreat that the Ulyanovsk church planned and led, I felt God speaking a message to my heart that He wanted me to hear and to share. The retreat gave us the opportunity to relax together and to share God's recreation – His gift of growth and change through the action of His love in our lives.
At each step on my path to Russia, I could see God's actions – some examples are His care for my family, friends, patients, and coworkers that remained in Oklahoma; the Russian friend I had not seen in over a year whose voice I heard in the maelstrom of busy Schipol Airport in Amsterdam as he was on his way to meet his family in Bulgaria and I was on my way to our family in Ulyanovsk- we met between our flights for a few moments that were ordained by God and could not have been planned by us; A dear friend who is like a nephew who met me in Moscow and drove me from airport to train on my arrival and from train to hotel on my return; a lovely lady named Elena who amazingly was my train attendant BOTH ways (to and from Ulyanovsk) and that we could communicate well and share kindnesses; my hosts Pastor Nadya and her husband which was a unique blessing because I usually don't get the opportunity to stay with them; Mila and Vika who shared our room at camp and also gave me their wifi hotspots so that I could make my devices work late into the night after my smartphone got wet and died (it died 2 hours after we arrived at camp- do you think God wanted my attention ?!); In fact, the gift of the broken phone brought everyone to my room at camp to try to help me dry it, pray for it, pray for me, encourage me, hug me and most of all let me know that the phone is not what is important (despite my worries about how to connect back home to my mom and my office - they showed me that I was connected by God's love and power with those around me as well as those I left behind me at home).
As we shared communion at church on Easter Sunday, the entire experience was one of brokenness shared and hearts healed by God's love as He binds us to each other and to Him.
Dr. Lauranne Harris