If you were to ask me what my fondest memory of my recent trip to Russia is – I would have to be honest and say it happened on my day off when I was “playing tourist” and not during any of the 40+ teaching opportunities when I ministered God’s Word through preaching, teaching and prophecy.
On our last day in the caucasus I accompanied a number of pastors and their spouses on a tour of the mountains – a 2.5 hour drive to get there with a roadside lunch of some special “pizza-type” food of one of the many people groups found in Russia. Then a few hours on ski lifts going half way up a fairly large mountain and simply enjoying God’s handiwork as the scenery was beautiful – magnificent. Then, part way back to where we were staying my team stopped with these men and women for a supper in a dense Russian forest. This is the event that had the biggest impact upon me.
The impact was not immediate – although I was aware of God doing something in me and speaking to me. However, later as I thought about the “feeling” and the events of that cool mountain evening and our meal cooked on a campfire and eaten with our fingers, I realized what I had truly experienced and then I cried for hours.
I thought we were going to tour with the two lead apostles of the network (they call them “unions”) and have a somewhat quiet day. Then I discovered that there was going to be 20+ men and women on this day long outing. This “change in plans” or “hidden plans” had happened frequently during the visit and it felt a lot like manipulation and I didn’t like these surprises being sprung on us.
The vehicle I was in was small and noisy and so the long drive was not comfortable or what you would call pleasant. However…
The mountain was wonderful – but I have seen mountains before and I am tired and this is not my idea of a “day off”. I also had the feeling this was going to end up with me being asked to prophesy over those in our party who had not yet received a prophetic word at our many meetings. I was right but simply declined stating it was a day off and I would like it to remain as such. They seemed to understand although they were disappointed, I am sure. Then the long drive back late at night.
But the forest meal …
I watched as these 20 pastors and spouses made the outdoor fire, heated water in an old fashion Russian outdoor teapot (it was really neat) out of the 1800’s. They prepared the food, cooked the meal, and did so in less than comfortable surroundings as it was in a forest without proper seats, picnic tables, etc. They worked together as a real team – each helping the other getting the many tasks accomplished and enjoyed every minute of their time together. It was a celebration.
This was not an easy task – to feed 22 of us. We basically had what we had brought. The water supply was great – a fast flowing river with “the cleanest water in Eastern Europe” according to their reports. It could be heard throughout the evening and was a marvellous backdrop to our activities.
We sat on logs and ate our food (it was wonderful) with our fingers tearing at the meat that had been cooked, picking up food with our hands from common plates set in the center of the group… an experience. A good experience. But, that was not what I wanted to share – just background.
I watched 20 men and women – most in difficult ministry and living situations – laugh together as they worked together. They respected each other, worked as a team, there was a prayer going on over there, a story over here, a hug back there, tears flowed like the river in the background …. Then, all of a sudden, as we were seated on the cold and damp ground eating and drinking hot and strong tea the Holy Spirit showed up. We were still laughing together and eating lots of great food with our fingers, sharing and talking, listening and laughing but there was a mighty sweep of the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit that swept into the area and settled on all of us. It was as if He found out there was a party going on and decided to join us and celebrate God’s goodness at the end of 8 long days of ministry. It was majestic – awesome – incredible – overwhleming – unforgetable – powerful – emotionally moving – life-changing.
Paul states in 2 Corinthians 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. I experienced the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” in a whole new way – as never before.
It was – powerful. And I experienced the highlight of my trip on a day when I was doing something I would not have, in the natural, chosen to do in less than comfortable or even convenient circumstances. Yet, God honored the hearts of these men and women and the unity they work together with …
Reminds me of Psalm 133 … How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.