In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, The United Methodist Church sponsored a program called “The Russia Initiative”. It was a program that helped develop sister church relationships between United Methodist Churches in The United States and United Methodist Churches in Russia. Many of our United Methodist Churches in Wisconsin participated in this program. In the South West District, we had a good concentration of churches who found this to be a meaningful connection.

When Bishop Eduard Khegay was in the early stages of planning for the Eurasia Annual Conference outside of St. Petersburg, Russia, he was remembering the good connection between churches in the Wisconsin Conference and Russia. He invited Bishop Jung to come as a speaker to their Annual Conference, with the hope that we could begin to rebuild relationships that might lead to some new sister church connections between Wisconsin and Russia.

Upon accepting this invitation and because of the large concentration of connections from the South West District, Bishop Jung invited me to invite some clergy from the South West who might be interested in helping to develop these deeper relationships. With Sherry Malone’s help (the South West District Office Manager), we were able to put together a list of churches who had participated in the earlier “Russian Initiative”. At that point, I approached several pastors (nine total) and invited them to consider joining me on this trip to Russia to help build relationships and possibly develop a sister church relationship, between a church in Russia and the church they are serving. Those who responded to go on this trip are: Gary Holmes (from Sugar River UMC), Jason Mahnke (from People’s UMC), InWha Shon and his wife Eun Hee (from Clarno / Staver UMC), and Julie Wilson (from Mount Horeb UMC).

On Saturday, May 12, 2018, Bishop Jung, Gary, Jason, Julie and I will be traveling to St. Petersburg. InWha and EunHee will join us a couple of days later (after they attend the college graduation of their daughter). We are so excited to go and represent the Wisconsin Annual Conference as we begin the process to develop relationships that can possibly lead to some sister church relationships between Wisconsin and Russia. It is certainly our hope that after this initial trip, we will be able to help other churches across the Wisconsin Annual Conference make similar connections; so that relationships of mutual support, ministry sharing and discipleship making can grow deeper. This trip is made possible in part because of a South West District Fund at the United Methodist Foundation that is focused on growing missional connections for the District, and because of the willingness of those who are going to help pay for their own way. Because of the challenges facing the Eurasian Annual Conference, they are not paying for any part of our trip.

While there, many of us will be participating in some teaching / leading workshops at the Annual Conference session. Please take time to pray for us on this trip. Pray that we can help make good connections that can be deepened between the United Methodists in Russia and in Wisconsin. Pray that we can represent Wisconsin well, and offer the love and grace of God that we has been nurtured through our United Methodist connections here in Wisconsin. If you would like more information about this trip, don’t hesitate to contact me at any time at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By Scott Carlson, South West District Superintendent