“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1 (NIV)
Peace and grace be with you all in Christ Jesus.
Pentecost began two weeks ago. As Jesus said, we are God’s witnesses to the wounded world through the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon us. I thank God so much for the opportunity my wife Esther and I were able to witness to Jesus’ mission through the mission trip to Russia. Made possible this year by the Wisconsin Annual Conference with Bishop Jung, the South West District Superintendent Scott Carlson and the South East District Superintendent Forrest Wells and pastor Sunny Kim.
During the mission trip past year, I was encouraged by Bishop Jung to build sister relationships with Pskov United Methodist Church in Pskov, Russia. I was unsure at the time that small churches like ours could have sister relationships with a church in other countries because of finances. But I realized that a sister relationship is not just for financial support, but for meaningful mutual connections which are ministry sharing, intercessory prayers for expanding God’s kingdom, supporting ministers and ministries, and so on.
Thus, I have kept the connection with pastor Vladmir Ditmar at Pskov Church, Russia since then and wanted to visit that church during this trip. It was wonderful that I visited Pskov Church from St. Petersburg along with my wife, Esther, and that I could, while there at the church, present them with some gifts (a guitar, a quilt, t-shirts, dish scrubbers) as a token of God’s love and good friendship.
Pskov Church was established about thirty years ago and is now made up of a few ethnic groups of more than fifty members, and is very active and growing, with its children’s ministry, youth ministry, and choir. It is two-story building, having many rooms for intercessory prayer, a library, a multipurpose room, and a fellowship hall. I was thankful and joyful for the welcoming hospitality of a group of people from the church, was able to see the building, and pray for them.
Despite many challenges, such as the difficult process of getting Visas, the aftermath of the Special General Conference, and lost baggage at the airport of St. Petersburg and lost wallet in Kaliningrad, Russia, I experienced the provision of God that God prepared for us and our churches. I was very grateful that our mission team could help and serve brothers and sisters in Russia with workshops and could find what they want and need spiritually and physically as well. I could learn from them the passion, longing, and thirst for spirituality and Jesus that they have.
I feel that I cannot help but serve them, because they are our brothers and sisters in need in Christ Jesus, regardless of their thoughts and appearances, as Jesus said, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). And I recall that prophet Jonah finally followed God’s command in spite of his prejudice.
They are in desperate need of spiritual and practical growth due to some oppression from the religious and political authorities. I personally feel strongly a fervent longing that I want to help them to walk with the Holy Spirit so that I can be a bridge of connecting the United Methodist Church in Russia and in the United States. Especially I felt a debt, especially, to some in spiritual need whose ethnicity is ????????? (Korean-Russian). To my surprise, there are so many Korean-Russian Christians in Russia, because their ancestors were forcibly moved to Central Asia in Russian territory by Stalin back in 1930s.
I saw they are thirsty for spirituality so they are willing to open Protestant churches such as our United Methodist churches, unlike the conventional Russian-Orthodox Church. There are many influential Korean-Russian pastors, even Bishop Eduard Khegay, and lay leaders who participate in Jesus’ ministries. I believe that they can be good co-workers and supporters for building relationships with each other and through the relationships we could gradually give glory to God by expanding the kingdom of God.
I never forget their joy and love when we were there with them together. My ears are still ringing with words, "see you next year."
Pastor Inwha Shon,
Clarno Zion and Staver St. Peter’s UMC, Monroe, WI.