Monthly Archives

February 2014

Final days in Russia

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Men watching the Russian hockey game in the Fun Zone tent.

Men watching the Russian hockey game in the Fun Zone tent.

Sochi, Russia (MNN) — The final day of ministry in Sochi, Russia wasn’t very nice. A cold rain fell on the Fun Zone all afternoon. It kept many of the usual visitors away, however it wasn’t a complete wash-out. There was both ministry, excitement and concern.

The day started with our friends from Russian Ministries and The Gideon’s International of Canada joining local and national Christians, volunteers from SOAR International in the United States for ministry at the Fun Zone.

Flashmob at the concert. Singer on big screen. Flashmob in front. They kept cutting to the group during the concert.

Flashmob at the concert. Singer on big screen. Flashmob in front. They kept cutting to the group during the concert.

Face painting, balloons animals, and crafts were all moved inside the ministry tent on the church grounds. The other activities were moved into the back annex of the church. Practice for the flash mob, also was moved inside. Oh, I didn’t tell you about the flash mob.

All week long volunteers from Russia and the United States worked on a flash mob that was to erupt during at concert Tuesday night. They worked very hard. A Christian singer was having a concert during the Olympics. When she got to the song of choice, the flash mob was supposed to start their choreography. Even though it was a rainy evening it went well.

Rahim was arrested as he handed out Scripture during a flash mob at a concert.

Rahim was arrested as he handed out Scripture during a flash mob at a concert.

One of the local Christians decided that would be a good opportunity and risk handing out Bibles. He was arrested and later released. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to interview him before we left because we left Wednesday morning. According to our friends at SOAR International, the man was arrested and released. SOAR reports, “Rahim risked it and started to give away New Testaments at during the flashmob. You can’t really do it outside of church territory. He got arrested. Now back and smiling again.”

Pray for the church in Sochi. One of the churches there is facing pressure from the governement. The government wants to reclaim the church property and sell it. The church is located on prime real estate. They city would make a lot of money from its sale. The pastor of the church is working with authorities to try and work out an agreement. If it isn’t overturned, the church will lose it’s home and the community will lose a neighbor who’s investing in their lives helping with marriages, teen problems and the Gospel.

SOAR's Richard Page (left) with MNN's Greg Yoder (left) in front of the church hostel in Sochi, Russia.

SOAR’s Richard Page (left) with MNN’s Greg Yoder (left) in front of the church hostel in Sochi, Russia.

Before leaving Sochi, I interviewed the president of SOAR International Richard Page. We talked about the project, ministry, and the future of SOAR’s involvement in Sochi. You can read the story here: https://www.mnnonline.org/news/olympic-ministry-moves-forward-despite-higher-costs/. Page tells us that the cost for doing this ministry was much more than anticipated. They failed to accurately predict the inflationary prices created by the Olympics hysteria. Food, water, everything went up because of the Winter Olympics.

Today, we’re spending our final day in Russia in St. Petersburg. The team will be spending the day see the highlights of the city. I will be visiting a little girl that I met in 2004, Sveta. She’s now 13 years old. She can’t be adopted because of some family issues. Pray for her. She’s one of those children, in the proper environment, could really thrive. I don’t know where she is spiritually, but she’s a loving little girls with a servants heart.

Russian fans watching the USA vs Russia hockey game in the Fun Zone (photo by Greg Yoder).

Fun zone unity is infectious

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Olympic Park - Sochi, Russia (photo by Greg Yoder).

Olympic Park – Sochi, Russia (photo by Greg Yoder).

Russia (MNN) — We only have one day left in Sochi, Russia and the church Fun Zone. I wasn’t able to update this blog until this morning, so let me give you an update over the last three days.

On Saturday, a few of us traveled to Olympic Park to watch an Olympic event. Curling. The trip to Olympic Park is great. It’s a brand new electric train. It’s free to help get spectators to and from events. As you get closer and closer to the events, the excitement grows. By the time you arrive on the 30 minute journey, you’re ready to almost run to where you’re going. Except, you don’t realize how FAR you have to walk. It’s a haul. It’s got to be over a mile.

Vicki Adams Curler for Great Britain (photo by: Greg Yoder).

Vicki Adams Curler for Great Britain (photo by: Greg Yoder).

We walked to the IceHouse, the home of the Curling event. We thought the USA was playing in the three team event, but they weren’t. But, it was a great time. We sat next to Gordon and Kate Adams, the parents of Vicki Adams, a team member of team Great Britain’s Curling team. We didn’t know any of the rules or strategy surrounding the game. The Adam’s were very gracious in explaining them and event encouraged us to cheer for her daughter. The Great Britain team won on the final stone. It was actually exciting, especially as we watched the parents get nervous for their daughter.

We spent a little more time in Olympic Park. The areas features the ‘Fun Houses’ of Switzerland, Russia, Canada, United States and more (I’m sure). But, unfortunately an invitation is required for the most of the Fun Houses. It was a little disappointing. Coke had and exposition and so did Korea, the host of the 2018 Winter Games. I’ll tell you about that later.

Russian fans watching the USA vs Russia hockey game in the Fun Zone (photo by Greg Yoder).

Russian fans watching the USA vs Russia hockey game in the Fun Zone (photo by Greg Yoder).

Following our time in Olympic Park we traveled back to the Fun Zone. Why in the evening? It was the USA vs Russia hockey game. It was a fun rivalry. The Russians were talking ‘smack’ with us. We were gracious (most of us were). One person wanted to bet 100 rubles. I told him it’s not that important, besides he would lose. So, we shook on it and watched the game together. It was a back and forth contest that could have gone either way. But, the Americans prevailed. The whole Russian crowd was disappointed. However, we waved our American flags very proudly.

Germany vs Finland in women's hockey (photo by Greg Yoder).

Germany vs Finland in women’s hockey (photo by Greg Yoder).

On Sunday, Feburary 16th a number of us had tickets to the Germany vs Finland women’s hockey game. I must tell you that we were looking more forward to being able to walk through Olympic Park, rather than watching women’s hockey. After watching so much men’s hockey, I think I’m spoiled. While we watched closely, the speed of the game is much slower and the skill is much less than the men. It was fun to be a part of the Olympics event, but the level of hockey wasn’t really there for me. Finland won 2-1.

Greg's Coke endorsement with the Olympic torch.

Greg’s Coke endorsement with the Olympic torch.

We spent almost all day in Olympic Park. We knew that would probably be the last day our team would be able to soak it all in. So, we went to Korea’s Fan House. There, they showed us the dream for the Olympics of 2018. Hopefully they’ll be able to get everything done in time, unlike Sochi. After that, we stood in line for the Coke experience. It was two huge blow-up buildings. It was basically a coke informercial, which culminated with a free bottle of coke in a special commemorative aluminum bottle.

Following that, we traveled back for dinner at the hostel.

Russian Ministries' Wally Kulakoff with SOAR International's Richard Page at the Fun Zone in Sochi (photo by Greg Yoder).

Russian Ministries’ Wally Kulakoff with SOAR International’s Richard Page at the Fun Zone in Sochi (photo by Greg Yoder).

On Monday, it was a time of ministry. I spent most of my morning writing, waiting to see my friends at Russian Ministries. They were to arrive at the Fun Zone when it opened at 3:00 pm. I arrived just prior to the opening, but the bus ride to the church was interesting.

Our group of four got on the bus. About four stops in the four people got on the bus. They were speaking broken English. One of them looked around the bus and spotted me, an obvious American. He sat next to me on the bus and started talking to me in Russian. I couldn’t understand him very well, so I told him so. Then he acted like he couldn’t understand me (in English). He asked me where I was from — specifically. When I asked him he said, “Chechnya — Grozny.” That made me a little nervous. But, what happened after that REALLY made me nervous. All four of the people got their Ipads, Iphones and other electronics out and started acting very aggressively. Unbeknownst to each other, we were all feeling VERY uncomfortable. So, our Russian translator said, “Let’s go.” It wasn’t our stop, but we all got up and got off the bus a few stops early. As we got off, we all said, “That just didn’t feel right.”  After we got off the bus and made it to the Fun Zone, we were pulled aside by our hosts that the secret police informed them that a high terror alert was issued. We felt good that we listened to our instincts.

We walked a few blocks to the Fun Zone. That’s when I discovered Russian Ministries had

Russian Ministries Team Gennady Tarkun and Pavel Tokachuk (photo by Greg Yoder).

Russian Ministries Team Gennady Tarkun and Pavel Tokachuk (photo by Greg Yoder).

arrived. It was great seeing old friends: Pavel Tokarchuk, Gennady Torkun, and Wally Kulakoff. Russia Ministries provided the printed materials for the Fun Zone: Bilingual New Testaments and Gospels of John and a little magazine called “Hope.”

Many people attended the Fun Zone Sunday. In an interview with Wally Kulakoff, he told us about their 11 city marathon, sharing the Gospel in 11 cities during the Olympics. This was one of their stops. I’ll tell you more about that in our special report Wednesday.

It has been a wonderful experience being here in Sochi for the Olympics. Keep praying. SOAR International Ministries is helping to support the ministry. They still have a week to go and they need funding to help keep it going. Because of the excitement and popularity of the Fun Zone, they’re running a little over-budget. Could you help support them?  Go here: http://www.SOARinternational.org.

Sochi is not the picture shown on TV

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Taking the train to the Mountain Cluster events at Sochi.

Taking the train to the Mountain Cluster events at Sochi.

Sochi, Russia (MNN) — Day one is under my belt and the Winter Olympics are so different than what you are seeing on television. While the beautiful picture you’re seeing on television is beautiful. The snow, which is beautiful where there IS snow, but there IS not snow in much of Sochi.

Thursday, February 13 I started off on the train. Richard, Anya, John, and I traveled to what’s called the mountain cluster, where the ski events and bobsled competition are taking place.The rest of the team went to the City Center ‘Fun Zone’ to actually work with the kids and adult visiting the center.

The mountains around the Mountain Cluster at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The mountains around the Mountain Cluster at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Yesterday in the mountains, it was 60 degrees. It was amazingly warm. As long as the sun was out, we were warm. But, as soon as the sun fell behind the clouds or the mountains, it got chilly — but not cold.

In the morning, we spent most of the time just taking in the atmosphere. Since the ‘Fun Zone’ didn’t open until 3, we were able to take video, conduct interviews with church members and spent some time being the subject of interviews from CBS News and Russian TV.

We were eating lunch at McDonalds, we were approached by a Russian translator from CBS News. She said they were looking for Americans, but they were hard to find. It was probably because the U.S. media did such a good job scaring away the American public. At any rate, they asked if we would be willing to answer some questions. We agreed. It was fun. We were asked about everything from why we were there, what sports we enjoy (my response was hockey), and why we were there. John told them he love curling. He was so animated. He’s probably going to be on TV.

Teen girls enjoy the fun zone in the mountain cluster.

Teen girls enjoy the fun zone in the mountain cluster.

After our time there, we went to the fun zone. It was a small place connected to the local church. But local kids were very involved in it. They had a trampoline, a blow-up room, and lots of games and interaction with adults. It was a great opportunity to have fun with the kids.

Since this is a battle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness, I found out that our producer (who was filling in for me while I’m in Russia) got the flu. So, I had to head back to City Center to anchor our news broadcast. But, before that I was able to do an interview with Richard Page, John Rysdyck, and other members of the team about what they were going at the ‘Fun Zones.’ That became the story for Mission Network News.

Friday, the whole team is heading to the City Center ‘Fun Zone’ to spend time with visitors both children and adults. Saturday, I’ll be heading to an actual event. CURLING. Unfortunately, I was able to attend my event Thursday because of the emergency at work, but I’m looking forward to that, and watching the U.S.A. vs Russia hockey game in the City Center main screen. It’ll be fun interacting with the Russian during the game.

Pray for us! I’m battling sleep deprivation because of a snorer in our room. 🙂 Pray that I’ll avoid getting sick and that I would be able to get my work done. But, more importantly, pray that the stories I write will be the stories God will use to call His people to his service.

Mission Network News in Sochi

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While the 2014 Winter Olympics are already underway, I am waiting patiently for my flight to leave. Yes, I am leaving for the Winter Olympics on February 11 to catch up with Russian and American Christians who are working together to love those who are in Sochi. This is a grass roots ministry effort spearheaded by the Russia Inland Mission, support by SOAR International based in Alaska.

Sochi Hospitality Center.

Sochi Hospitality Center.

What’s the ministry? They have open three hospitality centers in three areas. Each center will have viewing centers, but will also provide entertainment and interaction with those who venture in. The goal is to begin relationships that open doors to eventually share Christ.

Beginning February 13, I’ll begin covering the outreach events at the centers. I’ll be interviewing local Christians,national ministry leaders, participants and maybe even athletes about their involvement. I’ll also look behind the scenes to get unique stories about God’s work at the Olympics.

I’ll be featuring stories for radio, video and here on this blog every day between February 13-19. Unfortunately I will not be there for the entire Winter Games, but I’m looking forward to rubbing shoulders with my brothers and sisters who are sharing their faith in Sochi.