It’s now just four days since I returned home from Russia - it’s 5:00am, but my body still thinks it’s in Moscow (where’s it’s already 9:00am) so I’m wide awake!
As I reflect on the events of the past couple of weeks, I’m overwhelmed with a sense of the amazing way in which the Lord connects us with people in other places, other nations and people-groups. In Moscow and the surrounding cities, we met with a great number of people whose hearts are on fire with the expectation that the Lord could move powerfully through their land; people who love Jesus with all their hearts and are ‘sold out’ for him. This trip was instigated through the prophetic encouragement of a number of people - and it really felt like the Lord went before us to prepare the hearts of the people to receive a download from heaven itself. Two friends came with me (Cathy Taylor from London and Peter Perchard from Runcorn) and it really felt like the Lord bonded our hearts with a common purpose.
We ministered in three different places: Sergiev Posad, Alexandrov and Karabanov.
The first weekend in Sergiev Posad was a regular event called “Prayer Mountain” - starting on Friday morning and closing on Sunday afternoon. The worship was wonderful and there were significant times when we tangibly felt the presence of the Lord. I was able to share about a number of things the Lord put in my heart for them - from Kingdom foundations to intimacy and many points in-between! The thing that amazes me looking back is the power of personal prophetic encouragement. The Holy Spirit gave me a number of extremely vivid words for people.
One couple was about the Lord developing their business in such a way as to make resources available for the Kingdom. He had planted creative ideas in their hearts (she is a fashion designer) and the Lord wanted them to dream and be creative with Kingdom ideas.
One young woman - I said the Lord believed in her much more than she believed in herself. I went on to say that the Lord wanted to meet with her profoundly and that she had been asking the Lord for that. I also said that the Lord wanted to use her to reach out to people with brokenness in their lives.
Another couple - the Lord wanted to use them to reach out to young people and they were going to see a great impact on the teenagers in their city. The Lord knows their hearts and he’s pleased with their devotion to him.
We also spent the final evening of the trip in Sergiev Posad. Once again we had a wonderful time of worship - powerful leading into God’s presence. I spoke about Character of Compassion (I was going to talk about Ezekiel 47, but I felt the Lord said to change it). Once again, I began to realise the dynamic power of words from the heart of the Father to bring healing to the heart. There was a family who asked me to pray for them. I told them that the Lord really loved them as a family - they are a crucial part of his plan for this church. I asked if they had had any trauma or difficulty in their family and they said yes. I prayed into that and against any lingering issues, I felt the Lord said, “The past is the past - you can walk away from it”. All three ended up in tears and I hugged them for ages. As I began to walk away, I felt the Lord ask me to say to the wife, “You are not your sister and the Lord doesn’t compare you with her and he has a unique calling just for you.” She cried and told me that she always compared herself with her sister whom she saw as more gifted than her. I could see the Lord healing her heart as we interacted - I didn’t pray for her; the Lord did the healing through his rhema word straight to her heart.
A Busy Week!
Tuesday took us to Vladimir. During the day we visited the town and walked around the various cathedrals in the city and learnt about the history of the development of Russian Orthodoxy - mainly connected to political issues in the nation and the whims of the various Tzars! Taken around by Pastor Andrea - he is a very good English speaker. At a cafe we talked a lot about church and the meaning of ‘ekklesia’ - he was very moved. He asked if we might come back and if they could gather people to share some of these insights - he said it really was what the Russian Church needed to hear. It seems that the church mix is generally Pentecostal, Baptist, Charismatic & Methodist - they all seem to get along with one another, but don’t really mix with the Orthodox.
On Wednesday we spent the morning in Alexandrov and travelled on to Karabanov - where we joined a pastors’ meeting - we had lunch and then talked - about church and what the Lord is doing worldwide - we also spoke about the promises of an awakening starting in Russia. We had a long discussion about ‘ekklesia’ and what the Lord had in mind when he said “I will build my church”. People were very open to what God was saying. They are a really good group of pastors who care deeply about each other - they are from different backgrounds, but really supportive. It became clear to me that, although they have rejected the Orthodox Church per se, they are still impacted by Orthodox spirituality and theology - which seems a good mix.
In the evening there was a regular, monthly joint meeting of five different churches. The room was packed - wonderful worship interspersed with each of the 5 main pastors bringing a 5min word then praying. I spoke about intimacy and Mary of Bethany, but also about Matthew 21 - Jesus cleansing the Temple. We cleared the chairs and ministered to people.
The Power of God's Kind Words
The Holy Spirit was touching people’s hearts with his love and compassion - many people responded and again the Lord gave me words for people as I prayed for them:
I saw one young woman worshiping the Lord and dancing before him at home by herself and said that it touched the Lord’s heart - that no-one else knew that she did it. She said that was true.
A young man who I saw leading many young people to the Lord - he said he worked with kids and was praying for them to be saved.
We also prayed for healing and a few gave testimony to pain disappearing and freedom of movement.
It was a long drive home and on the way we experienced a wonderful example of what I have encountered in many different nations - “The toilet in the middle of nowhere!”. Words fail me - I’m thinking of writing a book entitled, “Toilets of the World”!
On Thursday we travelled back to Alexandrov to have tea with the pastor and his family. He had decided to gather his leaders - about 25 of them. I talked about the words about Russia and they asked questions - about dealing with difficult people in church, about the nature of church and how Houses of Prayer relate to church (they are considering starting a HOP in a building they might purchase).
We prayed for them at the end and some specifically asked us to pray for healing. I prayed for a woman who had a car accident 20 years ago and had back problems ever since - constant pain and restricted movement. As we prayed, she said she felt like anaesthetic was being injected into her spine and the pain disappeared. I asked her to try to do something that would normally bring pain - she twisted her back and couldn’t feel any pain.
Another woman had been suffering from depression and feeling that she had no purpose in the church. As we prayed, she said she felt like God was ‘rewiring her brain’ (her words) and she felt joy rising up within her.
We also talked about church planting in Alexandrov - they asked lots of questions - particularly about whether the pastor should move on and start another church then raise up leaders and move on again. I said that we had mostly raised up couples who would either move to a place the Lord sent them to or start something in their area if they lived at a distance. They asked if there was any way in which we could help them in the future with their church planting plans.
On Friday afternoon we met with a couple called Masha & Vasily. They are a key couple in the church - they had been at the weekend. On their way home on Sunday, their car flipped over and crashed in the snow. Masha had broken her hand, but their two children were unhurt. Vasily came out of the car incredibly unhurt and alert and was able to help the rest of the family. Unfortunately, his sister was in the car and at the hospital the doctors said she had broken her neck. We prayed that night, but were not able to go to the hospital to pray. Vasily told us that on the Monday the doctor said that he must have made a mistake, because her neck was only bruised and there was no damage to the spine! OK - so was that true or did God heal her? I guess we’ll never know.
God's Amazing Love
As I look back, I am profoundly thankful to the Lord and humbled by the fact that he could call me to such a tremendous calling - to simply go and give what he’s given me. The love the Lord has for the people of Russia and the love that they showed us as we sought to simply be obedient to the Lord’s call to us is amazing.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians - my prayer for the Russians:
Ephesians 1:18-23 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”