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Since the entire team was pretty exhausted from the conference, they let us sleep in on Thursday morning. They gathered us together at 12:30 p.m. to go as a group out to lunch. We ended up sitting together for an hour chatting and waiting in the lobby until the whole group gathered.
Then off we went, on the subway and to -- get this -- an Italian restaurant. We sat together at one long table and had a great time of eating (seemingly normal) food and fellowshiping together. Everything was wonderful until it came time to pay for the bill. We asked for separate checks and they said that was not possible because they'd already "entered it in the computer." Of course, those of us computer types knew how easy it is to make adjustments/adaptations/etc. on a computer and immediately felt superstitious. So, they agreed to give us our individual prices on a napkin but we'd have to pay a single tab. When the prices came out, many of them were off by by about 50%. For instance they tried to bill me $12.00 for my $8.00 meal. We spent the next hour trying to straighten out the bill. For some reason, the waiters really did not seem that interested in getting the correct price. It should have been fairly simple since they don't have sales tax in Russia and the menu said that gratuity is NOT included in the bill. (An aside -- most everyone quotes prices in US Dollars over there. However, it is illegal to pay for anything in any currency except rubles. So we get the price fixed in US dollars and then convert to Rubles to actually pay the bill.)
We simply could not come to a valid settlement. Robert or someone (I can't remember exactly who) pulled out a calculator and added up each person's order in front of the waiter and showed that the total bill was much less than what we'd been charged. The waiter shrugged his shoulders and pointed again to his version of the bill. It seemed like a standoff -- except that we were human hostages unable to leave until this was settled.
Kathleen and Bob told us to each put into the kitty what our real bill should be plus whatever we would have thrown in for tip. We did that and ended up with a sum of money that exceeded the real bill but was still less than what we were being asked to pay. So we told them that this was all we would pay and they took the money. We got our coats and left. Todd happened to walk back and talk a look in the window a few minutes later -- the waiters were all standing in a group and laughing their heads off and making fun of the "stupid Americans".
I think this is the Russian version of "Free Enterprise."
We went to Red Square and did a bit of sightseeing. There are a bunch of vendors in Red Square that come up to you and try to get you to buy this or that. Well, most of the team wanted to get those little fur hats that the Russians wear to stay warm. They wanted to sell them for $20.00 but Randy negotiated one vendors down to $15.00 each since there were so many of us buying them. Randy was so proud of his negotiating deal -- don't tell him that later in the week both Robert and I negotiated down to $14.00 each for additional hats. (Smile.)
One of the things that we did as a group was to go into an Orthodox Church in Red Square. I can't remember the name, but think it was St. Bazil's or something like that. The building was incredibly beautiful, with pictures of many bible scenes and saints in it. There were these platforms with bunches of candles on them and while were were there, many would come and light a candle, say a quick prayer and leave. While we were there, a priest came out and started performing a mass. It did not look at all like church as I knew it. But I remembered something I'd learned while studying Church history in seminary -- how the Eastern Orthodox church had been alive and carried the flame during a period when the western church was very dead and ritualistic -- through the dark ages. At one point the priest started to pray. Since he was praying, and since I could not understand a word of what he was saying (it was in Russian), I decided to pray too -- silently, of course. While I stood there and prayed, the Lord began to show me His heart for the Russian people and how He planned to move in great power on them. He especially started speaking to me about the Soviet Jews and how He longed for them to turn to Jesus. I found myself deep in intercession for the Russian Jews, the people of my ethnic heritage. I felt the Lord's presence on my strongly while I was praying.
When we left the church, we compared notes. Many of us had felt compelled to pray when in that tourist Church service. The Lord started showing many of us His love and His passion for Russia, giving each of us different areas where He wanted to pour out His spirit and move. For me it was the Russian Jews. For another it was the relatives of the martyrs who were now in many different denominations. The Lord showed another His desire to revive the Russian Orthodox church. But many of us felt His presence very strongly while in there. We could really sense His passion for Russia.
We went from Red Square to Keith and Iwona's house. Keith and Iwona are missionaries from Randy's Church who are planting a church in Moscow. It was a studio apartment with a separate kitchen and bathroom. One fairly large room served as the bedroom, living room, dining room and computer room. There were about 18 of us on this day's outing (a small group had gone to St. Petersburg to plant a church there). We all crowded into this room and found places to sit -- chairs, the bed, on the floor, etc.
It turned out that they had a long-haired gray kitten. Now I am deathly allergic to cats. I remembered thinking, "Rats, I won't be able to stay here very long." Within 10 minutes, my eyes had puffed up and my nose was running and my throat was beginning to swell. I really wanted to stay and fellowship with the team, but I figured that if I stayed there much longer, my throat would swell closed and I'd be unable to breathe. So I told Keith that I was reacting to the cat and needed someone to take me back to the hotel -- I would never be able to find my way back there on my own.
David overheard this and said, "Let me pray for you, Teresa. I've had good luck praying for people with allergies." So he worked his way over to me and put his hand on my forehead and stared to pray. At first nothing seemed to happen, but then I was able to breathe a little more easily and the puffiness/watering in my eyes began decreasing. He stopped prayer for a brief moment and we had a feedback session. Since my symptoms had decreased some by had not gone away all together, Dave prayed some more. I could feel the Lord's presence and sweetness coming over me and it was hard to remain standing. At one point, someone else (I have not idea who) put their hand on top of my head for a few minutes. I remembered realizing that there was some fear involved in this -- I was afraid of being in the room where the cat was because I knew how sick I got when I had an allergic reaction. Right afterwards, I heard Richard (who was sitting across the room) tell David to pray against the fear of allergy as well. So he did. The Lord's presence on me became so overwhelming that I am not sure exactly when the last of my symptoms went away, but by the time David finished praying, I was perfectly normal -- the runny nose had stopped, my eyes were not watering or itching, my throat was clear and I could breathe freely. I don't know if that was a one-time grace so I could stay and fellowship or if that was a permanent healing of my allergies. But they did not bother me again that night.
I was particularly overcome with a sense of the Lord's love for me. He loved me enough to take care of my allergy problems so I could fellowship and have a good time with the team. And we did have a lovely time of fellowship and fun. Later Dave came up to me and told me that it was kind of a highlight for him that God took away my allergy symptoms and let me stay with the group -- he felt it was really important for us to fellowship together since one of the spirits that we'd come up against was the spirit of division/disunity that had been separating the various denominations. Through out the evening, many others came up to tell me how blessed they were that God removed my allergy symptoms and let me stay with them. But I am sure that I was more blessed than any of them!
When we got home that evening, Jesse invited some of us to her room for hot chocolate. Valorie and Joni and Chris and David and I turned up there. Now I had never just hung with musicians before -- it was fun. They did all sorts of blues impromptu songs. It was a fun/silly time, but the Lord's presence was strong with us. We would alternate between being playful and prayerful. We would alternate between worship and fun songs. I could feel something deep within me coming more alive as I fellowshiped with these people. I finally excused myself at 2:00 a.m. to go to bed - the others were still going strong. I heard that Dave went to bed at 3:00 a.m., but Chris and Joni and Valorie and Jesse stayed up all night in fellowship and had a little communion service at 6:00 a.m.
There was such a strong spirit of unity and fellowship and joy among us.
Over the next few days, we kept hearing reports of the Russian churches meeting for their midweek services and God invading their services and turning them into mini versions of the conference -- complete with joy and laughter, a freedom, empowerment and lots of physical healings. It was SO exiting to us to see that God had imparted into the local people and they would not be dependent on foreigners or missionaries. It was really exciting to see God pour out His Spirit and His power on His Church! It was also exciting to watch them get a passion for evangelism and for missions.
Saturday night was our last night in Moscow; we were slated to fly home on Sunday. So we decided to have our own little renewal service for the team that night -- since it would be our last night together. It started at 8:00 p.m. in the little conference room where we'd been doing our debriefing meetings. The entire team was there plus a few of the missionaries and some interpreters. Randy announced that Rosa Church had been seriously impacted by the renewal that day. Apparently, God showed up at their Saturday morning service and they all ended up too drunk in the spirit to leave the church. They were there for 7 hours just worshiping and praying for each other. Three of the young women from that church came to our little Saturday evening renewal meeting. Two of them, Luba and Leana, had been interpreters during the conference -- so we all knew them. They were so drunk in the spirit that they had to be helped into the room. In fact, when someone let go of one of them, she collapsed on the floor in a laughing heap. There was also a little girl (maybe 8 or 9 years old) with them and she was also drunk in the spirit. These 4 from Rosa church became the ministry team for the evening.
Randy had them start praying for people and God showed up and filled and refreshed our little Catch The Fire team. But, of course, that did not stop us from praying for each other as well. I remember that I was standing up against the wall, watching the antics and hoping that Luba and Leana would eventually get around to praying for me. Then Steve Phillips (just back from a 2 day outreach to St. Petersburg) came by and put his hand on my forehead. The room was sort of noisy and I was not able to hear what he prayed for me. But I could feel the Lord's power coming on me and the next think I knew, I was down on the floor, shaking under the power. The Lord was not really speaking anything to my heart at that moment, but I could feel His power all over me.
Then someone (I am not sure who it was because my eyes were closed, but think it might have been Randy) crawled up to me and started praying for me. He asked for a release and increased gifting in intercession. But I did not want to be an intercessor. I wanted to be active in ministry; empowered in the prophetic. I wanted an impartation of a greater anointing to minister in the renewal and for physical healing. I especially wanted an impartation to take this renewal anointing to the streets in the form of power evangelism. What he was praying over me did not line up at all with what I wanted. I felt a great conflict between what this person was praying over me and the desires of my heart. I felt like I'd be giving up my deepest hopes/passions to embrace what he was praying over me. I did not want to be an intercessor praying in a back room somewhere -- I wanted to be out "doing the stuff".
Then I sort of blocked out what the person was praying and asked the Lord to come and discuss this with me. Was it possible that the hopes and passions of my heart did not line of with His plans for me? Well, I laid my hopes and passions on the altar and invited the Lord to change the desires of my heart to line up with His plans for me. (I was crying by this time.) I remembered thinking that I was pretty sure the current desires of my heart had come from the Lord. But maybe not. Maybe what I wanted was not what He wanted. In some ways, I felt like I was allowing my vision to die and that hurt. But there was also a quiet confidence that God loved me and had a plan and purpose for me. I wanted to be in the center of His will -- to be doing what He wanted to do through me. If my desires did not match up with His plans, I knew He would transform my desires. I had a deep confidence in the Lord; but at the same time, I felt a deep sadness.
Whoever was praying for me eventually left. But the Holy Spirit continued to speak to my heart. He allowed me to feel grief over potential death of my deepest desires for a while, then He moved in and redirected my attention from myself to His people in Russia. I found myself getting caught up in the Lord's passion for the Soviet Jews. Pretty soon I found myself deep in intercession for them. I prayed for them for a while.
After a bit of time had gone by, I started to become aware of the people in the room around me again. I sat up and prayed for Todd, who happened to be sitting near me. We sort of all prayed for each other for a while.
At one point I remember kneeling with my head bowed forward. John, who is a very big man, came and put his hand on top of my head and started to pray for me. I don't think he meant to push down as hard as he did, but he put a great deal of pressure on my head while my neck was bent forward. It started to hurt -- I do mean hurt -- like my original neck injury. I tried to adjust my position, but there was so much pressure on my head that I could not. I don't even know what John was praying for me. All I knew was that he was hurting my neck and I did not want to be back in that neck brace again or have all that pain again. I was about to tell him to stop praying for me when he removed his hand and moved on to pray for someone else. But my neck continued to hurt and I became alarmed.
About that time, I noticed Richard in the hall. He is usually surrounded by a bunch of people who want to talk to him or want him to pray for them. But Richard was all by himself. I got up and bee-lined over to him. I told him that my neck was starting to hurt again and asked him to pray for me. He said that the Lord showed him what the problem was and he prayed for me. Richard prayed that the Lord would build a hedge of protection around me and that He would fight off any attempts the enemy would try to bring in the area of fear of pain or fear that the healing was not real. Again I could feel that gentle warmth come on my neck and the pain went down drastically, but not altogether away. (It was still slightly sore the next morning, but no worse that the stiff neck you get when you sleep wrong.)
I ran into Leana in the hall and we tried to talk. She was so excited at seeing the Lord moving so powerfully through her when she prayed. Our conversation was cut short when Luba came over to join us. She put her hand on my shoulder. We started to try to talk, but the next thing I knew, I was overcome by the Lord's joy and was down out under the power. I lay in the hallway for a while laughing under the power then got up and went back into the conference room.
The head of a Messianic Jewish organization (Hear Oh Israel) was sharing how God had deeply impacted him and how the Lord had showed up at their Sabbath service. God came in power over those messianic Jews, filling them with joy and power and a passion for winning the lost. He also a lot of physical healings as they prayed for each other. The power of God fell on that messianic synagogue! Of course, my heart was doing giant flip-flops as I heard him speak -- I'd been getting a real passion for the Soviet Jews and now I was hearing reports of how God was moving among them here in Russian as a result of the Catch the Fire conference!
After a little while, Steve Phillips got up to give a trip report of the outreach/church plant that he'd spent the last two days doing in St. Petersburg. He shared how God came and did many divine healings and how many had come to believe in the Lord as a result. Steve estimated that there were about 30 new converts. Another person on the team, Rick, estimated that there were closer to 50 converts. But either way, they left a good sized church plant there (overseen by a person from Igor's church who had the original vision/calling to plant this church in St. Petersburg).
There was some more sharing, and a lot of rejoicing. Then we started praying for each other and playing under the anointing. It was a lovely way to end the the evening. By the time that I finally crawled to my room and got into bed, I felt so very dripping full of the Lord and so grateful for His abundance. He is such a great and powerful God and I was so grateful He let me come as part of His team to Moscow!
Since we'd already started making plans for next year's trip, I knew I was coming back and I was very grateful for that as well.
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