To Russia with Love – 2008
A short term mission team to Russia organized by Clemson United Methodist Church and Southern Wesleyan University also included participants from Clemson University and North Carolina State University. The team hosted a summer camp for orphans and helped in the renovation and reconstruction of two Russian Orthodox churches, June 10-25, 2008. In addition to Clemson United Methodist Church senior minister Paul Hutchison and Southern Wesleyan professor Mark Elliott, other team members included Clemson UMC members Darlene Elliott and Amy Rawls, Southern Wesleyan University student Megan Johnson and Southern Wesleyan graduate Greg Young, Clemson University students Stephanie Clark and Laura Hoover, and North Carolina State University student Haley Boyd.
Highlights of the trip
- Five students from the Russian-American Christian University and the Eurasian Theological Seminary in Moscow joined American team members to work at Sherpets Orphanage in Ryazan, Russia. They made a tremendous contribution and were an inspiration to American team members, as well as to the children of Sherpets Orphanage.
- The Sherpets Orphanage camp consisted of daily sports, music, crafts, and Bible studies, plus a roller skating field trip and an Oka River boat excursion. As last year, the children were easy and fun to work with and very appreciative of our time together. In addition to the camp for 22 of the older children, we had opportunity one day to travel to a summer camp near Ryazan where our team was able to meet most of the younger Sherpets orphans.
The sponsor gift packets were a great hit and one of the highlights of the camp for team members who were reminded why Jesus said it is better to give than receive.
The Sherpets orphanage director, Viktor Erhov, died of stomach cancer in April 2008. Team leaders accompanied his wife and orphanage medical assistant, Vera Erhova, to a nearby cemetery to place flowers on Viktor’s grave and offer a prayer. Sergei Zhiziken, the new director, was most cordial, but still in the first stages of taking the reins of leadership.
- As last year, our team worked with other Russian Christians in further restoration work on the Church of the Nativity in Priskokovo village near Krasnoe-na-Volgy. In the village of Ivanskoe we also helped with the reconstruction of St. John the Baptist Church, previously destroyed by the Communists.
It was once again a memorable experience in the unity of the body of Christ as up to 40 people per day worked on the two Orthodox work sites, including 13 members of the Family of God Pentecostal Church from Kostroma, five Kostroma area orphan graduates, five ex-offenders, three translators, and the nine members of our American team, representing United Methodist, Wesleyan, and Catholic churches.
- On Sunday, June 15, our team walked with the children of Sherpets Orphanage to Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Church for the Divine Liturgy. Following the service, we returned to the orphanage for an American worship service. The latter was a moving experience. At the end of the service Rev. Hutchison and Dr. Elliott offered blessings to individual orphans, team members, and translators who chose to come forward.
On Sunday, June 22, our team worshiped in the morning at the Russian Orthodox Church of the Resurrection led by Father Georgi Edelstein. That evening our team worshiped with the Family of God Church with Pastor Andrei extending an invitation to preach to Rev. Hutchison and Dr. Elliott.
- Material donations included:
- a laptop computer for Dr. Chris Hena, Clemson UMC missionary serving in Kazakhstan
- Funds to Father Georgi Edelstein’s Orthodox building projects and to Pastor Andrei Danilov’s building fund for the Family of God Church;
- A guitar to Slava Agafontsev, Family of God Church member and music school student;
- Gift packets to 48 orphans, 22 orphanage workers, and 23 Moscow student workers, translators, ex-offenders, and orphan graduates;
- Craft supplies, 51 solar-powered Russian-language electronic Bibles, 51 books from a Russian Christian publisher, 26 Clemson t-shirts, 24 knitted caps to orphans girls, and one dome tent;
- Stipends for 5 Moscow student workers and 5 orphan graduate workers.
6. Several of the Moscow students plan to return to Sherpets Orphanage for the opening day of school, September 1.