One of the huge challenges for many nations of in Eurasia, Russia included, is the issue of visas and permits. We all live with the looming question, "How are we going to stay and minister here?" That challenge remains in both friendly and unfriendly countries, developed and undeveloped areas.
Our current visa is a three-year religious visa, something the embassies are not giving anymore. It ends February 9, and we are back to working on the details of the next steps. We will be forced to work the visa situation for at least another year. The odds are that we will not actually get our temporary residency permits until January 2017, even if all goes perfectly! In the meantime, we will need to do trips to Finland every 2-3 months, or to the US if the schedule demands it, and get visas over and over again.
I'll also be spending the next few months making sure we have all of our documents in line: birth certificates, marriage certificates, and criminal background checks. We'll also need to take a Russian language proficiency test (scary!) and do an entire gamut of medical certifications (ugh).
In order for us to stay and minister, we need the permission to do so. We love Russia. We love the people, the culture, the churches, and the history. We don't get engaged in politics, nor do I care to even think about it. We just want to see more people find Christ here. We want to see the antagonistic religions engaged by dozens of church-planting teams. We long to see the Muslim areas transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ. We want to see the Buddhist regions understand a personal, loving Savior. We dream of thousands of Atheists filled with the joy of God's salvation.
But it takes work to get there.
Sometimes I get tired.
I get tired of itinerating and traveling.
I get tired of sharing about the needs and opportunities of Russia.
I get tired of fighting the battle.
I once had my "nearly audible" voice of God experience, in the front of the church sanctuary in Harlowton, Montana. I was praying early in the morning, complaining to God about a headache of a person. The Lord really spoke so clearly to me, saying, "Andy, if you are in ministry, you'll always have headaches. That is the load of working with people. And if you are doing ministry the right way, you'll have many headaches, because messy people who get saved bring their mess to the Church."
So my message to myself over the next year is "Run the race."
Appreciate your prayers. Appreciate your encouragement. Appreciate your financial support. We need all of it.
Keep praying that people will respond to God's call and come. Pray that solid team leaders will respond to His call. Pray that workers with learners' hearts and gumption will respond. Pray for those that have already responded, many serving here for years, while others are on the way.
At this point, we are doing all we can to plant and stay. Praying for dozens more to do the same.
As we labor for our permit, I want to challenge you to fight your own battle. I don't know where God is calling you, or how He is challenging you to step out in faith. I only want to encourage you to face the battle, and allow the Lord to be with you through it all.
What battles are you facing?
Where do you have to plant and stay?
How are you being stretched?
What is the difficult path you are forced to travel?