On our way to the small town of Uvat we stopped at a little village called Ishik. Our arrival wasn’t expected, but since the village was small, many of the villagers gathered quickly to see why we had come. As we drove in, I found myself wondering, “what if I lived here? What if this was what I knew as ‘home’?” The thought brought me back to my parents’ stories of their farm-oriented childhoods. The Lord worked in my heart to bring up a verse at that moment, Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven, everything else shall come unto you.” I realized at that moment that the people living in Ishik were no different from me. Sure, their lifestyle is very different from mine, but I have no right to say that I’m more or better than they are.
Upon arriving we set about to decide who would be in charge of what. One of our team members was placed in charge of crafts, while I would do a quick Bible lesson. I decided to speak about the thought I had back when we had just driven into the little village. I mentioned Matthew 6:33 and talked about how in any given setting in life, if God isn’t first… then we have a big problem.
Little did I know, I was really preaching to my self. And to this day I’m still trying to apply Matthew 6:33 in the same way that I saw it applied in the town of Uvat.
After our time in Ishik had come to an end, we continued on to Uvat. We came to their newly purchased church that at first looks like an old babushkas’ house. No fancy trim, a broken guitar, slanted floors, midget doors. But it was beautiful. The members fed us a simple Russian meal and we listened to them as they told us about themselves. Most of the members are elderly women who became believers later in life; their children are alcoholics, and they have found a purpose in life to help their children and the surrounding villagers turn their lives around.
We had the opportunity to meet the children in the town and to organize a gathering at the local cafe. All of that was important but I have some other thoughts to share. To be honest, I have never in my entire life met such a church like this one. The people were ordinary people, with ordinary jobs, with ordinary lives; in my opinion they were ordinary Russian ladies and grandmothers. Their testimonies were simple, BUT, they had SO MUCH MORE. I have never seen people so worried about their town. I have never heard more direct and open people than these: their thoughts, their ideas, their DESIRES.
They all had one spirit in them. The Spirit of God. They had a genuine purpose within them– to serve the Lord with everything that they had. They are poor materially, but they are SO SO SO rich in other ways. They have a FAR greater purpose than most people have in this world. They showed so much reverence and so much love towards others. I was left thinking, “THIS is what a church is.” It’s the body of Christ, working for the glory and the edification of God, His Word, His Son, His Blood, His Flesh, His Glory. It might sound strange, but these people didn’t need anything: they had everything. This was the most radical aspect of my trip – people who love the Lord despite their many concerns, troubles, histories, discomforts. I found myself wanting their passion for the Lord.
After such an experience, I have yet the more reason to glorify God for His astonishing ways. I cannot begin to understand how God can even use someone like myself, but I know that He does, and it’s an honor.