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Meeting in a park
During an exceptionally warm week in May, Mark and Timothy Whittaker visited Belarus with Viktor Sluczewski from Russia, who also acted as translator. The aim of the visit was to hold a meeting in the capital, Minsk, for all the members, and to visit isolated brothers and sisters at home, primarily to the north of the country.
As Christadelphians are not a registered denomination in Belarus, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire rooms in which to meet. It had not proved possible on this occasion, so we obtained permission from the hotel where we were staying to have visitors in our room. There were 15 of us and it was cosy, to say the least, but somehow we all managed to fit in, and held our breaking of bread meeting and Bible study together. We spoke and discussed at length, and some were able to stay on to share an evening meal with us.
We then planned to visit those we hadn’t seen. This generally involved taking a train, bus or taxi from Minsk to the town or village where brothers and sisters lived, to meet up with them, check on their welfare, break bread and do the readings together. However, nothing in Belarus is ever quite so simple as that.
We booked bus tickets to visit a sister on Monday, only to find out that she was coming to Minsk for a training course. But we still took the journey, as it got us most of the way to elderly sister Anna’s house in a remote village. Our taxi driver had never been to the village before, and it doesn’t even show in my road atlas. Anna doesn’t have a phone and so had no warning of our visit, yet she had somehow managed to buy in food especially for visitors. Anna and her son, brother Vlad, live in a village of about 20 wooden cottages, miles from civilisation, and populated by elderly people who eke out a living from the land. The arrival of three visitors was the most interesting thing to happen here all year, and we were inundated with neighbours popping in whilst we were there.
Tuesday allowed us to meet up with Marina, the sister who had come to Minsk for the training course, and her son, brother Yura, who is a student. With a dearth of suitable meeting places in the city, we ended up breaking bread in a corner of a fast food chicken restaurant.
Our overnight train journey to the far north of Belarus took us to Polatsk at 8 the following morning, from where we took a taxi to within 2 km of the Russian border. There we met brother Vlad and sister Iraida, a really lovely couple who were delighted to see us. Not only did we share a long day of readings, meals and a breaking of bread, but we had a swim in the local river and went for a spin over the Russian border with Vlad in his trusty old Moskvitch.
On Thursday and Friday we were joined by brother Leonid, who drove us to visit two of our sisters, and also a www.thisisyourbible.com student in Magilyev, who showed us round the historic city and took us to his Baptist church and introduced us to the pastor and some of the members. They invited us to talk to them, and we had an interesting discussion.
All in all it was a profitable week, and one which we pray will have encouraged our brothers and sisters in their faith.
|"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation." (Mark 16:15)|