March 15, 2002
My dear friends!
Finally I have time to sit down and tell you about my journey to Russia. I have come all the way to Vladivostok now, but first I will tell you about St.Petersburg.
It is so strange that we Finns have such a wonderful city near us - only 4-5 hours by train. I don't think there exists a more beautiful city anywhere in the world - or one so full of culture. (This holds true only for the center; the suburbs are awful.) On Wednesday I went to the Museum of Russian art and was overwhelmed. I also saw the ballet Emeralda one night, and it was simply wonderful. There are problems that tourists have to face in St.Petersburg. Streets are awfully icy and you have to watch for thieves all the time. I learned how to use metro and how to read Russian alphabet, which made life much easier for me.
But life is not easy for Russians. Many people are poor and many have suffered much. In almost all minority families (like Finns and Jews) somebody was killed, sent to a prison camp etc during the Communist regime. I heard all too many horrible stories of persecution and hardships. One young man I met had been in prison lately. If what he told me is true, not much has been changed in those places during these ten years of "freedom".
Glad Tidings Bible studies were well received in all the places. I had six training courses, first in Keltto seminary for would-be deacons, then for Messianic Jews and finally for Christians in St.Michael's and St.Mary's Lutheran churches. Also St.Catherine (the Swedish church) got interested. I hope and pray that some new house meetings will start among the Jews and others in St.Petersburg.
On Wednesday night this week I started my long trip to the other end of Russia. It is fairly cheap to buy inside and not outside the country. Thursday somehow disappeared without me noticing where it went. I slept on the plane, except that we had to leave it twice when it was filling gasoline somewhere in Siberia. The time difference between Finland and Vladivostok is all 8 hours, so it was already dark when I arrived there. Roman and Tanya met me at the airport. I heard to my horror that Andrei and Masha had been in an car accident last Friday. Andrei got some (little?) injury on his spine and should not move for 10 days, perhaps even two months.
Roman was awake half night and - believe it or not - repaired my computer!!! Now it is like new. He said there was something wrong with the driver. I can't tell how happy I am!!! I told Roman that he should come to Finland and earn big money by repairing all the broken computers of my friends and acquaintances. These Russians, they really can fix ANYTHING.
We called ship companies today and asked how much it would cost to sail to Japan. Only 200 dollars there and back, but it will take 3 days one way and still I would be 1000 km from my friends. So I had to give up the idea. I am almost in tears when looking at the sea outside Roman's windows - Japan is there, so close, with cherry blossoms and all.
About the coming program: I will have three days seminar on the women of the Bible in Vladivostok. First a lecture and then a Bible study, Monday through Wednesday next week. I may visit women's prison here. As a team we will make plans for Glad Tidings ministry. The next step is to prepare an audiotape, a video and a CD. Thank you for your prayers.