In today's column I will return to the present to give an account of my recent activities. Every year I leave the United States to do a little mission work where I feel we make a different in the …
In today's column I will return to the present to give an account of my recent activities. Every year I leave the United States to do a little mission work where I feel we make a different in the lives of people. In July I was in Romania where we conduct a medical mission two times yearly. Our base is Timisoara, but our outreach is in the villages nestled in the valleys of the many mountain ranges in the countryside.
The Church of Christ in Hartselle keeps two Romanian doctors on retainers year round to be available to assist us as we go into the villages to provided medical assistance as needed. It is announced in the villages when we will be there and there will always be a goodly number of people gathered to be helped by the medical staff. We always take reading glasses with us to make them available to read the Bibles which we leave with them. The villagers seem to look forward to our coming, and many times this is the only medical assistance they receive, except for emergencies
In the past I have also made similar trips to Recife Brazil where the church operates a children's home that can accommodate forty children. When I was last there forty-four children were in their care, an excess of four because of the need. We also took reading glasses there and would distribute more than a thousand pair on each trip. Because of the recent World Cup and Olympic games held in Brazil, and viruses, we have not made the trip there in three years.
On November 7, I boarded a plane to travel to Syktyvkar Russia to teach at the Syktyvkar Bible School located there. I have made the trip there on two previous occasions and was anxious to revisit the people and see the beautiful new building which they had started erecting when I was last there in 2008. They asked me to teach the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, and to do this in a two week period, in afternoon classes, which was quite a challenge for me.
Syktyvkar Russia is located as far north as Anchorage Alaska, so it is wise to pack heavy clothing, the likes of which I do not have in Alabama. Traveling a short distance to the east one crosses the Ural mountains and enter Siberia. When flying in to Syktyvkar, looking out the plane's window, the ground was already white with snow and much more was added while we were there. I could see a digital sign board from my window giving time and temperature (in Celsius), and it never got above freezing.
The trip there did not go good. Our first stop was in Philadelphia and our scheduled flight to London, boarding at 7:25, was delayed because of problems on the plane (something about problems with the toilets). First the announcement that it would be an hour delay, then two hours, then three. Finally after five hours we were told that we would have to change gates as we would have another plane. American Airlines finally got us off the ground at 1:15 in the morning, which caused me to miss my connection from London to Moscow, which caused me to miss my flight to Syktyvkar. I spent the night in the airport at Moscow before catching a flight the next morning to Syktyvkar, around thirty-six hours travel time after leaving Birmingham. Not fun!
The church and school there meet in a very nice three story building with rooms for teachers and students. The classrooms are located on the same floor as the teacher’s rooms and it is only a short walk to the classrooms, office, and library. Interpreters are provided by the school as they are needed for the translation from English to Russian, and vice-versa. All our interpreters are very accomplished as they have many years experience at the school. The convenience of the building enabled me to stay inside for most of the time. The snow and ice accumulated outside, and I was not eager to walk outside in the cold for any distance.
One Monday morning one of my students came in with pictures of his ice fishing trip on the past Saturday. He had pictures of his hole through the ice from which he pulled a large number of fish, verified by his pictures of them. My translation of the kind of fish led me to believe that they were bass, but he was not talking through a translator and I don’t speak Russian.
The trip back on Nov. 24 went somewhat better, but not perfect. As we were boarding the plane in Syktyvkar it had snowed for the past two days, and was still snowing as we boarded the plane (6:25 AM), with a temperature of minus 8 degrees Celsius (24 F). We flew to Moscow and from there even further north to Helsinki, Finland. From there was the eleven hour flight to Miami where it was 80 degrees. Now it was only a couple hour flight, back to Birmingham on American Airlines. After we boarded the plane the captain informed us that there would be a delay (something about problems with the toilet) After about thirty minutes they were able to fix this toilet and we arrived back in Birmingham at 11PM, making up the eight hour time difference we lost on our trip going over.
It was a challenging, yet enjoyable trip. However, I instructed my wife to remind me next year that I am eighty years old, and at this age I need to be aware that I am too old to be making these 36 hour trips. Any one who flies, especially on international flights, knows that to get from one section of the airport to another requires a quarter- mile walk, a trolley ride to another terminal, and another quarter mile walk to get to the gate of departure, all this after having to go through security and customs and moving baggage to connecting flights.
There is no place like home!