It is mid October, and it is the beginning of the winter time here in the Arctic.  The snow is falling, the roads are bad, the car is dirty as  I don’t know what… There’s still daylight, but very soon it will get completely dark, we won’t see the Sun for almost 3 months.

No matter how many years you have lived here, it is hard to enter the Arctic night. It strongly affects your sleeping pattern, your mood and ability to work. It is very easy to fall into depression for a couple of weeks at the beginning of the night. It is a difficult time, indeed.  But that’s what is ahead, but just a few weeks ago there was summer, and it was full of events!

FNR Men's CampThe most exciting one was our annual camp for men. We called it ‘Tundra Rock Fest ‘. Kind of strange name for a Christian men’s camp. But originally we intended to have a men’s retreat mixed with a Rock concert, but that didn’t work out this year. So we only had a men’s retreat, but the name remained. After all, it fit perfectly for the event. It was in tundra, there were rocks everywhere, and it was as cool as a fest.

There were men from a few places in Murmansk Region, From Karelia, and even from Perm (which is about  2000 miles away from Murmansk).  Even more, there was a guy from Bolivia, and the fact that he was there was a miracle itself.

fnr-retreat-aug.58 PMIn the morning we all gathered at a gas station in Murmansk, most of the guys new to each other. After a short prayer we started driving to Teriberka, a small fishermen village on the coast of Barents sea, 100 miles east from Murmansk.  The road was terrible, awful ‘washing board’ all the way.  But it was worth it.

We left the cars at the end of the road outside Teriberka; and after quick lunch and another prayer headed to the camp. We had to walk over 10 miles on rocky tundra, without much paths, we had to cross rapid rivers and broad swamps, climb up and down steep hills and rocks. It was difficult, but it was exciting indeed.  Terrific views of the sea from almost bird’s eye elevation, spectacular panoramas of the lakes and rivers… It was beautiful.  Each of us was carrying a 60+ lbs. backpack. We had to carry all the stuff for the camp on our backs. All food, all supplies, tools, tents, clothes, sleeping bags… Everything.

fnr-retreat-aug.43 PMI must say, that this hiking part of the retreats is extremely important.  We could have had the camp right there, 5 min walk from the road, the harbor there was same beautiful as the one where we were heading to. But we had to do this distance.  This is a very important part of the retreat. This is the time when men get to know themselves, get to know their characters, especially if they lead a modern office-kind of life.  It is perfect time to get to know the men around you, to build trust and friendship.  It is time when you get to know the Lord in a new way, when you learn how to rely on Him, when you ask for strength for each step you take. This is the time when you practice the ‘purpose-driven life’, when you have the goal, and you need to reach it, and not only reach it, but help your friend to walk, be an encouragement for him, help him carry his load, if he is weak. This is the time of truth.

fnr-retreat-aug.48 PMIn late afternoon, after long and tiring walk, we arrived to our campsite. The place was beautiful. I hope you see the pictures and video to have a slight impression of what it looks like, but of course no words or pictures, whether motion or still, are not able to express the harsh beauty of the place.

The first night we spent hours talking, sharing our lives with each other. That was the get-to-know evening.  That was a beautiful night, with bright stars and Northern lights in the sky, and the roaring sound of heavy ocean tide waves, storming the huge boulders of the shore. We were siting around the fire on thick logs, brought there by the sea probably hundreds of years ago. The conversation was smooth, the hearts were opening, and I could see the men who just first met in the morning were becoming very good friends.

Next morning we started with worship. The presence of the Lord was amazing. I love worshiping Him in places like that – wild and beautiful.

The next two days wee filled with most interesting things – we were digging through the Word, we worshipped the Lord, we spent hours at nights, sharing the most hidden issues with each other, we prayed for each other. We went fishing in the sea and in the lakes, we threw axes and knives into a wooden target, we were shooting a pistol and an arrow gun, we were wrestling, we climbed the nearby rocks, we had fun!

1620620_10152478182422144_3070887201114122134_nAfter all that, one of the guys was baptized in the Barents Sea, and after that everybody went swimming into the sea. The water temperature was about 43 F.  We made a huge fire right on the beach and sang to the Lord there.

It was a blessed time, which I will never forget.  We all got to know better the Lord; we were encouraged and strengthened through this fellowship.  I am sure now – next year we are doing the camp again, and there will be more men!

But now is the season of small groups and program work. Every weekend we have men’s meetings in different towns of Murmansk Region. Usually we have them on Saturday, we stay in that town overnight, and I preach at the Sunday service.  So we are traveling a lot.  During the week I do a lot of translation and preparation work for the meetings, for the coming big conference (Dec 5 – 6), and for the series of video lessons, a recovery program for porn addicted. Not as exciting as camps and expeditions, but still interesting and important.

Masha just led a meeting for women in Murmansk. There were 35 women, they had the whole day last Saturday, when me and Fedya were at the men’s meeting in Kirovsk. Their meeting was called ‘From heart to heart’, and today many women were sharing their testimonies about the meeting, how God was healing their hearts, their relationships with husbands and friends. They also were talking a lot about relationships in the church.  I’m so proud of my wife!

God is good! We are so blessed to be in His work, that He allowed us to be where He is, to do with Him what He is doing, despite of all our shortcomings. This is a great honor for us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.