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Pastor Travels to Siberia

Published on May 06, 2014

Dear Russian Ministry Friends,

This has been a very busy season as we have begun to have teachers in Russia on a regular basis. Steve Anderson was one of those teachers.  His trip was reported in his local paper.  I thought you might enjoy the perspective of a “new” teacher…

Local Pastor Travels to the End of the Earth

On Wednesday, February 20, Pastor Steve Anderson of Oakwood Church left Waconia in the middle of a Minnesota snowstorm to travel to the other side of the world.  He was headed to Siberia.  It took four flights and 23 hours of flying to get there.

In the summer of 2013 Anderson volunteered to teach a class on Discipleship to a group of pastors attending Moscow Theological Seminary in Russia.  Three months passed before he heard any response.  In November he was offered the opportunity to teach with one small glitch.  “Would you be willing to teach the class at our satellite campus in Siberia?”

In the current sermon series at Oakwood, Anderson is leading his congregation on a weekly study of the book of Acts.  The sermon series is titled, To the Ends of the Earth.  The title is based on what Jesus said just before he returned to heaven as recorded for us in Acts 1:8.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

In Minnesota we think of Siberia as the end of the earth.  In Siberia they think of America as the end of the earth.

Russia is the largest country in the world.  It has nine time zones.  Siberia is 3,000 miles east of Moscow and it takes seven hours to get there in a commercial airliner.  Siberian time is 16 hours ahead of Waconia.  Anderson was gone for two weeks and his days and nights were mixed up the entire time plus it took another nine days after he returned home to get readjusted.

When asked how I enjoyed the trip my response is always the same.  How could it not be a great experience?  I was able to spend an entire week in Siberia with some of the greatest people in the county.

Since the people in Siberia do not normally speak English, the class had to be taught in Russian.  The seminary provided Anderson with a translator.  Without her, the class could not exist.  By the sovereignty of God, Ola had moved to Siberia only three months before the class took place.  She was a banker in Siberia and her boss graciously allowed her to take time off so she could help with the class.

A traditional seminary student in America packs up their belongings and moves to a seminary location where they will spend from three to five years studying to become a pastor.  A traditional seminary student in Siberia is already serving as a pastor.  Each pastor will then travel to the seminary location where they will spend two weeks at a time in class before returning to their home and church.  After three or four months they will return to seminary for another two weeks, etc.  The program takes five years to complete.  The seminary students generally study with the same group of pastors through the entire five years however there are other groups of pastors coming to seminary for two weeks at a time as well – just on different sets of weeks.

Anderson traveled from Minneapolis to Moscow on the first leg of his trip.  He stayed in Moscow for two days before leaving for Siberia.  After spending an entire week in Siberia he then returned to Moscow and participated in activities at the seminary for two days before flying back to Minnesota.  He was grateful to be able to spend one entire morning with the seminary president.  He also attended a faculty meeting, a staff birthday party and a chapel service.  The Seminary professor speaking in chapel that day could read, write and speak 13 different languages.

While in Moscow Anderson took the Metro to downtown Moscow and visited Red Square, saw Lenin’s Tomb and watched the changing of the guard.  The entire experience in Russia was wonderful.

While he was in Siberia, the conflict broke out between Russia and the Ukraine.  Many people were asking his wife if he was OK.  Even though he was thousands of miles from Ukraine it was definitely a big conversation for the people in Siberia – especially those who had family members living there.  Anderson is grateful for the wonderful Oakwood family who was praying for him and he felt completely safe the entire trip.

Anderson said, “The food was interesting – especially the meals where I did not recognize what I was eating”.

It was a three-leg sixteen hour flight from Moscow to Minneapolis.  As he was flying across the Atlantic eight miles above the ocean, Anderson said it was as smooth and comfortable as sitting in his favorite chair at home.  He actually told myself, “this is so smooth and nice … nothing ever happens to these big jumbo jets.”  Two days later the airliner from Malaysia disappeared.

Anderson considers it to have been a privilege to spend the time with Christians on the other side of the world.  He said he is looking forward to seeing them again when he gets to heaven.  He is grateful to the Oakwood family for allowing him the opportunity to go and grateful to God for His constant care and provision.

Dr. Steve Anderson