Note to my family from Eastern Europe, 2008. Nothing theological here, but some who follow the IBTM will appreciate it.

I'm eating dinner. It's 9 pm. Plate of salmon with olives.  Every time I (make myself) eat olives, they taste better.  Green olives tonight. Eating and polishing tomorrow's powerpoints and dealing with emails. Had fish for lunch yesterday, chicken stuffed with spinach (my favorite vegetable) today. Trying local foods, nothing too western.

I miss our dog.

This is a big city.  I don' know the population off-hand.  Most speak Russian. Most many handle English well, though many had some in school.  You know how it is… without the chance to use a language, you never get beyond basic reading level. Like me and Spanish.

People here look different. You see it in the skin. More sallow, esp in middle-aged persons. All the sausage, bread, and vodka!  Anyway people keep mistaking me for a Russian speaker.  I blended in well in Iceland, Estonia etc.  But when I respond in English, they say their few English words and adjust!  Many are tall.  In the group I am I am teaching there are 5 men 100kg or above.  I'm one of them, though just barely.  Tall brothers.  Maybe one sister as tall as our daughter, though not nearly as photogenic.  Met one African brother who lives here. He said he loves being able to hear lessons in English, a welcome treat. Met also one Briton in hotel lobby, where I charge battery and get a wireless signal. Hotel room comfortable, though smoking. Basic accommodation, but functional.

I am alone but not lonely. Everyone wants to spend time, but I fight for my time to prepare/rest.  Tomorrow morning to the gym. 

Salmon was a starter. Now I'm ordering the main course: rabbit. Restaurant noisy and smoky. Many conversations, all in Russian. I hear the sounds but do not understand (like Saul's companions in Acts).  My first dinner here I gave the waiter a $5 tip. He was over the moon!  Could not stop thanking me.  Finances are tight for many in E Europe.  For reference, I talked with a well-paying job: he makes $700/month.  (Something like $3.50/hour.) In contrast, we are very, very rich.

I was driven today in a car by the church leader in a satellite congregation. He and his wife sold their home so they could buy a really good car, a Nissan. Their church is spread out over an area about 100x200 miles.  They are the only ones in the church with a car. They serve endlessly….  What great hearts! People are used to receiving input humbly. I like that. I taught today on Matt 28 -- explaining what the passage does and does not say about discipling. They were comfortable with my explanation.

Beds here in the hotel are small and comfortable. Need alarm or internal body clock to get up, since it's dark when I normally rise. Like London, similar latitude. Today I accidentally set alarm (cell phone) to 12 am.  So it went off late, at 7:00 am!  I meant to set it for 5:00.  Tomorrow, no mistakes; need to work out,  then incorporate the Russian translations into my slide show. 

My right elbow hurts still from one of my falls in Riga.  Here, despite snow and ice, no falls.  Guess I learned to be circumspect.  Anyway, don't want to fall. At 50 it takes much longer for hurts to heal. It was snowing big flakes this morning, very nice.  Cold but not painfully cold. Warmer than Iceland but not much.

Saturday night I travel by train. I feel very safe. Crime is low in this part of the world. The church there, I hear, has never had a (truly) outside speaker. They are psyched!  I will meet the two main leaders and then 40 disicples (mainly leaders) for a secret house church meeting.

OK, enough, as I think I am rambling.  But maybe it gives you more of a feel for what I see / experience here. Hope you are all well.  I wish you were with me.