I recently returned from a trip to Belarus, a former Soviet nation located between Poland and Russia. Our church and association of churches has had a ministry partnership with the Baptist Union of Belarus for many years. This was my fourth trip there. Each trip leaves me wanting to go again and do more. This was no exception. On this trip we interacted with more children, teens and young adults than ever before, which is extremely encouraging. God is certainly at work there. It was exciting to see growth among the churches and a new generation of young people living out their faith.
One task we had was to be part of a Vacation Bible School for three days. Through that experience we met several kids from around the area and one of those kids gained a special place in my heart. He was 12 years old, had a blonde mullet hairstyle, big blue eyes and a big smile. His name is Dima. On day one I immediately recognized him as a standout among the 50+ kids. He was the "class clown," being loud and funny and unafraid to speak up, often interrupting or distracting the group leader. Of course, everything was in Russian, so I understood very few words, but his behavior was internationally recognizable. I could see the mischief in his eyes and I immediately liked him!
We soon played a game and I was totally in the dark --- Russian, remember? Dima appointed himself as my guide, tutor and Russian translator, even though he spoke almost no English. We communicated roughly with lots of gestures and hilarious facial expressions on both our parts. When we had to choose an animal name for the game, he dubbed me "muka," which I later learned to be a fly! He would attempt to explain instructions very loudly and hilariously, which made me laugh and got him called down by the teacher. I didn't get in trouble because I was the visiting American pastor who didn't know anything.
Dima was rambunctious, enthusiastic and a little bit out of control. He would pull the girls' hair and when they turned around, he pointed at me. When we sang songs, the only English song he said he knew was "I'm Too Sexy" which he managed to say in pretty good English! He tried to teach me the word vodka, which got us a stern look from the teacher and to which I replied, "nyet." During prayer once, I heard some noise and opened my eyes in time to see him "shoot the bird" to another boy. Apparently that's another international symbol. With all of this - maybe because of all of this - Dima found a special place in my heart.
On our last day, I asked our translator to help me talk to Dima. When I motioned for him to join the two of us away from the other kids, I could tell he thought he was in some kind of trouble. I simply told him thanks for being my friend and my helper. When I asked him about his faith in Jesus, he indicated he was a believer. I encouraged him to honor God with his life and told him I would be praying that God would use him to bless others in a big way. He smiled that big smile, we hugged and said our goodbyes.
I look forward to seeing Dima again one day. I continue to pray that God will do great things in Dima's life and that God will bless others through Dima's life. Join me in praying for a boy on the other side of the world whom God will use for His glory.