Updated: Mar 29, 2022
It was announced from the pulpit in the small house church in Borisov, Belarus that there was going to be a Christian Conference being held in Moscow, Russia by the Korean Church from Washington state. Everyone was talking about it and it seemed that this is the once in a lifetime thing to do. Of course, I wanted to go as well, but would it be possible? This was a conference with churches from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and even from Siberia. They were to gather together in a large stadium in Moscow.
First, I was told by the Pastor Vladimir that I would have to go to Minsk to get permission to go with the Belarus Church. I entered a small meeting room with the Pastors of the Minsk Church and they asked me “why I wanted to go”? I just said, “the church is going and I am part of the church, so I would like to go.” These seemed to be reasonable to them and they consented to let me go with all the churches in Belarus.
There were about six large busses full with multiple churches from Belarus. I prepared for the five-day conference with a rolling duffel bag filled with clothes to change and toilet gear. This is what I thought I needed for the week. It would be almost a day to drive there and a day back and five days of conference. To my surprise no one had a bag as big as mine. Theirs were about eight inches by eight inches and three inches deep. My bag was filled with clothes, theirs were filled with food, such a clash of cultures. They said nothing and shared their food with me, a small piece of bread, a slice of tomato and cucumber with a slab of salted pork fat on top.
We finally arrived at the stadium and it was full of believers. There was music, preaching and teaching and in-between there were small group sessions. I was told to just blend in and stick with the Belarus church. This was not too hard because they gave each of us a tee-shirt colored to each country. Russia was red, Belarus was white, Ukraine was yellow and Siberia I believe was blue. I tried to just congregate among the white shirts and keep quiet. This seemed to work for most of the conference, but on the last day in one of those small cell groups I was found out and asked who I was. I could not lie so I said that I was an American who was working in Belarus. This was not a favorable answer to them and so for the last day I was seated all by myself with my white shirt. I felt like I was put in time out by the Americans for being an American.
We were all soon heading home and I never opened my bag once in the week and no one asked what goodies that I might have had in the big bag.