The recent International Leaders' Meeting (ILM) in Bangkok was an exciting place to be: having our three international directors together on the stage, celebrating 60 years of stories with laughter and tears, rejoicing in God’s goodness and grace and, of course, revelling in seeing so many friends I have made over 27+ years in OM.
But the absolute highlight for me was hearing Jenya, our Russian field leader, share his heart from the stage. “The new vision has given me freedom to dream again,” he said. “We now have plans to send three Russian couples to the least-reached areas of the Caucuses…”
I wept like a baby as I listened, my mind flashing back over our years in Russia: the excitement of those early ‘open’ trips when smuggling was no longer necessary because Communism had fallen; the adventurous six-day train ride to Irkutsk to deliver Christian literature in 1991 and the overwhelming joy on the faces of those who received it; the stories from Siberia in the early ’90s (my husband was on one such team) as they accidentally planted a church and tried to work out what to do with it (It is still thriving today—God’s grace, not our detailed plan!).
Then those glorious 11 years in St. Petersburg, the city of contrasts. Golden domes and high-rise concrete, blacked-out Mercedes and overcrowded buses, abundant stores and yet gut-wrenching hidden poverty in the suburbs. The joys and real struggles of church planting, the excitement of training conferences, the thrill when new Russian believers headed out to serve with OM in India, on the Ships and in other places around the world. Yet there were also moments of utter despair: senseless beatings on the street, burglaries that caused anguish and people who got hurt along the way—people I hurt, too.
Jenya’s five-minute talk at the ILM brought it all flooding back. Soon after we left St. Petersburg, a ‘perfect storm’ of issues (including massive problems with visas) meant the OM ministry in that city came to a halt. Have you ever watched your dream cease to exist? Many of you have no doubt wrestled with the same thing, working hard towards a specific goal (to see a church planted, a ministry raised up, people brought into relationship with Christ) and then seeing it apparently fall apart.
Where is God in the why?
At church this week, we sang Lauren Daigle’s beautiful words of trust and hope: “Letting go of every single dream, I lay each one down at your feet…When you don’t move the mountains I’m needing you to move, when you don’t part the waters, I wish I could walk through, when you don’t give the answers, as I cry out to you (even so) I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you.” Our dream of an enduring ministry in St. Petersburg didn’t come to pass, although the gorgeous old office building continues to provide revenue for OM today.
And yet in Novosibirsk, in another area of Russia, the dearly held vision for OM in Russia was finding new life. More Russians were joining OM, drug addicts were coming to the Lord and alcoholics were finding hope in Christ. New ministries flourished and old ones developed a fresh incarnation.
So, listening to Jenya, my heart overflowed with joy. Joy, because God uses what we offer, even when we can’t see the results…or they’re not the results we imagined. Joy, because here was a Russian leader dreaming about reaching his own nation. We prayed so long and hard for that, but never saw it in our time. And hope, because God often works in ways we can’t imagine. “When you don’t give the answers as I cry out to you (even so) I will trust in you.” There’s still no OM ministry in St. Petersburg, but the Russian dream is gloriously alive in a way only God could have made happen.
As we head towards our ‘new-old’ vision of seeing vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached, this will be a familiar path for many of us. Pain. Sacrifice. The loss of hope or the death of dreams. People who get hurt and inflict hurt. And yet, sometimes, we get to see prayers answered and dreams realised in ways we would never have envisaged. Keep dreaming, my friends. We’re in this together. And it’s worth it, every step of the way. Dreams can still come true—just not always in the way we imagined.
Katherine Porter now lives in Western Australia with her husband, Lloyd, and their two daughters. She loves reading voraciously, her gorgeous Bible study group, great coffee and long walks on the beach with family and friends. As Lloyd is studying for a Ph.D. and her daughters are in high school, their household is always gloriously full of people, books, chatter and lively discussion. She counts it a joy and privilege to be serving alongside Lawrence on the Global Leadership Team, responsible for Organisational Development.