Unification News for March 2000

Soul of Russia - Why Iím Still in Russia After 9 Years

Erin Bouma
March, 2000

In April 2000 I will begin my tenth year of living in Moscow as a pioneer missionary to the long-suffering Russian people. I have witnessed enormous changes in both my host country and myself over that period and I am most grateful for the growth and experience.

Many of you may know that I first felt pulled in the direction of Russia in about l983 while working at the Seminary. I founded the "Soul of Russia" Group for the purpose of praying for the nation and people then under communism and preparing (through study and interaction with other like-minded groups) to work in the USSR after its "liberation". Although I taught V.O.C. and saw CAUSAís educational work, I felt something should be set in motion for a more home church-type of healing and restoration for the nation AFTER the Soviet period.

Through a series of events, including two journalist fact-finding tours to Russia and finally working on the World Media Conference in Moscow April, 1990, I moved East one year later. I took my worldly belongings with me since I planned to make a home and work for some period of time. I was not part of the CARP dispensational recruitment, but rather relocated under the auspices of IRF-PWPA, even though that mission didnít work out.

Shortly after my arrival I found my niche as an English teacher and before long I was able to completely support myself and meet many Able-type people in the process. I contributed to many workshops and programs in the early days while I was not under much financial pressure.

One of the most valuable reasons I am still in Russia is that I had my first experience of LIVING BY FAITH and now feel so free I wouldnít want to lightly give it up. Some people ask me if I live alone; I tell them that God is always with me. And thatís what Iíve experienced. When I need more students, occasionally I need to advertise or pass the word around, but God always sends new people when I need them (and if there is a surplus I pass them on to other missionaries). Now, after nine years my foundation is quite strong a I can exist on referrals.

I set my private lesson fees quite moderately since service, rather than money, is my objective. My savings account has become my investment in people: my health care is in the hands of my young studentsí parents who are doctors and surgeons and my friend manages a dental clinic. Often my many long-time students become personal friends and I have developed a whole network of families and support for most of my needs I canít meet. From the beginning I have felt so taken care of, that I neednít worry about anything.

Secondly, Iím still in Russia, because I Feel What I Am Doing Is Valuable. I visit America and try to imagine if I return "home" what could I do that would have near the same impact on lives. Honestly speaking, Russia is in a terrible mess because the leadership in the period since the fall of communism has made so many un-Godly mistakes and allowed corruption and greed to flourish at everyoneís expense. And, although theyíve seen very few positive results from their so-called Russian democracy and capitalism, the ordinary person is very good, open-hearted and wants to live in a "normal", healthy country with a real future for their children.

I find that serving these sincere people who live in the constant political and economic crisis that is Russia is very fulfilling. I figure even if I am not the worldís greatest English teacher, still I have True Love and hope to offer them and a lot of practical and spiritual personal advice as well. And they seem to welcome and receive it gladly.

Iíve also had a chance to serve the Korean community living in Moscow through their elementary school and several families. I now have three non-church Korean families begging me to come to Korea to teach English. But I think to myself, there are lots of people who can (and would love to) go and love Korea but very few who can love Russia at this point in time.

Thirdly, Iím still in Russia because I know that America Needs To Be Saved. Every time I visit the States, I am appalled at the glut of things and the mad race for money gripping many lives here. I even feel that America is about to gag on its own wealth and comfort. I know that a rich spiritual life is much easier to come by when one is uncomfortable and making effort to do everyday things. For this, Russia is custom-made. This fact, for every Russian I know, serves as a witness to my faith and character that I choose to share their trying life rather than returning to America where things are "easier" and I could be making more money, etc.

I understand that many missionary families who were once in Russia have returned to the States for good reasons: health problems, big families, schools for their children, etc. The fact that I am single has given me more options here and I havenít either felt "called" to return to America or been forced to leave by circumstances.

So, you are asking, if America needs to be saved, what am I doing in Russia so long? More and more I think that one of the best ways for America to be saved is to send out people to give her Blessings to the world. If only to begin to counteract the exported "junk" from the U.S. that is now world-wide, we need people of character and service to represent our nation and give the best of the American heritage. My physical sister has two granddaughters: one is a budding young fashion model who moved to New York at age 17; her sister, aged 20, by contrast is now serving in the Peace Corps in Mongolia.

Finally, Iím thinking that if I offer at least 10 years of service to Russia this with be a Tithe Of My Life to the country. Iím also realizing that as my personal foundation gets stronger, and my understanding of the culture and people deepens, I can accomplish more and more. In this past year I have become a contributing editor to a nation-wide weekly newspaper for English teachers and in March will begin to offer workshops for Russian English teachers working with young children. My circle of influence is widening.

In my next report, I will share my reflections of how I have personally changed by living as a missionary in a foreign country and some reflections on life in Russia and America.

If anyone wants to contact me they can write to: ul. Raspletina 8/2, Kv. 18, 123060 Moscow, RUSSIA; phone 198-92-97; or e-mail <Russos02@RuIBM.com>

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