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Report from the Russian MOPS Conference

November - it is a time when Fall rightfully dominates the whole territory of Russia. Our Heavenly Father never ceases to surprise and delight His children! In the middle of Fall's dusk, cold and rainy weather He gave us a little bit of Summer. We are 65 sisters-mothers from 25 cities of Russia and Ukraine who gathered November 4-8 in a great location - sunny Kislovodsk - at the Tenth Conference of the Russian Ministry "Mothers of Preschoolers". "Go up to the high mountain, do not be afraid; say, "Here is your God!" These words are an expression of the main theme of our conference. Together we tried to climb not only the tops that surround the beautiful city of Kislovodsk, we have tried to rise to the spiritual peaks of God's perfection by doing:

- New step in our relationships with God; - New step in our families relationships; - New step toward lost people who do not know the Lord;

Each day was devoted to a specific topic related to these new steps. A special highlight is always the opening of the conference, which sets the tone, the main objectives and directions. Our conference was opened by a Baptist pastor from the city of Kislovodsk Georgi Kovda. He supported and encouraged sisters in Christ in their glorious, honorable though sometimes difficult role of motherhood. "Motherhood is important because better moms make a better world!" This motto of MOPS International is the best reflection of the high destiny that God has given to mothers. We as mothers know the familiar feeling of delight and joy when a baby takes the first step and it opens a whole new world of knowledge and achievements. But sometimes we look like our babies when we get used to our daily routine of Christian life. Then it is worth the risk and take another step, step up to another height. It is worth to take a risk even if we are afraid and our knees are shaking and it is hard to balance! Especially, knowing that the strong hands of our Heavenly Father are always ready to pick us and keep us from falling down. We are waiting for an indescribable joy of experiences, feelings and achievements. And our Heavenly Father will experience no less delight for us. With these words of greetings and motivation the director of Russian MOPS Leah Alieva addressed all participants of the conference.

The first day of the conference was devoted to our relationship with God. “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:8) This was the topic of that day. At general meetings and in small groups we wanted to listen and understand to what new steps to which God is calling us, what can improve and deepen our relationship with Him. This was said in the speaker's presentations:

Leah Alieva on “Without me you can do nothing” encouraged the sisters to reflect:

* Why we are being very well aware of the words of Jesus we do not run to Him when we desperately in need of love, care and understanding? We demand it from our husband or others who are in desperate need of the same.

* Why we do not resort to this statement of Jesus when we are trying to resolve conflicts in the family by ourselves defending our position.

* Why we will not allow Jesus to raise our children and desperately trying to keep everything in our hands under our control?

* How do we live with Jesus every moment of our lives? How to allow Him to live and work through us?

* Jesus came to this earth not to help us to live our own lives. He came to be our lives!

Larisa Mischenko (St. Petersburg) presented the theme “At the feet of Jesus” - how to identify the good part and what kind of enemies prevent us from doing so. In small groups sisters participated in a prayer walk which was held by Alla Stoschak and Elena Lysak (MOPS coordinators in St. Petersburg). They learned about universal recipe “food” for every mom – daily bread of God's Word. They set up “a string of their souls” in songs of worship with the worship leader Olga Kovdie.

The evening of the first day was special and memorable. Each sister could feel like a real bride. Upon entering the room, each of the participants was adorned with a small makeshift veil to match the theme of the evening: “The bride adorned for her husband.” Jesus, our Heavenly Bridegroom, through His Word spoke to our hearts about His love and cherished relationships that He made with each of us. He expects from us loyalty that we wait for His coming in purity. “I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him.” (2 Cor. 11:2). Each sister who was present at the party was wearing a wedding ring after she signed a “marriage contract” - a response to the promise of Jesus, that they will never forget about this engagement. This apparent effect was very moving allowing all of us again to really feel and experience the love of our Lord and Heavenly Bridegroom!

Our confirmation of faithfulness in the covenant with Jesus Christ became involved in the commandment of communion which was conducted by the pastor from the city of Georgievsk Marat Melikyan.

Like any other wedding our evening ended with a celebratory feast in which all the participants not only enjoy the magnificent Caucasian cuisine but also warmly praised God in songs, poems, and worship dances (let nobody be embarrassed by this). A special blessing at the conference was a group of sisters from Rostov-on-Don calling themselves by the name, “Inspiration”. These sisters “ honor God with their body” (1 Cor. 6:20). They call their ministry dance but the plastic expression in movements to the music of the text is very different from the modern understanding of the word “dance”. It is an expression of the soul, its scream and sometimes whisper... This is what really inspires us to worship our Heavenly Father! “

“In the morning, o Lord, you hear my voice; and wait in expectation.” (Psalm 5:4). Every morning we began with an early communal prayer in which we gave glory to God set up our hearts to hear His Word as well as supporting each other in prayer requests. We poured our hearts to the One who wants that we would put on Him all our worries.

The sisters received not only spiritual power in the early morning but also a physical power. Invigorating fresh air and the skills of our fitness trainer Valentina Korotenko did not give any moms a chance to stay still in place. Cheerful, energetic charge really “charged” us for the day and also made us slim and fit which is important for every woman.

“ Go on to perfection” - was the theme of second day of the conference. We thought throughout the

day how we can improve our relationships in our families: with our husbands and children. How we can glorify with these relationships our Heavenly Father and not to disgrace His name.

Making the next step, we need to have a strong belief in the fact that we do it in the right direction. “A man's steps are directed by the Lord” (Prov. 20:24). A Christian poet, journalist, teacher, and author of four books of poetry from Rostov-on-Don Tatyana Nizhelskaya, shared with sisters how to avoid mistakes and not to make the step in the wrong direction.

This topic was prefaced by the next performance of the church minister from St. Petersburg Konstantin Staschak, who had been married for 20 years and also a father of three children. Performance of men on woman’s conference is not very common thing. But for us, women to be able to understand what is the right thing to do to step forward to our husbands if is very important to hear from a man to be able to know male's gaze and to see male's attitude. Konstantin presented the theme “Husband's heart: what is it?” in the form of lessons by telling us about his fife and drawing lessons from it that will help us women to better understand the heart of men and to make a steps in the right direction. Especially touching was the response of his wife Alla Staschak on that subject. She expressed her delight that her husband did not hesitate to open his heart to the sisters – this is really brave thing to do! She gave him a present, something that he likes: big pack of ice cream! The theory in this family is not at odds with the practice! This was a perfect example and a great inspiration for us all!

The next topic of our new steps in relationships with our children “The language of children is a game” (the speaker was Olga Sukhovey, the leader of children's ministry of the church “The love of Christ” the city of Kislovodsk). It took place in an environment as close as possible to reality. All of us together with the children went camping in Kislovodsk Park – a picturesque place of about 950 hectares in the foothills of the North Caucasus. It was our “ascent” during which the sisters were not only acquainted with the sights of the resort city but also had a great opportunity to get to know each other, socialize and enjoy the wonderful warm sunny weather, which the Lord so spoiled us for the three days of the conference. Reaching the picturesque fields located at an altitude of 1000 meters above sea level known as the “Valley of Roses” and enjoy the beauty of the “pink paradise” in November, we settled on this meadow to explore the theme of our relationship with the children and its practical application. It turns out a game is important not only for children but also for the moms! Sometimes it is important to feel like a child to get on their level and take another step toward the heart of a child.

Serving Russian MOPS is only a small part of a large international ministry of mothers to mothers. At this conference we had a special opportunity to recognize and appreciate it. Special blessing for all of us was the participation of Chuck Schwartz – a representative missionary of East-West in Russia, the international partners who helped implement the partnership between Russian MOPS and MOPS International (the USA). He shared with the participants his testimony how the Lord has placed his heart to help the development of service “Mothers of Preschoolers” in Russia as he saw that need: better moms make a better world, as well as how he took a part in the meeting of the leaders of EWM, MOPS International, Russian MOPS held this year in Dallas, TX (The USA). Along with Leah Alieva, the Director of Russian MOPS they both shared their impressions of the International Convention MOPS, which they attended this year in Dallas. Leah Alieva presented pictures taken at the Convention and the main idea “Every mom needs a friend. Every leader needs growth. Every church needs a group of MOPS.” At the end of discussion of this topic of conference each participant received a letter from an American mother. These letters were written by the participants of the International Convention and they were addressed to mothers in Russia as a special message of love, encouragement and support. All mothers all over the world are the same: they are loving, worry about their children, and as moms they

are ready to put their souls for their children. And every mom is not alone! She has the Lord! And there are those who are always ready to support and help!

If we return to the theme of our conference related to climbing, by taking us on high the Lord allowed us to look more widely at the world and to see not only ourselves and our problems but also many other people of God with whom we are united by ties of kinship and love of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. But the Lord showed us not only these people. He has given us to see the lost people and those who have gone astray and who do not know the truth of God way and wandering in the dark jungle of sinful world. This is the same mothers as we are. These are children that grow around us. These are a lot of people with whom we encounter every day. How can we remain indifferent toward them? How in our turbulent turmoil can we not hurry by? and What can we do for those people we as a weak woman but having the power of Holy Spirit within us and the Great Commission of our Lord? On the last day of the conference we talked about the new steps to those around us in need of love, truth and light.

In order to carry successfully the service, we have to burn for Jesus but not to be like “squeezed lemon”. This is how next theme sounded - “Burnout”. It was presented by Alexander and Larisa Mischenko (St. Petersburg). This theme allowed sisters to determine their status in the service not to burn but to burn for Jesus that ministry won't be a burden but be a blessing!

How to take those whom God sends into our lives? People who are not from our circle, who are from outside the church. They do not look like us; they behave differently. But to God they are also precious because He paid the ultimate price for them too – He gave for them His only begotten Son. This was reflected in next theme “The Heart that opens to all” based on the book of Ruth was presented by one of the Russian MOPS team members, Olga Kovdie (the city of Essentuki). There are people of integrity around us and we can easily communicate with them. But there are moms who make us and the whole society feel condemnation and disgust. But why did they become like that? Who will bring to them the Gospel if we will not? Jesus made a step towards the most shameful sinners. What prevents us from taking this step?

Once Jesus told his disciples this parable: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”(Matt. 13:45-46).

These pearls are scattered around us. Maybe they are covered in dirt of sin and cannot sparkle. But to God this is the real jewel. He paid a price for them. And what price we are willing to pay in order to find these pearls for our Lord? We just need to make at least one step toward them. We need to touch with love their wounded souls, disfigured by sin, and bring them a ray of God's light and hope. The final theme of the conference sounded: “Find the pearl to the kingdom of God.” During the three days of conference sisters received many gifts from the Lord and from the organizers of conference. But at the end of conference each of them received a pearl. And it was not a gift for her. This is a gift for the one who she will find for the Lord.

Finally, from all the participants of the conference from the organizing committee and myself, I want to express my deep gratitude to all those who produce this conference:

* owners and employees of the hotel, opened its hospitable doors for us;

* staff of dining room sisters and brothers who served in the cooking and nutrition – food cooked by your hands and so beautifully served – is a special blessing for all of us!

* Sisters who took care of children during the conference. The Lord will reward you for your sacrifice in the service;

* to all those who prayed for preparations and holding the conference and those who prayed at the time of conference. One sister, bedridden for all three days prayed for the needs of participants of the conference who gave those needs to her every day!

* To all who donated commodities that we had “penny to penny” to pay all the costs. This is in view of the fact that the number of women was much higher than expected (budget);

* to pastors of churches who delegated to attend the conference – thank you for your support of the MOPS ministry;

* to husbands whose wives for a few days were away from home and thus probably brought you some inconvenience and additional problems – thank you for your sacrifice and patience!

* To speakers who shared with participants of the conference not only the knowledge and guidance but the warmth of their hearts – thank you, you were good tools in God's hands!

* To members of the organizing committee – you dear sisters Olga and mother Luba. Both of you are like two wings for me! You are my friends, my staff , you – are my part!

The entire heavenly glory to our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit!

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” (Rom. 11:36)

With love and prayers, Leah Alieva, the director of Russian MOPS ministry.

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