It’s a question I like to think about a lot, because I’m still wondering myself sometimes. At the moment it relates to being in Zavolzhye Russia.
My visa says “business of religion,” but that does not exactly sum up the three reasons that I am here.
First and foremost I am here as a volunteer missionary to work with the Zavolzhye Baptist Church and assist in establishing their English Language Club. I am working with Mike Haynes, another missionary from Chattanooga, TN. This club is open to the public and is a means to practice, not teach, English. We do not go over grammar and we do not give out grades. What we do facilitate is conversation and comprehension using tools like bible reading and watching Christian based movies. This club takes precedence of my time as I learn the tools and equipment, get to know the people, and research different methods of imparting the English language to non native speakers. It meets three times a week and is an outreach method for the church, meeting a need in the community while hopefully spurring them to think on things above.
Second of all I am here as a student from Johnson & Wales University earning a trimesters worth of experiential education credit. I am documenting my experiences and will be completing multiple assignments that will bring me closer to a Bachelors degree in Travel and Tourism. JWU has generously allowed me to gain credit through this experience, and I am taking advantage as I cooperate with the International Missions Board.
Thirdly I am here as a writer, adventurer, and people lover. Mike Haynes started writing books about 2 years ago when his wife Phyllis died. Together we are co-authoring a book that will highlight our experiences in Russia and starting the English Club. It will be a quick read, but full of life experience, exciting stories, and history. This will be his third, and by the time I am graduated from college I will have a published book on Amazon.com.
There is not much documentation about this area of Russia available to Westerners, so I also want to photograph and record the amazing things here. Using my blog, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, etc, I hope to spur an interest in Russia beyond the obvious. There are amazing people and places nestled in the small villages and faraway towns, and being someone engaged in the tourism field, it is a great undiscovered land that we should discover. Also because we are more inclined as Christians to reach out when we know what needs exist.
I am only here for three months, and do not want to discount the long term work being done by missionaries and native born christians here, but it is definitely a blessing to be able to serve God in this way.