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Balloonatic in Russia - Back Home

Tim Thurmond

Well, I am back in America and back to the old grind. This is my first writing in the last few weeks. When I moved in with the missionaries, the computer was often being used for more important things, so I did not get the opportunity. Also, that last week I was saying a lot of goodbyes. Since being home I have started my old job up and getting connected with society again. This final update will include the things I learned, the memories I hope to keep, and the feelings that were expressed.

The events between the last update and now are similar. I did a lot more with schools, churches, and even spoke at the secular university several times to different groups. The experiences are many and they made me feel very fortunate to experience these things. As I look back to right before I went to Russia, I had no idea what I would do and how my time would be filled. Now that I am back home safe I will tell you what I was feeling before I went and I will be honest. Since September 11th I have told God that were ever he wanted me to go I would go if the way was provided and I would not let fear stop me. Well the trip to Russia was my first trip since that happened, and even this trip was not planned to the last minute for sure.

This is how the trip came about in the first place: Me and someone I was working with in ministry thought we should go on a trip together. They were very fluent in Spanish and I thought: Lets go to El Salvador since that is were this ministry partner had a big heart for and I had wanted to go, but they brought up the point that since they knew the language so well that it would not be fair to me. Well, we then considered Russia. They had wanted to go there, and I had wanted to go back. In late December and early January we made plans for Russia. Later she felt the Lord was telling her not to go and our ministry partnership was not the same as it was at the beginning so the trip fell apart. I did talk with the missionaries and others and felt the Lord telling me that just because He closed the door to her did not meen He closed it to me. So this trip continued as planned, but instead of a group going it, was just me.

There were some other things that went on that looked bad at first, but hindsight is 20/20. Now I see that everything that was bad was needed to produce something great. The trip was planned and I had to get ready--which was not easy since I had college classes out of state up to the week before I left for Russia. Lucky for me, even as I was getting frustrated and worked up about all that was going on, I had some friends near my school who are in my water aerobics class that I teach. (note for them : I was planning on mentioning you in this letter even if you did not call that night but I did appreciate the call and look forward to seeing you ladies in July) Anyway, these ladies who mother me a little (but are great talk with and just fun to be around) help me think things through. They helped me calm down before the trip and relax and get focus on school and when that was done to have a fun time with them before the rest of the chaos began. After saying goodbye to my friends down in Indiana and on my drive up to Michigan I did a lot of thinking. I had a feeling in my gut that something big was going to happen to me. I was not sure if it was going to be a positive or negative, but I was sure something was going to happen. I am one of those people who write poetry and other poetry effects me especially if it's in music. When I was struggling with this feeling that something might happen I heard a song by Steven Curtis Chapman called "My Turn Now". The song is an older one, but I have always enjoyed it. It talks about stepping up for Christ and doing what he wants even if we are uncomfortable with it. In one line of the chorus it says "...it's my turn now, my turn to give my life away" and that line can mean several things and to me is was a question was I willing to do anything this trip was going to have me do even if it meant giving my life away. I will be honest with you when the last days before the trip came I was sure that I was not coming home or at least not the same. I have felt for a long time that I was not going to see my 30th birthday, so I am not afraid of death. To me, when it comes it comes. Because I have felt for so many years that I will not see my 30th birthday, I feel when I do die I have no excuse for not getting things done. If I am going to die I might as well die on the mission field. Anyway, enough about death. The reason I added this was just to show I was afraid but I did not let it stop me especially with the worlds condition.

You know about the next few weeks if you have read the journal. If not, you may want to read the other journals before reading on.

Well during the time I was in Russia I worked hard and it was emotionally and physically draining. I always felt there was hundreds--if not thousands of eyes on me. Here I was not only representing these missionaries, but my country. Even more so I was representing my faith. Russian kids my age are interesting. When I spoke to college groups, I would do it as a question and answer time. There was always three questions asked. I think they will give you an idea in what is important over there. Question one: Have I tried and if so what did I think of Russian vodka? When I told them that I had not had any, there would always be some one--even if the class was all girls--ask me if I wanted to go out with them that night and try some. The next question was what I thought about Russian girls. I was honest and said I thought they were very beautiful and very nice. The third question was about America involvement in Iraq. They have been told by their media that it was only for oil and that Bush is a blood thirsty savage and is the worse thing a President could be. When I asked them about Clinton they said he was one of the greatest Presidents our country ever had, and that we did not treat him right. Well with these three question you can see how the college students think of life and American society. Times were hard, especially during the days. Those last weeks I was physically drained to the point I would almost fall asleep in the elevator going up seven floors. I looked forward to every night because that was my time to relax and enjoy the company of those around me. When I was with the girls I had fun. We had pillow fights and tickle battles and something called "silva" which is Russian for plumb. The game was quite simple: You try to grab the other persons nose and say "silva" without them grabbing yours. When doing these games, just talking with the girls, or just sitting next to them I was able to forget the things that went wrong that day and just relax. Two of the girls became like the sisters I had never had, and the third became like that best friend that you always want to find. The type that can see your upset and frustrated and just with a smile and a look into her eyes can calm you down and you know that this is feeling of frustation is just gone. Well when I was not staying with the girls, I stayed with Salley Foote, one of the missionaries over there. I have known her and Jim for 15 years or so and she is like a mother to me. I have much respect for her and Jim. The nights I stayed with her were fun in a different way. By the time she had gotten there, I had not had a real conversation with an American in about a month. We spent hours talking. It was comforting to hear a friendly voice clearly with out the buzz of a telephone in your ear.

Overall, the trip was the best I had ever been on. This is the first trip that I have no regrets--except that I had to go back to America so I could work. This was a great trip. It was not a trip where you can count the benefits on numbers alone. I did not count numbers. Doors have now been opened and people have started to move to that door. My prayer is that during this summer, when the camp happens there, people will make choices. I also pray that the Lord lets me go back. The only thing that is keeping me from going is the money. If I can get enough money for next summer, I will go for the whole summer and stay there as long as I can. I have felt for a while I am suppose to go into missions of some type, and I am now pretty sure that will take me to Russia at least one more time. I want to thank all those who read this and prayed for me and those who helped out financially. Even though you were not there, you were a part of this trip. Thank you.

Tim Thurmond


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