Russia  2003

A report by Linda Symington on the Christian Restoration team visit to Russia in September  2003

What a privilege it was to travel to Armavir in Russia to visit Paula O'Keefe in her Trauma Centre. The four of us were a little bit apprehensive as we were unsure of what would be asked of us, but we knew the Lord was in the journey from the very beginning.  He had provided all the finances we needed for our travel and accommodation, as well as extra.

Anne, Mollie, Lawrence and myself in Red Square at midnight

Our invitations and visas had arrived on time and all our flights connected well. We travelled to Moscow to spend the night there. A friend met us and after having some ham, cheese and strong Russian tea, we headed off  to Red Square.


What an experience! It was so impressive. We couldn't believe that here we were at 12 midnight phoning home from Red Square. 

God is truly awesome!

We left next morning on a flight that took us to Min Vody airport. When we stepped off the plane we found it all a bit intimidating when dozens of  Russian men approached us quite aggressively. We weren't sure what they wanted, but had we known we could have relaxed, they were taxi men, all vying for business.

André, Victor and Yanya arrived and what a joy (and relief) it was to meet them. We had a three hour journey to Paula's place which actually took four hours due to a flat tyre and no real equipment to fix it.

When we arrived at the Trauma Centre we were taken aback as all the team were standing on the steps, in the cold, waving colored flags and singing. We instantly felt at home.

What a delight it was to see Paula again, and to meet up with Wendy (Whitten)

Next morning at the team meeting, Paula showed us the programme for the Healing Oasis and we set to work.

Lawrence (centre) with Russian and Chechen on either side

The Chechen guests had arrived and each morning Paula's team and the four of us had prayer and praise, then when the Chechen guests joined us we had prayer and worship again. 

These mornings were special. Each day the Lord's presence was clearly felt. We never wanted the praise and worship to end. After a quick break it was prayer ministry time. We spent up until lunchtime with each guest. Then more ministry in the afternoon, and often at night as well.

Many heart-breaking stories were heard, but the faith of these Chechen guests was very strong and very inspirational. There were times that each of us had to be prayed with as the stories were so sad and affected us. But we learnt so much from them about faithfulness, about perseverance, of holding on to God when everything else around you has fallen to the ground. It was a privilege to minister to them. It seems that the harder life is, the closer God stands with you. 

Anne and Paula in full dance!

They also had a sense of  humour like us Irish. We got on famously together. They taught us how to dance Chechen style and I taught them how to Irish dance. They were brilliant, especially the big Chechen men!!  We spent many hours talking together. We shared our lives, they knew we understood a little bit of what living in a war-torn situation is like. They listened intently how God can change the hearts of people who once were enemies. I believe that as they watched us, as a team coming from Ireland, four of us from all different backgrounds, to see how God had changed our hearts, it gave them hope and a new vision that yes, circumstances can change, lives can be changed, hatred and bitterness can be turned around, all through  the love of God. 

We laughed together andwe cried together. We had lots of fun and seeing how they relaxed and laughed brought so much joy to us. They had come tired, worn-out, hopeless, but He had given them new hope as only He can.

One night in particular, God's presence fell on us all as we gathered together in praise and worship. It gave me a tiny glimpse of what it must have been like at Pentecost.  It was an awesome night. Never to be forgotten.

Trauma centre praise team

Creativity night



Do you like it?

Creativity is a wonderful way of reviving a person's spirit

Our trip to Russia was fruitful. Not only for those who came to be loved and cared for, but for us, as is always God's way. We came away with a fresh understanding of what an incredible God we serve.

It was nice to read the following in Paula's January 2004 prayer letter..

"We also had our 6th Healing Oasis, and a team from Northern Ireland came out to help us. It was the first time we had had anyone from Northern Ireland and they were a breathe of fresh air, bringing much fun and laughter with them, in true Irish style. Their testimonies were powerful, coming firsthand from people who themselves had lived in a war zone and known the healing of God personally, as well from a team made up of people from both sides of the conflict - three from Protestant backgrounds and one from a Catholic background, which spoke volumes to both Chechens and Russians".

 A taste of Ireland?

When God kicks away all the props in our lives, it is then we see how deep our faith and commitment to Him really is. To be with God's people, who love and serve Him even in the most difficult of circumstances is something none of us will forget.

We fell in love with the Chechen guests.

We stand in deep admiration of Paula and her little team of dedicated workers.

We pray that given the opportunity again, we will be able to spend more time with them, and learn more about the wonderful and diverse family of God.

We serve an Awesome God.

 A wonderful p.s - (January 12th 2004 )

I have just been told that the young Chechen man called Roman that I had the privilege of leading to the Lord during the healing retreat has not only gone on with the Lord but has now signed up for Bible College. What an encouragement!  Isn't God so brilliant!

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