And It Wasn't Even In A Church Building
It was still the most memorable worship service of my long life. And, nearly 20 years later, it still is.
The backstory: In 1997 ... and again in 1999 ... I was part of a singing group from Living Word Church and FBC Pelham, which went to Russia and Latvia on a mission trip. We worshiped and sang, on the earlier trip, at Church Emmanuel in Pskov, Russia, and then New Life Christian Church in Bauska, Latvia. And I made friends in both, that are still online friends, to this day!
I learned much from friends in both places, and some have said to me that they learned a lot from us, too.
In any event, on the second trip, limited to the church in Pskov .. for a music conference ... I flew to Riga a week ahead of time, and spent most of the week visiting friends there in Bauska. Then, on the weekend, I rode with Aivars Berlinski (one of my yet-today friends) over to Pskov for the conference.
I stayed with my friends the Stepanov brothers ... also friends today ... in Pskov, while Aivars stayed with friends of his there.
On the last night in Pskov, we sang in the Pskov Community Center. It was an incredible time, one I will never forget. But that was not the highlight of the evening. That came at the end of the evening in the Community Center.
The worship was led by a young man by the name of Alexander "Sasha" Medvedev, one of my still-friends, and an incredible worship leader. He led from the keyboard and the service went on for several hours with him seamlessly leading worship. I was, and am still, quite impressed.
At the end of the service, Aivars came over to me and asked what I was doing after the service. I told him that my hosts had mentioned dinner at their apartment, at which Aivars seemed disappointed. I suggested he could come with me and the Stepanovs, and he said no, he didn't want to intrude. I said nonsense ... I am your elder so do as I say, and pointed out Mrs. Stepanov ... the brothers' mom ... and said go check with her. Of course it was OK, so he went with us.
I came to learn shortly that the Stepanovs had a surprise ... they'd invited Sasha Medvedev to dinner!
So, in the Stepanov apartment for dinner was The Stepanov brothers & their mom, Sasha & his musical partner Dima, Aivars Berlinski, Jeff Hairrell ... my roomie for the week (also a skilled keyboard man and classically trained singer), and me.
Who happened to have a video camera (remember .. this was 1999).
After dinner, Sasha went to his car and got his keyboard. Dima also noticed a stringless guitar hanging on the wall ... as decoration only ... took it down, rounded up some strings, and tuned it up.
We had church in the wee hours of the morning, there in that Russian apartment! And it ended up between 1:00 and 2:00 am, with 6 of us guys singing Andre Crouch's "My Tribute".
In THREE languages!
It's in the video below. I still get chills whenever I hear that song, particularly when we do it at FBC Pelham.
At least that's where everyone else is. Me? I'm back in a Russian apartment....