In a delightful coincidence, the group, after walking the city for nearly two hours, ran into WAU president, Weymouth Spence, Ed.D., and representatives from the Columbia Union Conference. The president and Union representatives were in Russia for a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Bible Translation Institute, a project of WAU and Zaoksky University or to participate in the ground-breaking ceremony for a media center at Zaoksky University.
The whirlwind of activities began shortly after the group arrived in Russia on May 9 and continued up to their departure 15 days later. Among those activities, the team worked with special needs children in one of three schools to which the group was assigned.
“We played typical US organized games with music and they loved it!” said team leader, assistant professor of physical education, Alvin Fuentes. “We worked well together and knew what to do to ensure the kids had a great time with us. We brought over 100 toys from the United States to give away.”
Additionally, the team met different groups each night to teach conversational English and learn Russian in the process and participated in a health expo as part of Zaoksky a celebration to mark the 20th anniversary of Zaosky University Press. Painting, cleaning, plastering and otherwise upgrading the infrastructure at Zaoksy University, represented other significant efforts.
“We painted several bathrooms and a long hallway that took us a week. The big job was to prep the areas for painting. The wall had crumbling cement, mold and falling paint, which made the task harder,” Fuentes said. But it was not all heavy lifting for the six female students, one male and Fuentes.
“Part of our trip experience was to go to Moscow. We walked around the city and experienced Red square, the palaces, the change of guard and much more,” said Fuentes.
Historic Red Square separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of the President of Russia, from another landmark—a merchant’s quarter known as Kitai-gorod. Red Square, historically, has been used for official ceremonies by all Russian governments since it was established in the 1550s. Contrary to popular belief, however, the name Red Square is unrelated to the dominant color of the bricks around, or to Russia’s history with communism. Rather, the name came about because the Russian word красная (krasnaya) is used to mean either "red" or "beautiful."
Three students—Kellie Hamilton, Melanie Bowen and William Cheatham—were interviewed for local newspapers. Bowen and Cheatham were also interviewed for a podcast about the trip and about life as a WAU student.
Earlier in the year, John Konrad, vice president of WGTS, the popular gospel radio station owned by WAU, made a preliminary trip to Russia to lay the foundation for the May trip. In addition to Spence, chair of the Religion Department, Zdravko Plantak, Ph.D., and director and editor-in-chief of the Bible Translation Institute, Professor Michael Kulakov, were also on the trip.