Editor's note: This article is the conclusion of a 2-part series titled A Journey to Russia and Back
Returning to Russia for Darin and Susan McFarland began much the same way getting there did: with a map.
Gazing at the expansive country and consulting with Cru leadership, they considered the different needs of various cities. This one has an existing team. This one has some previous activity. Soon, they decided upon a new place to start over again in ministry.
New Challenges in a New Place
Right away, Darin noticed a difference about the population of Ekaterinburg. "Most folks had never met Americans before," says Darin. "Even if they weren't interested in spiritual things, they were still interested in talking to you."
Ekaterinburg hadn't opened up to foreign visitors till several years after St. Petersburg did. Its residents were not accustomed to tourists and felt the oppressive effects of communism much longer.
But students were searching, and even after several indicated decisions to receive Christ, another obstacle emerged: where to send these young believers so that they could grow more in their faith.
"If they don't connect with a local church, there's a much greater chance that they'll get lost once they are out in the working world," says Darin. "We attended a local church but felt like it was a really difficult place to bring new believers because there wasn't a culture of acceptance."
Evgeny Staroroytov, who accepted Christ through the campus ministry, felt the same way. "We realized that for the young people in this city, we didn't have places where we would be excited to invite them."
Together with another Cru staff member and 3 young Russians, Darin and Susan helped plant a new church in Ekaterinburg that has continued to grow over the years. There, believers in all stages of their relationship with God can worship freely and receive solid teaching from the Bible.
Hope for the Future and the World
During the years in Ekaterinburg, the McFarland family enjoyed seeing God at work in the lives of others, particularly the college students. Among those students is a Russian-born German named Eugene Reicherts.
Last year, a speaker from the Ukraine challenged the students to give of their time, energy and abilities for Christ in some part of the world. Similar to Darin's experience over 20 years before, students considered the countries of the world on a map.
Many stepped forward and placed their thumbprint in the country to which they felt led to go. Eugene, just moments after accepting Christ for himself, stepped forward, placed his thumb on the inkpad and left his mark on Germany.
Coming Full Circle
A new legacy is beginning just as God is turning yet another page in the McFarlands' journey. With aging family members needing more direct care, Darin and Susan feel like their time in Russia is over for now. They have accepted an opportunity to serve among student athletes in the Boston metro area.
Even as the location changes again, the commitment remains the same: to see lives change. Whether in Russia, the United States or anywhere else in the world, the journey continues for the McFarland family.