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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Up the Moscow River without a paddle... Part 2

Imagine that you are sitting in a strange airport, with people who do not speak your language, with no money, and no way to contact anyone...

That is where I was at 3am on July 11th.

This is part 2 of my adventurous introduction to Russia.

... If your bags don't make it onto this flight... then KLM will be responsible for getting them back to you. Oh boy, that's funny... cause the KLM lady told me that British Airways would be responsible. There is some extreme foreshadowing at this point alluding to the outcome of my bag.

At this point... I really didn't care what happened to my luggage. I was just happy to be on my way to Moscow again. The British Airways flight was nice... but it ran late... I arrived about an hour beyond my scheduled arrival time.

It is now 9pm in Moscow when I arrive. I head to baggage claim, and surprise surprise, my bag does not come off the conveyer. I have traveled within the US and Canada probably 50 times in the last 3 years. I have never... not once had a bag lost. My first contact with a real Russian was the lady who spoke English in the bag claim office. She was yelling at the guy in front of me in Russian... so I was a little worried... but, she was pretty friendly to me. Helped me fill out the paperwork, fill out customs forms... all kinds papers and stamps. It was 10pm before I made my way past the customs people and into the part of the airport where you can meet people. I walked around for about 25 minutes or so, not seeing anyone... I decided to try and get some money off of my credit card. It wasn't going to happen.

At this point, a private taxi driver approached me and started muttering in Russian about needing a ride... I of course had no idea what he was saying, until one of them spoke English... Enter Vladim. The Taxi Driver. He asked how much the driver speaking Russian had quoted me... I said 16 dollars... he said 16, ok. Then I explained that I had no money and was trying to get money out of the ATM, when no money came a second time, I told him that my group was at Hotel Russia, and that he would get paid when I hooked up with them. He kindly responded... money is no problem!

I think I had was starting to have my first reservations of choosing Vladim when he pointed to the speedometer and said... 100 miles per hour!! It indeed was around 160km, which is 100mph... As we zoomed in and out of traffic... He was doubling as a tour guide... Cinema! He would yell and point as we raced past a movie theatre... New Church!! As we passed a beautiful cathedral that was still under construction... Makdonalds!! When we finally made it into the city a little more... Vladim was a great driver, but he was a little nuts. He passed in the emergency lane on the right, and would come right up on the driver in front of him flashing his lights and honking his horn. We arrived at Hotel Russia as He was pointed out... Moscow River!! St. Basil's!! Kremlin!!

At the hotel, Vladim waited outside while I went in search of my group. No one here spoke more then 3 words of English... The guy at the front desk could not figure out what I was trying to say to him, so he referred me to the information phone at the back of the lobby. When Vladim saw me walking away from the desk he bounded in excited... I called on the phone, and there was no American group that had any of the names I was giving them. I should have just called ahead. great. Vladim now was interested in money... we tried both ATMs in the lobby, then went to a money changer back by the bathrooms. When I asked for 40 dollars (My math: 16+16=some money for me to eat with), Vladim said... Why you ask for that me... Me, you here... 60 Dollars!! Say WHAT! Yo dude... we agreed on 16... He responded, 1km is 1 dollar! Which is pretty outrageous... but, remember... I thought I was getting a good deal... We stepped back to talk about this a little, and my bottom line was... I needed to get back to the airport, that is where people were looking for me, not at a hotel in the center of Moscow. He said, 75 dollars and I will take you back. So I tried to get 80 out... denied.

My head was spinning, Vladim was a little upset, I had no idea where my group was... I'm at Hotel Russia, in the center of one of the most beautiful city's on the planet... but everything is wrong. Quickly I recapped in my head. No money, no group, no bags, no phone, no contact number... what do I have of value? The only thing I had worth anything to another person was my CD player. I told Vladim, I have no money, but I do some things that are worth money. He said, what? This was the first ray of light, he was a bartering Russian. I pulled it out and said... this is worth about 60US, and I have headphones that are worth 30, that should be enough to get me back to the airport. As Vladim was examining the player, I was struggling to get the headphones free, they had gotten tangled. I was shaking because I was so stressed and could barley get them free. After what seemed like an eternity kneeling on the floor in the lobby of the Hotel, I freed the headphones and looked up at Vladim. He smiled, then as he pushed the player back to me, said... its ok, I take you back.

I said, you don't want the player... he waved me off and said, no money, no problem. As we departed from the hotel, I for the first time was feeling the fatigue of traveling so far with so little sleep. As I dozed, It was already passing midnight in Moscow.

We talked little on the way back, but once we got there... Vladim said... you, Russia, no good... I think in the morning, you should go home. I was determined not to leave. I did not have all this adventure just to run back to the fort, I was way out of my comfort zone, but God knew what he was doing.

It was past 1am when I got back to the airport, I profusely thanked Vladim, and finally assured him, I did not need help talking to the British Airways people to get me a ticket home... I bid him farewell and headed straight for the information desk. There was only one lady at the information desk who spoke any English at all, I had to wait 10 minutes while she was on the phone. I explained what my situation was, and she told me that no one had come looking for me. She tried calling Hotel Russia... no one was there. She gave me a paper with the number in case I wanted to try later. I tried to use the payphones to call home, maybe someone could help me from home... But alas... I could not raise an international operator... I tried like 8 times in a row. When I finally did get an English speaker... she told me... This is airport information, goodbye.

It was nearing 2am by now... and I had tried everything I could think of. I decided to go to my office and think. Thats right... I went in search of a comfortable toilet. Well... I found a toilet, but it was not comfortable, and it smelled badly. While I was there... I prayed. I pondered, and I prayed some more. And with ever increasing waves... I was feeling more and more tired. I walked around for a while after I left the office... scouting out a place I could sleep. This was what I was thinking... if someone had been here looking for me, they were probably asleep by now... so what was I doing still awake? I tried the information desk one more time... They then showed me a piece of paper that had a name and a number scribbled on it... Stacy, but they said that she was looking for her group too... I asked if she was American... No, she is Russian they said. Well... that was who I was looking for, but I did not know that... and they mixed up the story pretty badly... she was looking for me, and she was not a Russian, she was an American missionary, but I guess that is a testament to her Russian...

I found a spot that I could lay out on 3 chairs... next to a bum. He had a cart with some trashbags on it, had the funkiest socks I have ever seen a man wear, and had covered his head with newspaper. I can't say I slept well... I was trying to fall asleep in such a way that both my carry on bags were secure... but that didn't lend itself to very much comfort. But... I did sleep...


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Up the Moscow River without a paddle... Part 1

Imagine that you are sitting in a strange airport, with people who do not speak your language, with no money, and no way to contact anyone...

That is where I was at 3am on July 11th.

It all started when I got on board my connecting flight from Dallas to Chicago the morning of July 9th... we pushed back from the gate, only to have to pilot kindly inform us that we would not be leaving just yet... instead, due to bad weather in between Chicago and Dallas, we would be sitting on the tarmac waiting. We had a scheduled take-off time, that time came and went, I wasn't quite sweating it yet, I had set it up so that I had 2 1/2 hours to switch airlines in Chicago before my flight to Amsterdam then to Moscow was to leave. But, when 2 1/2 hours of sitting on the runway had passed... I started to worry.

We landed in Chicago just in time for me to call Dan Eubanks, the trip leader and have him tell me that they were already on board the KLM flight to Amsterdam. Great. Now what? The lady at the KLM ticket counter was going to have my passport (I didn't have it, because the visa's came in so late) and was going to sort out another flight for me. When I got up to the KLM ticket counter... no one was there. They were closed. The flight that left at 5pm... was flight 2 of 2 for the day. I started to panic a little. After running around asking people about KLM, I was waiting in another line to talk to Aer Lingus people (they were next door to KLM, so I figured they could help me) when someone emerged from the KLM door... I ran over and cut her off as she was heading for the front door. I asked her if she worked for KLM, and she asked me if I was John M somebody... my spirits sank. Then she looked up at me again and asked if I was Chris Warren... YES!!!

She then proceeded to explain how lucky I was to have caught her... she was indeed on her way out the door for the night, and she had forgotten that I was even needing assistance. She gave me two options for new flights. I could wait 24 hours, and take the exact same flights to Moscow... just a whole day late... or... I could take a Air India flight to London Heathrow, then transfer to an Aeroflot flight to Moscow... it puts me in 5 hours late. Which would you choose? Yeah... I chose Air India... I needed to get there.

Air India was an experience all in itself, I must have gone through 3 security checks to get on that plane, my carry on's were thoroughly violated, and I was patted down at least twice. The flight attendants who were women, were dressed in full Indian garb, complete with the dot and all... the food wasn't bad thought. Thankfully... the seat right next to me was not occupied, and the seat beyond that had this nice young lady named Mia who was traveling to Italy to visit a friend. She was just as freaked out by all the weird things that this airline did as I was... so we had some good laughs... she explained to me that it was the cheapest flight she could find... which is what a British man had told me while we were in the chaos that you may call boarding. It was dark most of the way across the Atlantic, so it wasn't too bad of a flight.

I arrived in London Heathrow with two agendas in my mind. I was going to check in on my Aeroflot flight, then pick up a Western Union money transfer. I had brought no cash with me, because I was getting what I needed from Dan when I hooked up with the team... well... plans had changed, so Gray was trying to help me out. I made my way though all the construction mess at that airport to terminal 2 for Aeroflot check in. I had to ask someone which counter it was because it was not marked. She pointed to a little one person counter that had a computer print out of the airlines handled there... Aeroflot was not on the short list... but sure enough, it was the place. The lady quickly informed me that I was not confirmed on the flight I was holding a ticket for. There is a 0% chance of you getting on this flight. What in the world am I to do? She them proceeded to tell me 3 different places where I could remedy the problem.
1. The Northwest Ticket Counter in Terminal 3. (KLM is partnered with Northwest)
2. The KLM Ticket Counter in Terminal 4, next to gate 16.
3. British Airways Counter just behind me, they handle KLM she said...

I went to closest one to me... British Airways. The nice lady there politely informed me that my information was not accurate... that BA does no such handling of KLM that I speak of... and that Northwest doesn't have a ticket counter in Terminal 3, Northwest does not exist in this airport. Well... that pretty much left me with one option... the people who originally sold me the ticket... KLM. It took me nearly 20 minutes to get over to the next terminal and walk the 1/2 a mile to the little tiny KLM desk tucked around a corner near the gate 16. The lady there was so nice to me. She called some guy named Tex... He spoke just as British as her though... so the humor of his name was lost on me. Again I was faced with an option. Get on a plane in 1 1/2 hours that would take me to Moscow 5 hours late, but at a different airport... or get on a plane that will take me to the right airport... but put me in something like 13 hours late... I again chose the quicker of the two flights.

The second part of my agenda... find a Western Union. I found a place that did WU money transfers, only to be told that they only give money out on the 'land side' of customs. Well... I was never on the land side of customs, and time was running short for me to check in to my BA flight. I talked to the lady about where I would have to go and which security stuff I would need to go past to get there... it would never happen. I checked my wallet... 2 American Dollars. Buying that pack of gum back in Dallas now didn't seem like such a great idea.

I made my way back to the very same British Airways ticket counter as before... got the express treatment because I had some crazy handwritten ticket. I finally got a ticket... and finally was told... you are going to be able to get on this flight.

So then I asked about my bags...

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Home... at least that is what its called...

Hey Hey everyone.

So I am home now... I just got in tonight a few hours ago, and am thouroughly exhausted. I haven't slept in about 24 hours in an effort to curb my jet-lag.

The trip was the experience of a lifetime... and man was it one great big adventure... some crazy stuff happened, and some God stuff happened... all the rest in between helped shape the future directon of my personal ministry.

There is too much to say, and not enough energy to say it right now. I will be sending out an e-mail update and a more substantial post here in the next day or two...

Thanks, and God Bless



Friday, July 09, 2004

As I wait.

This story on CNN.com is about a painting of the Virgin Mary returning home to Russia. It has been gone since WWII, it is an interesting read... but the theme of the story is that hope is returning with this painting. The artwork here is more then a mere painting, it is considered a Russian icon of the Russian Orthodox. People hope to be healed by merely seeing this painting, that it will give them strength to battle daily life.
"The youth swear, smoke, drink alcohol and take drugs. The icon and our faith should help save us."

I hope that our team can show the Russian people that without Christ, even this painting... rich with history, the subject of miracles, so meaningful... is nothing but oil and parchment.

What joy when the Russian people find true meaning, and true hope in Jesus.

Its about 2:30am, and in less then an hour I will be on my way to begin this trip. I found myself speechless before God earlier when I was trying to thank Him for this oppurtunity.

YES - I got a camera and will get the pictures up as fast as I can when I get home.

NO - I cannot call anyone while I am gone, unless you want to pay the phone bill at $5.00 a minute. ;)

Please remember to pray. It is the difference between a vacation, and a mission trip.

Thanks again. With much love in my heart.

Posted by Hello

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Jesus is cool.

SO here I sit, phone in hand... well... actually on the desk in front of me, but you get the picture... I just talked with Dan, the guy in charge of our Russia Trip, and he just got off the phone a few minutes ago with G3Visas, the agency securing our visas... and they have the visas in their hands. They should be in a FedEx box making their way to us overnight by now.

Dan said that this was the most stressful part about the trip so far. The money was no big deal, we were trying to get the things that money cannot buy.

Thank You everyone for your prayers.

On Friday, 13 people plus Dan are riding up to Chicago in a bus/van... and 3 others (including me) are flying in from random places and meeting at the ticket counter.

This has the potential for a lot to go wrong, please pray that it would all work out.

I read an article in an in-flight magazine once about how this man measured how rough a travel day would be. He called it the 'three dog rule.' This is how it worked. If he took a shuttle to the airport, then boarded a plane to another city, then took a taxi to a hotel... that was three segments. If he had more then three, then it was going to be a rough day. Using his method...

  • Shuttle to Pheonix Airport

  • PHX to DFW (Dallas)

  • DFW to ORD (Chicago)

  • ORD to AMS (Amstradam)

  • AMS to SVO (Moscow)

  • Bus to the Hotel in Moscow

... this is going to be one crazy trip. I think from Chicago its like 13 hours... and the way my ticket from Pheonix gets me there, add about 6 hours... July 9th is going to be one crazy travel day for me. I am accustomed to travel, especially air travel, but I tend to get impatient and short tempered when I am in an airport too long. Please pray that I will keep my focus on what really matters.

Thanks for listening, tell all your friends.

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Sunday, July 04, 2004


SO I was sitting here thinking about July 4th, our independence day here in the US, and what it means for us to have independence. It means we have freedom. The freedom we take for granted so often. Freedom is a privilege we have, and yet somehow, because we think we have a right to it, we take it for granted. Without thousands of people dying in wars that cross decades, even centuries, we would not be free.

Russia was a communist nation until the early nineties. Under communism, there was virtually no freedom. You were not free to worship as you desired, not free to make money the way you conceived, many times, not even free to live where you wanted to. When communism fell, that all changed... Russians now not only have freedom, they have hope. The kids growing up there that are my age have not even been free their entire life. They are first generation free Russians. They hardly know what to make of freedom, let alone exercise it to its fullest extent.

My prayer is that this young generation of free Russians, many of whom have never even heard of Christ, because of the Communist oppression, will discover the freedom and hope in Him. Imagine how our world could change if Russia started to transform into a nation of Christians. A nation of people truly serving Christ would impact our world in unimaginable ways.

But Russia needs a lot of help. Its young people need direction. The nation has been devastated by the choices their government has made in the last 60 years. I leave this coming Friday. Please surround me with your prayer, impact Russia, through your prayer.

I am off to experience some of my glorious freedoms.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Russia is less then a week away.

So I leave for Russia this coming Friday. I am really excited about it.

To get the full update on where things stand e-mail me at: cwarren@wisdomworks.org

The short version is this: I am crazy excited. Pray for the Visa's, as of today we have not recieved our Visa's which we need to visit the country.

Tell everyone you know about my blog.


If you have free time, you can spend it here.
Posted by Hello

Welcome to my blog.

I wanted a little space on the internet where people could come check up on me, instead of waiting for me to send out a massive e-mail update. So I found this.

The coolest part about this blog is that I can update it from any device that can send e-mail, at any time. So when I only have a few seconds to update you about something, I can send it here instead of writing an entire e-mail update and sending that. Any device that can send e-mail also means that I can even update from my cell phone... how cool is that?

So here is the inevitably cheesy first post. Tell all your friends that now I'm on the internet.