Saturday, November 10, 2007

Either I am going crazy or someone is trying to tell me something

I normally don't put much stock in people's claims to "see a vision" or "God told me such and such". I am not saying God hasn't and doesn't communicate that way, because He has. But as these types of claims tend to be made by people that, to put it charitably, seem to either rely more on emotional hysteria than common sense in their day to day lives, or are trying to make a fast buck, or a million. So, I am skeptical. Again, I know God can communicate anyway He wants, but it seems to me that actual dreams and visions are rare, and that in most claims, I doubt that it was God talking rather than late night indigestion.

Which leads me to my current dilemma. When I was in Russia a month and a half ago, I had a certain dream that I will describe in a few minutes. I had the same dream again last night. Now normally, when I have wild dreams, I chalk it up to my overactive imagination (see my sidebar about me being a frustrated writer), but this time I am wondering.

Anyway, in my first dream, the Russian government passes a 2 part law that effectively expels all foreigners then living in Russia. This law called for all foreigners to leave in a matter of days, and called for all non-personal property, ie cars, flats, furniture and bank accounts over a certain value, to be forfeited by them. In my dream this was causing a great deal of chaos, as our American friends living in Russia scrambled to pack, arrange travel, and housing in America.

The second part was that all "foreign" religions, other than Russian Orthodoxy and Islam, were outlawed, and any Russian national in a non approved religion would have to either convert, leave the country permanently, or face imprisonment. In my dream then, my wife and I helped three students and their non-Orthodox Christian family members navigate through the US immigration bureaucracy to help them get legal asylum in the US, and then two of the families lived with us in our house for a time.

At the time, when I told my wife about this, we both were laughing, and thinking my imagination had run amok overnight once again, and I put it aside.

Until last night.

Last night, I had the same dream, with the same events. Russian government again expelled all foreigners, with only their personal items, and chaos ensues. The government also outlawed all religions except for Orthodox and islam, and wife and I open our home to some Russian Christians and family members we know. However this time, at the end of this dream, I got a strong sense that I was being asked a question - would I be willing to open my home and take my time and limited money to do this? Would I be willing to house and provide shelter for these fellow believers, not just ones I had met in Russia on past trips, but strangers?

The truth is that I don't know. I would like to think I would, but I don't know. In any case, as with the first dream, I am inclined to again chalk up this second dream to my overactive imagination.

Except for this - the Russian government recently changed the visa rules in such a way that it effectively ends the ministry of many Western Christian workers currently living in Russia. It is my understanding that most of these folks are on a multiple entry visa, and now these individuals have to leave the country after 90 days, and cannot return for another 90 days. In addition, they will need to apply for another visa to come back, and whereas before, this application could be made in a neighboring country, such as Finland or the Ukraine, now the applicant has to apply in their home country. This is causing a great deal of confusion, as it is unclear how these new rules will be interpreted by the various Russian embassies and consulates, and many Christian workers are not sure how they can continue to effectively work if they are having to be out of the country for half the year.

More than that, this latest action seems to be part of a trend of a rising Russian hyper-nationalism over the last few years, that as an American who remembers at least part of the Cold War, seems ominous. I say this as someone who greatly admires Russia, and Russian people, some of which I consider to be some of my dearest friends. And I say this as someone who would love nothing better for my Russian friends to see a Russia that is strong, prosperous, and most of all, offering freedom to its citizens and peace to its neighbors. Instead I see a Russia that is strong, and thanks to overly high oil prices, increasingly prosperous. But also Russia where freedom, what post Soviet freedom there was, is in peril. And a Russia where I can certainly see where the religious freedom enjoyed in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union may once again disappear.

It is in light of these recent events, that I wonder if I am off my nut, or if these two dreams may indeed be God trying to get my attention. And if so, what it is He is wanting me to do.