Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reaching to Russia - The Sharing of SERVE

Chick-fil-A’s Winshape International will carry out SERVE conferences in more than 30 countries this year.  YouthReach International is honored to be Winshape’s only partner in Russia and to have just finished the 2012 SERVE 1 and 2 Conference in Novosibirsk, Russia.

Over the last 48 hours, some have asked both here in Novosibirsk and via email from around the world, “how exactly does a SERVE business conference benefit a mentoring ministry like YouthReach International?”  Here’s the short version:

SERVE allows YouthReach International to both thank current partners and develop new partners in Russia by offering a value added, real life benefit to their organizations and initiatives via world class level leadership training.  Some of the organizations who sent representatives to SERVE 2012 yesterday have assisted our sister organization, Best Friend, and YouthReach International with financial, logistical, recruiting, relational, legal, and developmental resources in the past.  It is “our pleasure” to offer back to these organizations training and resources that will help them advance their purposes as they have helped us to advance ours. 

The room was filled to the point of me having to stand in the corner most of the day as SERVE Team Leader Brandon Mulkey (Lubbock, TX) kicked off the training. 

High level leaders from companies in the staffing, hospitality, ministry, non-profit, construction, financial, medical, and real estate industries, to name just a few, were represented.  Best Friend President and YouthReach International Russian Operations Manager Ruslan Asadov and Best Friend Founding Board Member Nastia Shishkina have been and will continue to leverage the relationships formed and deepened through this event for the advancement of Best Friend and YouthReach International’s purposes in Siberia.

Thank you gifts from Anna Klemeshova and Irina Krutasova of “Be Happy Event Décor and Design” were presented to the team at day’s end.

Gift giving in Russia is more than a duty.  It is a deeply engrained, sincere cultural expression of appreciation and gratitude.  2 business leaders from a local company created limited edition hand-made collectables for this year’s SERVE event and presented it to (L to R above) Mark Drake, Philip Browne, Scott Pleasants, Al Puglisi, and Brandon Mulkey.  This company has also created 59 one of a kind collectables that will be for sale at YouthReach International’s Spring Fundraising Dinner in Franklin, TN, on May 12 at the Cool Springs Marriott Hotel.

One of the gifts presented to each member of the team was a traditional Russian matroishka doll in a Chick-fil-A, “Eat Mor Chikin” theme.  One of these dolls will be presented next week to CFA Founder Truitt Cathy at CFA’s headquarters in Atlanta, GA.

One always wonders, at least one tall, red headed guy always wonders, how presenting a Bible based Biblical leadership model will impact the hearer’s heart and soul in ways beyond business.  Said tall red headed guy will really never know but he does see things from time to time that give him reason to believe impact is indeed happening.  In this case, I actually had my camera ready to capture what I think was a sincere moment of internal reflection.

A business leader from another city in Russia turns a reflective gaze out a window after watching a moving CFA video.

One of the more impactful things I saw during this year’s SERVE Conference was a video produced by CFA Corporate.  It can be seen online here.  After watching that video two or three times this week, I’ve found myself wiping my eyes each time as I remember each Mentor that comes to a retreat, training event,  orphanage outing, or camp brings their stories with them to our ministry.  So do the team members from California to Tennessee and South Dakota to Texas that will be leaving for their summer trips in the coming months.  I absolutely think of Tanya and Dima and Sasha and Alisa and all the kids at the orphanages with whom we work and their stories, many unspeakable, that are hopefully being changed forever by the ministry of Best Friend and YouthReach International.  I really do not know what this man above was thinking after the video was over, those around him had sat down, and the next Powerpoint slide was shown.  I trust though that his story has now been touched in some way by The Story that should mean most to us all.

Far from finished, our team spends half a day today with a  group of Christian businessmen from Krasnoyarsk, Russia, who are already opening up a chain of cafés in this next large city on the Trans Siberian Railway after Novosibirsk.  They all attended yesterday’s conference and will remain today for a closed door follow up session with the CFA team.

After lunch, we will board a van and ride 4 or so hours to Tomsk, Russia, where SERVE 1 and 2 will be carried out for a commercial partner of Best Friend in one of our other focus cities here in Siberia.  Your prayers for safety, energy (some of us have not slept in 36 hours due to jet lag and last minute changes to our program that demanded an all nighter before yesterday’s conference), and favor from all we meet will be very appreciated.    

You all seem to really like the photos I’m including by the way.  Maybe less “jibber n jabber” and more “shudder n Flickr” is what’s needed around here!

Thankful for you all, I am,
Rob (and some of the most wonderful people at Best Friend and Chick-fil-A I could ever hope to serve alongside)

Rob Browne
Executive Director
Director of Russian Operations

678-935-0220 x103 Direct
404-518-5646 Cell
678-935-9674 Fax

          1911 Grayson Hwy, Ste 8-344
          Grayson, GA 30017

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