Sunday, April 1, 2012

Reaching to Russia - A Job Well Done

5 men from 4 US cities traveled 19790 miles roundtrip to teach at least 74 business, ministry, and educational leaders in two of Siberia’s key cities.  As I write this, all of those men are now home with their wives and children looking back on truly a job well done.  And I hope to be back with mine by late Sunday night saying the same thing.


After saying goodbye to Novosibirsk at lunch on Thursday we rode 4 hours to Tomsk, Russia, and literally fell into bed exhausted from the 3.5 days and nearly 2 sleepless nights we spent in Novosibirsk.  One Chick-fil-A Operator walked into his hotel room at 7 p.m, laid down on this bed in his clothes and did not move until 7 a.m. the next morning. 


Looking back on it, the view of Tomsk on conference morning looked a lot like the view of Novosibirsk on conference morning. 


We gathered in the banquet room of the most service oriented company I have ever known of in Russia for our Friday training.  Bulange (they say it’s a French word so pronounce it accordingly), a chain of 4 coffee shop/cafes in Tomsk, is owned by an amazing woman named Ludmilla.  For those of you that know the Chick-fil-A service culture in the US, Ludmilla is a pretty good Russian representative of that high standard.  It is rare, actually it’s never happened, that key leaders from a company greet the teaching of the SERVE seminar with vocal responses like “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!” and “we agree with everything you are saying!” but those are literally quotes we heard from our audience during the day.  


Mark Drake, Senior Business Consultant for Chick-fil-A, instructs an eager group of business and ministry leaders from Tomsk, Russia.


After finishing our day of training, we were invited to come to the business of the first person I know of in Russia who received the SERVE training and thusly applied it to her life with vigorous passion.  A dear sister in Christ from Tomsk, Olga, became known to us in our ministry in the mid 2000’s as “Super Olga.”  Being a professional trainer and standing almost 6 foot 3 inches tall you can see why she is called Super Olga.  In 2007, my brother Philip came to Novosibirsk to share with our mentors the very beginnings of the SERVE model.  Olga digested all he taught, weighed the worthiness of it in her professional life, and applied it.  Today, Super Olga is the owner of Tomsk’s most popular fitness club.  It is called, what else, Super Gym!  By the way, a funny thing happens when grown men walk into a fitness club.


The sign out in front of Super Olga’s gym called “Super Gym.”


Cross fit aficionado Philip Browne is VERY comfortable around weights.  Still in his suit from the training, he could not help but threw some iron around at Super Gym.


Not to be outdone, Mark Drake, respectfully called by some Russian business men Morpheus from The Matrix, goes for the heavy weights.  Super Olga reminds him about the importance of good technique.



And some of the team just did the best they could.  “Way to go Al!  2 lb curls today means 3 lb curls tomorrow.  Maybe…”


Two foxes are better than one, yes?  Only my wife is nodding in agreement at the moment.


The SERVE training has impacted many of our Mentors and partners in very lasting ways.  It gave Super Olga the vision to open Super Gym.  It empowered another of our Mentors to open her own language school.  It has formed much of Best Friend’s ( core vision and values as an organization.  Current business owners of HR companies, restaurants, educational institutions, and Christian ministries are looking at how they view their organizations in light of this training.  It is impactful and we desire for it to be a staple of our vertically integrated approach to ministry here in Russia going forward.


As we flew back to Moscow this morning, I pretended to be asleep long enough to let a conversation to my right get going really good.  When they least expected it, I snapped this picture. 


Al is a leader of leaders and all the CFA guys on this team spent time learning from him.  He was thrilled to share with them from an area of his expertise (profit).  Philip takes notes while Al shares wisdom. 


As YouthReach International is, at our core, a mentoring ministry, I thought it interesting that Al Puglisi, from CFA in Boca Raton, FL, was mentoring Philip Browne, from CFA in Waxahachie, TX, in some areas that Al is particularly strong in.  So key is mentoring that it even shows up in the lifestyles of those who come to minister as partners if our organization.  So key is mentoring it is bringing about real life change in our mentors and the orphans they are working so diligently with.  Whether with our partners or our team, mentoring is key.  I like that connection.


I also would like to thank…


Zhenia, Vica and Ksenia Zulin for letting your wife and mom come translate for our conference in Novosibirsk.

Denis Sokolov for being a faithful friend and fine Rotarian who invites us back year after year after year to share this training.

To Andy, a key ministry leader in Novosibirsk, who allowed our team an amazing half day with some Christian business leaders he is working with now.

To Ruslan who continues to live out the values of the SERVE model in ways that challenge and bless me immensely.

To Nastia who is the most SERVE minded servant/leader I have ever met.  Your tireless work made this week possible.  Thank you so very much.

To Brandon, Scott, Mark, Al and Philip for stepping away from your families and your businesses to come generously share some of what you have been entrusted with. 


And I am thankful for your prayers covering us this past week.  This ministry does not, cannot, and shall not work without God’s favor and your partnership.  We treasure both.


In Him,




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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