If the Enemy is trying to discourage you, it usually means you’re doing something great for the Kingdom.
Tanja and I just returned from Russia. It was a whirlwind. In the 72 hours we were there, we spoke 14 times between the two of us. It was, by all accounts, a very successful trip.
As soon as we disembarked from the airplane in St. Petersburg, we went straight to the TBN Russia studios. There, we taped a show to be aired at a future date. We did a 90-minute live interview on TBN Russia that was broadcast all over Russia and Europe. We spoke at a youth camp, a Halloween alternative event for teens, a Sunday morning service, a pastors’ gathering, two other church services, and we trained 150 people in evangelism at our Go and Tell workshop.
It was an incredible time of ministry. Everything was a win. Although it’s illegal to do altar calls, we were able to sow the Gospel to thousands of Russians. One of the most famous pop stars in Russia was at one of the churches where I spoke. Tanja and I met her, prayed for her, and prophesied over her (before we even knew who she was). We made sweet new friends. Pastors were encouraged, evangelists were trained and excited to go and share the Good News in new ways.
It was one of those cherished times of ministry where everything we did was a success.
The last morning of our trip, we had three hours of unscheduled time to explore the city. St. Petersburg is beautiful and set on the banks of the Baltic sea. We walked up Ligovsky Avenue, a main thoroughfare in St. Petersburg. The city is bustling; it reminds me of New York, but shorter without the high rises. And, it was cold. Like, 20–30 degrees Fahrenheit cold. We spent about two hours walking in the wind but soaking it up, taking in the avenue, looking in shops, and just enjoying some time off together.
When we had walked as far as the famous State Hermitage Museum, we realized we only had about 30 minutes before we needed to be back at the hotel and head to the airport. We decided to hail a cab.
The taxi ride was ₽2,000 (Russian rubles). That’s roughly $31. I paid the driver with a ₽5,000 ruble bill, and he gave me a ₽2,000 bill and a ₽1,000 bill in change. I thanked him and took the change as we quickly jumped out of the cab in the howling wind on the shoulder of a six-lane road.
We checked out of the hotel and made it to the airport. We hadn’t eaten lunch yet, so we found a restaurant near our gate. We chatted about the success of the trip and how God had miraculously provided everything we needed, including receiving our visas just in the nick of time and the official letter of invitation from the Russian government to enter the country as evangelists (you aren’t allowed to do any kind of ministry in the country without one. See this post.).
Our meal at Saint Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport was ₽1,500, so I gave the waiter the ₽2,000 bill the taxi driver had given me.
He just looked at me. Then he called his coworker over and started whispering with him.
I knew something was wrong.
He looked at me and said, “Excuse me sir, this is counterfeit money.”
I looked back in shock and asked, “What are you talking about?!”
I think the guy was testing me or expecting me to run. Something on my face must’ve convinced him I got shafted somewhere along the way during our trip. He handed the bill back to me and let me pay with the other—legitimate—money I had.
When I looked at the bill, I could tell it was a fake. Especially when I compared it to the real deal. The texture of the paper was wrong. It was a decent counterfeit, so much so that I hadn’t noticed in our hurry to get out of the cab.
We sat at that table for a minute then said, “You know what, Jesus, we rejoice. This is just a sign that You’re with us, and when the Enemy tries to discourage us, we aren’t going to be discouraged.”
We picked up our bags and walked down to a Starbucks. I ordered a chai tea latte, Tanja got a cappuccino, and we got a delectable piece of NY style cheesecake. We drank our drinks and had cheesecake and thanked Jesus for being with us.
Even in the midst of doing the right thing, bad things come along. This particular situation is minor compared to what a lot of people go through, and even things we’ve been through. But that’s life on the road. There are wins and there are attacks. But we know God is with us, and the attacks are just a sign that the Enemy is not happy with what we’re doing.