About This Blog

This is my travel journal chronicling my 2011 tour of Siberia, visiting with our Russian Lutheran brethren in the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Hopefully and God willing, there will be future adventures for me there.

The title is based on a remarkable book (that I actually read after returning home from Russia) called Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. I found much of his writings to mirror my experiences as an American in Siberia - though Mr. Frazier has made many more trips and experienced many more things than I did - not to mention that he is a better writer. At least for now. Practice makes perfect! Frazier's book (here is a review) is also an interesting look at Russian history and gives an overview of the past writings of American travelers to Siberia. I'm humbled to be yet one more.

I hope that readers of TILS vicariously travel with me and enjoy what I have posted. I hope that it provides a small window into the life and work of the pastors and laity of Siberian Lutheranism (and their extraordinary history) and Russian culture in general.

It is also my hope that readers will: 1) Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Russia, 2) Support the outstanding missionary work of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society, and consider sponsoring a Siberian congregation, 3) Consider visiting Russia for themselves, 4) Support the work of the faithful LCMS pastor Rev. Prof. Alan Ludwig, who has taught at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Novosibirsk for many years and has much of interest to say from his perspective, and 5) Read Ian Frazier's wonderful book
Travels in Siberia (which by the way is available on Nook and Kindle for $9.99)!

Of course, a disclaimer is in order: Ian Frazier has never endorsed this blog, nor have I ever met him or communicated with him. I thoroughly enjoyed his book, however, and am playing with his title for the title of my blog. However, Mr. Frazier, if you're out there - I would love to hear from you some time! I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls - and for some reason, Siberia seems to attract people born in Ohio who feel compelled to write about it. I really did enjoy your book, and I hope you are pleased by my reference to it.

One other disclaimer: other than being a supporter of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society, I'm not affiliated with SLMS. The material on this blog is mine, and I take sole responsibility for it.

Note: Since I arranged this blog chronologically - which is backward from the way blogs usually work - the buttons at the end that say "Newer Post" and "Older Post" are reversed - just as the "hot" and "cold" water taps are often reversed from the way we're used to them in the states. In other words, if you want to read the next day's installment, click "Older Post" instead of "Newer Post." Just consider this another delightful quirkiness of an American writing about Siberia.

Большое спасибо! Thank you very much!

2011 Journal - Introduction

A great moment: I meet Father Vladislav (right) in Chelyabinsk, Russia

I was very busy with parish matters, and almost didn't take the call on my cellphone.  But I'm glad I did.

A few months ago, I received a phone call that turned out to be

2011 Journal - Day 1 - June 27

A Bittersweet moment at the Louis Armstrong Airport

  • Gretna, Louisiana (home)
  • Kenner, Louisiana (Louis Armstrong Airport)
  • Washington, DC (Dulles)
  • Leesburg, Virginia (Lansdowne Resort)

After weeks of preparation and after a few days of final arrangements, the Big Day is finally here.  I'm on the head-end of a 24-day trip halfway around the world.  I love to travel, and this is going to be

2011 Journal - Day 2 - June 28

The Lansdowne

  • Leesburg, Virginia (Landsdowne Resort)
  • Washington, DC (Dulles Airport)
  • In the air toward Moscow, Russia

I woke up in the hotel, hastily got ready, and went downstairs to meet up with Herbert and Klaus.

Klaus was not there, so

2011 Journal - Day 3 - June 29

Добро пожаловать в Москву! (Welcome to Moscow!)

  • Flying toward Moscow
  • Moscow, Russia (Domodedovo Airport)
  • Novosibirsk, Russia (Tolmachevo Airport and The Lutheran Center)

At this point in space and time, the time zones blur along with the thin line that separates night and day.  I managed to steal a few brief naps contorted in a seat barely big enough to contain my frame.  It is morning as we approach Moscow - but my system

2011 Journal - Day 4 - June 30

Myself and Olga, dwarfed by Stalin's friends

  • Novosibirsk

I woke up early.  I'm tired, but at the same time refreshed.  I think my system is trying to reset.  The days are somewhere around 17 1/2 hours here, so sunrise is before 5:00 am and sunset after 10:00 pm.

I managed to find my way outside to see

2011 Journal - Day 5 - July 1

"We are Siberians!"

  • Novosibirsk
  • Novokuznetsk

This morning, Dan and I are waiting for the Rev. Alexey Streltsov to show up.  Father Alexey is the rector of the seminary.  He studied at Fort Wayne (our time overlapped though I had never met him) and he has just defended his S.T.M. thesis from Fort Wayne a few weeks ago.  The plan is for him to come around 1:00 pm, and the bishop is supposed to arrive about 11:00 am.

I don't think it would be

2011 Journal - Day 6 - July 2

Novokuznetsk as seen from the majestic Novokuznetskaya Hotel

  • Novokuznetsk

The sun fights its way through the thick gloomy gray clouds to press its way through the fifth story window of the Novokuznetskaya Hotel and manages to wake me up quite early. Although the quarters are tight, it is a nice place. The best part is the piping hot shower. There is no hot water right now in Novosibirsk, so

2011 Journal - Day 7 - July 3

Fathers Andrei and Dmetri prepare the altar at St. James - Novokuznetsk

  • Novokuznetsk
  • On the train toward Abakan

We have breakfast again at the hotel: eggs, yogurt, tea, and orange juice. We checked out of the hotel, and head over to Father Dmetri’s parish for Sunday Mass. The congregation is called St. James. Father Dmetri renovated the flay himself, and it contains a beautiful small sanctuary. Demetri is a good celebrant, very much

2011 Journal - Day 8 - July 4

The rolling hills of Khakassia

  • On the train toward: Abakan, Khakassia
  • Abakan
  • Tuim
  • Ephremkino Village

I wake up about 6:00 am local time on the train.  We're now in the Republic of Khakassia.  The countryside is totally different: a remote place of rolling hills and occasional villages of small houses.  It's raining.

Father Alexey took

Journal 2011 - Day 9 - July 5

Our friend at Father Pavel's camp

  • Ephremkino
  • Shira
  • On the train toward Novosibirsk

I wake up about 8:00 am as Dan snores and Alexey continues snoozing.  I walk outside to take some pictures.  The little kitten is always

2011 Journal - Day 10 - July 6

The Dining Car

  • On the train toward Novosibirsk
  • Novosibirsk

It was a nice relaxing ride from Shira to Novosibirsk.  It was an overnight trip.  I wake up in the morning to the rocking of the train.

Father Alexey bought us

2011 Journal - Day 11 - July 7

The Lutheran Center, Novosibirsk
Home to Lutheran Theological Seminary and St. Andrew's Parish

  • Novosibirsk
  • Berdsk

Dan and I have breakfast in the bishop's office.  After a while, the bishop

2011 Journal - Day 12 - July 8

Fathers Pavel and Daniel

  • Novosibirsk

We got up early, and Father Pavel (Khramov) walks with us to the train station.  We will be using different forms of public transportation today and seeing some different sights (as well as familiar ones) in Novosibirsk.  We ride the local train downtown.  We briefly tour the Novosibirsk train station.  There is a humorous plaque on the wall that

2011 Journal - Day 13 - July 9

Father Alexei lectures at the Seminary auditorium

  • Novosibirsk

I slept well and woke up a little late.

Father Pavel came to his office.  He made us coffee - not instant.  He has a real coffee maker in his office.  We had a delightful conversation laden with

2011 Journal - Day 14 - July 10

Deacon Alexei grilling sausages

  • Novosibirsk
  • Berdsk

I woke up very early this morning - about 5:30.  It gets daylight here very early.  I have a bit of an upset stomach.  I have also scratched open a small patch of eczema on my ankle.  Not wanting to learn about treating infections in Russia on an American health insurance plan, I

2011 Journal - Day 15 - July 11

Bishop Vsevolod is on a mission from God

  • Novosibirsk
  • Yurga, 
  • Tomsk

Dan and I have breakfast of leftover sausages from yesterday’s picnic, as well as some cheese, bread, and tea.

I get packed for our trip to

2011 Journal - Day 16 - July 12

Elena and Alexey Streltsov

  • Novosibirsk

Dan and I both sleep in.  It is rainy out, and we scrounge around the bishop's fridge for breakfast.  Dan listens to music and I transfer pictures.  It's a lazy day.

Father Pavel drops by, and we go

2011 Journal - Day 17 - July 13

Hiking trails in the Akademgorodok neighborhood of Novosibirsk

  • Novosibirsk
  • On the train toward Yekaterinburg

We sleep in again.  I take a quick shower and read ready for Father Pavel to meet us for another walk through Akademgorodok (Академгородок), the beautiful Novosibirsk neighborhood that

2011 Journal - Day 18 - July 14


  • On the train toward Yekaterinburg
  • Yekaterinburg

I just woke up on the train.  It's about 10 minutes until 9:00 am.  Fathers Alexey and Dan are still asleep.  The screen on the window is pulled down and consequently it is absolutely dark in the cabin.  I had no idea what time it was when I awoke.

We all slept soundly.  I slept well in spite of my

2011 Journal - Day 19 - July 15

Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church, Yekaterinburg

  • Yekaterinburg

I slept in a little.  The other guys are still asleep.  I instant-message a little with Grace and Leo for a short while (where it is still July 14, twelve hours behind me).  I take a shower - and it is a real treat!  It's a high-tech little booth with shower heads everywhere - and even a radio!  It's so high-tech, in fact, that I have to

2011 Journal - Day 20 - July 16

A hearty Russian breakfast

Father Daniel and I slept in a bit and went to the hotel's breakfast.  It was a western buffet meal that included sausage, rice, cream of wheat (which looked not unlike grits and jambalaya), also bread and a

2011 Journal - Day 21 - July 17

Yekaterinburg Expo

  • Yekaterinburg

I woke up fairly late, got ready quickly.  Father Sergey is picking us up at 10:30 am for the 11:00 Divine Service - which will likely start somewhere around 11:15.

Before Sergey and Alexey arrive, Dan and I go to the 2nd floor of the hotel for

2011 Journal - Day 22 - July 18

Father Vlad (right) and I finally meet in Chelyabinsk

  • Yekaterinburg
  • Chelyabinsk

Father Daniel wakes me up at 8:00 am.  I'm tired.  I get some tea and some Coke.  I take a quick shower in the church flat's super high-tech shower stall.  It looks like it was made in Japan and includes many sophisticated

2011 Journal - Day 23 - July 19

The lobby of the Malachite Hotel, Chelyabinsk

  • Chelyabinsk
  • Yekaterinburg
  • Polevskoya

I woke up a little on the late side and took a shower.  I was beginning to think that there was no hot water - but my patience was rewarded.

Dan, Alexy, and I enjoy a very nice buffet breakfast in the Green Restaurant downstairs - which is included.  This breakfast is like Russian supper - with

2011 Journal - Day 24 - July 20

Koltsovo Airport, Yekaterinburg

  • Yekaterinburg
  • Moscow (Domodedovo Airport)
  • Washington, DC (Dulles Airport)
  • Kenner, Louisiana (Louis Armstrong Airport)
  • Gretna, Louisiana

My alarm goes off at 4:30 am.  Dan is up and ready to shower.  I begin to pack my bags and close up my cot.  I am able to

2011 Journal - Epilogue

On January 31, 2012 the visit of Rev. Dan Johnson and Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin, Rev. Dmetri Dotsenko, and Miss Natasha Sheludiakova to Salem Lutheran Church in Gretna, Louisiana was written up in the Times-Picayune's February 16 edition, which you can view here.  The print edition included