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I’m Back and Here are 19 Things I Learned

Over the last dozen days I’ve spent nearly 100 hours traveling well over 6,000 km by car mainly through Russia. Here are a few things I learned from my first trip to Russia.


Me on the border of the Republic of Udmurtia and Perm Krai

  1. Russia is BIG
  2. Generally the roads are better than in Ukraine
  3. Moscow is a BIG metropolis comparable to any Western city
  4. The police use camera’s to patrol the roads and their cameras are everywhere
  5. Bribes are expected by many of the authorities
  6. The forests are BIG and wild, we even saw two moose
  7. It’s illegal to say something offensive about other religions
  8. There are far fewer churches in comparison to Ukraine
  9. Russia is a country of countries, You’ve probably never heard places like the Republic of Chuvashia or the Republic of Udmurtia and others.
  10.  Alcoholism is a terrible problem
  11. It’s illegal to teach religious material to anyone 14 and under without written consent from parents
  12. Banyas are part of the culture and almost everyone has one
  13. The mosquitoes are BIG
  14. It’s illegal to promote homosexuality
  15. Spending 4 days in a car with someone can be a great relationship builder
  16. Gas, is cheaper than in Ukraine but food is more expensive
  17. Log houses are the most common type of houses in the Urals
  18. Most people say they believe in God but know very little about Him
  19. The need for the gospel is BIG

Stay tuned for a detailed update about our trip to Russia and how God is working in Russia to plant churches.

Question: Which of these 19 items surprise you the most?




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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • Sandra Briggs

    7. 7.It’s illegal to say something offensive about other religions

    • Sandra, that’s a pretty new law and you can face up to 3 years in prison for insulting someones religious feelings.

  • Ridgely Hoyt-Whitaker

    #’s 7, 10 & 14….and what is a banya?

    • The Russian Banya is a sauna and is used for bathing, health and socializing. Usually the temperatures are pretty high, around 200-220 degrees F. They also whip each other with birch branches to improve the circulation.

  • Great to hear you made it back safe and sound. Thank you for sharing what your learned.

    • Thanks Dan, it was a long trip and I’m glad to be safely home.

  • Nich

    We went to a Banya during my trip to Russia last month and it was such a cool experience. Wish that was apart of american culture. 7 surprised me the most though. Glad you had a safe trip!

    • Nich, Banya is a great experience although I don’t think I’d use “cool” as the adjective to describe it 🙂 Last time I was in a Banya the temperature hit 230f and that’s hot!

  • Definitely not # 19. Good work Caleb 🙂

    • Yes, Michael, Russia needs to gospel!

  • I have no clue what Banyas is.

    What surprises me most is #7. I would like to hear more about that.

    What isn’t too big a surprise is #18- I think it’s true for America as well. Far too many people sitting in pews say they believe in God but they know very little about Him.

  • Don Howard

    Do they prosecute homosexuals?

    • Homosexuality is not illegal, it’s just illegal to promote it as a lifestyle.

  • Don Howard

    I didn’t think they had mosquitoes there! That surprises me

    • Really? We’ll I can tell you first hand that Russia has no dearth of mosquitoes!

  • Nancy

    .9–Russia is made up of many countries. New to me.

    • Russia has 21 republics each of which have their own constitution, language and popularly elected president.

  • I’m not bragging, but I know those from living there. Numbers 8 and 19 are the most important and what I try to tell people all the time. Sometimes it seems like Russia and Ukraine are pretty much the same, but they’re not, and those two are where we really feel the difference. As Americans we can’t live in Russia now, but Ukrainians have a better chance at it. I pray for Ukrainian Christians who are willing to GO!

    Thank you.

    • Phyllis, what changed that made it so you can’t live in Russia? Were you unable to get a residence permit?

      • They actually deported me. There was a lot going on with local politics. It’s a very long, complicated story. Also, residence permits are rather iffy (hard to get, often revoked, low quotas in “our” region), so we feel like even if we could get back in now that my 5-year sentence is over, it wouldn’t be very permanent. We can’t go back and forth right now. 🙁 Maybe someday, if the politics settle? Or after our children are grown?

        (Weird how my comment above automatically linked! 🙂 I didn’t do that!)

        • I figured that a lot depends on the region you’re in. I also know some people who have gotten residency permits and some who haven’t. I feel very blessed to live in Ukraine and not have to worry about all that stuff now.

          Sorry about the link to the Scripture reference above. I have a plugin that automatically links when every I write a reference to a Bible verse, so I guess it does it in the comments too. Phi 3:20

          • YES! We’re always very thankful about how (relatively) simple the document processes are in Ukraine. When foreigners complain here, I have to bite my tongue. (Although, I realize that it can still be a hassle, it’s just not the same.) A friend sent me this link:
            It’s about the Russian process for “near foreigners,” not Americans and other “far foreigners,” but it is the same idea.

  • I definitely gotta say #11 shocked me. Wow, it’s very interesting how Russia is very sensitive about topics like religion and homosexuality. I’m glad you had a great experience in Russia Caleb. Are you traveling elsewhere sometime soon?

    • For now I’m at home in Ukraine, which I’m thankful for!

  • Relative to #7, can you say that Jesus is the only way? Or is that considered offensive?

    • I think you can say that. The law states that you can’t “hurt the feelings of religious people”. That’s a pretty broad statement. You can read about the event that sparked this law here