About the Author

“My last name Istomina means lots of things to me: it is a reminder of Alexander Pushkin’s obsession over a famous Russian ballerina Avdotia Istomina and his passion over Gypsy singers and dancers. Because of Pushkin, I wanted to be a ballerina, a singer, and a writer.
Admiral Istomin was a famous commander and won a battle in Crimea. Neither of these two famous people were my relatives, but I like to think that I inherited my passion for life, creativity, and my courage with my last name.
I was born in Russia and live in America for almost 20 years.
Trivial questions, like “City of Birth” or “Country of Birth,” make me think hard. It would be tragic if it was not so ironic and almost comic. I remember how I put “Ekaterinburg” as my home town and then checked the globe and didn’t find it – instead it was “Sverdlovsk.” The truth is that I was born in Sverdlovsk, but it was renamed into Ekaterinburg in 1991.
Next line. “Country of Birth.” I am Russian, but when I was growing up, it was “Soviet Union.”
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and my large country shrunk. My whole perception of myself and my world changed in an instance for the first time.
Leaving Russia was equal to a concussion: sudden and long-lasting.
Finally, I had an enlightening moment: “I am Gypsy! I am a woman without a past, without an address, without a hometown and country. I am a migrant, an immigrant. I have to find the way to ground myself, to make my new life, but then nobody knows how long I will be in a new place before I pack my suitcases again. I am Gypsy even though I am blond, and I am a pastor!
Long ruffled gypsy or flamenco skirts are my passion. At home, my sister and I loved to throw shawls around our waists and danced and sang, shaking tambourines above our blond heads.
The memories of Russian Gypsies help me to survive. Gypsy music and its infatuation are encoded into my DNA. It does not mean we invited Gypsies from the margins into our happy Soviet existence. Gypsies were for entertainment purposes only. To my amazement, I realized how similar my life had become. The life of an entertainer.
Being always around people, I was fatally alone in America: with the people, but not really. “Baila-baila-baila-baila…” I should not cry. I am an outcast with an accent and I do not have the luxury to cry over everything.
At home, I pull my old shawl out of a suitcase that my parents brought from Russia. I kick off my shoes. Then, I put on a long skirt, grabbed the edge of it and began my untamed barefoot dance to my own singing, accompanied by a tambourine, “Dorogoi dal’neiu, dorogoi dlinnoiu….” – “Those were the days, my friend! We thought they’d never end, we sing and dance forever and again! We live the life we choose, we fight and never lose, for we are young and sure to have our way!”"

- Lydia P. Istomina

 

Biography

Rev. Lydia Istomina is from Ekaterinburg, Russia where she started the very first United Methodist Church in Russia after 70 years of atheism. Lydia Istomina was the very first woman pastor in Russia and has set a trend, as now there are more women in Russia serving United Methodist Churches and its ministries than men.

Under Lydia’s leadership, the new church quickly grew to number over 1,000 members and was booming with activity. Together with her new parishioners, she founded a newspaper “Svetoch Metodisma,” served as an Executive Editor.

Lydia’s heart was always divided between preaching the Word and social justice. To help bridge the two, her church in Russia started a prison ministry, four soup kitchens, a pre-school, a shelter for troubled teenagers and a medical clinic. To find out  more about the revival of Methodism in Russia in the 1990s, please visit www.lifeofasoul.com.

Rev. Lydia Istomina served as an elected Director for Russia and the CIS/ General Board of Global Ministries, during which time she increased membership by 80+%.

At the beginning of her ministry in Russia, Lydia was instrumental in negotiating the US-Russian Aid Airlift in 1992. She conducted various negotiations between the GBGM (General Board of Global Ministries) and the Russian Government, interpreted for several global events.

Lydia’s passion for the Word of God has reached tens of thousands in her positions as a pastor and a Senior Pastor in various churches in the Kansas City area in both Kansas and Missouri Conferences and as an effective public speaker. Lydia is also a Certified Executive Coach (Coaching Certification from Arbinger Institute) and Counselor. She has also served as Director for Shalom Project for urban social, cultural and economic development in Kansas City, KS.

Lydia has 17 years of coaching, adult education, leadership and community development. She has facilitated workshops, seminars and short-terms studies on leadership development, professional growth, team building, effective listening, organizational development.

She has founded five non-profits, prepared seven CEO-level leaders, having trained and equipped them. She has also led up to 50-member Board at various Non-for profit organizations.

Lydia received the SOJOUNER OF TRUTH AWARD for courage and justice in 1992 and ARLON O. EBRIGHT AWARD for leadership. Lydia is an honorary member of the Louisiana Conference UMW since 1991.

Lydia Istomina earned her Master’s of Theology Degree from the St. Paul School in Kansas City, MO, USA, where she is currently completing her Doctorate Program.

Lydia’s first book, ”Bringing Hidden Things to Light,” (Abingdon Press, 1996) describes her way to Christ during the dramatic changes in Russia right after the fall of the Soviet Union. Another book, “From Misery to Mystery,” presents an enticing and very personal account of her life in America, especially in the Kansas City Area, as a woman, a foreigner, a pastor, and just as a regular human being. Her latest writing, “Zhizn’ Dushi: Zastav Duraka Bogu Molitsa,” or Life of a Soul, published in Russian, is an autobiographical thriller, providing  a sincere account of her personal transformation given against a background of political and historic events that filled the 1990s. Her articles and stories are published in the Methodist magazines and newspapers around the world. She also keeps a blog site, http://ligooshka.blogspot.com.

Lydia was on the national radio program “Russian America” in February 2007 twice. She told her life story and also performed her short comedy to Russian speaking immigrants in America and Canada.

Lydia is also a singer as well as a song writer. She has a CD, “Introspection,” that tells her faith and life story. Lydia translates her favorite songs from Russian into English.

She works hard to meet her goal to send 30% from the proceeds to support the elderly women ministry in her home town in Russia.

 

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