Ridenour Home Page


written by Paul Ridenour 

Before we went to the USSR:

 Winter 1991

Don McCall, who is on the staff of the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas and interim choir director at Casa View Baptist Church (CVBC) in Dallas, received a phone call from Southern Baptists in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  They asked him if he knew of a Contemporary Christian band that could go to the Soviet Union for a cultural event for 18 days.  The cost will be about $2,000 a person.  Don thought of three bands but told the person - “Sound Theology."

Sound Theology had a simple goal - to do free concerts for churches in and around Texas and to give an invitation to Christ each time.  We have been doing that for several years.

Don asked us if we could go and if we had the money.  We said we would love to go (I was in disbelief) but did not have the money.  We would also need about $6,000 for the cost of shipping our equipment around the world and back.  Our church decided that they would raise the money for us.  They raised $20,000 in about eight weeks.  Our band consisted of Mark Smith, Dennis Mink, David Seay, Mike Judd, Chris Chumley, and myself.  We asked Clay Camp to join us.  Clay was the original drummer of the band and was now living in Oklahoma.  We thought he could help with our equipment, sing backing vocals, play percussion, and/or help with the sound engineering.

Mark Smith

Not all members of the band went to CVBC.  One guy went to a Bible church and another guy went to a non-denominational Pentecostal church.

Our pastor, Jimmy Smith, said to go ahead and baptize if we get a chance even though we are not ordained ministers.  Another staff person, Dr. Dockins, told us that we were going to the USSR to “plow the fields."

We learned that 300 people from all across the US and from different denominations are going to be involved in a cultural event in the USSR.  We would visit Moscow, but our final destination was Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, a Muslim republic of the USSR.  Kazakhstan is the home of the Soviet space program and a nuclear testing ground.  We will have doctors with us to treat the sick, construction workers to rebuild the earthquake destroyed areas, business people to teach them free markets, religious leaders and preachers to talk about religious freedom, plus actors, musicians, and singers to perform concerts and/or teach.  Sound Theology (ST) was going to perform 12 concerts in three cities - Alma-Ata, Chimkent, and Tashkent (a city in another USSR Muslim Republic called Uzbekistan). 

We were told not to wear our expensive brand name clothes and tennis shoes.  So, we bought lots of brown and green army-navy shirts and pants.  ST also bought 1000 Russian New Testament Bibles we ordered from the International Bible Society.

The following are my notes from each day of the trip.  I hope you will find this writing inspirational, humorous, and realize the blessings we have.

Day 1 - June 20, 1991

One of my drums fell out of the van on the way to the airport.  We recovered it but that is not a good way to start a trip.  The airlines only charged us $700 for our excess equipment.  We had prayed about it.  The normal cost would have been $2400.  First miracle!

David Seay

I had studied the book of John because I felt that it would come in handy on this trip.  John is the best book to use for witnessing.

We arrived in New York the first day and spent the night.  A guy walked up to me in the hotel and saw my nametag and said, “Ridenour."  I looked at his named tag and said, “Mike Stone from Bryan Adams High School."  He graduated with my older brother Dale.  He had moved to Pennsylvania and was going on this trip as a construction worker.  Stone and I had recorded a Christian album together at CVBC for Steve Kern back in 1977.  That was the last time I saw him.  It is a small world!!!

Mike Stone

We ate at the Airport City Restaurant with some of our newfound American/Christian friends including Beth Myers from Arizona.  We were still unsure of what we were really going to do in the USSR for God’s Kingdom.  Were we going to plow the fields, plant seeds, fertilize, or was God going to reap the harvest?  Beth told us we were going to “plow the fields."  Second time we heard that.  We are now convinced!

I wanted to stay with Dennis Mink (in the hotels) on this trip because he had the “gift of faith."  I do not.  If I was going to go to the USSR and especially a Muslim country, I wanted to stay with the guy who had faith.  I found out that Dennis also wanted to stay with me because of my gift of wisdom.  Now, they say your gifts are your top three.  Wisdom is not in my top three, but it is number four.

Dennis was now having a faith crisis.  His wife’s father was diagnosed with cancer and they are going to operate on him the next day.  Dennis had just gotten the news from his spouse who called us in the room.  There was talk of possibly her father dying.  Dennis, being the only other male in his family, felt he should go home and take care of his family.  Dennis said that God brought him this far as an act of faith and that he would still be faithful to God’s Word by going home and tending to his family.  Dennis asked me what I thought.  I asked him “Remember the guy in the Bible who told Jesus I will follow you but only after I bury my father?”  Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead, follow me.”  Dennis was not expecting that.  He expected me to tell him to go ahead and go home.  I personally did not want to go to Russia without Dennis and we also needed him as our lead guitar player.  The band got together that night and prayed about it.  We had decided that if his father-in-law died, there would be 2,000 people at the church who would take care of things.  Dennis could not sleep the entire night.  He fully expected his wife to tell him to come home.  The next morning his wife called and said that he is going to Russia because God gave her a verse.  The verse was Luke 9:57- 62.  It was the same story that I told Dennis.  I read the passage to Dennis and the last verse read “He who puts his hand on the plow and looks back, is not fit for the Kingdom of God."  WOW!  There it is again - “plow the fields." 

Day 2 - June 22, 1991

We are 100 baggages over the airplane limit.  That was including all 300 people.  The band alone had 17 pieces of equipment.  Each bag over the limit would cost $131.  Aeroflot also could not find our reservations.  We prayed about everything.  They found our reservations plus we paid “no extra freight charges."  Another miracle when it came to freight charges.  If we would have been charged the normal rates, we would be out of money already.  It appeared that the band would pay any extra charges (for everybody) because we had the extra cash and no one else did.

There was a 10-member Russian band at the airport in NY.  I gave them three Dallas postcards and they gave me some USSR pins and Lenin pins.  One guy asked, “What is Sound Theology?”  He said he had studied theology in college but had never heard of Sound Theology.  Of course, Sound Theology meant - music (Sound) and Theology (John 3:16) - Theology that is sound!

We flew on a huge plane over the top of the earth to Moscow.  It took nine hours.

Day 3 - June 23, 1991

On the flight I saw the movie “Awakening."  I never saw the sun go down.  We were at the Moscow airport for four hours.  The guy who checked my passport looked like your typical Russian KGB person.  He reminded me of Rolf from “The Sound Of Music."  The airport was dank and dark.  We left for the hotel in Moscow.  I brought about 40 pre-labeled address labels so I could mail postcards quickly.  I bought some Moscow postcards and labeled them on the bus on the way to downtown Moscow.  We stopped at Red Square, the Kremlin, and the Olympic Stadium.  Moscow’s buildings were gorgeous.  Moscow and Russia looked like a third world country.  All of the concrete is cracked.  All metal streetlights and polls are rusted.  The grass is two feet high around the buildings and it makes them look deserted.  The most amazing thing - in the heart of Communism (the Kremlin), there are four cathedrals.  Of course, they were now just museums.  One of them had several Bible stories painted all over the walls and ceiling.  I am surprised that they were never destroyed.

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow, Russia

Russians marry on Saturdays and Sundays and like to have the ceremony at an area that overlooks the Olympic Stadium.  The stadium was built for the Olympics the year the US protested the Afghanistan war and did not attend.  We saw at least 20 wedding parties.  Across the street from the stadium is the University of Moscow.

Moscow was founded about 1100 A.D. and named after a bear that was looking into the river, the river that runs through the heart of Moscow.

We did some shopping and I bought some spoons, coins, and mailed the postcards.  We went back to the hotel to get ready to take a five-hour flight to Alma-Ata, a city of one million people.

The airport was small and a dive.  Sound Theology actually had to load every bag on the plane.  The 300 of us had 600 bags and the freight was going to cost $2,000 extra.  Each guy in the band had a money belt with $1,000.  I guess I am considered the guy who handles the money.  Therefore, the airport officials told me that they would only charge us $400 if we gave them the money “under the table."  I gave them $500 in case they changed their minds.  Third miracle!  What else did we give them? – Bibles and cassette tapes of our music.  One guy had his luggage opened and it was full of Bibles and Christian literature.  The woman behind the counter asked, “What is all of this?”  The guy said marketing and training materials.  She just wanted a Bible.  A supervisor came over and asked, “What is going on here?”  She also wanted a Bible.  He gave a Bible to both of them.   I thought Bibles were illegal in Russia.  Was “Glasnost” changing Russia that fast?

Since some of us were loading the plane and others had no boarding passes, nine of us almost were left behind at the airport.  Some of us began to hear things like “Christianity and rock music do not mix."  An older man asked some older women if they had brought Bibles to pass out.  The women thought they were going to be provided with some Bibles so they did not have any.  The older man told them that Sound Theology brought 1,000.  The Bibles and Sound Theology loading the plane began to be an encouragement to everyone.  Everyone was also an encouragement to us.  Moscow is an eight-hour difference in the time zone from the US and when we landed in Alma-Ata, we were 11 hours ahead.  I slept through the flight.

When we got there, the Mayor greeted us.  He announced that it was a National Holiday in celebration of us.  They took our luggage and treated us like US Ambassadors.  We were made Honorary Citizens of Kazakhstan.  One of our religious leaders mentioned God and the mayor said “Ah, Allah!”  They took us immediately to a helicopter.  That was the last thing I wanted to get on.  They took us up about 8,000 feet into the mountains.  The Aeroflot helicopter looked and felt as if it were held together with a rubber band.

Our Kazakh interpreters were Azat (male/pronounced Ah-Zot) and Janna (pronounced Zjohn-nah).  Janna surprised me when she said that she had attended Grand Canyon Baptist University in Phoenix for one semester.  Her English was excellent.  She was about 20, very pretty, a model, and personally knows the president of Kazakhstan.  Mike, our single guy, said, “No matter what country you are in, Janna is a babe!”

Janna Sabalakova

The mountains were gorgeous and the Kazakhs are basically a nomadic people.  They were riding horses and it looks like the 18th century.  I am 31 and rode a horse for the first time in my life.  Actually, the horse rode me. 

Singing with the Local Kazakhs

It was quite a feast - music, games, lamb, fermented mare’s milk (I did not try it), and a professional horse race (their top sport).  The weather was very cold and a huge rain cloud was coming right over us.  We prayed and then we watched the cloud go around us.  Another miracle!  Mike had also felt really sick.  We prayed for him and he got better.

Mike Judd

That night we met the Soviet sound engineers.  There were at least 20 techs - roadies, sound guys, and light guys.  All of the equipment was rented from Moscow.  This was going to be a first class concert.  We are going to open for the number one pop group in Kazakhstan, called “A' Studio."  We were formally introduced to them.  They did not know what to think of us and vice versa.  We did not have to use our sound equipment although they wanted to use my drum set for the concerts.  The drummer was Igor and his spouse was Lada (pronounced Lah-Dah).  A' Studio is being paid for the concerts but Igor said, “Soviet money is wood."  Igor and I hit it off immediately.  The other guys in the band were Batyr (pronounced Bah-ter), Baglan (pronounced bog-lawn), Boris, and Bob (real name Vladimir).

Igor Lutsiv

Alma-Ata is a beautiful city.  It reminds me of Phoenix, AZ.  In fact, its sister city is Tucson.  Kazakhstan has about 1/8 white Russians and the rest are Kazakhs, Mongolians, Asians, etc.  Even though Russian is the official language, there are over 100 languages.  Ghingas Khan made journeys through this land.

We went to the Hotel Kazakhstan, which is very nice.  Dennis and I had Azat up in our room.  We gave him some food and listened to Christian CD’s.  We prayed before we went to sleep.  Our non-practicing Muslim friend had never experienced prayer.  I slept great for the first time in two days.


Day 4 - June 24, 1991

We did our first concert.  About 6,000 people attended.  It was great!  Smoke machines and lights.  Mark, our lead singer, received roses.  One in ten Russians probably knows English.  The audience did not know our songs.  However, they knew at least one song.  We just had to do one American secular song so we did “Johnny B. Goode."  I signed many Dallas postcards and gave away ST tapes, gum, etc.  I received Russian pins.  The Russian and Kazakh people give gifts all of the time.  We were told to pack one suitcase with clothes and another suitcase with gifts to gift away.  That second suitcase would store the gifts we receive. 

The food is great - beef, potatoes, and rice.  All we had to drink was hot Pepsi and hot tea pronounced “Chi".  The fruits looked great but I did not eat any.  I do not like tomatoes or cucumbers anyway.  I was afraid the fruit would make me sick.

Dennis had a terrible headache.  We prayed and it went away.  We are learning for the first time in our lives to depend on prayer and God’s Word “all of the time."

Igor said he is honored to play on my drum set.

Before we all went to bed, ST and Armour Patterson prayed together.  We had just met him because he was staying in the same room with Chris.  Armour is the son of Paige Patterson, the president of Criswell Bible College in Dallas.  We prayed an intense 45-minute prayer.  We were all crying afterwards and it felt as if we prayed drops of blood. Armour loves music and is excited about us being there.

Vladimir "Bob" and Chris Chumley

Day 5 - June 25, 1991

We went to the market and there was food everywhere. The plums and cherries look great.  I bought a Russian chess set and a Kazakh hat.  The ruble is valued at 27.5 to the dollar.  Which basically means a ruble was worth 4 cents.  For one ruble, one could buy a hot Pepsi, an orange, or an ice cream.  The average person makes $20 a month.  When we exchanged a $20 bill and received 550 rubles, we were rich! 

ST felt we did not play well at our concert. It was on National TV.  Kazakhstan is four times larger than Texas and has about 16 million people.  Not sure how many watched.

We are very tired.  Many Americans were at our concert and loved it.  I met a Russian couple in the crowd while A' Studio was playing.  I danced with this girl during one of A' Studio's slow songs.  Her boyfriend was so happy to meet me that he gave me a cross on a chain.  I gave him a tape, postcard, Bible, and my brother-in-law Teno’s cross and chain.  They both kissed me - it is their custom for men to kiss men on the cheek.

The couple I met

I was amazed to hear the crowd of 8,000 sing A' Studio's #1 hit song “Julia."  “Julia” is about a Russian girl who goes to America and becomes a prostitute.  The song asks her to come home.

Dennis gave Azat and Baglan some guitar strings.

Dennis Mink

Day 6 - June 26, 1991

I finally got a hold of Dottie.  I think the phone call was about 25 minutes and cost me $50.  The operator apologized for the price being so high.  It was so worth it!!!!

We went up into the mountains to Medeo, which the Kazakhs call Kazakh-Colorado.

We were told not to openly hand out Bibles at the hotel.  I met a Kazakh girl named Janet.  You have to assume that everyone you meet is Muslim.  Most of them are, but the majority are non-practicing because of the 75 years of atheistic Communism.  She said, “I am a Christian.  In fact, I am a Baptist."  I started laughing.  She told me that some people want Bibles.  I took her up to my room where Dennis was talking with Azat.  I asked her if it was okay for her to come inside the room and she said, “Of course, I’m a Christian.  If I was a Muslim, it would be wrong."  We got some Bibles and passed out about 30 in the lobby to anyone who wanted one.  An older man kept looking at me.  He looked like a member of the KGB.  He asked a young man where he got that Bible.  The young man pointed at me.  I thought “I am dead now!”  The old man came over and said his name was Konstantine.  He wanted a Bible.  He wanted me to sign it.  He wanted to know if there was a verse about “Love is patient and love is kind."  I wrote that chapter under my name.  Who is Konstantine?  He was once a member of the KGB.  He was once a college English teacher.  Now he teaches English to second graders.  He is also a coin collector.  He told me he always wanted a 1976 bicentennial dollar.  Dennis brought 10 of them with him.  We gave two of them to Konstantine and he gave us some Russian coins.


Konstantine Volkov

Just like the Vietnamese, the Russian and Kazakh people love the Beatles.  It seems as if every one of them can play the piano or guitar and sing Beatles.  So, we sang Beatles in the afternoon.  I just happen to know almost every word of every song.  

I met another Kazakh girl named Dana (pronounced Donna) who gave me a cartoon script that she wanted me to mail to Disney.


Another Kazakh guy I met was named Chocan but goes by Chuck.  He drove to his home and brought back a Paul McCartney album for me.  It is only available in Russia.  I was quite touched.

We were all feeling ready to do our third concert.  We did our best and so did A' Studio.  Probably 10,000 people attended.  The security is starting to get tight to protect A' Studio and us from the crowds and people backstage.  We are becoming popular.  Several girls approached Dennis and Clay.  Mark received many flowers.  This same guy I gave Teno’s necklace found me and gave me a flute made in Turkistan.

Sound Theology in concert in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, USSR

Every time we meet A' Studio, they kiss us on the cheek.  We started to do the same.  We have given them many presents and they gave us their albums.  We gave Bob some bass guitar strings.  When they saw that Dennis had 12 sets of strings, they said he was the richest guitar player in Kazakhstan.  Igor said, “I feel bad because you are guests in our country."

We have given many interviews for TV and the papers.  Our songs are being played on the radio.  We gave an interview to a ladies' program.  They asked if we like Madonna.  Madonna at that time seemed to take off her clothes more than sing new songs.  I said that I did not like Madonna.  I prefer Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Amy Grant, etc.  I think they were surprised I did not like Madonna.  One interview with a Muslim guy said, “Maybe Jesus does not like Rock and Roll."  We told him it is not the music, but the lyrics that are the difference.

We are starting to crack jokes and having a blast with A' Studio.  I have passed out many postcards and gum.  We taught some kids and adults how to do the “High-Five."  That may become a fad.  Mark also put an American flag on his head like a do-rag.  That may also become popular. 

We saw a Russian guy wave an American flag at us and say, “America is the promise land."

Everyone is starting to joke about my lack of hair.  Some call me “Homer” (Simpson) while others say I look like Paul Newman.  They also call me “Mr. Postcard Man."   I am getting lots of coins and gifts including a Kazakh flag with the hammer and sickle.  That is something that you cannot take out of the country.  I will try and sneak it out.  I am making several Kazakh and American friends and have lots of addresses.

The day was just overwhelming:

1.       Spoke with Dottie
2.       Saw God move in the lobby with the Bibles
3.       Received a McCartney album
4.       Our best concert

I broke down!

Day 7 - June 27, 1991

Today is a travel day to Chimkent.  Chimkent is called Kazakh-Texas. Chimkent is a one-hour flight south of Alma-Ata.  The city is smaller than Alma-Ata and located very close to Pakistan.  I took an American girl named Kim Stout (who attended Dallas Baptist University) to buy some film.  The eight rolls I brought are all used.  I bought 6 rolls for $1.50.

None of us have really become sick except Dennis is having some stomach problems.  We are drinking bottled water and it is great.  Hepatitis is very prevalent in the USSR.  I saw an outdoor juice machine that had a metal cup on a chain.  You put a coin in the machine and share the same cup with everyone.  No thank you!

We found out that the concerts cost seven rubles.  That is not even ten cents.

I met an interpreter named Olga.  She is an interpreter for some of our top religious leaders here.  She told me she is “sometimes an atheist."  I gave her a Russian Bible and my red letter English Bible.  She could speak Russian, English, German, and French fluently.  She was about 20 years old.  I spoke as fast as I could and she still understood me.  She has a meeting at 3 PM with religious leader Wallace Williams.  I told her about the New Testament Gospels, Paul, and the Second Coming.  She will become a believer soon.  She also plays the piano, but only Beatles.

Since this was the first time we traveled with A' Studio, we saw them carry their equipment in old bags and boxes.  Amazing!  These guys are the #1 band and had no money, or maybe these things are not available to purchase.

The guys in Sound Theology told me that my knowledge of the Beatles is a blessing in disguise.

Our plane ride was bumpy.  It is difficult to write.  A guitar fell out of the overhead bin and hit my shoulder.  We sang Beatles and I think “And I love Her” is the song everyone likes the best.  Chris prayed for a safe landing and for faith.

Even though we ate like kings, I have lost five pounds so far.

We discussed both bands doing a song together in concert.  We may do “Ticket To Ride."

A flight attendant walked down the aisle selling toys and trinkets.

We got a royal welcoming at the airport.  The local girls were all dressed in their native clothes.  They brought food and gladiolas for us.

Chimkent is very very hot but not humid.  Looks and feels like Odessa, Texas. 

We went to Igor’s room and had hot tea.  We listened to a Christian rock CD by “Liaison."  Igor wanted to keep the CD and look at the words.  He bought me a gift from the plane.  The other guys got gifts too.  We are beginning to become very close with A' Studio.  I gave Igor a Bryan Duncan tape.  Igor said, “Ah, more gifts!”

Me and Igor in Chimkent

We each got our own room for the first time.

Igor’s sense of humor is quite dry and I loved it.  Even when he was serious, I laughed.  From out of the blue he said, “All Leningrad Ballet dancers are gay.  The Moscow Ballet….every other guy is gay."

I need to mention one person here.  A'Studio has a young woman who is their manager named Lezat (pronounced Lay-zot).  She is definitely a Muslim.  Her brother married the daughter of the president.  She can speak English fairly well.  She does not trust me.  I find it easy to remember Russian words and phrases.  I pronounce the words correctly.  The Russian language is not that different from Spanish.  She believes I understand everything they say in Russian.  She thinks I am a member of the KGB or the CIA.


Day 8 - June 28, 1991

I woke up at 4 AM with some stomach problems.  I was okay by 8 AM.  That Imodium AD really works.  The bathrooms are so old.  The pipes are rusty.  The commode flushes with a chain that you pull from the ceiling.

I went to the market and then to band practice.  We will have to use our own sound equipment and speakers for the next six concerts over three days.  All of the rented equipment went back to Moscow.  The concert hall was like a small college auditorium,  holding about 1,000 people.

We did a concert at 6 PM.  We lost power and had to finish early.  Terrible concert!  Bass guitar was too loud.  Even A'Studio said it was bad.

Igor said, “What’s wrong with the system? What’s wrong with the power?"  I said I do not know.  He said, “I know the problem with the system.  It is the system, the system of this country."  The power was fixed and A'Studio did their concert.

The second concert was great.  Batyr came out and played his sax with us on “Johnny B. Goode.”


After the concert, we watched two versions of MTV - Soviet and European (Weird!).  Igor said that all business in Leningrad and Moscow is criminal.  I finally decided to taste the fruit – plum, cherry, peach, and a tomato.  The tomato was the best I have ever had and I hate tomatoes.

Day 9 - June 29, 1991

I feel great.  I had crepes for breakfast. 

We went on what can best be described as an “excursion."  I rode a camel.  I drank camel milk.  It came right out of the camel - hot and thick like malt-o-meal.  I almost threw up.  I had not had any mare’s milk but I heard it was tons better than the camel milk.  We have a couple of new guides or interpreters.  One is Victoria (Vica) and the other is Irena.  I sang “Yesterday” and “And I Love Her” for Irena on the bus.


We rode an amusement train operated by kids and three young girls sang for us.  We sang “Old McDonald” and “Ticket to Ride” for them.  Clay took a picture of an old woman with her child on the train.  The picture was perfect - a typical Russian woman with a little girl.  Then something really funny happened. The woman whipped out a “huge” 35mm camera and took a picture of Clay. 

"Thanks Clay for the memory!"

I am getting a soar throat.  It may have been that camel milk.  I am letting Clay play drums tonight.  I will run the sound and monitors.  Lezat gave me a jar of apple juice.  She is starting to trust me I guess. 

We visited our first museum.  We saw that a few days earlier Mrs. Gorbachov signed the guest book.  Irena and Victoria are a lot of fun.

We had a press conference at 3 PM with A' Studio.  Dennis said they are some of the finest musicians we have ever met.  Mark then said, “After the concert, everyone over to Igor’s for tea."  Everyone laughed!  The papers and radio have been billing us as two rival bands.  They are surprised that we got along so well and that there is no rivalry.

Our first concert was bad again but the second concert was great. Clay ended up not playing drums because the soundboard was foreign to me.  After the concert, we had more tea in Igor’s room and we sang.  A' Studio gave us buttons and signed their group postcards.  We gave them tapes, an American flag, and for the first time, Bibles.  Bob had a tear in his eye talking to Dennis.  We found out that Bob was a Christian but his life was difficult.

Vladimir "Bob"

Many times I began to weep and it will be very difficult saying goodbye to A' Studio.

A' Studio

Day 10 - June 30, 1991

We went up into the mountains to what can only be described as a “Love Commune."  The place had hippies and hashish.  The mountains were beautiful with flowers and a fast flowing cold river.  The food was delicious.  I ate something that is pronounced “Shishlish."  It is lamb on a metal stick (shish-ka-bob).   I must have had six to eight of them.  Some Soviet/Kazakh girls danced for us.  It was like a floorshow, and called “House of Fashion."  We took lots of pictures.  It was so hot, dusty, sandy, and windy, especially during our bus ride back.  I crashed on the bus.  My allergies are starting to bother me.

Supper was great!  You learn to love hot Pepsi if that is all you have.  We are now drinking this green stuff in large bottles.  It is not very good but it is very cold.  We need it!

I walked up to about 50 kids swimming in a fountain and pulled out lots of gum.  I was attacked!  Finally, one of the bigger kids got all of my gum and he handed them out one by one.  They stood in line for him but they would not stand in line for me.  It was quite a site.  There are no swimming pools.  Kids swim in the public fountains.

Both concerts tonight were great (our last two).  At the end of the first concert, both bands did “Imagine” by John Lennon.  I sang lead vocals while Clay played drums.  It was like a dream come true for me.  The crowd went wild and gave us flowers and books about Kazakhstan.  It is pretty weird to have people storm the stage and give you things.  I changed some of the words to “Imagine” to make the lyrics less New Age.  The second concert we did “Imagine” and “Get Back."  Igor sang the verses on “Get Back” in Russian and I sang the chorus in English.

Clay Camp

We were supposed to do three more concerts in a city called Tashkent.  The concerts were cancelled and we never knew why.

We had more tea in Igor’s room and stayed up until 2 AM.  I gave Igor my cymbals, drumsticks, drumheads, tambourine, and my Stoker pants.  He was speechless.  He said, “Life will be over when you leave.  I will be depressed."  Bob saw all of the new gifts and said, “Igor, you are a rich man!”

Day 11 - July 1, 1991

I got up a 6 AM and had breakfast at 7 PM.  We flew back to Alma-Ata.  Our twin-engine prop plane was hot and full of flies.  I was having more allergy problems.  I slept from 2 – 7 PM.  I spoke with Dottie at 7:30 PM.

A Russian maid (about 60 years old) was in my room and saw the Bibles.  She shouted “Biblia! Biblia!”  She wanted to pay me six rubles for a Bible.  I told her it was free.  She said, “Three rubles!”  I said, “Free."  She kept insisting that she pay for it.  I finally looked in a Russian dictionary and told her in Russian that it was a “gift."  I gave her the Bible and she went ahead and gave me a small doll from her pocket.  She knelt on her knees and thanked me.  Janet came up to the room and interpreted for us.  The housekeeper wanted another Bible.  Now, Russians do not ask for anything.  It is not their culture.  She asked for just one more Bible because she wanted to give it to her mom on her 80th birthday.  I asked her “How many do you need?”  She said, “Three."  I said, “Take five!  You have friends!”

Igor gave me a silk scarf.  We had tea in his room between 8 and 9 PM.  They made jokes about me - “Paul is dead” and “I shot Paul."  Of course, they were playing off the “Paul McCartney is dead” rumors from the Beatles days.

I went to the airport at 10 PM to pick up A' Studio.  They came back on a different plane.  They arrived at a different gate and we missed them.

We met an American missionary in Kazakhstan named John and his spouse Joan (I have to protect their names).  I told him about how wonderful the “Shishlish” was.  He said, “Oh yeah, hepatitis on a stick!”

Day 12 - July 2, 1991

Everyone slept through breakfast.  We went shopping with A' Studio.  Igor bought me a nice pen.  Baglan bought me four rolls of film.  A' Studio bought us coffee, ice cream, and apricot juice.  The ice cream is always a little melted.  I bought some earrings for Dottie and the same for Lada (only 60 rubles).


A' Studio bought us some more ice cream.  We went to a local dark and dank bar and I spoke with Russian strangers.  I had them laughing with my limited Russian language.  Armour’s father Paige Patterson arrived in Kazakhstan and we met him.  He invited Sound Theology to his house in Dallas for dinner after all of this was over.

Lezat, Janna, and Batyr

We did a street interview with a Kazakh TV station.  One guy asked “How do you like Alma-Ata?  Our women?”

It rained for the first time.  It was cold but it felt great.

The stores were all empty.  They only sell black and white TVs and they were out of stock.  Igor said, “We have bad air, bad food, and bad water.  All we have is Chernobyl."  Igor also said, “First time in my life I am happy." 

We had more tea at Igor’s.  Olga was in Igor’s room and in her own little world listening to Beatles on headphones.  We brought many interpreters up to A' Studio's rooms.  We always asked A' Studio if it was okay to bring someone in their room.  Some of these interpreters never imagined in their life that they would be sitting in the same hotel room with A' Studio.

Olga and Mike Judd at the piano - "Beatles?"

I did an interview with Connie Price of the Baptist Press.

We heard that one part of Kazakhstan had not had any rain in two or three months.  I think it was close to the location of the Aral Sea.  The Aral Sea is dried up and there are large ships sitting in the sand.  Some Americans prayed on a Wednesday for rain.  It rained Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  To us, it was like the crucifixion and resurrection - three days.  The mayor of that Muslim town said, “Surely, the God of these guys must be the one true God."   

Day 13 - July 3, 1991

We are getting ready to go home.  All we are doing now is shopping and hanging around with A' Studio.  We have about $4,200 left for hauling our equipment back to America.  The equipment is worth about $4,000. We could buy new equipment when we got home.  Therefore, we decided to leave all of our sound equipment behind so a local church could use it.  We left four speakers, three crates, extension cords, a 1000-watt power amp, 1000 and 2000-watt transformers, microphones, microphone stands, and all cables.  The best part - we did not have to haul it back home.

Saga (pronounced Sah-gah), who was like a security guard over our equipment the entire time, gave us old Russian banners.  These banners should be in a museum (pro-Communist stuff).  I hope we can get them out of the country.  Batyr gave us records including another Paul McCartney album. 

Batyr sought out one of the top leaders named Brian Grimm and told him what Sound Theology has meant to them individually and as a group.  He said ST has given them hope, encouragement, happiness, and love.

I shared the Four-Spiritual Laws with a guy named Murat (pronounced Mer-rot).  He also wanted me to write the words to the Beatles song “Bad Boy."

I bought many gifts including two Kazakh 9-piece tea and coffee sets for $7.50 each.  For some odd reason, the stores were full of merchandise for the first time and all of the locals were buying up everything.

The guys in the band left me behind in the late afternoon so John and Joan took me to dinner and shopping.  We ate steak, potatoes, dessert, and tea - total bill was about $1.79.

Everyone wants our Bibles.  John and the local Baptists are happy to have our equipment.

Igor gave me his drumsticks and a compass.  Murat gave me a cassette tape.  I gave Murat a bicentennial dollar because he is also a coin collector.  I gave Andre a New Testament Bible and my army-navy pants.

Day 14 - July 4, 1991

We did some more shopping and had ice cream.  A' Studio said we have formed a new band called “A Sound Theology Studio."

All of the Americans attended a 3 - 5 PM conference to discuss a possible American festival next year.  Saga said, “Two weeks in Alma-Ata with A-Studio and Sound Theology, next year, six months in America."  Everyone laughed!  Saga went on to say good things about us.

Everywhere we went people said, “Congratulations."  We did not know why.  Ah yes - it is July 4th, America’s birthday.  There was a special concert at night.  The local Kazakhs performed for us in their beautiful concert hall.

Boris’ father performed.  He is a famous pianist and vocalist.  One problem - the commodes in the bathrooms are gone - only holes in the ground.


I had an impromptu interview with an opera singer.

After the concert, there were fireworks and a Kazakh woman sang “God Bless America” in English.  Our religious leaders have been working hard the entire trip.  On July 4th, 1991, in Communist Kazakhstan, Americans and Kazakh leaders signed the first “Freedom of Religion” document.  I feel there is more religious freedom here than in America.

I gave Igor my portable Sony Walkman (He had wanted to buy it).  I gave Lezat my World Map jacket.  I gave Janna a Sound Theology T-shirt, a pink shirt, and a bottle of Oil-of-Olay.  I bought many souvenirs and received many gifts.  We enjoyed another tea party at Igor’s.  I spoke with Igor and Lada using Vica as the interpreter.  I presented the Gospel to them.  I was up all night with them and Vica.  Igor said we gave him Jesus Christ or Christianity.  Their marriage was on the rocks, but not now.  I prayed with Vica.  I gave her a green shirt and a Bible.

Victoria "Vica"

Vica and I had some interesting conversations.  She thought America was everything she saw in the movies.  She said they were always told that America was going to nuke them first.   I told her that we were told that Russia was going to nuke us first.  Russians and Kazakhs are the most grateful people I have ever met.  They are right up there with the Vietnamese and the Mexicans I have met.  I realized that if it were not for our governments, Americans and Russians would get along just fine.

I went to bed at 10 AM and woke up 2 hours later.

Day 15 - July 5, 1991

Igor told Clay “If I die, I will be with Jesus."  I had another 2 PM interview with the opera singer.  She had invited me to dinner that night but I told her I could not go. I also wanted to spend these last few nights with A' Studio.  Some of the American girls told me I should have gone because I would have had a delicious meal.  I guess I could have taken an interpreter with me.  I think she spent all day preparing food.  I feel bad because she must have asked me during our last interview to come eat dinner and maybe she thought I said yes.  She gave me some fruit and I gave her some American food.

I went shopping with Kim Stout.  I bought a lady's hat for an American girl named Kristy Langford.  I also gave a hat to Olga and her friend Anna (pronounced Awn-nah).   The hats were less than one dollar each.  Anna gave me a sheet of Kazakh stamps.

Kim Stout and Olga


Kristy Langford, a Soviet, and Kristy's soon to be husband
Scott Harris

Remember the doll the maid gave me for the Bible?  I saw it in a store and it cost six rubles.  Amazing!  I told her it was a free gift and she still gave me something costing six rubles.

People are beginning to call me “Fast Talker."  Some of us in ST did an interview with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board.  I said goodbye to Victoria and gave her an English version of the Four-Spiritual Laws.  Igor had us over for tea.  We met five more Americans – Joe, Beth, Paula, and two Native Americans (Navaho and Kiawah).  A' Studio was amazed at the Native American stories.  They had beautiful Indians paintings and art with them.  These Russians had never seen a Native American. 

I gave away some of my medicine, crackers, vitamins, Kleenex, toothpaste, Visine, and the rest of my toilet paper.  I had carried toilet paper in my drums.  Toilet paper and duct tape are like “gold” to them.

I gave Igor some M&M’s and asked him if they were good.  He said, “Better than good!”  I gave Olga the rest of my rubles.  It was probably a lot of money for her.

If I had one more day, I would have baptized Igor, Lada, and perhaps Vica in a public fountain.

Igor and Lada Lutsiv

Day 16 - July 6, 1991

Today was the last day in Alma-Ata before we boarded a plane to Moscow.  Igor said, “I am reborn."  I gave him a Four-Spiritual Laws tract in Russian.  He and Lada pulled it out 3 times to look at it.  Sound Theology and A' Studio ate breakfast together.  We went to the Airport and we sang Christian songs and Kazakh songs.  It was very emotional.  Olga cried like a baby at breakfast.  Janna bought us some Pepsi.  There were many hugs, tears, and picture taking.  Lada hugged me for the first time.  An airport woman got mad at me taking pictures of the airport and the airplane.  A' Studio kept opening a secured door and waving goodbye to us.  She got mad at them.  I turned to the woman and gave her some carnations and said, “I love you."  She laughed (everyone laughed) and gave me a big hug and she was no longer upset. 

The airplane had bald tires.

Mike again said, “Janna is a babe."

Igor recorded all of our Christians CDs and tapes.  He gave me a live A' Studio tape.  It was interesting seeing A' Studio sing “For The Sake Of The Call” in four-part harmony.  Batyr sings just like Stevie Wonder.  It is a funny site seeing these Soviets singing Christians songs, the hokey pokey, Old McDonald, and wearing American T-shirts (and Baptist Student Union T-shirts).

Day 17 - July 7, 1991

We arrived in Moscow.  Mark, Clay, and I went to Red Square with some other Americans.  We left Four-Spiritual Laws booklets in Red Square and around St. Basil’s Cathedral and watched people pick them up and take them.  We shopped at the famous Arbot Street.  It is illegal for them to take American dollars.  Of course, they were happy to take dollars “under the table."  We went back to Red Square and the Kremlin at night.  The clean Moscow subway only cost 15 kopecks.  That is not even a penny. 

Day 18 - July 8, 1991

Today we are traveling from Moscow to NY.  A woman at the airport asked me what was in my luggage.  I said drums.  She said to walk through that door.  I paid no shipping for my drums (it should have been about $80).  I asked Mike, "When are we going to go through customs?"   He said, “We just did!”

The flight was ten hours.  Dennis had written nothing about the trip so he wrote on the plane for nine hours.  I saw two movies - “Defending your Life” and “Overboard."  I also saw Nightline at 10 AM, which was strange.  An Edwin M. Ridenour was the guest on Nightline.  He is the current head of the Parks Department under President Bush.  I talked about going back to Russia and got addresses of some of the Americans I met.  I did a short interview at the NY airport with a guy named Dennis.  Going through customs was a piece of cake.  I gave a sky cap $60 to carry my luggage.  I called Dottie.  It was so good to be back in the US.

We left NY and flew back to Dallas.  Our families had a wonderful reception for us at DFW Airport.  When I got home, yellow ribbons were tied around the oak tree in the front yard.

I lost 15 pounds.

A few weeks and a few years after our trip:

I really missed Whataburgers with cheese and jalapeno, 7-11 Big Gulp Cokes, and French fries.  I gained all of my weight back and more in a week.

It seemed as if Christianity had taken a backseat in America and New Age Thought was now permeating everywhere in our society, especially in the workplace. 

Mark and I did an interview with Christian radio station KCBI in Dallas.

The Iron Curtain fell less than three months after we got home.  Kazakhstan became an independent nation.  Alma-Ata changed its name to Almaty.

We had dinner at Paige Patterson’s house.  Paige told us that he always felt that Christianity and rock-n-roll music were an oxymoron.  Because he saw what we did and what Armour told him about us, we changed his mind. He said he often talks about Sound Theology in his seminars.

Igor and Lada came to NY in Christmas of 1991.  Mark, his family, Dottie, and I went to see them.  Igor and Lada never went back to Kazakhstan.  A' Studio was now without a drummer.

I made many phone calls to Kazakhstan and it was not unusual to have a $400 phone bill.  I also mailed over 60 packages containing Bibles, books, and other gifts. All packages were received without any problems.

A' Studio came to America in 1992 along with Vica for the American/Kazakh Festival.  Mark, Dottie, and I flew to NY to pick up A' Studio. We gave them a tour of D.C. and Nashville before arriving in Dallas via a van.  Baglan cracked everyone up when he didn't say a word of English the entire trip from New York to Dallas and then right before we got to Texas, in perfect English he said, "Bridge may ice in cold weather."  We did some concerts in Dallas with them.  A' Studio became Honorary Citizens of Dallas.  ST and A' Studio did an interview with secular radio station KVIL in Dallas.  Sergei, the sound engineer for A' Studio, stayed behind and lived in my home for 20 months.

A' Studio

Sound Theology went their separate ways at the end of September in 1992.

I became a member and drummer at Lake Pointe Baptist Church in Rockwall, TX, in October of 1992.

A' Studio came back to America in 1993 for some concerts in Little Rock, AR.  Several of us including Sergei went to see them.  Sergei ran sound for them.  A' Studio had moved to Moscow and are now very rich and even more popular.

A' Studio, Lezat, and Sergei in D.C.

Igor and Lada divorced a few years later.

Arbot Street in Moscow only takes US dollars now.

Konstantine came to Memphis to give his testimony at a church and Dottie and I went to see him.  He had become a Christian two months after we left Russia.  He said that God took him from his high social standing as a KGB agent and a college English professor to a second grade teacher to humble him.  He also spent some time in California getting a Bible degree.  Dottie and I also saw him there.  Konstantine loaded me up with tons of coins.  I also gave him a bunch of coins.

Dottie and I went to Paris in 1997 and had dinner one night with Dana.  She had moved from Almaty to Paris and worked for UNESCO.

A' Studio came to Miami and NY around 1998 but we could not go see them.  Sergei did go and ran sound for them.

Janna also came to America, became married, and never went back. 

Almost everyone we had met in Kazakhstan became Christians and many of them are now living in the US.  Janet went to Shorter College in Rome, GA.  She became married and now lives near Atlanta, GA.

I was at DFW airport the night Katherine Harris certified George W. Bush the winner of Florida.  I was watching it on the airport TV and noticed that Paige Patterson was sitting next to me.  I had not seen him since the dinner at his home.  Paige had just finished his term as President of the Southern Baptist Convention and was back as President of Southeastern Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.  He said, “Paul, Sound Theology did more for Kazakhstan than all of those preachers!”

A' Studio came to America in March of 2001 for concerts in LA, Miami, and New York.  Sergei was the only one who could go see them.  Batyr left A' Studio to pursue a solo singing career.  Their new singer is a female.

Sergei went from delivering pizza to a wireless telecommunications technician for Nortel.  He is still waiting to become a citizen.


A'Studio has had a couple of female singers and they continue to win awards for best song and videos in Russia.

A' Studio's webpage - http://www.astudio.ru/

August 2006 - Baglan killed in a car accident in Moscow - http://www.caspionet.kz/index.cfm?id=17724 and http://zhizn.ru/article/culture/2617/

April 28, 2015 - Bayter passed away from a heart attack at age 52.  Thousands mourn his death.