Friday, April 22, 2011


Hammer and sickle, the symbols of the (former) communist party in Russia. Heather and I walked over the bridge carrying this symbol to visit the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The original church was destroyed on Stalin's orders in 1931 to become the site for a monument to socialism known as the Palace of the Soviets. Lack of funds, flooding from the nearby Moskva River, and the outbreak of World War II got in the way of its construction. The Russian Orthodox Church received permission in the 1990s to rebuild the cathedral. It seemed that everywhere we went in Moscow we encountered vestiges of communism such as this symbol on a bridge and Russian Orthodox churches dotting the skyline of the city. Atheism and faith stand side by side in what is now one of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live.

The Russian people seem indifferent to human conversation or interaction with strangers. Perhaps this is a carryover from years of mistrust of one's neighbor due to communism and the danger of letting one's true thoughts be known. I vividly recall riding the metro (subway) one evening packed with rush hour commuters standing and sitting shoulder to shoulder. No one talked, not just on this ride but on every experience we had riding the metro. I've ridden the metro in Paris, not known for its friendly people, but never observed anything like I did in Moscow. We were told, though, that once you make a Russian friend, everything changes. They are open, transparent, and faithful in ways friends are not here in the West.

It was an honor to speak to a group of international workers with the Alliance. They came from five different cities scattered across Russia and Ukraine. Living so far from home they were family to one another and enjoyed each other's presence. Some carried a long history together. The culture, language, weather, expense, and unresponsiveness of the Russian people are trying. Discouragement comes easy. Barriers to faith require commitment, perseverance, and a reliance upon a strong sense of God's calling. I felt humbled to speak to them, often feeling like they had more to teach me about loving and serving Christ than I had to teach them.

Now that I am home the most and best I can do for them is pray for them - marriages that need renewal, children who need healing, backs that need strengthening, headaches that need to go away, problems that need wisdom, and situations that need new vision. People who just a month ago were only names and faces on a website today are people who I carry in my heart in prayer for God's grace to strengthen them in Christ Jesus.

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