The further we get into this summer, the more we realize that this mission not really a mission. We are not the strong lifting up the weak. We are people who have come home. This world is like a house that we are living in until we get to our ultimate home of heaven. Each new place, new country, city, village, is a new room that we didn't know existed. Each person we meet is another member of our family that our hearts have been longing see. When we meet them, our hearts burn within us for love of them. We are not on mission. We are on a search to find more of our family here on earth and the Lord has called us to Magadan to find them.
Each of us has been surprised at how much we are growing to love Magadan and the people here. Coming to Russia started as an act of obedience and has become a deeply rooted love for Magadan. The love we have for the people here has left us speechless. Everyday we ask each other,“How do we love them so much?”We have realized that it is because the Lord is using us as His instruments that we are experiencing His love for them. As He fills us with His love to outpour into the hearts of those we meet, we are seeing them through the loving eyes of our Lord. We love them so much because we are experiencing the love the Lord has for them. It is like we have known each person our entire lives, but this is again a glimpse into the eternal love of God and the fact that He has loved each person we encounter since the beginning of time. We are experiencing the life-giving love of God within us.
As we prepared to leave for this summer, and in our first days here in Magadan, we could not comprehend why the Lord brought us here to Eastern Siberia. Now, seeing that the Lord has been telling us from the beginning, we realize that it is because of people, His people. He wanted us to meet more of our brothers and sisters, to fall in love with them and experience a sliver of the unfathomable Love that He has for them. The Lord has blessed us with the chance to love and be loved by everyone we have met here in Magadan. Our hearts already break at the thought of leaving, but we don't allow ourselves to think about that. We realize the need to be present and to soak up every moment we have here. Please pray that our time and efforts here may be multiplied in our Lord's generous hands. Pray that the Lord's Will may be perfectly accomplished in each of us. You continue to be in our prayers everyday, God Bess.
Love your sisters in Christ,
Katia, Teresa, and Anya
While in Magadan, the Lord continues to call each of us out of our comfort zones. Two weeks ago it started off with being told that we would be in a play with the kids from the VBS (Vacation Bible School), which we were hesitant to agree to. The play ended up being fun for us and especially for the kids as we reenacted the Good Samaritan. The boys particularly enjoyed pretending to beat up and rob Hannah, the“rich man”in the play. That same week we realized that all kids, but especially those here in Magadan, simply need to be loved. They just wanted to be near us, to be loved by us, hugged by us, to be acknowledged. Many kids do not receive this attention and love from home. As they started to act out and get frustrated towards the end of the week, Father Michael reminded us that it was because they did not want VBS to end. As we would be tempted to get impatient with the kids we were reminded that the Lord brought us here to love them. It was truly humbling to be His instruments as we might have been one of the only loving interactions they had each day.
After Sunday Mass two weeks ago, we had a picnic and bonfire at Fr. Michael's dacha, which is a small house where he goes for Poustinia (a Russia practice of prayer). We spent the day with some parishioners and made lunch over the fire, played some volleyball and a Russian version of dodge-ball (which was very intimidating and painful at times), and sang some songs around the bonfire. It was such a joy to spend time with some of the parishioners and grow closer to them in friendship. We are constantly amazed at the how welcoming, loving, and passionate they are. Their love for the Lord is so beautiful and humbling. As they sang praise and worship songs around the bonfire, although we didn't know what all the words meant, we could see their passion and love for the Lord radiating from their song. We are incredibly blessed to have such models of faith surrounding us and have already learned so much from them.
Please pray that we may be faithful to the Lord as He pulls us out of our comfort zones throughout the rest of the summer and that we may continually turn to Him as our source of strength and love so that we may love the people of Magadan. Be assured of our daily prayers for you and God Bless.
Your Russian Mission Team
In our short stay in Moscow, we stayed at the Catholic Cathedral in Moscow (only one of two catholic churches in Moscow!) called the Immaculate Conception. Our time in Moscow was good for seeing the Russian culture for ourselves. We received many strange looks as we traveled through the metro. The stereotype of Russian people having a serious look on their faces is true (although not because they are mad), and it became a game for us to look at the people we passed, smile, and see their reactions.
During our day in Moscow we were able to see the famous St. Basil’s cathedral, which was absolutely beautiful. While we were walking away from St. Basil’s, we heard a sassy voice form behind us say, “Oh great, come the Americans”. We were a little embarrassed and worried until we turned around and saw that it was Fr. Ron! (A priest we know from the Franciscan study-abroad program in Gaming, Austria). The Lord was once again so generous with placing wonderful people in our path during this trip. We were also able to see one of the major Orthodox cathedral churches before we headed out for Magadan.
Life has been very surreal since we left for our eight-hour flight to Magadan (which is also an eight-hour time difference from Moscow). The community here in Magadan is so welcoming and generous, it already feels like home for us. One thing we had not realized coming into this trip is how much we would be thrown into the Russian language. We have already learned a lot and have fun learning from everyone here, especially the kids. Almost no one speaks enough English to carry on a conversation, yet we talk with hours with people using the little Russian we know, along with many gestures and hand motions. We have gotten close to the sisters here- Sr. Katia, Sr. Barbara, and Sr. Mariana- and have had many meals with them that end up lasting for multiple hours as we talk and get to know them. We have been able to go to Mass everyday and often have Mass and then breakfast in the sisters’ apartment. They are an amazing example of the joy of Christ and we have to pull ourselves away every time we leave their apartment.
The kids here have also been such a source of joy and a great reminder of child-like faith for us. We have been able to get to know and play games with the kids, and today we began our vacation bible school/English lessons with them. Like everyone we have met here at the church of the Nativity in Magadan, the children are so open and ready to love us unreservedly. We have only known them for a couple of days but they have already shared so much of their hearts with us. More than anything these children desire to love and to be loved. It is so simple and so beautiful. That is what we are all called to do everyday and is what we think the reason the Lord has called the three of us to Magadan this summer- to love and to be loved.
We also had a new insight to why we were called to Magadan through a conversation with Sr. Katia. At brunch with the sisters the other day, Sr. Katia told us the story of how she came to Magadan. Another one sister had asked Sr. Katia if she could speak with her and Sr. Katia replied, “I will help you with whatever you want.” It was then that Sr. Katia heard the Lord speak to her and tell her to go to Magadan when her sister replied, “I do not want what you can do, I want you.” This beautiful story has been a great explanation of why the Lord has called us to Magadan. He has not called us because of what we can do, because there are plenty of people that could do things better than us here, but the Lord has asked each of us to be here because He wanted us here. This is also a reminder for everyone of how the Lord loves each of us and calls each of us to do His will. He loves us not for what we can do, but for who we are. He calls us to do His will not because of what we can do but because of who we are. The Lord’s will for our lives is our sanctification (), and He will make that possible through whatever He circumstances and opportunities He places in our lives- no matter how ordinary they may seem.
And so we leave you with this post, asking for your prayers that we may grow in holiness and submission to the Lord’s will, and this will be our prayer for you as well. Our posts will be less frequent because of the limited internet here, but we hope to post at least once a week. You should also know that we have also changed our names since coming to Magadan (both because it makes it easier for people to say our names here and because it’s just fun). We are now known as Theresa (okay, Theresa is just said with a Russian accent), Katia, and Anja. Be assured of our prayers, and God Bless.
Your Russian Mission Team
Our last days in Gaming were again, incredibly blessed. Other than being sore from playing soccer with the Kartause kids almost everyday for hours on end, so many people stepped in to prepare us and share their experiences and wisdom with us these past few days.
Our new dear Russian friend, Ksenia, took the time to teach us about Russian culture and doing mission work in Russia. Her passion and love for Russia opened our eyes even more to the beauty of Russia and tilled the soil of our hearts to fall more in love with Russia. She called us on to be selfless and to truly love during this mission.
We were also blessed by time spent with Mrs. Wolter and Bobette Huzovich, who shared their homes, wisdom, and tea with us. Mrs. Wolter was such and example of joy for us and she reminded us that the Lord's plan is always better than our own and that His sense of humor usually was a part of that plan. Bobette shared her own missionary experience in Russia with us. She was not only an example of a true missionary heart, but of an authentic feminine heart.
Our time in Gaming was truly a blessing and gave us a chance to be filled with graces and knowledge before this mission. We have been especially blessed by help from Jenny Healy and Megan Schofield as they prepared us for mission. We are so grateful for their support and the support and prayers of the Gaming community. Please pray that we may continue to turn to the Lord throughout this summer as our source of strength. You continue to be in our prayers as well.
Your Russia Mission Team