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