Ben and I were the last to arrive in Moscow. After going through a thorough customs check at the airport we met up with Fr. Michael and the rest of the team. They had been waiting for a couple of hours in the airport and it was getting late. The seven of us crammed into a taxi with all our luggage on top of us and we headed for the Catholic Cathedral where we would be staying for the next four days. The Cathedral is very beautiful, and they have lodging right next to it for travelers, similar to a hostel. By the time we were in bed it was 3 AM and we would be getting up in a few hours to meet the sisters of Mother Teresa. These few hours in Russia all felt very surreal to me - hearing Russian all around me, looking at signs along the road in the Cyrillic alphabet (which still looks like a very strange to me), buzzing through crazy Moscow traffic late at night. Just having Fr. Michael lead us around Moscow was really hitting me. He is a man who I have really respected and admired from a distance for answering God’s call to go to Russia over 20 years ago. He has a love for Russia, and it has truly become his home. I went to sleep that night wondering what the next two months would bring and how might this country become my own home.
Fr. Michael celebrated Mass with the sisters early in the morning. The witness of these sisters amazes me. The Missionaries of Charity show great love and respect for the dignity of all the people they meet. We felt it first hand with their hospitality to us. They gave us a good breakfast and chatted with us after mass each morning. We saw both homes that they have in Moscow, one is for disabled children and the other is for men who struggle with alcoholism. I was touched at seeing how much they care for those that they serve, and later we found out from Fr. Michael that they have had to fight very hard to open these homes and keep them.
We visited another beautiful community called the Family of Mary. We had a holy hour and Mass with them and afterwards they served us dinner. Again I was very touched by the hospitality that we received. As we ate, we talked more about our mission in Magadan and the state of Russia right now. This night we had an unexpected encounter that only God have brought about. We gained another missionary! A friend of the sisters, Katya, joined us. Fr. Michael who had a sense that God wanted another person to join us this summer in Magadan immediately asked if she would want to come. Amazingly it all worked out and we now have a seventh member with us in Magadan! She had been such a blessing to our team, and I couldn't imagine being on mission without her.
I am very grateful for the time we got to speak with all the people we met in Moscow because we gained a new perspective of the culture in Russia. I saw the state of poverty and the effects of a very wounded past in Russia. The poverty here is extreme, and people are really suffering. It really struck me in seeing how much people struggle with alcoholism. Many lives are ruined by this addiction, and many more lives are hurt because someone they love is trapped in a cycle of relapses. In a country that lost God for over 60 years, I see that there is a lot of hurt. People have lost their sense of dignity, of having value, and of being loved. Despite this I see a place for hope. There is a resilience from the hardships that Russia has faced. I am amazed at how strong Russians are. They do not back down and they keep fighting. I am very encouraged to have met just a few of those in Russia who are fighting to bring God back to this country. I see a lot of hope for Russia from meeting the sisters, Fr. Michael, and Katya and I know that God has great plans for this country’s future.
In the peace of Christ,
Joshua and the mission team
"For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope." - Jeremiah 29:11