The Lord continues to guide us along this mission and bless us beyond all expectations through the people we encounter who, whether they share our faith or not, have been the faces of Christ to us. At the beginning of our third week Theresa, Katalyn, and Hannah went with Fr. Michael and Sr. Katia to visit Babushka Evegenia and to bring her the Eucharist. Evegenia is a 92-year-old, four and a half foot tall grandma that survived the gulags as a young woman. She has lost most of her eyesight, can barely hear, and is an absolute fireball. There is no doubt who is in charge of the kitchen and who gives the orders. She is an incredible servant, and although she struggled to stand herself, she refused to sit down and gave everyone else a chair. At one point she was telling us about her life and began to cry. A split second later she turns to us and says, “Girls, why aren't you eating our cookies? Why aren't you drinking your tea? Girls, please eat!”. This would occur every five minutes or so and we would obediently fill our faces with the cookies and chocolate placed before us. It was a visit filled with almost non-stop laughter. This woman was such an example of selflessness, servitude, and of bearing suffering for Christ with joy. It was an incredible blessing to be in her presence and meet such a holy woman.
These past third and fourth weeks have also shown us the Lord's cleverness in bringing people together and building loving friendships. One night while walking to our friend Nastia's apartment, we were followed by a group of teenage boys because they heard us speaking english. This is not out of the ordinary, so we did not think too much of it. However, an hour or so later these same boys knocked on Nastia's door and inquired about “the Americans”. We then invited them to our English club not knowing if we would see them again. Incredibly, they have not only come to our English club but have come to Mass multiple times and to a night of Taize prayer. They have particularly become fond of “the Joes” and look to them as role models. It is beautiful to see these young Russian men look up to and learn authentic manhood from Joe Hahn and Joe Rooney.
Whether it is with the kids, our young adult friends, or these teenage boys, we simply spend quality time together and have wholesome fun. We play cards, teach each other dances, go bowling, talk with each other and share our lives. One Friday night we had a “game night” where we cooked American food (burgers, pizza, mac & cheese, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies), and played foosball, ping-pong, and cards among other games. Again, it was simply good to be in each other's presence and to share our time, our lives and our hearts with each other. The people that we have met here are truly one-of-a-kind and some of the most loving, selfless people we've met. For Joe Hahn's birthday, our young adult friends put together a party for him after only knowing him for two weeks. Paired with the fact that in Russia it is the birthday person's job to put together their own party, it was a great act of love from our friends. We have found the brothers and sisters we had longed to serve through these beautiful friendships.
As we continue our mission, please keep us and the souls of those we meet in your prayers. Pray for our own boldness in proclaiming Christ and for others' openness in receiving Christ. God Bless you.
Your Russian Mission Team, 2015