Today a little boy from the slums of Magadan was baptized. His name is Roostam. The missionaries and the parish have been working with him and his family for the past two years.
Today you got baptized and I am so darn excited for you. You traded your usual overalls and sweater for a little white gown and the cutest bonnet I’ve ever seen. I teared up when I saw you for the first time. You were more handsome then I could have ever imagined.
You sat patiently through the first part of the Mass. You’re nearly two now, so you didn’t even fall asleep and you sat all by yourself. You’re such a big boy now. Your godparents sat on either side of you. Your godfather is a hulking Russian ex-con whose heart has been softened by a year’s worth of your little smiles. Your godmother is a beautiful and dignified Moscow native who has felt the call to serve in the far-removed city you call home. Your Aunt Nadia (she’s only ten years old, so you settle for calling her “Na-Da” instead of “Aunt”) sat nearby. Over the last year, you’ve softened Nadia’s heart so much. You changed her from a little girl who was so scared to be a girl, who was so afraid to be seen as weak, into a young woman who knows that there is a real strength in being soft, in being open to love.
Your family and godparents rose together to ask Father Michael for you to receive the sacrament of baptism. Your family is Orthodox. Your godparents are Catholic. You, a toddler who loves sippy cups and cookies, have done what hundreds of years worth of bishops and Church officials couldn’t do. You were the reason that today, Orthodox and Catholic worshipped together and celebrated the baptism we share in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
But you’ve done more than that, Roo. You are the reason that we have kids to teach from Monday to Wednesday every week. The kids we teach are all from Machukan, the slum where you live. Two years ago, Father Michael came on a home visit to meet you and to provide your family with coal for the Magadan winter. Two years ago, you and Nadia came to kids club to say thank you. You brought the kids of Machukan with you and they’ve been coming ever since.
Your baptism in itself was a point of conversion and witness for many. Today, many parishioners who had been absent from Church for a long time came by because they learned a little boy was going to be baptized. Some of them approached Father Michael afterwards, asking that there own children might be baptized too. You brought people back. You brought people home.
Every missionary dreams of watching those they’ve ministered to entering the Church. A baptism is such a clear indication of a mission’s fruit. But today I realized that I’m not the missionary here, you are.
I read somewhere once that kids make the best missionaries. Roo, that statement holds so true with you. You have brought so many people closer to Christ simply by being alive. Your little smile has demolished the hardest hearts. You’ve brought so many people in off the streets and right into a place where they could encounter the love of Christ. When you walked into the Church today, people followed. I pray this will continue for the rest of your life. I pray that your faith may be strengthened. I pray that you may grow in virtue. I pray that at the end of all this I’ll see you in heaven. I love you so much, my little brother in Christ.