Jan. 6 – Christmas Eve
I wanted to believe that every day of our trip would be like our first day in Moscow – sunny and beautiful. All that was gone on Wednesday morning. It was windy and cold when we left our hotel. Sunrise was around 9 a.m. But on this day it never really shined.
In a way the weather served as a symbol of the issues facing Russia. Russia’s relationship with the United States, Britain and other western countries has always been strained, but recently the relationship has grown icy. The government is seeking for its own answers. They do not want westerners to interfere with their sovereignty. Alcoholism has reach epic proportions – so much so that the government recently doubled the minimum price of vodka in Russia. Also, new legislation has been proposed that would limit religious freedom (as far as I know, this legislation has yet to be made law). These are but a few of the challenges facing this vast country. And all the decisions about the future of Russia are being made here in this great and mysterious city.
Experiencing this city can be overwhelming. Between 11 and 15 million people call Moscow home. It is a bustling, busy city – both the governmental and financial center of Russia. People here seem very tense. It’s old too – over 850 years old.
Our first task for the day was to prayerwalk in central Moscow. Prayerwalking may seem like an odd thing to do. You simply walk around and observe your surroundings and pray for God’s will to be done. Our goal was to prayer walk around the Kremlin, Red Square and the Duma (Russian Parliament). The Kremlin is huge. To circle to this massive fortress is the equivalent of walking many city blocks – not too much of a challenge in perfect weather. But the weather was not perfect. It was around 10 degrees with brisk wind. Our prayerwalk was scheduled to last from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.
As we walked around the Kremlin, Pastor Andrei – the pastor of a new church that is only 50 days old – guided our prayers. We prayed for Moscow and the other cities of Russia. We prayed for the military – that God would raise up men and women there who were bold witnesses. We prayed for the president and prime minister. We prayed that God would give the leaders wisdom. We prayed that the light of the gospel would shine bright in Moscow and all of Russia.
At this once-feared fortress we prayed the God would move in a mighty way. It was an awesome experience. As someone who remembers the dark days of the Cold War, it is hard for me to believe that I was standing next the Kremlin. I even touched the walls as I prayed for the Russian people in love. I walked through Red Square where Soviet tanks and missiles used to be paraded in front of the world as a show of strength. Now we can walk there freely and pray in the name of Christ.
About half way around the Kremlin, my toes and face were aching from the cold. I thought I knew what it was like to be cold before I came on this trip … I was wrong. Pastor Andrei often stopped to help us adjust our caps and our scarves. He was very concerned about our warmth.
The site of St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square was breath-taking. No photograph can do justice to the shape, color and texture of this building. At the other end of Red Square, we could see Lenin’s Tomb.
We warmed ourselves at the GUM – a large mall on Red Square. In Soviet days, the GUM was the state-run story. Now the mall is filled with stores like Nike, Reebok, and other western retailers. Soon we were back in the cold walking to the Duma building several blocks away. After of a time of prayer near the Duma we walk to the Bolshoi Theater and prayed again. The prayerwalk concluded around 2:30 p.m.
For some it would seem like a wasted day, but not for me. This may go down as our most significant work during this mission trip. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that God will bless our prayers in this land.
Russians must eat lunch at 3 p.m., because that seems to be our scheduled time for lunch. We rode the Metro to the Southwest part of Moscow with Andrei and others from Dedication Church. We ate at a mall. I had a rice dish and shashlek, basically skewered roasted meat. Then we were off to Dedication Church for fellowship and tea.
Dedication meets in what’s known as the Christian Center. The building is owned by several Evangelical Christian groups and meeting space is rented to churches like Dedication. We also meet members of a Nigeria church meeting in a room near the one where we met.
The time with Dedication Church was a true blessing. We sang together, prayed together and together we dreamed about the future of this young church. Each person, American and Russian, shared briefly about themselves and their ministry through the local church. After sharing, Pastor Andrei asked each person to share a prayer request.
I will always remember the smiles and love of these Russian believers. Though I speak little Russian and they spoke little English, the love of Christ made words unnecessary – we are brothers and sisters in Christ. And their light is shining bright in a difficult place. I pray that God would use these loving believers in might way.
We stopped at a café on the way to our hotel and I was able to get a bowl of borsch (beetroot soup). It was quite tasty.