We’re just over 24 hours away from wheels up to Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) in Moscow. All the planning, packing and preparation is (almost) behind us – all that’s left is the anticipation and excitement of what awaits us. It’s amazing to think that in just a few days, we will be on the other side of the world – yet we’ll still feel at home, surrounded by neighbors.
The journey we are taking certainly has a significant geographic aspect to it. For those who remember our last visit, the flight path looks the same: RDU to JFK to SVO.
We land in Moscow on Sunday morning (Russia time – about 2:00 a.m. Eastern time) and have a few hours to visit Red Square, the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral and a few Russian Orthodox churches. On Sunday evening, we board an overnight train from Moscow to Kirov, covering 14 hours of rural Russian countryside while we sleep. We arrive in Kirov on Monday morning, leaving time for breakfast and a little last-minute supply shopping before boarding our bus for the 60 min+ ride to Slobodskoy. We arrive at the hotel by late morning for a quick shower so that we can get to the orphanage in time for a late lunch. Total travel time = 40 hours. A long journey, for sure…but worth every minute of it.
But in addition to the geographical trek we are taking, there is a strong spiritual aspect to our journey as well. In preparation for our trip, the travel team has been reading “A Mile in My Shoes: Cultivating Compassion” by Trevor Hudson.
The book offers a wonderful reminder of what it takes to cultivate compassion – not only on a mission trip like this but in our daily lives as well. Hudson issues “a challenging charge to pay attention all around us and to engage in the spiritual disciplines that enable us to see, hear and respond to the living Christ in our midst.”
In the book, we have learned about and discussed the three essential ingredients of both an inward and outward pilgrimage: (1) Encounter – encountering both pain and hope in our shattered and fragmented societies, (2) Reflection – thinking about and learning from what is happening within and around us and (3) Transformation – becoming more Christlike in our response to others and in our daily lives.
There is a passage (and theme) in the book that beautifully outlines the spirit of this particular trip to Russia:
“…we [will] come as pilgrims, not as tourists; as learners, not as teachers;
as receivers, not as givers; as listeners, not as talkers.”
That is our prayer as we embark on this journey – that we will have the appropriate pilgrim attitude among us and that we will learn, receive and listen every step of the way.
Over the course of our trip, you will be hearing a number of different voices on this blog (we will do our best to identify specific folks when appropriate). You will hear…
- From those who are going to Russia for the first time so that you can feel their excitement and transformation
- From those who have been before as they reconnect with old friends and establish new relationships
- And maybe even from some of our Russian translators as they provide a unique perspective on the impact this trip is having on those who will stay behind long after we leave
We will do our best to document the trip in words, pictures and videos so that the entire Mission 1:27 community can share in the encounter, reflection and transformation of this journey.
So yes, I think we are ready to go “Back to the USSR” as the Beatles would say. What’s in store for us, only God knows. But bring it on!!