It’s 2:50am on Sunday morning and sleep is fleeting. The steady beat of the train tracks drums up through the sleeper car. Some families by themselves in a berth with two sets of bunk beds, some sharing berths and the few travelers on their own have become part of someone’s family. After a few hours sleep on the plane to Moscow it’s nice to sleep horizontally. We have a spare bed in our berth so there’s a lot of extra luggage piled on it. Our oldest daughter is off at college and could not join us this year, but we all wish she was here. But it feels like she’s with us, she was with us on the Spring 2010 trip to Slobodskoy, and I feel her prayers for us right now. We prayed as a family before this trip that our bonds would grow stronger. They have. And the other families, some also missing a family member or two on this journey, also grow their bonds tighter.
This is a strange place for us, with a difficult language and a culture we barely understand but appreciate more each day. Every moment is another lesson. We stand out in shocking contract to the rest of the citizens. We look different, there are a lot of us and I’m sure we appear vulnerable. Moscow is a large city and has its dangers, just like our large cities in America. We met three old friends yesterday when we arrived at the airport, another bond that we felt tighten as soon as we felt their warm embraces and stern instructions. We must be like a large litter of puppies to them, sticking tightly together for safety and comfort, playful but serious, thinking we know better but don’t, and growing more each day. I hope at least we’re cute.
A year had dulled my appreciation for Katya, Sveta, little Sveta, and Masha. I now remember how much we all love them for their leadership, knowledge, wisdom, safety, and supervision. We are like children and the odds certainly would not be in our favor without them. But they care very much about us, and for what we are doing and what we represent. Their job is to get us safely from Moscow to Slobodskoy, and they do it with love. Sveta will stay with us in Slobodskoy and be the lead interpreters, the rest will meet us upon our return to Moscow.
Our transformation is beginning. I forgot how strong each of these travelers can be and am proud of the new travelers with us. We have to watch each other’s backs, watch our luggage and supplies for the orphanage, motivate each other, provide entertainment, provide comfort, plan and re-plan the days ahead. I forgot how much I love all of them. It’s not about getting ahead now – it’s about leveling the playing field. We’re tired, a little scared, worried about the unknown, not as prepared as we thought, and unpleasant surprises happen every day. Tours of Red Square, churches, downtown, a 200-ton bell and a 40-ton cannon – both of which never used. There’s a lesson in there for us. We’re on edge. It’s happening just like it’s supposed to happen and we’re almost ready for the next step.
In four hours we pull into the Kirov train station and will be overwhelmed with joy as our numbers increase, maybe Misha and Masha the disciplers will be there to greet us, maybe some of the interpreters. The bonds will grow tighter, old friends and much loved, all one family and careening toward the orphanage, all with similar and different feelings in our hearts but very much the sum of one.
It will be a special breakfast together and one that we’ll need to prepare for our arrival at the orphanage later today. Sharing a meal, heartfelt, the anticipation of what is to come for this big and growing family, maybe grilled chicken and fries for breakfast. It was good last spring and we still talk about it as a highlight. Then more familiar faces, how many lives will be touched, and then a small hotel that we will almost completely fill and where we will sleep for a week. But it will not be our home … that comes next.
5 thoughts on “Late Night Train Thoughts – by Robert N.”
Two verses come to mind as I read this sweet blog entry:
The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
I feel like one of those missing family members. I want so much to be there with you today, to share the gifts of joy you are giving and receiving. I am praying that God will work mightily through and on each of you travelers and each of the children, interpreters and staff you touch this week.
I am indeed praying without ceasing. I am filled with joy at the thought of you all seeing the children again. I am filled with peace because I know with great faith that the Lord is leading every single step and is walking with you in that beautiful, foreign place.
In Thessalonians, Paul cries out a desire to visit the Thessalonians again, and it gave me encouragement and peace as I realized it relates so obviously to our journey last year and your journey this year to Russia:
“As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a sort time, we were made orphans by being separated from you–in person, not in heart–we longed with greate eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you–certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again–but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy! Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we dcided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for.” Thessalonians 2:17-3:3
I hope that you find encouragement in reading this and knowing that your are all being supported fully by our wonderful maker, through His grace, His work, and through constant prayer.
I pray that you all find yourselves sent out, to proclaim the love of Christ, and the unbelievable grace of our God, through your actions, thoughts, and words!
I love you all very much! I am so blessed to be a part of this, though I am currently halfway across the world!
Peace be with you, my sisters and brothers, of Jesus Christ.
With the time change, I know you are now thee and might have even arrived at the orphanage. I can’t wait to hear the details!! I know it will be great.
If Craig is reading this, please let him know that the phone number for the travel phone is saying “the number is not available at the moment, please try again later”. Please have Koss email me the number. Thanks!
Robert, my best wishes to you and the entire group for a safe and wonderful adventure.