Greetings from Berlin! I just got back from Moscow, which is an amazing city. It was everything I had heard, and nothing I could ever have imagined. Our hosts were very kind and welcoming, grateful to have people coming to pray for their city and country. They love and hate Moscow, tending to see themselves through a very ugly and distorted mirror, no doubt a legacy of Communist rule there. I think this is probably why it was important for us, as outsiders from across Europe (and the US!) to come pray for and with them.
The pace of life in Moscow is astonishingly fast. New York City is slow by comparison! Moscow is the 5th largest city in the world, with a population of more than 11.8 million—far ahead of New York, at number 19. And it covers 969.5 square miles. The Moscow Metro has 12 lines and 172 stations, serving more than 7 million passengers a day. The metro trains travel at breakneck speed, and the distance between stations outside the city center is easily double that of the metro stations in New York or Milan. The Muscovites walk much faster than any group of people I have ever encountered. Normally I have no trouble keeping up, and often have to moderate my speed to match that of my companions, but not in Moscow. This led to difficulties in the crush of people in the metro stations, where often people stepped between me and my guide. He finally grabbed my bag, apparently believing it to blame for my inability to keep up. Later he commented on how little I had brought with me.
Our first day there, October 22, was warm at 15 degrees Celsius (59 Fahrenheit). The next day it dropped to 0 (32 F). And there were snow flurries in the air throughout the day, but nothing on the ground. Happily, I had come prepared for cold weather.
My hosts, Pasha and Lena, live on the outskirts of the city in a high-rise. Near their building is a very modern looking glass building with many windows broken out. Pasha told me that it had been built in 1990 as an office complex, but it was not built to code, and so it was never opened. Perhaps the builders had hoped to bribe somebody into signing off on it, and lacked an amount sufficient to buy off the official. That’s all my own speculation, however. So the building has sat for over 20 years as a hulking eyesore to the neighborhood. Despite the protective fencing, gangs of teens have entered and climbed up in it, using it as a place to party. It staggers the imagination to think of the dangers that must exist inside: open elevator shafts and crumbling stairs without banisters, for example. And if you add alcohol and drugs you can get a very deadly combination indeed. Pasha says that they have never demolished it because of lack of funds to do so, even though it sits on prime real estate near a metro station in a nice part of town. It is all sadly typical of Eastern Europe.
And yet, all this contrasted with the grandeur of Red Square and the many beautiful cathedrals in the city. Clearly Russians have an eye for beauty, be in architecture, such as St. Basil’s Cathedral and the many lavishly ornamented metro stations, or in arts like the nesting dolls or Faberge eggs, or in performing arts like the Bolshoi Ballet. It is as if the Communists tried to tell the Russian people that they don’t need beauty. Perhaps that a factor in the fall of Communism: you can’t take beauty away from the people.
I love you, Russia! I hope to return someday! But in the meanwhile, never forget that God is good, and that He loves you!