From Russia, With Love
I was privileged, recently, to travel and lecture with a team of physicians, nutritionists and residents at medical universities in Russia. These were amazing collaborative ventures designed to strengthen Russian family medicine. I met so many people wonderful doctors, students and residents. It was a truly new and valuable experience.
However, the highlight of my week, as a missionary doctor myself, was being invited to assist in a clinic, staffed by Agape, inside of a homeless shelter.
The patients we treated were mostly men, with leg and foot wounds from frostbite. Some were complicated by alcoholism and/or depression; Russian winters are unforgiving if you fall asleep in the street.
One woman arrived as we were leaving; we opened up again for her. She adamantly refused prayer (which is her right) but received refills of her medication, a listening ear, friendship, humor and compassion. I did not know she had refused prayer and asked her, as we giggled together about a sarcastic remark, if she would like prayer. To everyone’s surprise, she agreed. It was a touching moment.
One disturbed young man refused to let me change his bandages. “No Americanski!” he shouted. In these moments, it is so good to know the Holy Spirit. I quietly stepped aside and let the Russian doctor care for him. And then I realized, I could imagine my uncles or cousins doing the same, if the tables were turned. Learning not to take offense is a valuable skill; I would have missed the opportunity with the last woman had I been in a funk.
After we finished clinic, the amazing guide Alexey drove me and my interpreter, Tatiana, to an apartment that Agape and a local church are using as a halfway house. It serves men recently discharged from hospital, who are open to the Gospel. These men, also, had injuries and wounds associated with alcoholism. We tended their wounds and changed their bandages.
Then we got the most amazing surprise; these men had made dinner for us!
We ate cabbage-stuffed rolls and grapes, with strong coffee, and talked about the Gospel.
It was strongly on my heart that God has forgiven these men, yet they still feel such shame and guilt. Their lives are so important to the Father.
I knew that, in Russia, one cannot preach without a license, and that my ministry license is only valid in America. So, following the prompting of the Spirit, I simply started a conversation. About Romans 8:1.
So now there isn’t any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
We began to discuss this, as Christians, together. These tough men had tears in their eyes.
Then they each told me their story. We received them, without any condemnation.
Even my Christian translator sensed the presence of God and asked for prayer!
It was truly a night to remember.
Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”
Here I was, half a world away from Texas, discussing Christian truths with men whose language I don’t speak, in a halfway house. And Jesus was there.
Maybe that’s why it was the most delicious cabbage roll I’ve ever tasted.
And I normally don’t even like cabbage!