Even as early as March when I came here in advance of our big move to scope things out, I began asking God as I would walk around to break my heart for the people and give me His perspective and passion for seeing people – and the whole city- transformed by His love and grace. The only real emotional time I had then was at the very beginning, when I stood in line at passport control, knowing that the next time I did so would be with my whole family in tow. Powerful.
But not the same thing. So I keep praying. The other day I got a glimpse of what God wants to show me. Walking from the metro station to the boys’ apartment at the Harbor to teach English, I passed a set of dumpsters where an older lady was digging through for whatever she could find. As I passed, I noticed that she had found two unbroken eggs. Within 20 paces, it was as though God said, “not so fast there. Don’t you have something in your bag to give her?” I had just bought a few things, but I was looking forward to enjoying them, so I argued a bit with God before deciding that I better just be obedient rather than face God having done nothing.
She was so busy she didn’t even notice me approach, but I asked her if things were tough. Her face lit up as she spun around with the most radiant smile as she began to speak. “I wonder if the “oligarchs” could make it on 3000 roubles a month” (about $120). I had just read an article about how many retired individuals get exactly that each month, so I was already primed to appreciate her situation a little bit. “I’m just doing what I have to to to get by,” she explained, still smiling. Would she take some cottage cheese from me? “Well… I guess so. Thank you.” I asked if she couldn’t work, but she said at age 73 there is nothing for her to do, so she goes out in the daily, as does her husband, to collect what they can, including cans and bottles for recycling. Thinking about him is what broke her smile, and she began to weep quietly and return to her work. It seemed best not to keep pressing the conversation, so I merely asked for her name, explaining that I wanted to be able to pray for her. She turned back towards me and replied, “Galina… you know, I really do feel that God is watching over us and taking care of us,” she added, returning to her work, poking around with a metal prod to uncover the next morsel that He would provide.
With no more words to say, I quietly moved on, an uncontrollable sobbing welling up within me that gripped me until I got to the apartment.