Suzdal, Russia

I came across the journal while organizing my office and there it was my mission trip to Russia – 2003. Wow the images came flooding back even before I sat down to re-read my words. Funny how powerful the impression is and how vividly your mind recalls, when you have been impacted by something amazing as a 6,000 mile trip across the ocean. And I paused. 2003? Eleven years? And yet I not only remembered, but I visualized faces, recreated the smells, the voices and the sounds.  It’s incredible how our Creator has fashioned the brain; pretty amazing because sometimes I forget the simplest things.

It was June 14th, a Saturday. Our group had said goodbye the night before to our friends in Ivanovo and we were headed to Ryazan, but first there was this stop at Suzdal. These were my sketchy words:

Suzdal 1Wooden museum, wooden church, early homes. One of the few areas untouched by wars, so buildings remain. The monastery, the bell ringer. We get to climb the bell tower (Karen explains why this is a rarity. He does not let just anyone enter, but he remembers Karen from last year’s trip, and so our entire group gets to proceed). Tiny, narrow brick steps that wind darkly, upward until you’re at the top. There is a light rain. The man and two young helpers play the bells by pulling on the ropes with their hands or feet. What an incredible sound! He tells us the bells 20 to 30 in number, have come from churches in many regions, mostly 19th century, but some are 16th century bells that are now together in one place making music [Note here: sadly all of the churches are gone, but the bells remain].Suzdal 2

It strikes me that it is similar to what God does. He brings us from many different places, countries; people in all shapes and sizes for one purpose to make a melody; to sing praises; to spread God’s love of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us.

The bell ringer has been doing this for 20 years. He learned by practicing. “It takes skill”, he says (through Anya our translator) “to make the right sound. You have to know where to strike the bell to produce a good tone that lasts, and resonates. It’s not enough to make noise. We need to create a lasting sound.” He ends with a smile.

1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

How much of my life and witness has been a noisy gong? A clanging cymbal? In my feeble effort to tell someone of Jesus’s love in my life, how much is a hurried or incomplete explanation? Do I take the time to be compassionate; take the time to listen; to hold the hand; to simply hug; to simply sit and share the silence when someone needs only that? The bell ringer’s words repeat in my mind and in my heart “we need to create a lasting sound”. That sharing of love, that lasting sound can only be done when I commit my heart to the Holy Spirit asking Him to quiet my tongue and truly listen with my heart and take His leading. Then perhaps my voice and my life and my encouragement will be a tone that lasts and resonates not with me, but with my Father’s love.

Blessings as you praise, share and create music in this life. Doneta

Suzdal 3


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