Missionaries go to the Doctor’s too!

The planes were strafing!  The bombs were dropping! The people were dying!  The tanks were moving!  For this movie to be so realistic, it must have been produced in Hollywood, and imported into Russia.  It certainly was a quality film.  The narrator was able to capture the pictures in vivid, colorful language as if he was witnessing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

We had been in Russia for five weeks and had just finished our three weeks of teaching in Maykop.  We had returned to our apartment in Krasnodar, hoping to soon receive the shipment of books and clothing that we had brought to Russia, but was “hung-up” somewhere in Moscow.

While we were teaching in the College in Maykop, Lorretta had experienced a terrific infection in her gums and affecting her teeth. We had to find immediate medical help and our translators introduced us to Dr. Vitali Koshelev, a facial reconstruction surgeon.  He took wonderful care of Lorretta and was able to surgically remove the infected teeth and build a permanent bridge to replace the teeth he extracted.  We were informed through the “Russian Grapevine” that Dr. Koshelev had finished the construction of the teeth and was awaiting our return to Maykop to insert the new bridge.

We made the proper arrangements for bus transportation for the three-hour ride East to Maykop.  Upon our arrival, we learned that the work was not yet completed and we would have to wait for one more day.  Elijah took us to Sergei and Luda’s home where we had stayed during our teaching assignment in Maykop.  They were and are wonderful hosts with two, young beautiful children.

We arrived just before supper, and were escorted into the front room where our lodging was to be for the evening.  The family was watching the war movie as described in my opening paragraph.  We joined them in viewing the movie which proved to be very realistic.

“Oh Great! Russia’s in a civil war and we’re in Russia!”

We were working on the Russian vocabulary but that night, watching TV,  we were having a somewhat difficult time following the narration in the movie. Sergei knew some English and that was very helpful, so I was able by gesture, pointing and acting, to communicate a simple question and statement.  “What is the title of the war movie you are watching?  It is very realistic!”   Sergei understood my feeble attempt at communication and he was able to give me an answer.  He said in his Russian/English; “Problem! Not a movie!  Moscow!  Tonight’s news”.

Funny how words get mixed up when your language is shaky.  I thought he said “Problem!  Not a movie! Moscow!  Tonight’s news”.   To make sure that I had asked the right question and understood the answer, I used one of my new words in Russian “Sto?  (what?).  He spoke the same words again.

O Great!  Russia is in a civil war and we are in Russia!  There have been times when I have had warm, tingling feelings sweep over me such as when I observe Lorretta entering the room, hearing our children’s voices, or visiting with our grandchildren. However, watching “News from Moscow”, seeing death as it happened, observing buildings blown apart, hearing the blast of the canons from the tanks, and observing the fear on the face of our Russian host family, all warm feelings suddenly became the warmth of my body temperature climbing toward the red-line zone.  My tingling became shuddering and the stirring was the vibrating of my heart.  Suddenly I felt as if someone had placed speed bumps on Highway 5, heading north out of San Diego, California.

Boris Takes Over Russia

“What exactly do you mean, Sergei?”  As if I did not know what he meant!  He quietly replied that a revolution was taking place at that very moment in Moscow.  The President and the Vice-President were at war with each other.  The Russian White House was being bombarded and the leadership of the “rebels” was trapped inside.


Mr. Yeltsin was taking over the country and it looked as if the rebellion was going to come south, and all of Russia would become involved in a civil war.  Sergei expressed thanks to God that now the Bible College in Maykop would have a permanent teacher, because Lorretta and I would be guests in Russia forever.

We would not be able to return to Krasnodar, or be able to receive our boxes held by customs somewhere in Moscow. Our new permanent dwelling would be Maykop, Russia!

The reason for the war was that a deadlock occurred with the increasingly frustrated legislators.  They pushed the country to the verge of civil war. Some of Yeltsin’s opponents barricaded themselves in the Russian White House and others were moving to take control of Moscow’s television center. Yeltsin called in the tanks, and managed to shell his way out of the conflict. A parliamentary election was held and a new Constitution, concentrating power in the hands of the President, was approved in a referendum.

This picture of the White House is where the rebels had housed themselves. Mr. YeltsinRussian White House evidently had directed the tanks to fire at the building. Is this what took place in the Philippines when those islands were quickly over run by the forces of Japan and many missionaries were taken as prisoners of war?   Did the people serving as missionaries in Poland experience this when Germany invaded?   Did the missionaries have the feelings that I was experiencing as my blood pressure raced toward dangerous as we approached dinner.

PeopleWhen Lorretta and I finally retired, we never heard the buzzing of the mosquitoes, nor felt the shortness and narrowness of the bed, nor did we concern ourselves with the funny feeling in our stomach following the spaghetti soup, tomatoes, and cucumbers

  That night, Russia was at war, we were in Russia.

Ah, the underwhelming excitement of the six o-clock news! 

What an interesting change of events!  Never in our wildest imaginations could we have conjured up such a scenario for our lives.  O. K. God, we committed ourselves to serve You in Russia for a year.  You know that we have aging and ailing mothers in California.  You know that our children probably saw the same news that we experienced, and they are wondering if we are near the war zone.  Are you sure that You want this to happen to us?     YOU DO?

          We were to discover that during this October Revolution, many newspaper journalists were murdered throughout Russia.  Fear gripped the hearts of the people. They saw their nation careening back into the vices created by Communism’s darkness and brutality.

The following list of casualties indicates the broad scope of the madness occurring those nights and days in Moscow.

October deaths in Moscow

Sunday, 3 October, from 7.30 pm onwards. Outside and inside the Ostankino TV tower.

  1. Rory Peck, ARD Germany, cameraman. Crossfire [J].
  2. Ivan Scopan, TF-1 France, cameraman. Crossfire [J].
  3. Igor Belozerov, 4th Channel “Ostankino”, editor. Crossfire [J].
  4. Sergey Krasilnikov, “Ostankino” TV, video engineer. Homicide [J]. Shot at point-blank range within building.
  1. Vladimir Drobyshev, People and nature monthly, editor. Heart Attack [J].

Monday, 4 October, after midday. near Supreme Soviet building.

  1. Alexander Sidelnikov, freelance journalist and film-maker from Saint Petersburg. Crossfire
  2. Alexander Smirnov, Youth Courier newspaper (Yoshkar-Ola), correspondent. Crossfire [J].
  3. Elena Tkacheva, 26-year-old proof-reader for Kuban Courier newspaper, died in Krasnodar as  a result of a bomb planted in the newspaper office. Terrorist Act
  4. Marina Iskanderova, journalist at local TV station, murdered in her apartment in Nadym.

Even with the strange facts before us from the television that evening, our God brought to us joyful peace, and a relaxed mental attitude.  No sleep lost over the situation about which we had no control.  Our God is the determiner of all events surrounding our lives.  This is His doing and we are the recipients of the gracious concern, marvelous leading, and unconditional love of our sovereign heavenly Father.  We are in His good hands.

We found out that night that war movies are much more fun to watch than the evening news from Moscow. We were in a war that was too close for comfort.   I need to tell you that I almost prayed the following:

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

                   If I should die before I wake,

 My leave of Russia I’ll gladly take!

However, that night it became truly comforting and honest to say,

“We laid down and slept well Tuesday evening, October 5th,

right in the middle of Russia,and sang with the anonymous hymnist;

Good night, our God is watching o’er you.

Good night, His mercies go before you.

Good night and we’ll be praying for you.

So good night, may God bless you!”


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