To Russia, With Love - My Family Travels

A beautiful day just outside of Ivanovo, Russia was coming to an end. “Look at the shepherd with his herd, son” my mother said to me. “thats cool” I responded. Meanwhile, my mind was in survival mode. I was ready to begin the fight for my life. Deeper and deeper we went racing into the back country. Farther and farther from civilization. From safety.

                When I was about twelve me and my mother joined a group from our church on a mission trip to Ivanovo, Russia to do some humanitarian work in a low income neighborhood that the full time missionaries, Chris and his wife and son, had been ministering to. Despite my obvious culture shock that any twelve year old would experience in a new country, I had a really eye opening experience in Russia. Our church group rebuilt the courtyard of the rundown apartment complex. We built new benches for the Babushkas to sit on and do their knitting, a playground for the children, and new clothes lines for the people to use to dry their cloths. Along the way we made very great friendships with the people who lived there. One in particular was with the chief of police in Ivanovo. My mother, through the translator, befriended the man and told him about what we were doing there.  After connecting with my mother and the missionary, Chris, he invited us to go somewhere “beautiful”. Obviously we were a little skeptical. Everything I had been taught about protecting myself from bad guys was telling me this was a bad idea. Chris on the other hand was overjoyed at the opportunity to build a relationship with someone in the Russian police department and urged us of how important it was for us to do this. He comforted us by letting us know that he would be following in his car and as soon as we got to the outskirts of town we would go in his car joining him and his son for the rest of the way. I felt more at ease as I enter the chief’s vehicle.

                My calm state soon wore off. We darted through the Russian streets in the communist produced car with his Russian techno music blasting in the aged, dusty speakers. “Extreme!” the man kept saying. Extreme was right. I was extremely terrified. I kept looking back at Chris to make sure he was still there. He seemed to get farther and farther behind every time I looked. The Russian’s phone rang. “Thank god.” I thought, “That must be Chris calling to tell him to slow down or something”. The man looked at the phone and then without answering it shoved it in the glove box. When we finally pulled over to change vehicles I was relieved. Finally we were saved. We waited in the car while he went and talked to Chris. A few minutes later he came and got back in the car and we drove away. I had been worried about our situation before but I was unprepared for this. As we sped out of the city outskirts I was quiet and still, but what was happening inside my head was no reflection of my outward demeanor. My mind raced through all possible scenarios. After much deliberation I figured that since he was a police officer he probably had a gun somewhere in the vehicle, most likely the glove compartment. I decided that if he started trying to murder us I would leap from the back seat and reach in the glove compartment. I would grab the gun and while shielding my mother from him try and shoot him. I even had a contingency plan. If there was no gun I knew for sure there was a phone and I could use it to call… someone! We went farther into woods and onto dirt roads. I had lost sight of Chris. “Extreme!” he kept saying. I stopped paying attention. I was planning the fight for my life.

The entire drive not much was said between the three of us. After about an hour we stopped near the side of a lake and got out. It was beautiful. It was a strong contrast to the tattered city that we had departed from. A few minutes after we arrived, Chris showed up. “Beautiful place isn’t it?” he said. I was so happy to be on solid ground! I was overjoyed. Chris’ son and I got down to our underwear and jumped in for a swim. The water was freezing. I didn’t mind though. It was like my fear was being washed away. I had never felt so alive.

Later that night after coming home I told my mom about my feelings on the ride their and the feelings I experienced. Apparently my mother felt the exact same way. She too was making a plan to get us both out alive because, like me, she was convinced that we were being taken into the middle of nowhere to be murdered by a Russian crazy man. We both shared a great laugh that night and a very emotional experience. And one that we will never forget! 

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