As Lent begins for us this year, we have learned a bit more about the culture of Russia and its traditions. We have been able to take the beginning of this reflective time of year to establish new traditions and deeper connections.
Fun Fact Number один (a-deen; one): You know how we celebrate Mardi Gras in America? Well, we have been doing it all wrong. Here in Russia they celebrate, Масленица (Mas-len-itsa). Now you might be thinking Что это??? (Sch-to eta?; What is it???).
Well, my dear friends, Масленица is Blini Week. In other words, pancake week!! WOO! Mardi Gras will never be the same after living in Russia. Why celebrate for a day when you can celebrate for a week? With Blinis! Of every imaginable variety!
This feast originated as a way to welcome Spring. These fluffy flapjacks were intended to symbolize the sun that seems to go on vacation from this part of the world every winter. Now, in some parts of the country they would even burn a stuffed figure of a woman that symbolizes the Russian Mythological Goddess of Winter, Morana. While this is an interesting and slightly concerning tradition, let's turn our plates back to the Blinis, and their role as a precursor to lent.
After their week long pancake fest, they buckle down into an intensive lent. All across Russia, Orthodox Russians give up meat, milk, eggs, cheese, butter, and the like for the whole forty days. It is a time of sacrifice and reflection.
Just the other day, the Church cook Nastia was teaching us how to make traditional Russian food, but was very limited due to this fast. She ended up teaching us how to make Russian Potato Pancakes with potatoes and flour, because she can’t use eggs until Easter.
But wait! There’s more!
Fun Fact number два (dva; two): Lent in Russia begins with Forgiveness Sunday. So instead of Ash Wednesday, where we receive a reminder of our death and Christ’s Sacrifice, people go around to their family and friends, apologize and ask each other for forgiveness. What an incredible way to start the Lenten season!
When our Russian professor taught us this in class the other day, we were blown away and so excited.
Fun fact number три (tree; three): coincidentally, our Philosophy on Tap event focused on forgiveness, coincides with this day.
So as we spend this Sunday reflecting and discussing forgiveness and its importance with our friends; I challenge you to forgive those in your life who have hurt you and in turn ask forgiveness from those in your life that you may have hurt. It will heal your heart and soul, those around you, and prepare your heart for a deeper, more healing lent.
Thank you for becoming a part of our journey!
Please take the opportunity to check out our donate page! MJ and I each need to raise $1500 in order to return next year to continue our work here in Magadan! Please become part of our mission by donating! Спасибо большое! С Богом! (Many thanks and May God be with you! )
February has dawned and so begins another beautiful month. January was more difficult than I thought it would be, due to the lack of sun, lack of our Beloved Fr. Michael Shields, and the doldrums that come with cabin fever. But we have been given hope that ‘Spring’ will soon be here.
As we get pummeled with snow, living in Siberia has become more of what we had imagined it would be.
Despite the snowy terrain and jaw-dropping temperatures, Russians have some of the the warmest hearts I have ever encountered, even in such tough living conditions and various trials of life.
I once read that if you befriend a Russian they will do anything for you, I can confidently say that this is true from all the countless times our friends here have offered their help to us.
Life here has been different than back home in America. It has been slower-paced, simpler and has drawn us to reflect more deeply about life.
One thing I have noticed is that back home people have this idea that they can control nature. Whereas people here just survive knowing that nature is stronger than them. I have seen one too many elderly person fall on the icy sidewalks, only to pop-up quickly and continue on their way. I have seen many stray dogs shiver, whimper, and fight over scraps of food. I have encountered brokenness here, in the infrastructure, in families, in individuals, and in myself. Despite all this, there is still joy, generosity, and love in their hearts.
No amount of snow, sludge or ice will stop them. As we walk down the slushy streets past several cars lodged in the snow, people are pressing on, getting out and helping each other escape from the depths of the snowy river like roads.
The ‘Russian Soul’ is complex and beautiful. Recently, my teacher said in class “The Russian language is like the Russian Soul. A mystery.” Those words penetrated my heart and have stuck with me ever since that class. It has given me a new perspective into the world around me.
Each day I look around to the curious faces around me; the babushkas making their way around the city with their parcels and packages, the neighbors who greet you by asking you questions as they smoke a cigarette out of their second story window, the teachers who spend countless hours trying to help you understand the new words buzzing around you, the kids who come to you every Saturday for a safe place to learn and grow, the friends who show up to everything you invite them to, and always want to help in any way that they can.
They all make life here so beautiful. Time after time, when I ask people what their favorite thing is about Magadan, they often respond, “the people.” I couldn't agree more. Even when my heart yearns for home, when I am feeling sun-deprived and questioning why I moved to the top of the globe; I am reminded by just a single look out the window or a single interaction with someone. I am reminded that I am here for these people, to learn from them, to serve them, to love them, to suffer with them, and to rejoice with them.
I am reminded of the wonders of humanity, and the many gifts given to us in this life; and these thoughts are enough to bring a smile back to my face and joy to my heart.
After much prayer and consideration, MJ and I have felt called to return to Magadan to continue serving for one more year. Please consider becoming a part of our mission by helping us return to Magadan next year! We need to raise $3,000 total in order to return, and continue serving.
You can donate by simply going to our donate page. Thank you again for following our life here in Magadan, and making this journey a small part of your life.
Happy Sunday! I hope you have had a great morning filled with joy, a cup of java or two, and maybe some time with Jesus. As of recently, we have had some unexpectedly ‘warm’ weather, as well as an amazing amount of snow. In spite of this, I wanted to share with you all a little comic chronicling our experience with the winter temperatures here. We hope you enjoy!