Why Russia? Why Magadan? That is the question. The golden question. There is no doubt in my mind that I am supposed to be anywhere else but Magadan this year. This alteration of plans all started a few weeks before graduation. I was praying after mass, when I heard the words:
“I want you to stay in Russia.”
. . . .
Until this point, I had never considered staying longer than the two months I had committed to, for the summer. People had joked about me staying, but I always brushed it off. I was going to art school., not Russia. I was finally going to art school to become an Art Teacher, my childhood dream. I was beyond excited to attend, so when I heard this call, my inner inhibitions said, ‘That’s a nice idea, but I am going to art school.”
Even still, I felt the tug to spend a year in Russia. I left the chapel questioning my future. I walked to the bookstore to purchase my cap and gown and ran into my Russian teacher. She smiled at me and said “I didn’t realize you were graduating! What are your plans?” An unstartlingly large grin spread across her face. I told her my plans and she shook her head.
“You’re staying in Russia. I knew it from the moment I met you.”
Within 30 minutes my future plans were suddenly up in the air. I left the bookstore with my graduation garb and many questions on my mind.
Is God really calling me to stay in Russia?
I emailed Father Michael Shields that afternoon. He advised me to pray more, saying that the answer would become clear within the first week of arriving in Magadan.
Sure enough, I fell in love; with the people, the russian language, and the call to stay. Father confirmed a vision I had about my decision being like the sea. My soul was the seafloor, and my emotions and fears were the choppy seas above. As long as I had that deep ocean floor peace, the call was right.
By the end of the week Father had bought my ticket back to Russia for the end of August. All the preparations began; finding a home, enrolling in the local university to study the russian language and culture, applying for a new visa, establishing relationships and connections. The summer was an incredible experience of community, friendship, growing, learning, loving, serving, and creating. Each day I steadily grew more and more excited for the year ahead of me.
This year I will not just be studying a language and culture that I am fascinated by; I will be serving the people of the community through hospitality, hosting events and inviting people to my home, helping around the Church, volunteering at the local art school to minister and work with the artists, as well as other various tasks around the city.
I am so excited for what is instore for this year; developing deeper relationships with my friends from this summer, learning russian so I can speak with them more, working with Father Michael Shields, Katya and MJ (my future roommates), developing my art skills, working with Russian artists, and living in a new culture and a new environment (I have been reminded time and again by my Russian friends that Siberian winters begin at the end of September and continue until May with temperatures that reach roughly -40 below zero). . .
Art school is still on my heart and still in the plans, but for right now my call is to Magadan, and I could not be more happy.
Please keep MJ, Katya and myself in your prayers, and feel free to send us any prayer intentions you may have that we can keep this year!
"It is in choosing to serve God, to do his will, that man achieves his highest and fullest freedom."
-Fr. Walter Cizeck
Author of With God in Russia