The room is dark, save for the glow of the two laptops and iPhones syncing music to prepare for the day. “Tear Down the Walls” by Hillsong United is playing as the day’s anthem.
“Your love is glorious – glorious. Your love is changing us.”
It’s 6:21a in St Petersburg, and the sun has not yet started to rise over the river that flows outside our window. We are at the Hotel Moscow, just steps away from the resting place of Tchaikovsky. The Nevsky Prospekt begins here – a winding road full of exclusive shops and restaurants and theatres. The Church of the Savior on the Spilt Blood is blocks away. The city is alive with new construction – high-rise condos and more shopping centers and highways. Despite the cold gray skies thick with moisture and pollution, summer has not yet given up her hold on the city. The medians are lush and the trees are just beginning to welcome the wash of gold and red on their leaves. Even petunias are in full bloom, in powerful explosions of fuschia and purple and white. The city seems to have readied itself for its visitors. Things are dusted and pillows are fluffed.
But as pretty as St Petersburg may be today, she forgets that we know about her closets and her junk drawers. We have walked past her cathedrals and palaces where she stores her treasures. And we have discovered treasure far greater in her “throwaway things”, in the 900,000 orphans who are tucked away in nondescript buildings hidden within apartment communities or in crumbling buildings on unmarked roads in small towns. And that’s why we’re here this time – to see those treasures again, and to see how we can polish and shine each one so they can shine brightly as a beacon of true and everlasting hope in Russia.
“Tear down the walls, save the world, is there something we have missed. Turn from ourselves, look beyond, there’s so much more than this.”
We’ve been told our visits to the orphanages could be met with some resistance. Russia trusts no one, even those who have shown her love over and over again. So we pray for every meeting, every interview, every single photograph and frame of video shot. We pray for favor, and we pray for transparency. We pray to be welcomed into the orphanages as we talk about technology and life skills camps and construction projects. We pray for discernment at each orphanage, to see yet unshared needs. And we pray for the children – oh, how we pray for the children. We pray for a generation to be raised in Russia, treasures from those closets and junk drawers, shining with a light that comes from truly understanding what it means to be fearfully and wonderfully made.
“We will see Your spirit rising, as the lost come out of hiding. And every heart will see this hope we have in You.”
Our journey begins.