We made it! And I have to say that it was completely uneventful. Much to the surprise of some of my traveling buddies, I do assure you (what can I say? my reputation proceeds me!)
Today is July 2, 2010. It's almost over for me, now that I've skipped ahead 9 hours. I'm in a new country, seeing it with new eyes. This place--Russia--is majestic my friends.
We arrived around 2 this afternoon, right on schedule and had no trouble at all getting through customs. We were met, as planned, by our taxi driver, and taken to the hotel. Then of course, I was hungry, imagine that.
And so with our trusty tour guide we set off, in search of food, knowledge, touristy places and ways to get over jet lag. It's been forever since I've been in this part of the world. When I walked off that plane, I felt weird seeing so many who look so much like me, and I felt like I needed to be saying what little I can in Chinese just because I can't understand what everyone else is saying.
I think me being gone so long from the Russia area of the world helped today. I was looking again. Yes, as soon as I stepped off the plane, cigarette smoke and people shoving at my backside reminded me exactly where I was. I did see way too many guys with too short of shorts on, and wonder how on God's green earth anyone could wear 6 inch hills for at least three miles--EVER! Culture differences always amaze me, and never do I mean any disrespect.
I saw buildings that were so amazing I just wondered at the people who built them, I walked on streets that were much older than my entire country. I looked at statutes of people who lived long before any of my traceable genealogy came into play and I saw things that can only be labeled as "the best".
But you see friends, no matter how majestic this country is, no matter how old the buildings or good the music is here, what I saw more than anything today was people. People who can't seem to smile, people who are looking for Someone. People who are living their lives without any regard for what they could be.
No matter how beautiful and great this country is, it doesn't always give purity to the people. No matter how old of tangible things you can find, or security inside of walled cities, that doesn't mean that love is present, or that eternity is truly safe. No matter how much looking for love through others, it will never fill the true void in so many hearts.
Today, I saw again with new eyes. I saw a different people, a potential filled people. I saw thousands of walking stories. I saw hundreds of searching eyes. I'm here, not because I'm better or more advanced, because I'm not. I'm here because I have been given a gift. I have been given Jesus. My joy is complete, and theirs can be too.
This adventure has gotten off to a huge start and we aren't even to Volgograd yet! Pray that our eyes will see the lives, the voids that are in them, and that we will be the light of Jesus that will fill all the empty places and give the greatness each one of them deserves. Because really, no matter how funny it is to be the "stupid" American who drops all their leader papers all over the floor, it's really not what I wish to be remembered by.
-Alana and the team
P.S. There are fire works going off outside my window. It makes me think of a land I love, so very much. A place where people have stories also.