By Rev. Jim Higgins
I am once again standing in Red Square looking over at the Kremlin. Ahead of me are the onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral.
I am a child of the Cold War. At Winston Churchill Elementary School we used to "duck and cover" during drills. Because desks are such a defensive help during nuclear attacks. On Thursday afternoons in the summer we would run out of our house into the field beyond our backyards as the Nike missiles left their subterranean beds to peer at the sky and practice shooting down any Soviet jets on their way to do us harm. They made us feel comfortable, these "victory" missiles standing guardian watch in our backyard. Only later would we discover their presence only made it more likely that we would be high on the strike list of potential targets. On television we would see the huge array of military hardware the Soviets would amass on the parade ground where I am standing. For the first third of my military chaplaincy we war-gamed the Soviets invading Western Europe, never thinking we would swap Woodland Camouflage Uniforms for Desert Combat Uniforms.
For the second year in a row I have journeyed to this place. Not as an enemy, not as a Soldier, but as a brother in Christ. Russia is one of our Mission Bridges for North Georgia and we are building a relationship, and a friendship, with the Central Russia Annual Conference. I am joined this year by Rev. Mark Danzey. We have been requested to provide 18 hours of training on discipleship over a three day annual conference. Who can imagine such a thing! Devoting that much time to learning in an annual conference session says a lot about who these people are.
This year I am greeted with hugs, and smiles, and "thank you for coming back, we remember you from last year!"
And so the Red Menace of my youth makes way for my brothers and sisters and friends of my adulthood. We are turning our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. And instead of learning war, we are worshiping the Prince of Peace together.
Mission Bridge? Sure. But even more, bridges of love, friendship, reconciliation, and peace.
Rev. Jim Higgins is pastor of Tucker First UMC and a part of the Bridge to Russia team. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.