[Bethel Choir People, please let me know if I got any of the details wrong]

In 1989, June 4th was a Sunday. So I went to church, along with the entire Bethel Choir. We were on Europe tour and June 4th was our last day in Moscow – in what was then the USSR.


While we had been in Moscow, we had been on outings to the Moscow Circus, the Kremlin and more than a few other places. On all of these other trips, our Russian tour guide, Nicholas, had gotten us two buses. For our trip to the church, we were only provided one. We were pretty sure that they didn’t want us to go a church and maybe they felt that having only one bus would deter our whole choir from going. But we all crammed on that one small bus. No big deal.

Bus Driver John (Zhoan) - Not Evil.

Bus Driver John (Zhoan) – Not Evil.

At the church, they greeted us warmly. They let us sing. They said we sounded like angels.

This is what I put in my journal: “We sang them four songs, including the spiritual [Not sure what this was. “Go tell it”?] to a full house of happy Christians. We sang with them “Crown Him [with many crowns]” and afterwards they hugged and kissed us. Nicholas then showed us quickly back on the bus.

Can you read the Cyrillic?

Can you read the Cyrillic?

We were staying at the Hotel Ukraine. While in the rooms there, my friend Ace would say things like, “The black cat wants his crayons back.” You know, just in case the KGB was listening.

After lunch, Ace wanted to go on a tourist hunt for a Russian T-shirt. So the two of us walked towards the center of the city. And we walked and walked. We had no luck.
We walked all the way to the Kremlin (which if I have it correct on Google Maps is more than two miles).

If I knew then what I know now (after our trip to adopt our daughter Anna), we could have avoided the wandering and just headed to Arbat street. But I didn’t.

I noted in my journal that I spent a dollar to buy a Pepsi at the Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors.

In any case, by now we had been out for hours and Ace didn’t want to walk back. So we started looking for a Taxi. We found ourselves at the front door of a large hotel, and there were several taxi drivers. We asked one of them how much it would cost to get a ride back to our hotel. He told us twenty rubles, which at the rate we were supposed to use, would have been about forty dollars. This wasn’t acceptable to Ace, who then countered, “No, no. How about five American dollars,” holding up his hand to stress the number five. The taxi driver was very quick to take his offer.

Ace graciously paid for the ride and on the way he asked the driver if he knew where we could get any t-shirts. He responded, “Hotel Ukraeena?” Apparently he spoke very little English.

We made it back to the hotel and the rest of the choir. My journal states that after supper some of us threw paper airplanes out the window. Really?


View from the window at the end of the hallway outside our hotel room.

View from the window at the end of the hallway outside our hotel room.

And then we got on two buses and were driven to the train station, where we rode overnight to Ukraine. Apparently I talked with Kris B. and Tonia R. and we recited Frost poetry: “And that has made all the difference!”*

I also talked with Debbie, the girl to whom it would take more than five more years to marry.

All of that happened on one day – June 4th, 1989.

That Russian house of worship was the furthest church (from my home in Minnesota) that I’ve ever attended. A few days earlier, in St. Petersburg (sorry, Leningrad) the Russian host at our more secular concert stated to the audience, “It’s not the words that they sing that is important; it’s that they sing them so well.”

But in that gathering of Christians in Moscow, it was encouraging and a blessing to be with a group of people who were more like-minded. And when we were singing “Crown Him” together, it certainly didn’t matter that we were worshiping Jesus in two different languages.

* Trivia- Which poem is this?


If you want to read another 25 years ago Bethel Choir related story, here you go.