The Russian Experience – 2 –

SATURDAY

We hop into the minibus and move towards the hall where the commissioning is being held. By the time we get to the hall we’ve picked up several salvationists on the way. Inside we meet some more friends including Commissioners Alex and Ingeborg Hughes who are there to do the commissioning. Having stood outside the Russian consulate for 3 hours together without success, Alex and I celebrate the fact that we have managed to arrive after trusting our documents to a conspicuos little Russian travel agent conveniently situated across from the embassy.

The hall is nowhere near full which reinforces the sad fact that many of the 13 cadet’s family and friends are either too poor to attend of live so very far away that it would not be possible. However, the joy and appreciation that Roxanne showed to us for being there for her, the first ever Romanian Salvation Army officer, was lovely.

There was a great poignancy about the commissioning and dedication meeting in the morning. Knowing that these cadets aren’t being sent to a cushy appointment anything like the Preparers of the Way in the UK, I thank God for his goodness to me but at the same time I ask that God would continue to challenge to disturb me and my corps back at home. As their dedication song, they use John Gowan’s ‘I’ll not turn back’. There wasn’t a hint of any consideration of turning back in their eyes…whatever it may cost. Bearing in mind that many of them paid a great cost even to have arrived at commissioning day. Some whose families have rejected them, some who live close to poverty, and all of them who have spent their training travelling back and forward from their corps appointments to Moscow for lessons. They have corps appoinments all through their training experience.

Most poignant of all was the picture in the commissioning brochure of the cadet who was promoted to Glory in the middle of training after contracting TB whilst working with the poor during placement.

There was great celebration of praise when the solemn moments were over. As we sang ‘On we march with the blood and the fire’, everyone who had a flag within reach waved it. The blood and fire was there in several different languages, representative of cadets from 5 eastern european countries that the cadets belong to. A beautiful reminder that world conquest is our aim.

You cannot go to these events and remain unchanged. I am challenged again about my officership, my calling, and I feel that if I love these people any more my heart would burst.

Roxanne thanks us again for being there to support us, hugs all round again, an she exchanges a glance with meant… ‘ …please tell me your going to keep supporting me’.

Roxanne will need to travel to Moldova from Ploesti in Romania, some 300-350 miles every month and back to pick up her personal allowance and her monthly allowance for her corps. She knows that the more she asks for herself, the less she will have for her corps. Captain Lalac tells me that they receives £250 per month for him, his wife and his two teenager daughers. Moscow is (according to Lonely Planet guide books) one of the worlds most expensive cities and its not enough. I don’t want to think about what Roxanne will receive as a young single officer.

Allowance is all relative of course, it depends on what prices you have to pay for things, but I reflect on the fact that our UK officers allowance is still too much. Captain Lalac said “I don’t care about money so long as I have bread on my table for my family. God has provided my with all that I need…but the Moscow prices…they are too high.”

I challenge any UK officer try and live on £250 in a major city like Moscow or London. The captain has a good theology of ‘enough’ though. In honesty, he is richer than I will ever be.

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