Today was the 15th anniversary of the fall of communism. Tom talked about being in Moscow a few days after the attempted coup when the hard line communist tried to take back the Soviet Union. Tom stayed in a KGB Hotel by the Kremlin after bribing the manager by paying for a new wood floor in the bar. No foreigners had ever stayed in that hotel. The barricades were still up from the failed coup. You could still see smoke from the fires but after 73 years of communism it was declared illegal.
Tom was invited to speak at the first Moscow Gospel Music Festival. He talked about how after years of smuggling Bibles and meeting secretly with Russian Christians he was finally able to openly declare the Gospel of Jesus. There were Christian artists from the States to give concerts. The Festival was going to hand out one million New Testaments.
When Tom spoke at Pushkin Park he asked people to come to the front if they wanted to ask Jesus to be Lord of their lives. 100’s of people gathered around the stage. Then Tom made the mistake of telling them they had free New Testaments. People actually got hurt rushing to get a Bible. After that they had to have uniformed guards placed in different places in order to distribute the now legal Word of God.
The Gospel Music Festival was held with the walled city of the Kremlin. The teams’ bus driver was shaking when he drove them into the Kremlin. He’d never been allowed inside.
Here’s the way Tom tells it:
“Two days after the tanks had surrounded the Federation building where Yeltsin was holed up I was staying in a hotel close enough to watch the human barricades. I took pictures out my hotel window of the barricades, young people and memorials. One day after the coup ended we opened the music festival.
My translator, Sveta told me she did not agree with what we were doing there and we had no business bringing our Christianity to Moscow. She said “I want you to know that I do not approve of what you are doing. This is just a job for me.” One night there were about 8500 at the Kremlin in attendance. After the Holy Smoke band performed it was my turn to speak. Yeltsin’s parliament men came in, showed their badges and threw people out of the front row in order to sit there.
I was shaking as I stood to speak. After 18 years of being followed and watched by the KGB I now could talk about God all I wanted and here were Yeltsin’s men in the front row wanting to hear what I had to say! So many wanted to receive Christ that night I couldn’t even pray. Someone had to take over for me as I stood in the wings and wept. As I stood there a man in a navy uniform approached. I thought maybe I shouldn’t have told that part about being arrested here. He said: “Young man. I just wanted to come and thank you. I have given my heart to God tonight. I want to know if I can give you a hug.”
Sveta, my translator was among the many who received Christ as savior. Our goal at the music festival was to give out one million Bibles. The Holy Smoke band was invited to play at Yeltsin’s victory party and they presented him with the one millionth Bible on the steps where the coup had taken place.
What an honor to be a part of history in the making. Those first days of freedom were like none I have ever seen or may never see again.”
After family time we went to a Russian Orthodox Church, Alexander Nevsky. It was a striking service in a beautifully decorated building filled with art and icons. The architecture was incredible with the columns and molding and painted ceilings. We weren’t allowed to take pictures because it is a holy place. The people are reverent and women cover their heads. It’s a serious service with no seats as you are expected to stand. Sasha told us the belief is the church should be the most beautiful building. It’s where they pray and worship God and when you are standing before God the building as well as the surrounding grounds should be a reflection of Heaven. Many Russian Orthodox churches are built on hills and along water fronts so the church will reflect like a jewel.
We went from the service to the cemetery on the grounds where many famous composers like Tchaikovsky and writers such as Dostoevsky who wrote Crime and Punishment. One tombstone read “You are walking around looking at our monuments but remember very soon you will be here with us.” (translated from Russian)
From there we went to the square which holds the Cathedral of Spilled Blood. This was built over the place where the Tsar, Alexander II was murdered. About a block from here is another Cathedral that the communists turned into a museum of atheism and mocked religion. Since the fall of communism it has been restored to a Cathedral. It’s another place Tom stood in 1990 declare the Gospel of Jesus.
Finally the hour came to attend the ballet in the famous Mariinsky theatre! We were fascinated by “Don Quixote” and felt it ended way too soon. It was unbelievable to think here we are in St Petersburg, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and sitting in the Mariinsky Theatre! The performers were tremendous. What a thrill.
We were sad to say goodbye to Britt who is flying out early in the morning. She’s got to go back to school and already will be a day late but I’m sure she will think it was worth it.