My Mom was visiting the weekend I had chosen to attend the Church service, so I had the pleasure of diving into one piece of this cultural experience with her by my side. She has been my best friend, my rock, and the person who has kept me grounded through what has been a difficult few months. This experience was a subtle reminder of just how blessed I am to have her as such an integral part of my life. So that Sunday evening, as my Mom and I pulled up to the Russian Baptist Church, an overwhelming sense of relief and calm enveloped me. No, this was not due to the fact that I had actually found the facility located on West College Avenue, but rather because this immersion experience was occurring at a time of huge life changes (the day I decided to pursue only one major)! I became acquainted with the Russian Baptist culture with a refreshed spirit and eyes that were slowly becoming renewed. We walked through a grand entrance way and I was slightly embarrassed, as I felt quite underdressed and knew my face was puffy and red from all of the tears I had produced in the previous 24 hours, as I was sorting out my life. Yet the people were kind and welcoming. A young and handsome man immediately approached me. Do not get excited, as he was not interested in attaining my phone number. Rather, he offered my Mom and me headsets so that we could comprehend what was being discussed throughout the service. Due to the fact that so much had occurred in such a short period of time and I was inundated with various emotions, I honestly was unable to focus on the details of the sermon. As the fall harvest was being discussed and words such as "bountiful" and "fruit" flowed through my earpiece, my attention became focused on the various people in the room.
The space was very warm and filled with families, generations of women and men from infancy to elderly. Small children wandered in and out of the pews and those who were a bit older helped lead the congregation in prayer. The bright gazes from their families and other onlookers were very moving. Observing these Russian Baptists helped to solidify the enormous decision I had made that weekend. Looking around, I recognized that a fulfilling and successful life had nothing to do with the number of degrees one possessed. Life is not meant to be spent constantly stressed and overwhelmed by schoolwork. For all I know, everyone in that room could have been college dropouts or only high school graduates yet that was irrelevant because what was illustrated as highly important were family, love, and a connection to something greater than oneself. That is what the people there lived for and why they were not just surviving, but thriving.
The woman sitting next to me was cradling her daughter tightly and looked over at me several times throughout the service. I was not certain why and assumed that she might have been upset by my presence, as it was quite evident that I was "an outsider" unable to speak the language and dressed differently than other young women in attendance. However, she turned to me and said, " We keep faith in G-d, even with obstacle." It was so sincere yet a bit eerie because that statement was so relevant to all I had been experiencing lately. I have always been a very spiritual person and looked to G-d for strength. Yet recently, I have been somewhat angry with Him and wondering why I am being burdened by such deep and dark emotions. Yet this experience reminded me that in all cultures, prayer is like the voice of the heart. When I am experiencing a setback and feel as if I can speak to no one, G-d is always there to listen. Visiting the Russian Baptist Church during this tough time restored faith in my own G-d.
I thoroughly enjoyed this immersion experience, as it yielded introspection that I never imagined. The warmth and love exuded by the people, the topic of the service, and the ideals employed by the Russian Baptist community were powerful and so relevant to my own life. I realized that my resulting perspective was inside of me all along and the experience opened my heart, enabling its unveiling.