General Forums > Christian News

An American Orthodox soldier in Uzbeckestan

(1/2) > >>

From the Orthodox-Forum.  Anyone who has been to Russia or Ukraine and met some of these Babas will relate to this story as I have!



Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 8:11 PM
Subject: An Orthodox soldier in Uzbeckestan

The letter:
Dear Everyone,

Please forgive me and be patient with me for I have not the words to describe
to you the blessing I received today at the Church of the Most Holy
Theotokos in Karshi, Uzbekistan.   First of all, let me tell you what a
problem it is getting off post here.   Because of the security concerns, we
have to get the permission of the Uzbek government to go into town, plus we
have to get the permission of our commander.   The request has to be put in
writing and submitted no less than 48 hours in advance.   Then you have to
make sure you get a vehicle, and of course, mission priorities negate all
vehicle reservations.   Also, no American is allowed to leave post without at
least one other American, in keeping with the buddy system.

As an Orthodox Christian, I am virtually alone in most military circles.  
Because of the prior Soviet occupation, and the fact that around 30% of the
population in Uzbekistan is Russian, I knew that there would be some
Orthodox presence in this area.   Of course, when I asked my chain of command
(who, not surprisingly, know nothing about Orthodox issues) about any
Orthodox presence locally, the reply was that there was no Christian
presence here, just Muslim.   That, of course, was disappointing There are
many Uzbeks that work on post here in various duties, and while I was waiting
to pick up some uniform items from the sewing shop, I noticed that a girl
working there had an Orthodox cross hanging from her neck.   I asked the
young man who was bilingual and she came over to me and drew me a map of how
to get to the parish.   Myself and my Protestant Chaplain friend got an off
post pass to visit on Christmas day.   We found the church, but it turns out
they are old calendarists and their Christmas was not until January 7.   With
the grace of the Lord and my little Russian tourist dictionary, I was able
to communicate with Batushka Sergei, found out when services would be and
promised to return.

I was just able to return today, having previous passes denied because of
not having a buddy and a security lock down.   But today, praise God, I
worshiped with the faithful at the Church of the Theotokos, and this time I
brought an interpreter with me!

I have always read that the heroes of the Church in Russia are the women, and
this is most certainly true here.   Beneath withered faces and under covered
heads I was able to commune with true saints.   They immediately recognized
that I was Amerikanitsa Pravaslaya (American Orthodox), and couldn't
possibly know what I was doing, so they gracefully took me under their wing
and guided me throughout the entire service, pushing and prodding when I
needed it.   As it turns out, I was glad for their help, because things were
done a little differently.   When it was time to take communion, the service
stopped, and the faithful lined up for confession.   We all stood in line,
except the old women demanded that I be placed in the front of the line and
wouldn't take no for an answer.   So I proceeded and when I reached Father
Sergei, he simply asked for my name and placed the epitrikelion over my head
and prayed the absolution prayer.   I still wasn't certain what was going on.
  I thought the service was over, and I started to head to the back of the
church where I was intercepted by yet another tiny Russian lady, who though
lacking in size, made up for it in boldness and quickly directed me with a
push back into another line where I waited for the rest of the faithful to
finish confessions.   I started to figure out what was going on when I
noticed yet another of these tiny spiritual giants reading what I believed
to be her precommunion prayers.   I then pulled my prayer book out and read
mine, figuring out what was going on.   As I approached the chalice, once
again they demanded that I go first, and this time they were going to make
sure I didn't screw up because this time I had one matushka on either side
of me, holding me by the elbows.  I crossed my arms over my chest to receive
the Holy Eucharist when the small framed woman on my right quickly corrected
me again, because I had placed my left arm over my right, instead of vice
versa.  I will never forget receiving the Holy Gifts, surrounded by angels
on either side.

After the liturgy, I was joined again with my interpreter who told me they
wanted the names of my family members so they could pray a special service
for them.  Today we commemorated St. Nina, and there was a special blessing
with holy water after the liturgy.   I pulled a family picture from my wallet
and gave them Sophia, Alexandra, Aidan, and Catherine (I pronounced it
Katarina for them).  The names were written down on a piece of paper and
placed on a table with an urn of holy water.   Father Serge returned and a
blessing service began.   Once again, I was ushered to the very front of the
faithful as they gathered around to receive Batushka's blessing.

After the service, I was able to thank them for the wonderful blessing I had
received.   Several stayed for the group photo that I have included.   Through
my interpreter, I told them that I have received communion now with the
heroes of Russia.   I thanked the women especially for guiding me through the
service and to the Eucharist, as they have guided so many throughout the
history of Russia.   I told them that they were as the holy women of the
scriptures, anointing the body of Christ.   They all bowed and crossed
themselves and then each one kissed my cheeks like I was their own son and
demanded to know when I could come back so they could bring me gifts from
their homes.   I tried to explain to them that the greatest gift that I could
ever receive from them was their holy prayers, which I am sure the Lord
hears before any others.   Some of these women came into church and
immediately prostrated themselves on the floor and stayed there for the
entire service!   More hugs, and more kisses followed.   I showed them my
family picture and told them how blessed I was to be communing with them and
with my family, on the other side of the world, through the Eucharist, to
which they all agreed, crossing themselves again.

What a blessing!   The above is a poor attempt at conveying to you the joy in
my heart and the love I felt from people who do not even speak my language.  
Very rarely have I felt more at home.   This was truly heaven on earth.   I
truly wish I had the words to explain and make you all feel the joy and love
I have from these saints of the Lord.

I have attached four pictures.   The first one I took during the liturgy and
was quickly corrected by one of the small framed spiritual giants I
previously spoke of.   The second one is Father Sergei and me.   The third one
is me, Father Sergei, Matushka Natalia, and their daughter Maria, and the
last picture is the faithful that remained to spend time with me.   The
little lady in front of me with the red scarf on her head and the white
shawl around her, was my chief guardian angel during my visit today.   She
told me her name but I couldn't understand it.   So I'll just remember her as
my guardian angel during my visit today.   She was very sweet to me and it
was all I could do to get her to stand with us for a picture.  Please pray
that the Lord will allow me to go back, and more than once, and pray that
the Lord will guide me to find suitable gifts to give these saints, who
insist that it was I who blessed them.

Thank you for your prayers, you are all in mine,

Very Respectfully,
[Captain RH
I have deleted his full name, etc. for security reasons]

Beautiful story! Glory to Jesus Christ.

I was wondering though, he referred to them as Russians. Wouldn't they be Uzbecks?


 [was wondering though, he referred to them as Russians. Wouldn't they be Uzbecks?]

He probably refers to them as Russians in the same way we here in the United States refer to some of our countrymen as Greeks, Russians, Irish, Italians, etc.


A reply I posted to the Orthodox-Forum to the person who originally posted it.



Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 8:11 PM
Subject: An Orthodox soldier in Uzbeckestan

What a beautiful story!  Thanks for sharing this.  Anyone who has been to Russia, attended Liturgy, and met these Babas can relate to this.
I was there in 1988 and could relate to everything being said here.  As I stood at my first Liturgy in  Russia surrounded by these saintly Babas the tears came.  An old Baba near me whispered something to me.  A lady in our group translated for me.  He had asked me why I was crying.  Here is what I relayed to her through the translator.  And I meant every word of it.

"Tell her they are not tears of sadness but tears of joy.  I am crying because I have returned to place that is the very essence of my being.  That which makes me what I am.  In a sense I have come home.  My heart is American but my soul is Russian and devoutly Orthodox. And I am crying because never in my entire life have I felt the presence of God as strong as I do standing here.  Tell her God has not forsaken the Russian people. He is right here stronger than ever!"

With that the Baba started to cry, and grabbed my hand and kissed it!  When she did I quietly put my prayer book (which was written in both Russian and English)  in her hand.  She nodded in appreciation and quietly put it in her pocket.  It wasn't until after Liturgy I realized why I felt Gods presence so strongly!  He was in the hearts of those hundreds of Babas that were surrounding me!  Its hard to explain, but you look into their eyes and you can see their Holiness.  They shine and you sense you are in the presence of of a saint and feel guilty for your sins.

Guess its why I'm so defensive when I listen to these western Christians that think they can bring God to Russia!  God never left Russia.  Believe me!



--- Quote from: Orthodoc on January 29, 2003, 02:52:06 PM --- [was wondering though, he referred to them as Russians. Wouldn't they be Uzbecks?]

He probably refers to them as Russians in the same way we here in the United States refer to some of our countrymen as Greeks, Russians, Irish, Italians, etc.


--- End quote ---

Right Orthodoc!  The Uzbek people are a Turkic people and majority Muslim.  No doubt the majority of the Orthodox faithful living there are ethnic Russians, irrespective of their place of birth or citizenship, they would be thought of as Russians.

There are not many links about Uzbekistan and its people but here is one:


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version