Saving Souls in Siberia

You wanna get busy saving souls? Then head East young man, head for Siberia!

Chris and Sveta chilling in Kemerovo

Aww, ain’t they cute!

The best pizza this side of the Urals!

New York Pizza!

I remember the first time I saw a missionary. I was living in
the Mt Pleasant section of DC with several housemates, and one day two
young, clean-cut kids rode by on new mountain bikes. It wasn’t that white
kids on bikes were rare in my neighborhood, or even two kids wearing suits
on bikes, but two identical dark blue suits with nametags attached was
odd. The locals usually had more style than that.

The next time I saw them, into the street I jumped out and stopped them
in their tracks. Turns out, they were Mormons, prospecting for souls in
the Central American immigrant community that settled in upper Mt
Pleasant. Later I actually went to a Mormon service and visited the
‘Wizard of Oz,’ the all-white temple on DC’s Beltway, but I
never could accept their brand of conservatism and fanaticism. I’m a happy
Atheist who wonders about the ‘good’ any organized religion

I never saw any Mormons in Moscow, but now that I am wandering in the
provinces and Siberia, they seem to be the only Americans around. I can
understand why too! You have to be insane or in love to live outside of
Moscow. Mormons, I think, are a lot of both.

Woops, I didn’t mean this to be a tirade against Mormons, especially
since they are but one of the many religious groups that a nation of
Atheists would attract. My hotel in Novosibirsk was invaded
by Evangelical Christians the day I left, and this weekend I spent with a
unique Ba’hi couple in Kemerovo.

Chris and Sveta are not your usual Siberian residents. He wandered out
here five years ago from Cali, looking to slowly spread the word of Ba’hi,
a young (only 150 years old) religion out of Persia. In Siberia, he not
only found his calling and his love, but also a unique situation. He and
Sveta decided to open a cappuccino bar in Kemerovo. Well that was before
the crisis anyway. Now he’s merged his plans with another American (one of
the very few non-missionaries I’ve met) and is going for a pizza &
coffee bar that should open later this month.

Chris and I spent the entire weekend in deep conversation, first about
his religion (just cuz I don’t believe, doesn’t mean I don’t want to
know), then about how his religion and Russian business could mix. I do
not envy the conflicts that I know he will have with what is right and
what is reality, but I do envy his courage to face them and live with the
results. He is a braver man than I.