Remembering the kindness of a poor woman in the Moscow train station


There are few things more beautiful than a person who expresses gratitude and nothing more disquieting than a churlish, thankless person.

William Arthur Ward, one of America’s most quoted writers of inspirational maxims, said, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

Thanksgiving is a good time to count your blessings and name them one by one. If you do that you will be surprised to recall all that God has done in your life.

I have multiplied blessings that come my mind every day, but for some reason as I sat down to write this editorial I recalled a remarkable blessing from years ago. Let me share it with you.

When I was pastor of Peachtree Corners Baptist Church in Norcross I was privileged to accompany a group on a mission trip to Kiev, Ukraine. We flew into Moscow, Russia on a cold night in late October 1992 and were shuttled to the train station to catch an all-night train to Kiev.

We took Oleg Matveychuk, a young pastor of a Russian-speaking church in Atlanta, to help facilitate our trip and serve as our interpreter. When we got to the train station we had more than two hours before we were to depart for Kiev.

Hundreds of people were gathered in a large rotunda waiting for their train to arrive. Oleg suggested that I stand on a nearby platform and preach the Gospel. I asked, “Are you sure it will be all right for me to do that?” The Cold War had just ended the year before and I didn’t know how much liberty we had to preach the Gospel in a public place.

Nonetheless, I stood on the platform and preached on Jesus calming the storm from Mark 4. Amazingly, people stopped and listened to my message. I declared, "Jesus can calm the storms in your life. He can deliver you from the storm of restlessness, trouble, fear, sin, guilt and shame.”

For ten minutes I told them about Jesus and His redeeming love, presented the path to salvation, led them in the sinner’s prayer, and scores of people lifted their hands to indicate that they wanted to walk with Christ. We gave out more than 100 New Testaments to those who had gathered to hear the message.

After I had finished, Oleg came up to me and said, “There is an elderly woman seated on a bench against the wall who wants to talk to you.”

I walked over to the women and immediately noticed that her clothes were tattered and worn, obviously a woman of poverty. Her hands were wrinkled and gnarled, doubtless from many years of arduous toil. When I stooped to greet her, she looked up and tears were streaming down her face. She spoke and Oleg interpreted for her.

She said, “I am a Christian and have prayed for years that someone would come and tell the people in our country about Jesus and his love for them. You are an answer to my prayers. Thank you for coming to preach the Gospel.”

Then she gave me a small paper sack that may have weighed a pound. I looked in the sack and it was at least half-full of black walnuts.

Oleg told me that she had been sitting there most of the day waiting for her son to arrive on one of the trains and had spent the day picking black walnuts out of the shells. Now, she wanted to give them to me to express her thanksgiving for my message.

My grandmother had a black walnut tree in her backyard. I know how difficult it is to crack and extract black walnuts from their shells. I was overwhelmed at the measure of the gratitude from this woman in a Ukrainian train station and the generosity of her gift. So now, more than 24 years later I still remember her words, her tears, and her labor of love on my behalf.

Genuine gratitude sometimes finds expression not only in words, but also in expressions of love and action. Are you grateful for the kindness and expressions of love from others? How do you express that gratitude? How are you expressing gratitude to our wonderful Lord for all that He has done for you?

Cold War, giving, missions, Norcross, Russia, sacrifice, Thanksgiving, Ukraine


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