By: Andy Millman*
One of the first things that one notices when he or she arrives in Moscow, Russia is the noise. As someone who prefers the solitude of the mountains to the bustle of the big city, calling this bustling city of 15 million disorienting would be an understatement. Even though the sun is not up when I crawl out of bed in the morning, I am greeted by the sounds of the city from the moment I open my eyes until I finally crash at the end of the day.
Children playing in the snow,
Trucks rumbling past,
Workers scraping ice and snow off of the sidewalks,
Drivers impatiently honking horns,
Teens setting off fireworks until the wee hours of the morning.
During this time of year in particular, you also have to start factoring in all of the visual noise as well. Moscow doesn’t skimp out on the Christmas decorations, and there are more trees, lights, bells, and ribbons that one can possibly count scattered throughout the city.
I don’t want to criticize Christmas decorations or the noises of urban life, but it seems to me that something is always lost in the midst of this noise. In Moscow, that something is almost always a someone. Amidst the hustle and bustle, the faces of people on the margins fade into the background as we make our way from one place to another.
The young Cameroonian man passing out flyers in the metro becomes little more than an obstacle on the staircase.
The Dagestani labor migrant desperately seeking work very quickly becomes just another part of the daily commute to be ignored.
As I think about the season of Advent and the incarnational event that it leads up to, I am struck by the fact that we’ve been in the business of allowing the “noise” of life to block out marginalized voices for a very long time. I am forced to recognize that a few thousand years ago, we as a people allowed a young, unwed, pregnant teen – quite possibly the most vulnerable combination one can think of – to disappear amidst the noises of roman occupation and colonization. We ignored her needs and forced her to give birth to a childhood amongst livestock.
As we prepare for the rest of Advent and the coming birth of a poor homeless child in the Ancient Near East, I want to challenge us all to slow down a bit, to look and listen through the noise, and to see how God is working alongside the poor and the marginalized in this day and age to bring about something new.
*Andy Millman is currently walking alongside and serving with immigrants and refugees in Moscow, Russia as a Global Missions Fellow.
Global Ministries is launching the Global Mission Fellows program in 2014 building on the strengths of the Mission Intern Program. Applications are being accepted through January 15th for young adults 20-30 interesting in serving with communities around the world. Apply now and learn more at www.umcmission.org/gmfellows.