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Stretching the Broth

Stretching the Broth by Twila Schock

“We’re so glad you’ve finally arrived,” said Olga. “We’ve only got enough money to feed the grandmothers for three more weeks.”

It was September 1997, and we had just hired the driver of a beaten up Lada Zhiguli to transport us from Moscow’s Sheremetyova Airport to our new missionary quarters.

We had come to serve as pastors of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, an international congregation known worldwide for its extensive soup kitchen ministry. Founded in 1991, the soup kitchen ministry was daily serving 800 babushky, Russian grandmothers, whose monthly pensions—in earlier days, enough to provide for housing, basic needs and an annual vacation—would scarcely pay for a loaf of bread in post-Soviet Russia.

“We’ve only got enough money to feed the grandmothers for three more weeks.” These sobering words quickly disabused me of any notions that this was going to be the glamorous missionary assignment that many thought a posting in Moscow might be.

“What will they eat if we run out of money?” I asked.

“Some of them may have some root vegetables from their gardens,” answered Olga. “But that’s not enough to get them through the winter. Some can get help from their families. But since the change in government, there’s no longer much to share.”

“So where does the money come from?” I pressed.

“That’s why we’re glad you’re here,” smiled Olga. 

The Rev. Twila Schock serves as senior pastor at Christ Lutheran Church in Belvidere, Ill. She spent 18 years working in ELCA Global Mission, serving as a missionary in Slovakia, Germany, and Russia, and as director for missionary sponsorship and global gifts.

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