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Russia
Me in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in front of a statue of Alexander the Great

I traveled to Europe in 1989 as part of a month-long  May Seminar through my college. I was so excited to go to the Soviet Union, especially. Although I was excited, I was also afraid of losing my passport. I had a history of losing things, but I couldn't afford to lose my passport or the case I kept it in. Inside the case were my cash, credit card, visas, airplane tickets, as well as my passport.

On the initial flight to London, I awoke with a start and realized I had lost something very valuable. The girl next to me could see that I was searching for something and started helping me. She enlisted the help of our other seatmates. Soon we were all searching diligently for the lost item. "What does it look like?" my initial helper asked. I didn't respond verbally, but gestured wildly as I tried to explain the inexplicable. We both started laughing when we realized that I had just been dreaming.

Two weeks later I was living the nightmare. We were on an overnight train from what was then Leningrad traveling to Moscow. Our seminar leaders advised us to sleep with our passport cases. American passports were very valuable in the Soviet Union, we were told, and were often stolen from train cars while their owners slept. I slept with my case around my neck. Early in the morning we were awoken and told we had to prepare to get off the train immediately. Groggily, I gathered my belongings and got on the bus that would take us to our hotel. We drove for an hour, listening to our tour guide tell us about the area.

When we boarded the boat motel where we would be staying, the hotel employees began collecting our passports. Foreign visitors always have hotel staff collect their passports for safe keeping. In that instant, I knew where my passport case was–in the sleeping car of the train. I had given the sheets a once over, but didn't see the case lying there. I searched my bags, but the sick feeling in my stomach told me I wouldn't find the case. I was shaking when I told my seminar leader what had happened. He immediately tried to get information about the train's location. We were told the train had been moved to a cleaning station. There was nothing to do, but check into the hotel and wait.

I had my clothes and about $250 in cash. I had no visa, so I would not be permitted to leave the country. My seminar leader gave me the grim news that the group would have to go on without me. I knew I would have to contact my family and ask for emergency assistance. The assistant seminar leader pointed out that my passport had probably already been sold. He further warned that a phone call to the US would be outrageously expensive. I had to admit to myself that my parents did not have the money to help me even if I could reach them.

That evening, the other students went off to explore Moscow. I stayed in my room, realizing that I could not afford to spend even a penny of the money I had. I took a shower and the water alternated betwwen freezing cold and scalding hot. I may have needed that shower to bring me out of the shock I was in. I cried and cried. I realized that all I could do was pray. I hoped that God was still God in the USSR. I remembered hearing once that you should pray until you feel peace. I began praying more fervently than I had ever prayed in my life. "Lord," I said, "You can do anything! You can cause the person who finds my passport to turn it in rather than sell it. Please, Lord, please return my passport case to me!" As I continued to call on Him for help, I felt a peace come over me. I knew that my prayer had been answered. Even though I was in the worst spot of my life, I fell asleep peacefully.

At midnight, my seminar leader awakened me to tell me that my passport had been recovered. I was not surprised. I went back to sleep. The next day, my seminar leader and I made a trip to pick up the passport. My leader was nervous as we were away from our guides. When we arrived at the station holding the passport case, a sterm looking military man watched as I verified that not one coin had been stolen. He shook his head in disbelief, the same way my mother always did when I lost something. When we were back with the entire group on board our tour bus, my answer to prayer was announced and the group began cheering in response.

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22)

 

 

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