“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too?” -C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves


This is the first in a series of reflections about our September trip to Russia.


The first evening in Saint Petersburg, Keith and I ate dinner with two couples, one from New York and the other from Pennsylvania. While I chatted with the New Yorkers, who were marketers, a field about which I am a novice, Keith and the Pennsylvanians compared notes. Turns out the husband had retired from government service like Keith, and the wife had raised children and taught.

What! You too?

A few days later, having sailed the Neva River, Lake Ladoga and now the Svir River, we sipped champagne outside our staterooms, a “Meet your Neighbors” event. I met a Muslim couple that had been exiled from their country years ago and had reestablished their lives in another country then the United States. “I never worried,” the wife said, “because I knew God would take care of us.” “I admire your faith,” I said. We smiled in recognition.

What! You too?

Several port tours and meals found us walking in the same group or eating at the same table with a food scientist and columnist couple from Texas. She had been an elementary school principal but now took pictures of beautiful food presentations for her column. They prayed before meals.

What! You too?

We had introduced ourselves around a large table at lunch during our “privileged access” Hermitage tour in Saint Petersburg. Now pulling into Moscow, we joined this couple from Florida for lunch. “I’m praying for your home and family in the path of Hurricane Irma,” I said “Thank you, that means a lot to me,” the wife said. She told me about her job as an assistant pastor for women’s ministry. “What a wonderful calling!” I said. “I serve on our women’s ministry team. Last year, the women studied prayer, and this year they wanted to tackle forgiveness.” “That’s a tough topic,” she said, “I’m impressed. Lack of forgiveness can tear people apart. I know; I’ve seen it.”

What! You too?

We ate our final lunch with the couple from New York and our last dinner with the Pennsylvania couple. The food columnist from Texas joined us – her husband was down with a cold. We women spoke about our families. “I’d like my relationships to be like Kodak photographs,” I said, “but that’s not always the way things work out.” “We’d all like ‘Kodak’ families,” the other two women said. We chatted about successes and disappointments. “Sometimes the fault lies with me,” I said, “because I’m just a flawed human being. But I’m working on it.”

At the end of the evening, we waved goodbye to the Muslim couple across the room. Then the Florida couple stopped by our table, and wife gave me a gift. When I got back to the room, I examined it – a bracelet with this inscription:

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13




What! You too?


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