ock music blasted from a car parked just below my seventh-floor window about 1:00 a.m. A group of people stood by the car, chatting and laughing. I tried to ignore the noise. I thought about how my alarm would go off in just five hours. I tried to read the Bible. Finally I slid onto my knees and prayed, “Dear God, please make the noise stop!”
But the boom-booms
mingled with hee-hees continued.
I prayed. What would Jesus do? A voice seemed to say, “Do something nice for them.” But what?
“Give them banana bread.”
I didn’t like that idea. I had baked the treat for the nominating committee. Besides, I reasoned, Russians don’t know what banana bread is, and offering it to the possibly drunken group outside could be dangerous.
I got back into bed. Boom! Boom! Boom!
With an apprehensive prayer I went to the kitchen. Pulling the golden loaf out of a Ziploc bag, I sliced it into bite-size pieces. The chunks were soft and moist. I placed them on a plate and got dressed. It was 3:00 a.m.
Emerging from my apartment building, I marched over to the noise. Six young people huddled together, drinking cheap wine from disposable cups and smoking.
“I heard the noise and thought you might be hungry,” I told the astonished group, extending the plate. The six looked at me silently, curiously.
“I made something for you to eat,” I said. “It’s called banana bread.”
A young man broke the silence. “Where are you from?” he asked, speaking English. Another piped up, this time in Russian: “Where were you born?”
“I was born in Africa,” I said.
The group looked stunned. The guy who asked where I was born said, “But your skin . . . you don’t look African.”
That broke the ice, and we made introductions. I learned that the group comprised Daniil, Alexei, Maxim, Ruslan, Pavel, and Pavel’s girlfriend, Natalya. Now the young people looked at the banana bread hungrily. “You made it yourself?” several asked as they helped themselves.
The guy who had spoken in English, Daniil, asked how long I had lived in the neighborhood. Upon hearing “three years,” he shook his head. “You must have heard a lot of music then.” The music came from his car.
I explained that I had gone to bed at 8:00 p.m., exhausted after a long week, but had woken up at midnight. Then the music had started at 1:00 a.m., and a couple hours later I had decided that the group might be hungry.
“You’re a good person!” Daniil exclaimed with a smile.
Natalya asked what I planned to do in the morning, and I said I would attend church. She asked if I was a Christian. I nodded.
The group offered me a glass of wine. I declined. They offered cigarettes. I declined. They asked how old I was. I said, “I’m 37.” They said I didn’t look a day over 30. Maxim linked my appearance to my abstinence from alcohol and tobacco.
“What do you do in your free time if you don’t drink?” Natalya asked. I said I loved to read.
A few minutes later Natalya asked if I attended church every Sabbath. I said yes. Daniil was amazed. “You’re a good person!” he said.
Natalya pulled out her iPhone and showed me pictures from a recent visit to a historic Russian Orthodox cathedral. After she finished, she thought for a moment and said, “Do you believe that people are up there?” she pointed to the dark sky. “Are they happy?”
I reminded her that I loved to read and told her my favorite book was the Bible. I shared my understanding of the state of the dead. For the next hour we all talked about God, faith, sin, and eternal life.
Finally, I said I would try to get some sleep. Everyone shook my hand. Daniil, now in his car, trying to get warm, rolled down the window. “You’re a good person!” he said. It was 5:00 a.m.
Andrew Mc Chesney is a journalist in Russia. This article was published July 28, 2011.