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Moscow missionaries, parishioners safe after blast

One Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy soup kitchen closes briefly

March 30, 2010

LOUISVILLE

The Rev. Bob Bronkema, a Presbyterian missionary who is pastor of Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy (MPC), reports that his family and parishioners are all safe after the Russian capital was rocked by two subway bombings yesterday (March 29).

“The blasts occurred on the red line which is the line that we use fairly much on a daily basis,” Bronkema said in an email to friends shortly after two women — reportedly members of the “Black Widows” Chechen separatist movement — detonated their suicide bombs during morning rush hour, killing dozens and wounding scores more.

“It is also the line where the foreign student university is located and I know of one group of students who were on the line during the blast, but quite a ways away from the actual bombing,” Bronkema reported.

“We continue to try to reach all of our community,” Bronkema added, noting later in the day that all of his parishioners at MPC were accounted for and safe. “One group of students was just getting on the red line when the bomb went off, but fortunately had not yet traveled the 5 stops to where the bomb exploded,” he said. “They were 15 minutes away from it being a very different day for them.”

One of the MPC’s primary ministries is outreach to the thousands of international students who attend school in Moscow. Another area of outreach is a network of soup kitchens that feed vulnerable Muscovites, particularly the elderly and women and children.

“We had to close one of our Soup Kitchens for the day — Kuznetsky Most — which is exactly at the station where the first bomb went off,” Bronkema said. “All the other ministries are running.”

According to Gary Payton, the PC(USA)’s regional liaison for Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Poland, excellent reporting on the situation in Russia is available at the BBC and The Moscow Times.

“May we continue to hold our brothers and sisters in Russia in our Holy Week prayers,” Payton said in an email to supporters of the denomination’s mission and ministry in Russia. “We pray for those who have died and been wounded. We pray for families and care givers. We pray that we may all turn away from violence and respect the dignity of the other.”

Bronkema, too, thanked Presbyterians for their concern and prayers. “It really means a lot to know that you are thinking of us, and thank you so much for your interest,” he said. “Passion week in both Western and Eastern Christianity has not started off in quite the way that we had anticipated.  But at least we are facing it together.”

Presbyterian News Service is grateful to Gary Payton for his invaluable contribution to this story.

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