Twenty years ago, with a group of three people, I went to the ancient Russian city of Suzdal to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books. It was a bold decision to go to a place where almost every second resident was a nun or a priest, and almost every corner had a church or a temple.
On the first day, inspired by the morning program, I was walking around this exotic little town for about nine hours and offering books everywhere I could, but I was unsuccessful. All the residents refused, as if they had conspired, and everyone had almost the same answer: “This is not our belief.”
It seemed to me necessary to make some sense of our visit. What did this mean—according to God’s plan? I thought that I should return to the hotel and find out the other devotees’ results. If they were the same, then maybe we should just leave immediately.
Going to the hotel, I passed churches where I was unafraid to go with the books, but I couldn’t even imagine how I would offer them there. Yet I decided strictly: “Krishna, just for Your sake, I will go to this church now and offer books to the first person who catches my eye. And, if Your will be done, then please help me distribute at least one book.”
The church premises were well taken care of. I spotted an almost unnoticeable sign above a small door: “Church Bench.” The door led to a downstairs area that turned out to be a basement. I carefully went down the steps and quietly opened a door and saw a frightened elderly monk with a big beard. When he saw me, he hid something under the table with a quick motion. I pretended that I didn’t notice.
I politely introduced myself: “Christ is risen! Hello, we came from Arkhangelsk and brought very valuable books about God. As a believer, you might be interested in them. Can you tell me your name?”
“Good evening. My name is Father Gabriel.”
“Father Gabriel, it is clear from your eyes that you are wise. Please look at our books.”
I noticed a strong excitement and confusion in his eyes, which quickly changed to joy and revitalization. He looked at me with love and said loudly, “I’m so glad. How lucky I am. God finally answered my prayers. I’ve been looking for these books for several years. I prayed to Jesus, to the mother of God, to my guardian angel, and even to Krishna to send me these books.”
He suddenly pulled out from under the table Srimad-Bhagavatam, Second Canto, the object he had hidden when I had walked in. He said, “When you came in, I was reading this book, which I do every day for a few hours, and I sit in obedience. I got this book from my late father. He bought it in Moscow. Being a Christian, he repeated your Hare Krishna mantra every day along with the Jesus prayer. Before he died, he pushed me to read it, despite my former negative attitude toward this book. And now this is my most dear and valuable book. Without it, I don’t see the meaning of living. I read this every free minute. It opened my eyes to a true idea of myself and God. And after I had read it seven times in a row, I began to pray that God graciously send me the rest of the books of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. And now a miracle has happened: You brought them to me. Please tell me the price and let me buy all the books you have.”
I listened to him and was surprised at how the Lord arranges everything in such a perfect way. I also began to express my feelings to him by telling him how I walked around Suzdal the whole day and finally asked God to send me at least one sincere person who would want these books.
We were both in ecstasy. I named the price, and Father Gabriel immediately got the right amount. He bought all the Bhagavatam cantos I had (thirteen books). We talked more about his spiritual journey and his humble attempts to do japa meditation. I gave him some practical advice and told him how to make homemade beads.
Thanks to this meeting, I always remember and try not to forget one important truth: If you sincerely pray to God, He will surely answer.
I suppose that since I wanted to give some meaning to our visiting Suzdal, it is obvious what it was—the highest meaning: God hears and fulfills the desires of all His servants.
Thank You, Krishna! This is Your glory, wisdom, and greatness!
Your humble servant,