Music Ministry in Moscow Prison

by David Saunders – 

Our regional worship band has been active visiting prisons recently. The band is comprised of young people from the five Moscow corps.

Visiting the prisons is always a sobering experience. The cells are dimly lit. They are overcrowded. Many lack proper ventilation or heating. It is into this atmosphere that Misha Gavrilov, the region’s prison ministry coordinator, goes several times a week. He is well known to the prisoners, guards and the administration. Through his contacts, the worship band has been able to minister at several prisons.

A couple of boisterous numbers warm up the somber group, and for some reason they really like the puppets. After a recent meeting, many prisoners pitched in to help load the equipment into the waiting vehicles. Once it was all loaded, we stood around in the snow-covered, walled courtyard and had the opportunity to speak one on one with them. One young man said that his birthday was coming up and that it would be a great present if we could come back. As we were leaving, they shouted out that they wanted us to come back soon. We plan to visit the prison again this month with enough birthday cake for all.

Unfortunately, things don’t always go so well. Sometimes we have a shortage of running vehicles. Once we had to cancel a prison meeting because there were just not enough cars running to get everything there.

Another time we were at a prison gate waiting to enter, only to have the guards tell us that there would be no visits that day. The prison was locked down and no visitors were allowed in. Last week, the building where the band practices had its electricity turned off. The resourceful band was able to run several power cords for their equipment from a nearby building and then practice by candlelight!

Much of the band’s equipment and instruments were donated from the West. Although we had the talent and the desire, we needed the equipment. Thanks to the donations we received, and the natural talent of our young people, we were able to put this ministry team together.

On the horizon for the band are a trip to support the opening of new corps in another region, and two recordings. The first recording is going to be a praise and worship collection. The second, slated for next Christmas, is to be an assortment of Christmas songs in both Russian and English.

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