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Marylhurst grad feels the call of Russia

by: Cliff Newell,

Pat Mohney is at an age where most people are ready to settle back and relax after a life well lived.

Not Mohney.

At age 67 the Marylhurst University graduate will soon embark for more than a year of service in Russia. First with Agape Russian Ministry, where she will help bring medical care to remote parts of the nation, and then with OMS International in Moscow, where she will teach English to missionaries.

'At this point in my life it's important for me to contribute in person,' Mohney said. 'Russia is a thread that has run all through my life.'

It does seem like life has slowly been pushing her to serve in that country. Mohney remembers praying for the Russian people even as a little girl, and later on she made Russian connections as a ballet dancer and an employee of Marylhurst. Her vision took shape on her first visit to Russia in 1998.

'I went on a cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg,' Mohney said. 'I knew I'd be coming back.'

Two years later Mohney was delivering an offering from her church to Christians in Russia, and it was there she learned about Agape, met with its staff and visited children's hospitals.

In 2002 Mohney joined Agape for a trip to southern Siberia. This was nothing like a cruise. She made a 1,900-mile train journey, then rode a bus 335 miles to the base city of Tashogol, which is just above Mongolia. From there she would ride in a 4-by-4 truck for two to four hours over a dirt road to remote villages, where Agape would set up medical clinics and stay until dark. Mohney worked in the eye clinic, working on lenses and frames.

Occasionally things got really adventurous. One time Mohney and her colleagues tried to ford a river but could not make it, so villagers in canoes came to get them.

'Some of those villages hadn't had any visitors for two years,' Mohney said. 'At one village I was told I was the first American they had ever seen.'

Mohney accompanied mission leader Dr. Bill Becknell, whose qualifications for volunteers is 'anyone with a heart for the Russian people.'

'There is something about the Russian people that I've fallen in love with,' Mohney said. 'They've had such a tragic history, and there's such a dichotomy between the wealthy and everyday people. Especially outside the big cities. In some places it was like going back a hundred years in time.

'We would hand out books and Bibles. The people are very, very spiritually hungry.'

Mohney's payback came in the form of love. From a little girl named Enya who sat in her lap for two hours or an elderly man in tears, after he had been given a health kit and a New Testament, who said he had been waiting 10 years to hear from God.

'Being in Russia definitely requires flexibility,' Mohney said. 'Americans are used to doing things bang, bang, bang, and it's hard for them.

'I tend to be adaptable and go with the flow. I'm there to serve. I don't have an agenda.'

Marylhurst has had a key part in Mohney's mission. The university has played a crucial role for her ever since the first weeks of her life, when she was cared for by the Sisters of the Holy Names when her mother became ill. Later, Mohney became a graduate of Marylhurst and for many years was an assistant to university president Nancy Wilgenbusch.

'I hold Nancy Wilgenbusch in very high regard,' Mohney said. 'She taught me true leadership is in empowering people.'

Mohney figures to do some empowering in Russia, and she is now raising funds for her trip.

One of the ways is selling a book she has written called 'Landscapes: A Journey for the Spiritual Traveler,' a journal that includes words of inspiration on each page. It is available at the Web site www.yourmission.us. For more information, call 503-888-9473.

Mohney's fourth trip to Russia will be unlike her previous journeys. It requires more commitment than ever.

She said, 'I've sold my furniture and have gotten rid of most of my belongings.'

Mohney added with a laugh, 'I'll be learning how to live out of two suitcases for a year. And I love shoes.'

Shoes, Pat Mohney won't have. But she will have lots of what she needs most: A heart for the Russian people.