October 30, 2013

Dateline Moscow

Over the past decade five United States ambassadors have graciously invited me to Spaso House, an elegant mansion off the traffic-congested Garden Ring Road, where U.S. ambassadors have lived since the United States established diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union in 1933.

But a recent visit marked the first time I was accused of being a spy. Twice.

A throng of military men wearing smart uniforms in various shades of green greeted my eyes as I entered the main hall of Spaso House for a welcoming reception for several new defense officials to the U.S. embassy. Shiny medals dangled from the chests of the officers from several dozen countries, while some also sported golden braids and other decorations. Accompanied by fashionably dressed wives, the officers mingled with other guests around a snack-laden table.

At one end of the table I spotted an old friend, a Russian defense analyst. After exchanging hellos, I confided that this was my first time to attend such an event and asked, “What can I expect to learn here this evening?”

My friend gestured toward the uniformed officers and laughed. “What do you think?” he said. “We’re standing in a room filled with spies.”

He was right, of course. But I hadn’t considered this reality in accepting the invitation, and surprise must have flickered across my face. My friend chuckled again and said in all seriousness: “What’s wrong? Aren’t you one of them?”

Later that evening I caught up with a Russian diplomat whom I had met earlier at the Singapore ambassador’s residence. Yury told me that he wanted to write opinion pieces about the Russian armed forces—but with a catch. He said the newspaper where I work would have to cover his travel and lodging expenses as he toured military bases for the articles.

Seeing Yury’s sincerity, I explained that our budget could not absorb such a cost.

Unsmilingly, Yury responded, “Can’t you just call your friends at the CIA for extra money?”

I suppose both comments might have been jokes. But there’s a saying in Russia, “Every joke contains a kernel of truth,” and I had encountered spying suspicions previously. Once as I was signing an apartment lease, my new landlord asked about my nationality and reason for living in Moscow. Learning that I was an American journalist, he said matter-of-factly, “Oh, you’re a spy.”

Bewildered by his reaction, I related it to an old Russian friend. “You know,” he replied, “I have wondered the same thing. Are you a spy?”

For the record, I’m not a foreign agent employed by a government to secure secret information about the enemy. But I am a foreign agent.

I work for a country I have never set foot in, and I eagerly share open-source information that the enemy of all souls wants to keep classified. My motivation is simple: I love the greatest foreign agent, Jesus, who, in coming to earth gave everything so that I, who had nothing, could have everything. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

I represent a government that will topple all the world’s regimes one day soon. The upheaval won’t be an Arab Spring or a Rose, Orange, or Tulip revolution, leading to further unrest and instability. No stealth fighters will be deployed, no nuclear missiles launched.

Jesus, with great power and majesty, will swoop down in the sky with billions of angels. He will bring with Him a capital city whose transparent gold streets are traffic-free and lined with elegant mansions that He personally built for His foreign agents. He will establish a kingdom that no worldly leader can match: a place with “ ‘no more death’ or mourning or crying.” His promise is unequivocal: “I am making everything new” (Rev. 21:4, 5).

It’s risky, perhaps even dangerous, to admit to being a foreign agent. But the information I possess is too important, too exciting, to keep to myself. I’m not afraid to be recognized as a foreign agent.

Are you?