SCOTT DREYER: No Man Is An Island Indeed PART IV

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The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.  -Psalm 24:1 (KJV)

In Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this tribute to Mr. Terry Racher, we discuss how three of us journeyed from Taiwan to the Soviet Union in what turned out to be the USSR’s final year.

On July 4th, 1991 we rolled into Moscow, Russia. Just before our train stopped, Terry was speaking with a Chinese fellow-traveler and led him to faith in Christ. Several times over later years, Terry wondered what happened to that man who prayed to receive Jesus and then disappeared into the crowd at the station. Of course we never saw him again. 

Entering the capital city of our Cold War adversary on the USA’s birthday was itself surreal. Plus, after six days and six nights on a train from Beijing, it felt great to just stop moving and find a proper room and bathroom for a change! 

There was a tourist office inside the Moscow train station. Since this was all pre-internet, Max spoke with a clerk there and arranged a Russian family’s Bed and Breakfast where we could stay. We believed living with a Muscovite family would be more interesting than staying in a sterile hotel.  We spent a three-day weekend in Moscow touring the Kremlin and other famous sites.

That was my second visit to the Kremlin, having gone first in 1986 while studying in Germany. It was so ironic: although the Kremlin was the center of government of the atheistic Soviet Union, Orthodox Christian crosses atop the Kremlin spires far outnumbered the red stars of communism in that sprawling complex. That was because, during the pre-communist days when Russia was ruled by Czars, it was a largely Christian country.

Blessed to know Mandarin and German, I was able to communicate easily in Taiwan, Mainland China, and Germany. However, knowing no Russian, Terry and I depended heavily on multilingual Max to translate for us, since Russian was one of the seven languages he knew. Max’s linguistic genius helped us all along the way.

Terry getting his portrait sketched at Arbat Street, a famous pedestrian zone in Moscow. Each portrait cost only about US$ 3!

Terry took us to a church service on Sunday morning that some American missionary friends of his were involved in. By 1991, Soviet communism was more lax and allowed religious services to a degree – most had been banned in earlier times. The church met in a large auditorium; the room was packed and after the service many lined up to get free Bibles. After eighty-plus years of atheistic communism, it seemed many Russians were craving a knowledge of God and the Scriptures. 

This may sound odd, but one reason I am thankful we made the trip when we did in 1991 was because one can literally not go there again. About six months after our visit, the Soviet Union collapsed into fifteen independent countries. In other words, a person could no longer visit the USSR, because it simply no longer existed! 

Monday morning we boarded another train to leave Moscow and the USSR, pass through Poland, and arrive in Berlin on Tuesday. The Berlin Wall had just fallen less than two years earlier, and East and West Germany had reunified only nine months before. It was amazing to be in Berlin again and be able to travel freely between the East and West parts of the city without facing the hated Berlin Wall the communists had built in 1961 to keep the East Germans trapped. However, German reunification was so recent, one still had to dial a different country code to call across the city. The phone networks had not been unified yet.

Having been “incommunicado” with the outside world since we had left Hong Kong over two weeks earlier, we quickly found pay phones in the Berlin train station to call home and tell our loved ones we were ok and had successfully completed the journey of a lifetime.

Arriving in Berlin was bittersweet. We were thrilled by the victory of knowing we had traveled by rail from South China to Germany. It was a dream come true. With God’s help, we had done it! However, it was also sad because “The Three Amigos’” trip was over.

Terry (L), sporting his Great Wall T-shirt; Max (middle); Scott (R), at the Berlin Main Train Station.

Max was heading back to his native Austria. Terry was off to see friends in England before heading home to reunite with his wife in Texas. I was to spend two weeks in Germany visiting friends I had made during my Junior Year abroad there. Then, I would fly over the Atlantic to see my family in Virginia before flying over North America and the Pacific in late August to return to Taiwan to launch a new year of teaching. Exactly 72 days after we had left Taiwan, I had circled the globe and arrived back. (So, it apparently can be done in less than 80 :))

After our epic voyage, Terry later left Taiwan and taught for a while in Mainland China and on the tiny Pacific island of Yap. In typical Terry fashion, he rented a beachfront house from a Yap senator and thus he could drink coffee and read his Bible while looking at the ocean each morning and go saltwater fishing from his front yard for dinner.  He later remarried and spent his last twenty years in Arizona. His wife jokes, “I made him settle down and stay in one place longer than he ever had in his life.”

Terry remained so spry. Into his 80s, he would sing Broadway songs and tap dance at shows to entertain fellow residents of their retirement community. Terry and his wife Linda were active in their church. He would drive solo from Arizona to family reunions in Pennsylvania while his wife flew. 

His network of friends and family was so extensive, he had places to stay across the country and never needed a motel. I think the last time we saw each other was in September 2017, when he stayed with us on a cross-country trip. He had just turned 81. 

Terry and I spoke over the phone several times last fall and winter. Even at 84, he still possessed his lifelong humor, positivity, and faith. Despite the pandemic, lockdowns, election disorder, and national chaos, Terry kept his trust in the sovereignty of God. When we would discuss our nation’s dismaying circumstances, he encouraged me: “Remember, God is in control, and nothing happens apart from his will. Nothing surprises God.” 

Terry did not remain cheerful because he had had an easy life. Remarkably, he remained cheerful despite enduring much pain and suffering. He lost his wife Patti to cancer. He lost his musically talented son to a sudden illness. Through it all, Terry remained upbeat and kept looking to God. 

It was heartbreaking for all of us who knew Terry to learn he had passed last Ash Wednesday. However, our loss is heaven’s gain, and Terry enriched all of us who were blessed to have known him here below. Terry is survived by his loving wife Linda, two daughters, eight biological grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. When he remarried in 1999, he gained three new grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

What a life well and abundantly lived! 

Scott Dreyer in his classroom.

– Scott Dreyer

Hear Terry’s interviews about our round the world adventure in the Life App Podcast:

Interview Part 1

Interview Part 2