The Russian General and the Singing Midget
By Eric Waggoner
Reading time 4 Minutes
Since his recent surgery, Lowell Mason, now 81 years old, has done nothing in the way of personal appearances. Up to that point, though, the past 30 years of his career had stayed as busy as the first 40. He still sang regularly, often with his son Duke at the latter’s personal appearances, though Lowell’s own efforts gradually moved over time more towards strategic service than touring and performance. His and Judy’s work with the “We Care” nonprofit allowed them to, among other projects, facilitate delivery of fresh water to Flint, Michigan near his boyhood home, early in that city’s recent water crisis.
Most lastingly, an ongoing bible ministry in Russia, initiated when he and Cecil Todd traveled there with Revival Fires, has allowed him to ship over six million bibles to that country—first to the military, then to small area churches—over the past 26 years.
Lowell’s overseas contact for much of that ministry has been Slava Borisov, a 3-star General in the Russian military who met Lowell during a 1992 Revival Fires mission trip. Borisov told Lowell the story of how he’d been shot down in a helicopter in 1985. Borisov, field commander of Soviet ground troops in Afghanistan, was convinced that God had spared his life. He was now on a mission to put bibles in the hands of all hundred thousand soldiers under his direct command.
“The first time I met the General he and I found ourselves in a room, just the two of us. I asked if he spoke any English, and he knew just enough to say ‘No.’ Of course, I spoke no Russian. But we tried to get it together. Well, after a while we were going in our wallets, showing each other pictures of our grandchildren and so on. At one point he leaned over and, sort of cautiously, he asked: ‘Eat?’ And I said, ‘Da.’ We went off to have a meal together, and that’s how it began.
“We sometimes had to be careful—still do,” says Lowell. “There for a while you never knew who might be listening. Oh, one night we were over there, all having dinner, about 15 people in our group and the General. And a nice-looking, well-dressed woman came into the room and whispered something into Slava’s ear. He leaned over and said to me, ‘We must leave.’ We got up and went out into a hallway and the General opened another door, and suddenly I was looking at about 20 or 25 KGB officers, in uniform. He’d been holding secret meetings with them, and they’d come to talk to us. Well, I sent our assistant out to the truck where we had more bibles, and we sat for a bit and talked. Slava said, ‘Teach them.’ And we turned to the Great Commission.”
Eric Waggoner is Associate Professor of American Literature and Cultural Studies at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where he also teaches Creative Nonfiction courses in the MFA in Writing Program. He has been a music writer since 2000, and is currently Contributing Editor and Writer for MAGNET magazine. He is the founder and managing editor of Latham House Press, a micro-press devoted to publishing first books by promising Appalachian writers in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.