Sunday, November 23, 2003

Thank You

November 24, 2003

Winter has come in with a vengeance. Temperatures in the teens to low twenties with strong winds and blowing snow have hit St. Petersburg. Our kitchen continues to be unheated so Aaron wakes early in the morning to brave the icy room and light the gas stove so we can venture in to have our breakfast. I love this stormy weather and bounce from window to window to see different views of the drifting snow. When we take Timothy out we bundle him up in so many layers his arms stick straight out. He looks a bit like a stuffed snowman with only his rosy cheeks and big blue eyes peering out from the scarf wound around his hat. He gets so excited when we get him ready to go outside that he begins to sing. Our son has a little song he sings in baby language when he is very happy. He hums his tune to us as we stuff him into his back pack carrier and lift him on to papa's back. Down the elevator and into the freezing weather he bounces and sings his joy much to our enjoyment and entertainment. His hat is a bit too big so as he turns his head from side to side to see the sights of this wide world, it stays in one position while his head turns. He peers at me with one eye showing sending me into peals of laughter at his comical appearance. Poor papa has to be content with a word by word account of what is going on.

This birthday was such a blessing for me. Messages mysteriously began to appear on my cell phone a few days before my birthday. As words of blessing came pouring out of that little piece of electronics, my confusion grew.
"How does she/he know my cell phone number", I asked Aaron several times.
Then when a message came in from my sister Ruth, I knew something fishy was going on. Except for a few exceptions, my family is not known as the most computer savvy group of people and cell phones are almost unheard of amongst us. I finally cornered Aaron and forced a confession out of him. What a wonderful gift that was from him and all of you. I was so blessed to receive your blessings from around the world. THANK YOU!

The night before my birthday Aaron called me from work, as he often does, and explained that he had more business to attend to in town and would be an hour late in getting home. I sighed and put his dinner aside to warm later.
Eight PM rolled around and our doorbell rang. I raced Timothy to the door and opened it to find a huge box sitting on our doorstep with Aaron peering around the side. My mouth fell open as I read the lettering on the side "Korg, SP-500 electric piano". "How did you get it home," I gulped then helped him in the door with it. "The salesman took me home in his own car as the store was closing soon" he explained. As soon as we got the box into the living room I gave him a huge teary eyed bear hug. As many of you know, I was a worship leader in two different churches for four years before coming to Russia. I laid my music down when coming here, not knowing when I would be able to pick it up again. That night Aaron and I worshiped for 3 solid hours, him on his guitar, and me on the piano. I didn't realize how much my soul longed to worship in music until I spent two years without a piano. There is something about pounding the praise out and entering into the presence of the Lord with soft worship on a piano that is hard to replace when that has been your instrument of worship an entire lifetime.
So I am pounding and worshiping to my hearts content, disturbing my neighbors at all hours of the day, and delighting Timothy as he sits and rocks in time to the music. And the presence of the Lord continues to be in our home and ministers to us in a new and delightful way.

I have a special prayer request for our pastor, Joel Kurtly and his wife Heather. For the past two years they have been trying to adopt two Russian children, ages 12 and 14. Both children at the age of 16 will be turned out of the Russian social system to make it as best as they can on their own, which often means living on the street. The children have been allowed to live with Joel and Heather for the past 8 months as the orphanage felt the adoption was a sure thing. Two weeks ago the judge threw a huge wrench in the process, forcing Joel and Heather to leave Russia and return to the U.S. to live and work before considering their adoption case. They have two months to return home, find a job, a home and do a home study in the U.S. before they return for one last try to adopt Sergey and Ira. When the judge gave her ultimatum, she also told Joel that he had the option to stop trying. He promptly stood, and very strongly declared that he would do anything she told him to adopt these two children, "Whatever it takes to bring my children home, I'll do it". These two beautiful children have become a part of the Kurtly family, calling Joel and Heather, papa and mama.
They were all planning to come to the States to celebrate Christmas with their new grandparents and other relatives. Imagine Joel's painful task as they waited outside the courtroom all dressed up and ready to be made an official part of this family, when he had to tell them that not only was the adoption refused, but they could not go to America for Christmas and had to return to the orphanage for several months while Mama and Papa went to the States without them. Please pray for them as a family, this has been a huge change in their plans and an emotional testing for all of them. Joel and Heather have lived and ministered here for close to eleven years raising two boys ages 3 and 5 in this city. They now have to leave the church they have lead for ten years, and suddenly return to the States to live and work.
It was a very emotional service this Sunday as Joel prepared the congregation for their leaving and informed us of Boris' confirmation as the new pastor. Aaron and I have offered to take Sergey and Ira for the four days around Christmas. If the orphanage will release them, we want them to be in a family setting for this time while their other family is away.

Thank you for your continued love and support!

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Happy 300th

June 26, 2003

We gaze down into the street below us. The crowd, 1.5 million strong, line miles of the Neva River. It is near midnight, May 27th, and the three hundred year anniversary of St. Petersburg is about to begin. I thank God for this beautiful apartment, four stories above the madness. Timothy is sleeping in the bathtub, the darkest place in the house, away from the booming, window shaking music being piped throughout the waterfront. The crowd becomes progressively drunk, broken bottles lining the streets by the thousands. Riding the metro to get here was a scary experience with hundreds of thousands trying to get to the center of the city. Every train was a crushing experience. I stood in front of Aaron, facing him, arms extended to keep a protective cushion around Timothy. As people rammed into my back, frantically pushing to get onto the train, I’d yell “I’ve got a baby!” at which point everyone would backed off.

Now we sit peacefully, enjoying the lovely view of the Peter & Paul Fortress across the Neva. We are surrounded by good friends and Aaron’s coworkers, sipping on tea and nibbling on sweets. The firework show is astounding and we have the best seat in the house with the fireworks exploding directly in front and above us. WOW! Sailing ships built in the style of the Russian navy during Peter the Great’s time fight a mock battle off to our left, while the local yacht club sail their lovely sailboats under our window in formation. The sun slowly sets near 11pm, a majestic ball of fire settling behind the towers of the fortress cathedral. The laser show from Japan will not start till 1am as it is not completely dark till then. As we walk for miles to reach a friend’s car after the event, we see the effects on the street of a wild night of partying. There is garbage knee deep near the populated areas, broken bottles everywhere. I sympathize with the clean-up crew that has to clean all this before the morning arrives. What an experience! Timothy slept so well in the bathtub we have utilized it in visiting other friends.

I am so hungry! My time in the States woke such a strong desire for fellowship and the movement of God’s Spirit in my life. There was such sweet fellowship with other believers, anointing and prayer flowed around us. It is difficult to describe the lack of fellowship here in St. Petersburg for expatriates. Everyone is so focused on ministering and feeding those we came to minister to, that our own fellowship and feeding suffers. Many missionaries have left broken, bitter people, exhausted, starved. I so understand their frustration as I struggle with the loneliness and exhaustion of being a new mom in a foreign culture. I sometimes get half a worship service in on Sunday mornings then it is time to sit out in the entrance hall to feed and watch Timothy. No teaching, for months at a time, no fellowship beyond a few days a month having dinner with friends. And so I dig into God, crying out to Him for an outpouring of the Spirit in my home, in my life. In the hunger of my seeking, I cry for the Living God. I cannot, will not live without His presence.

Blessings and love to all of you dear friends!

Monday, May 26, 2003

God's Blessing

May 26, 2003

The last time I wrote a journal entry, I mentioned the fact that I believed the Lord wanted to pour out His Spirit through Aaron and me as well as into us, I had no idea what He had in store! This last month in the States was such a time of refreshing and blessing. We are so humbled by the love of our Father, shown to us by our relatives and families, churches, friends. We were able to share with 8 churches while home, and one mission committee. In every circumstance the Holy Spirit was present in a mighty way and I believe hearts were touched to answer God’s call on their lives. Sometimes the only response was simply the bowing of heads and weeping. If I could only sit down with each individual and tell them the continued blessing and anointing which has come to us in answering that call. We do not fear what the future has in store for us but rest assured in the peace of God’s plan.

Let me tell you one small story of God’s provision for us. A sweet friend in Seattle handed me a check for $120 to buy a formal dress to use for the various social events Aaron is required to attend as part of his work here in St. Petersburg. I had been longing to buy something graceful and lovely to accompany my sharp looking husband and had been wearing one cotton print dress to 4 of the last 5 events. Sometimes women are so silly. But God made us this way, to desire to be lovely for our men. My sister in law, Amy took us shopping (a dizzying experience in America), and I found an elegant floor length ball gown on the JC Penny clearance rack for $89.90 marked down from $139.90. I rushed off to find a scarf to go with. When I returned the lady at the counter (looking rather stunned) told me to guess what the gown rang up at. Not understanding her I shook my head. “Nineteen dollars and seventy cents”. I turned to Aaron and Amy who were chuckling. “Twenty dollars?” They nodded. “God is so good!” We laughed and exclaimed all the way to the escalators. I could not even spend the money given to me for the dress – God just kept blessing us over and over.

My sister Rhoda and her husband Brian gave us a three wheel jogging stroller for Timothy. I had no idea what a blessing it would be till I took it over the roughest roads and paths in our neighborhood here in Russia, with all the uneven broken pavement, pot holes and mud puddles. I think Timothy enjoyed the roller coaster ride and the stroller handled everything! I had a crowd of 6 year old boys circling me asking me where I got the cool stroller, could it turn into a bicycle, did it have a motor on it, could they try pushing it … My entourage and I circled the neighborhood several times attracting the attention of every stray dog who joined in the procession with barking excitement. The local grandmothers watched and shook their heads in wonder, while others just stared at the strange contraption, possibly the first in St. Petersburg. “Well, I suppose everyone will know I’m a foreigner,” I thought to myself, “So much for blending in.” Timothy, king of the parade, enjoyed it immensely, gurgling and drooling his approval. Thank-you Rhoda and Brian!

This is one thing I have learned over the years in serving the Lord, that the more you give of your time, effort, and finances, the more He pours out in return. It is a godly principle that has never proven false. And so we sit basking in the favor and love of our beloved Father.

We love you and ask the Lord's blessing to be poured out upon you!

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Land of Beauty

March, 18, 2003

I open my eyes to glorious sunshine beaming through the windows. Looking out the windows of our sixth floor room in Helsinki, a view of stunning beauty greets my eyes. Every tree branch, every object is lined in ½ an inch of hoar frost. “Lord, thank you!” I breathe. Coming from the oppression of Russia into this place of refuge, a beautiful retreat for foreign missionaries, it’s as if a huge burden has lifted off my shoulders. As I grab my Bible to start morning devotions, a sense of peace envelopes me, something I have not felt for a long time. Aaron and I are staying the Lutheran Mission Home in Finland to renew our visas, a trip Aaron and I always enjoy. This home was set up to minister to Lutheran missionaries from around the world, providing them with a beautiful place to stay when home on furlough. There are multiple apartments, with small kitchenettes and a chapel and dining room for the use of the families. Part of it has been converted into a bead and breakfast for the public. This place has had much prayer and love put into it. You can feel the presence of God when you walk through the door.
With Timothy in tow, Aaron and I venture forth into the beauty for a long walk. “Let’s go walk on the Finish gulf”, I suggest. Hundreds of people are out on the frozen Baltic ocean, some cross country skiing, others jogging, or just walking. We venture out, half a mile or so from the shore and watch in astonishment as a 9 story ocean cruise liner sails majestically into the harbor through a large trough in the ice cut by icebreakers. People, looking like tiny ants as they walk on the ice, are dwarfed by the massive ship. Aaron and I decide to head back towards shore.

Her face lined with wrinkles, she eagerly waits for us to unwrap her precious Timosha, and hand him to her. She coos and tickles, kisses and hugs him, calling him beautiful, smart, and strong. Clucking and bouncing she pours out her love on our son. Four of her front teeth are missing, replaced by a metal bridge, most would look at her and see no beauty, to me she is lovely. Timothy’s Russian grandmother, Martha, has invited us over for the anniversary of his month since he was born. She knits him stockings and makes little caps to keep his head warm, giving me all sorts of advice on how to dress him, hold him, feed him, etc. Multi course feasts await us every time we arrive, her preparations starting the day before. Bent over, walking with a cane, she makes her way back and forth from the kitchen to the table many times. I insist on helping her, even as she tries to shoo me away. I wonder at this amazing woman. She lost every close male relation in the wars Russia has fought. Her husband, brothers, uncles. A whole family decimated by events beyond their control. Her only daughter died in a car accident with her husband, leaving a mentally handicapped child behind for Martha to care for. Yet without bitterness and with great love, she continues to minister and bless others, giving thanks to God for his abundant blessings.

For many of you who have given towards the Tajik ministry, I want to do a brief update. I continue to be in close contact with those ministering in the camps. There are two groups now that YWAM is working with, one with 30 families, the other with 15 (these number change frequently as families come and go). Currently, in one camp there are 9 pregnant women who will give birth sometime this year. I continue to provide funds for medicine, but mostly now for vitamins as there are no medical personnel available to minister to the families. This summer, after Timothy has finished his series of vaccinations, I will take him with me to visit one of the camps perhaps on a weekly basis. Those who know me well have asked repeatedly when I will return with him so they can rejoice with me in this long awaited child. The Schoolteacher, leader of one of the camps, has been able to find consistent work with a Finish construction company, and has helped several of the men in his camp to find work as well. Their situation has improved immensely due to this influx of income. There were many times during the bitter cold this winter, when my heart went out to this group of people living in plastic tents and garden shacks outside the city. They are no longer distant faces, but friends whom I love and know. Continue to pray for their situation, that there will be a lasting change in their lives as the Gospel is taught both in word and action.

Much love to all of you.