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.