Friday, October 21, 2005

Pastoral Care & Pastoral Scenes

October 21, 2005

Warm smells of pizza waft into the room as we chat about light topics ranging from my first (and last) experience drinking Vodka in my ignorant innocence on my first trip to Russia, to the strange way YWAM has of sending people off on trains into the unknown with someone to meet them on the other end who has never set eyes on them before. In this case a family coming to St. Petersburg from Moscow and being met by a girl who has no idea as to which train they are on let alone the wagon they are in and she has never seen them before – the only info, a 5 am train arriving from Moscow. I laugh as I remember my own YWAM experience of getting placed on a train with two drunken men in my compartment on an 18 hour ride to the Ukraine from southern Russia. The man who was supposed to meet me thought I was coming the next day and I sat for several anxious hours until some passing students helped me contact him.

We are meeting with the YWAM staff of St Petersburg, praying with them and sharing our vision for the new pastoral care ministry we have taken on for the base. Our hearts are to see this base covered in prayer, to see an unusual unity among the staff, and to see the churches in the city become more involved in missions. There is so much fear in the hearts of many pastors here. They believe that to send someone out means that the church will loose their potential talents for themselves, when in truth the church should be eagerly sending out missionaries to fulfill the great commission! Many of these churches were planted by people called by God to cross oceans to preach the good news of the gospel, how can they not desire to continue that commission? If only they could see the immense blessing the Lord pours out on churches that are active in sending others. My heart breaks to see this spirit of fear and control so active in the churches here.

So with hearts full of God’s calling and purpose we have become intercessors for this city, for the base, and for individuals God has brought into our lives.

A praise report! The wife of the YWAM base leader was having complications with her pregnancy and ended up in the hospital with her placenta separating from the wall of the womb. Doctors feared she was close to miscarrying and placed her on medication to stop the uterus from contracting as well as bed rest. We began to pray intensely upon receiving the call from her husband. Two days after being released home on bed rest she came in for a follow up ultrasound and the placenta had reattached itself to the wall and was almost completely healed. The doctors were amazed at this miraculous recovery. I was not. Some of the prayers I prayed were “Lord, You are the Healer, Creator, take this placenta and stitch it back into the womb.” Although she is still on bed rest for another two weeks, we are looking for a complete recovery and the birth of a lovely child in six months time.

I glance around at the beautiful chaos that surrounds me, children laughing, five or more conversations going on in different parts of the room. I study faces I have not seen for years, my mind trying to memorize features of children now on the brim of adulthood. Where has the time gone? Not long ago, I was one of these laughing dancing children, wondering when the adults would be done eating so I could go outside and play. Now I’m an aunt many times over and even a great aunt to a child of my oldest niece. Personally I don’t think you should be allowed the title “great” anything until you are over the age of 40. Aye aye aye!

The time home with my family was lovely. Not only the faces, but the surroundings ministered to my soul. The peace of Silver Star Ranch and the surrounding mountains and valleys called out the name of my Creator. Crisp nights where a myriad stars shone as only they can shine miles from any city or town. The haunting call of the coyotes put me to bed at night and the sweet sound of birdsong woke me in the morning, that or my son bouncing on the bed shouting “Getupgetupgetup”.

Midway through the trip I came down with pneumonia which, as a typical nurse, I did not have checked out for close to a weak. We are renowned for self treatment therapy (i.e. Cough syrup and 1000mg of Tylenol every 4hrs). I also did not sleep for that week as I was up coughing all night and ended up sleeping in a lounge chair to help me breathe. After temps ranging from 102 to 104.2 F for more than a week, I decided it would be best to get a second opinion (the first doctor said I had a viral infection). I was promptly diagnosed with pneumonia and placed on antibiotics which lo and behold actually worked. Strange that. What hit me the hardest, once I returned home to St. Petersburg, was the fact that during almost half of my 26 days in the States, I was miserably sick and unable to function properly or even visit with others without feeling miserable. I had a good cry and let God know my disappointment and things were suddenly better with my heart. I cherish the memories there and look foreword to returning to my family in a better state of health next time around.

To all you at home and abroad we send our love and blessings.

Aaron, Ramona, Timothy and Abigail

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Fighting the Good Fight

October 1, 2005

Wow, we made it home finally. What an ordeal. The flight was fine, both children behaved wonderfully, what met us in St. Petersburg was not fine!!! By now, I (Ramona) was almost hallucinating from exhaustion from a week averaging 2 - 3 hrs a night due to my fight with pneumonia (up coughing all night) and no sleep for the 20 hour trip from Washington to Russia. After hauling all 10 pieces of luggage up to the 5th floor where our apartment is, Aaron gave us this discouraging news. "The door doesn't open". I gazed at him not comprehending his words. "The key doesn't work in our door".

We ended up sleeping for a few hours at a local hotel then dragging ourselves back to the apartment where we tried once more with a different key friends had taken from us. Still no go. Aaron dropped me off at Sasha's flat were Tim, Abby and I had lunch then he called to tell me he had a flat tire and could not come to pick us up, could we please walk. He also gave us the bad news that the reason the door would not open was that someone had jammed it after breaking into our apartment and making off with our stash of money.

Tonight as I sadly cleaned up my nighties, socks, and slips it was hard to imagine some stranger rifling through my drawers looking for hidden treasures. They didn't get much.

Please pray for us as a family. We really feel God leading us in new directions and believe the enemy would love to discourage us from being obedient. Thank the Lord that we are able to rejoice even in the midst of difficulties. He is God in heaven and on earth and we are His ambassadors. Our hearts are determined to do His will.


Aaron, Ramona,
Timothy and Abby

PS. This is a just a brief update so that you can all start praying. More to come...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Prayer in the sanctuary

August 18, 2005

The air is oppressively hot, no breeze filtering through the windows flung wide open, no relief from the humid closed air. Beads of sweat gather on our foreheads and upper lips as we gather in a circle to pray for the coming service. “Lord we leave all our worries behind us as we enter into your presence”. “May the songs we sing minister to those who come today, let them be blessed and refreshed”. “What a privilege it is to worship You”! As the prayers lift to the rafters in this ancient Lutheran church, I think of the generations who came before us. Did they pray for safety for their loved ones from the oppressive Communist regime? Did they ask for food to feed their starving children as the Nazi Blitzkrieg encircled their city cutting off all supply routs? Were the whispered prayers lifted quietly in secret, lest someone hear them and report? Suddenly the magnitude of the history, the tears and prayers that have been uttered in this place seem thick as the humid air around us. “Lord, I have no understanding of what the saints before us have suffered”, I pray quietly to myself “But may our praise and worship rise from hearts that long to do your will no matter the consequences.” Do I really understand what this means? I don’t know. In my life, I have never had the choice between clinging to my faith or clinging to my life. In truth, the latter means nothing without the former.

I gaze at her in wonder as she makes her slow way down the aisle. This was the girl who was never supposed to walk again?! Who lay in a coma for months, the doctors giving dire predictions of no recovery? I remember hearing about the horrible accident her taxi got in as she made her way home after her birthday party. She normally took the metro but wanted a quicker rout home to celebrate with her family. Natasha is a medical doctor who attends our church. In her late twenties, she is also a gifted musician who played with the worship team. When we heard of her accident, we immediately begin to pray as did hundreds and possibly thousands around the world. Emails were sent out, phone calls made and word passed on, a call for prayer. I rejoice in the miracle I saw today as Natasha came to church, her very presence a shout of joy for the wonders our God has performed!

We chat late into the night, sharing our life stories, catching up as only two sisters can. It has been such a blessing to have my sister Rachel here with me for the last few weeks. Sometimes I don’t realize how lonely it gets until I have someone here with me during the day, sharing my tasks, listening to me and sharing her thoughts and prayers with me. Timothy has loved the extra attention he gets as well as the outside play times he has with his aunt. My sister encourages me to reach out to other single missionaries, using my home as a place of ministry. There are several single missionaries I know who could use a dinner with a family in a home where love and the Holy Spirit dwell. “Lord, let me be an instrument of blessing to many weary workers in this field.” I look at my home in a different light now, as a place where healing and encouragement can touch the lives of others. Thank you Rachel for your words of wisdom! I have been struggling with the change in my life as I go from full time minister to full time mom. But God continues to work in my heart in showing me my home as being a place of ministry.

We continue to establish relationships with many wonderful missionary families around the city. One long - time relationship is with a couple and their three lovely daughters, Perry and Lynda Friesen and Sarah, Katelyn, and Rayanne. We have been so blessed by their relationship and hope to bless them as well. Please pray for their ministry as they church plant in an area with very few bodies of believers (if any) in the northern region of the city.

Our prayers and love go out to you all!!!

Aaron, Ramona, Timothy, and Abigail

Thursday, June 16, 2005

New Joy

June 16, 2005

I gaze at the numerous pots gathering steam on my stove stop. A sigh escapes my lips as I think of the number of things needing washing; me, Abby, Tim, the pile of dishes from last night’s dinner and this morning’s hurried breakfast. Pot after pot goes on the blue flame to boil and then pour out into the bathtub basin as the morning ritual begins. I have a month of no hot water to look forward to. Thank goodness, the washing machine heats up its own water. As first a protesting Abby and then a giggling Tim gets soaped and scrubbed, I begin to smile at my pessimistic attitude. This may be inconvenient, but it is certainly not suffering. As I begin to pray for those who are truly suffering, my heart begins to rejoice in the blessings I treasure in this life. The laughter and smile of two beautiful healthy children, the love of a wonderful man, the lovely sunshine streaming through my kitchen windows, the Word of God written on my heart and open in my hands. How blessed I truly am!! “Thank you Lord for dishes to eat on and food to put on those dishes”, as I start the dishes, “Thank you for the clothes we wear and the ability to wash them in a machine” as I hang up the morning laundry. “For Your provision and blessings both spiritually and physically, for the love which sent You to the cross and raised You from the dead!” The complaining attitude disappears as does the dirt.

The skies rejoiced the morning she was born. I was up at dawn as the contractions came closer and closer together. When I left our tiny cabin in Porvoo, Finland I was greeted by one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. Rose tipped clouds were accented by a brilliant gold to mauve colored sky. We chose to name her Abigail Joy because joy was present from the day she was born.

Abigail “The Joy of the Lord” has brought a soft feminine touch to our family of rambunctious wrestling boys (Tim and Dad) and one tired mom. She is certainly different from Timothy even from the very beginning. Whereas Tim would finish feeding in 15 minutes max. leaving spit up all over mom and himself, she takes her time, gazing up at me, flirting with her eyes. 40 minutes later we wrap up with a polite burp, compliments to the chef. Tim at her age would scream with all the pent up passion in his little body at any excuse. She lets out small complaints only wailing when seriously scared or hurt. Tim woke the neighbors; she just wakes up papa who at the slightest whimper jumps to the side of her crib to make sure all is fine, nook in mouth, blanket keeping her warm. I think a father’s ears are particularly tuned to an infant’s cry, because I can sleep through her loudest wails until Aaron nudges me several times to remind me it’s my turn. Truth be told, she is a very easy baby, sleeping from 10pm to 6am (Go Baby Wise!) at two months of age, and is happy with a full tummy, good sleep, and clean diapers. We coo and awe at her, snuggle her close and smell the sweet baby smell of her. She has charmed us utterly, winning our hearts.

Tim as an older brother is doing splendidly well. He kisses and hugs her, gives her all manner of toys, and is even willing to share his “Blanky” with her. He watches mom and tries to comfort Abby by putting her nook in her mouth if she is crying. I have to watch him in his toddler eagerness as he gives her all manner of stuff to entertain her. He has never struck at her, or shown jealousy. I do my best to have “snuggle” and “story” time with him several times a day. Sometimes I have a child in each arm as we sing “Jesus Loves Me” with Tim hitting half the words in his sing song voice, Abby looking at us in wonder as we sing louder and louder, our voices clashing.

“Boat mama, Boat!!!”, Timothy yells from the bedroom window. I am used to the tourist boats traveling up and down our lovely canal so I glance with little interest out the window. A crowd has gathered on the opposite bank watching a dilapidated police boat as it trowels up and down the canal close to our home. I watch a little more closely and with some disbelief as the two officers on board frantically try to snag a body floating face down. With long hooked sticks they circle round their pray trying to get a lassoed rope around the corpse. As one officer takes a dunk by leaning too far over, Tim claps his hand excitedly at the action. Grabbing my delighted son from the wide windowsill, I try to get him interested in his toy box. “Let’s play with your cars, Tim” I encourage my loudly protesting toddler. Thirty minutes later, I notice they have successfully caught the body and it is now lying face up, its arms and legs reaching skyward on the stair landing just above the water in plain view of all passersby. There are no police to be seen. I can just imagine the tour guide on the passing boats as they explain that sight. I gaze at the poor lonely fellow, his outstretched arms a plea, forever caught in the grips of rigamortis. It is only a matter of time before two young men stop their car for a smoke and walk over to the landing. Sudden shock registers on their faces as they grab their cell phones and, I am sure, alert the police to their abandoned corpse. More time passes and an investigative team comes to dust him for fingerprints and remove all items from his pockets. Once their job is done, they also leave him alone. Two hours later, I gaze in wonder at my new neighbor lying in the warm sun, and decide we will not be taking a walk down the canal at this time. Several dogs and their walking companions have also discovered him and mayhem is breaking out across from our window. I can just imagine the switch board officer taking calls one after the other at each new discovery. “Did you know there is a dead man down here on the Fontanka?”, goes the question. “Yes sir, we are in the process of investigating his death, please do not touch the body.” Two and a half hours after his body is pulled out of our canal, the corpse is finally picked up by a city ambulance. That has to be a nice job. Life on the canal will never get boring!

Sometimes I forget I am living in a different country and different culture until I run across such instances as the above. Dignity in death is not part of the Russian culture. The only ones who care for you or about you after your spirit leaves your body is your family or friends. The police do not cover corpses and if you don’t get to the morgue by between 1 and 3 pm Monday through Friday you will not be able to claim your dead. We had one patient who died and her family had arranged a flight for the body back to the States. Unfortunately, the rude and very drunk morgue attendant refused to release the body as it was “after hours” on a Friday and it wouldn’t be till next Monday when they could pick up their relatives remains. The dignity for the living individual has never been a big part of this society as well. We see it in the policies set by this government. They are just beginning to get out from under the philosophy that the good of the one means nothing in comparison to the good of the many. Yet it was for the individual that Jesus died, and it is to the individual that we will minister.

With much Love in Him

Aaron, Ramona, Timothy, and Abigail

Monday, April 04, 2005

Abigail has arrived!

Dear Friends and Family,

On Sunday, April 3, 2005 at 10:22 am Finnish time Abigail Joy Bogott joined our family. Ramona began feeling contractions at 3:30 am and by 9:00 am they were frequent enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. The nurse examined and determined that she was 3 cm dilated. Soon the contractions got heavy and Ramona asked for an epidural. She also noticed that she wanted to push and the nursed looked and said that there was no time and that the baby's head was already visible. Then after three good pushes Abigail Joy entered the world.

Here are the details:

Name: Abigail Joy Bogott
Weight: 4.24 kgs (9 lbs 5 oz)
Length: 52 cm (20.47 in)
Place of birth: Porvoo, Finland
Date/time of birth: April 3, 2005, 10:22 am

Baby and mother are both doing fine. Ramona and baby arrived back to our cabin this afternoon. Enjoy the pictures of our little girl.

Thank you Lord for this miracle of life! We dedicate her to you and to your service.


Friday, March 25, 2005

Battle on Through Prayer

March 24, 2005

The battle rages on. God has gripped my heart thoroughly these last few weeks and my time in His word and in prayer has been sweet. Around me the battle rages on in the lives of many dear friends and other missionaries. My desire is call upon those prayer warriors who have years of intercessory experience. Tuesday was an especially difficult day. We received two calls. One telling us our landlord had been killed and money and apartment documents stolen from him. He was a gentle young man, whose soft spoken voice will be greatly missed. My instructions from Aaron – Don’t open the door to anyone you don’t know, ever! Our names and address were on the apartment documents taken, as well as how much we pay a month in rent. The second call came minutes later when a close YWAM missionary friend called to tell us that his fanny pack with his family’s passports, car documents, credit cards and money for the base ministries was stolen. Because his license was in there as well, he will not be able to drive his family of four, and the cost to reregister the car, get new visas and passports for the family, etc is well beyond their budget. He saw the men who stole it get into a Mercedes Benz and drive off. This family has been hit especially hard the last few months as they have decided to take on the YWAM base leadership here in St. Petersburg. The enemy loves to attack those who step out for the Lord.

Our third prayer request is for a Baptist pastor and his wife who have served for 17 years in the former Soviet Union. They have been forced to leave the mission field due to his serious health problems - a direct result of stress in his life. Currently, one of their Russian neighbors is filing a suit against them for supposed damage done to her ceiling during remodeling of their apartment. They offered to repair the cracks in her ceiling which could have happened long before their remodel job, but she is insisting on $20,000 compensation, 10 times the actual cost of a high quality repair job. The husband is with the children in the states while the wife is here alone packing up and getting ready to leave. 7 men showed up at her apartment last Thursday to “arrest” her furniture (meaning she could not sell or give it away) and told her she could not leave the country till the court decision was made – a decision that could take years. A local member of their congregation stepped in and took responsibility on behalf of the missionary family. Please pray for peace for this family as well as justice done in this court decision. Many times judges here base their decision on the size of the bribe offered by one or the other party. And pray for Kathy, the wife as she is especially vulnerable in this time of being alone while her family is home in the U.S. It has been an emotional and difficult time for her to be solely responsible for packing and selling 7 years worth of living memories.

For those of you who don’t know, we bought a van which was promptly impounded two days after Aaron started driving it. Evidently the law was changed the first of this year and not all the documents were in perfect order, so the road police, who pull over people randomly looking for bribes, took our car. At least this officer was honest enough to admit to Aaron that he gets a cut of the impound fee from the towing company for impounding cars. We got a chuckle out of that honest crook. After 300 dollars in fees and a change of ownership documents we finally got our van back. Lo and behold the same officer pulled Aaron over again (most likely hoping he hadn’t done everything correctly) but all our papers were in order and he was forced to let Aaron go. Now however, we are struggling with a huge problem with the intake manifold which will cost close to $2000 to fix (a third of the value of the car). Our car is a rare breed (Estima/Enima), made in Japan for driving in Japan, and the parts are horrendously expensive. Of course the labor isn’t cheap either. The advice from the repair shop, sell the car and don’t tell the new owners what the problem is. Of course this is not an option for us, so pray that we will be able to find the part in Finland when we leave to give birth to our second child. In the mean time, we are only burning half our diesel and leaving the rest in a cloud of black smoke behind us. Who would have thought car ownership could be such a burden here.

Wow it sounds like life is depressing for us here, but in truth we are truly blessed, and the Lord has been working in our lives and in our hearts. We have an opportunity to start a pastoral ministry for the YWAM base here, a much needed service, and we have become coordinators for the worship ministry at our church. Timothy and I have started daily devotions and are having great fun learning about creation, drawing, coloring, and cutting included. He is growing in leaps and bounds and at 2 years 3 months is adding words daily to his vocabulary. The difficult part is figuring out if they are in Russian or English, or just his own Baby talk. Mom is getting to be a pretty good interpreter! We wait with joy for our little girl, and are slowly accumulating a few pink outfits, bows included.

To my dear sisters who have written and called I want to thank you for your intersession on my behalf. I have felt the prayers in my life and my spirit is being renewed every day as I come into the presence of the Lord. He is amazingly good and merciful.

We love you and look forward to seeing you this fall.

Ramona, Aaron, Timothy, and Baby Girl Bogott

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Christmas in Norway

January 2, 2005

So much to write about, so little time to write! I sit here, my tummy getting bigger as baby Bogott grows and grows and grows. Three more months and a new little one will join the Bogott generations. Although the doctor tells us he is 99% sure this one is a girl, we haven’t bought anything pink yet. Grandma B. was ahead of us in that one. Names? This time is much more difficult for some reason. Aaron keeps coming up with such silliness as Penelope, Buttercup, and Chiquita!?!? Timothy just pats my tummy and says “La, la”, (the Russian diminutive for infant) or “Baby”. Maybe we should just name her Abigail La Chiquita Bogott, and then we can all be happy :). We are all looking foreword to her arrival with great joy and expectation, well mom and dad at least are. I don’t think Tim understands what momentous change is about to hit his centered little world in about 3 months time. His only concession to change is sitting next to mommy when she reads him a book, rather than on my lap as room is running out. My heart’s desire is to not loose track of those precious moments together in the crazy busyness of caring for a newborn. He is such a precious joy to me and our “snuggle” times are some of my favorite moments during the day.

Timothy wailed in fear and clung to Papa as our plane lifted off for the beginning of our Norway Christmas adventure. My spirits rose with the craft as we left the dark weather and dirty streets of St Petersburg behind us. Thoughts of Christmas with loved ones in a land that actually celebrates the birth of Jesus filled my mind. Mom and Dad Bogott gave us the lovely gift of celebrating Christmas in Norway by paying for three round trip tickets to meet them and Amy and Jon in this land of the Fjords and mountains. Included were a trip to the lovely town of Bergen and a small trip through the mountains and Fjords called “Norway in a Nutshell”


We were met in Oslo by a young University student who offered us beds for the night. Her hospitality and graciousness was a huge testimony of God’s love to us. And then it was off to meet the family at the airport the next day! Aaron and Timothy went to the airport to meet Grandpa and Grandma and Auntie Amy. On their return, Tim promptly went to sleep and woke up feverish and vomiting. For the next five days he struggled with vomiting and diarrhea as we traveled from one part of this lovely country to the next. The worst day was in the charming bed and breakfast in Bergen, where he vomited profusely all over their antique rugs, down comforters, and feather pillows in a record six upheavals. Our dear hostess kept bringing in towel after towel as we attempted to protect their furniture and bed from his sudden upchucks.


Through the upset stomachs, diarrhea, vomiting and colds, we had a wonderful time and Christmas in Norway!!! A family who gets sick together sticks together. Luckily, not everyone was sick at the same time and we saved a lot of money on food as no one really had an appetite the final week of our trip. Some of the highlights…There was waking up on Christmas morn to the beautiful sight of soft falling snow with several inches already on the ground. The sweet smell of flavored coffee greeting us in the morning, coupled by beautiful surroundings and a quiet so peaceful, I forgot what it was like to live off a busy street. The towering snow clad cliffs on either side of us as we made our way up the Fjord to catch a mountain train back down to Oslo. There were candles in the windows of every home; music played in the stores, smiles on faces all around us. Donna and I browsed the bookshops, looked longingly at the candles and decorations and kept our money firmly in our pockets due to the extravagant prices of everything we saw. And last but not least, Timothy learned how to say AAAMEEE in reply to his coaching aunt. He now repeats it over and over when asked. These are memories I will treasure, holding them closely in my heart.

God has given us an incredible gift in the form of His Son. He has also given us families who know and love Him … a rich heritage of righteousness upon which to build. Both Aaron and I have had the privilege of growing up being instructed in God’s word, learning at an early age the love which God has for us. It is now our responsibility to pass that knowledge and love on to our children. This is where peace is, this is where the blessing flows. May all of you find peace and rich blessing in this coming year. You will find it in the presence of God, in the shadow of His wings.

Much love to all of you!!!!