Saturday, July 29, 2006

Under the summer sun...

It is late at night and I am weary, but determined. It has been a long time since I’ve updated my journal and things are happening fast and furious. I feel out of touch with many of you and I am sure you feel the same with me.

Aaron and I returned to Russia following our visit with my sister and family. Before long we were off to celebrate Aaron’s brother’s wedding in Slovakia. We spent a wonderful 10 days celebrating with friends and family – taking a side trip to Prague and Vienna. So much rich culture and history in these ancient cities! Prague was breathtakingly beautiful with its cobblestone streets and towering cathedrals. Massive thundershowers dumped periodic bucket-loads of rain on hot tourists and shop keepers alike, while gargoyles spewed the rain off steep roofs onto passersby below. Vienna was prim and proper, with its streets laid out in perfect order with neatly trimmed gardens and lovely lily pad draped fountains. The lilting tones of Mozart and other famous composers could be heard piped into the gardens near the town center. Dear Abby and Tim were dragged from one amazing site to the next. Tim walked for miles with little complaining, eager to take in the new sites, sounds, and tastes of the world around him.

Back in Slovakia we stalked the halls of an ancient castle where the Hungarian kings once held sway over vast tracts of land. And we ate, and ate, and ate some more. Our Slovakian hosts (Danka’s Parents) fed us till we couldn’t move. I tried, probably for the first and last time in my life, Absinthe liqueur, one of the highest proof alcohols sold. Tasted like bitter mint mouthwash with a major kick. Two sips was enough! 

Beautiful memories made with beautiful friends, a time we will never forget. Our prayer for John and Danka as we left them was that they would find the beauty and love of a Christ centered marriage as wonderful as Aaron and I have.

Back in Russia Aaron is busy hitting the road, traveling from one side of the city to the other, looking for potential sites for the new business he is working on starting. Kelly and he are meeting three times a week in Sestroretks, a 1.5 to 2 hour commute for Aaron. He comes home weary and ready to sleep standing up. They continue to look for major investors so they can open up the first Fast Lube Service Center in Russia. Please pray for them, that God will open the storehouses of heaven, and bless them in this endeavor. It is hard living on faith that this is what God wants us to do, as our savings slowly dwindle away. God is faithful, however, and we put our trust in him daily.

I continue to work at the clinic 2 times a week for 4 hours a day. Recently, Tim spent 3 days there in intensive care during a severe asthmatic attack with underlying bronchitis. They could not get him off oxygen without his oxygen levels dropping dangerously low and his heart rate trying to compensate by going much too fast. After 3 days of antibiotic therapy to get his bronchitis under control, as well as inhalation therapy and massage to get the secretions moving, he was finally released into my care at home with nebulizer treatments 3 times a day, and a host of other medications. I spent 2 days and 3 nights of almost no sleep by his side until he was out of danger. It’s terrible watching your child struggle for every breath. It pains me to think of it now.

My sister Rachel is visiting with us now and will be with us for the next 3 weeks. We have had some wonderful conversations and times of prayer together. She has been a huge encouragement to me.

It is now 2am and far past my bedtime. Love to all of you, and know that we miss you and hold you close to our hearts.

Aaron and Ramona

Monday, April 10, 2006


We made it safe and sound all 13 hours of flying. I got no sleep on the way over but the kids and my husband did. We are flying home to be with my sister, Rabecca, for several weeks who has been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer.

It is awesome being with family again. My family is large. With seven of us and our children things can be a little crazy. When we get together it is absolute mayhem - but a fun mayhem nonetheless. Kids and babies everywhere, adults trying to talk - my papa who is mostly deaf just sits and takes it all in, looking with love over his large clan. We chat, laugh, play games, go for hikes in the mountains, go skiing, golf in the Columbia River Gorge, watch movies with all the girls crying at the sad ones while the guys pass the tissues and laugh at us. Fellowship is sweet as is God’s presence in our midst.

I glance at my sister, not wanting to go. Tears come as I gently take her hand. Today is the hardest goodbye I will ever have to say. I may not see her alive again as cancer ravages her body.

She is frail now, finding it hard to even stand, unable to eat for weeks due to unrelenting nausea. I remember her whole and healthy leading the way on our long mountain hikes, water bottle in hand eager to see what is around the next bend in the trail.

She bows her head matching tears making a wet path down her own cheeks. "You'll come if things go bad quickly?" She pleads in a quiet voice. I want to grab her and hold her close in a tight hug, but even touching her hurts her bones and every move I make has to be gentle and slow.

"I'll be on the first plane out" my voice catches as I promise to come for her death. We sit there quietly heads bowed, hearts heavy. I know thousands suffer from diseases such as this, but this is my sister and if only I could take some of her pain on myself, I would do so in an instant. "This isn't goodbye," I whisper, "only a see you later, in this life or the next". She smiles up at me, her dark curly hair a halo around her pale face.

"I know" she whispers back.

Becky, I love you, you will always be my hero! God is your strength and refuge!

With Love


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Go Go Batmobile...

I sink lower in my seat trying not to be seen by the passing people or cars. “Go go bat mobile smoke screen”. Aaron yells as we take off in a cloud of billowing black smoke. The car behind us sits for a second or so in stunned immobility as our lovely diesel van leaves no visibility for the next 100 yards or so. The traffic policeman in the intersection rotates to watch us pass his mouth open, a look of astonishment on his face. “You know we are the reason Russia cannot pass its clean air act”, Aaron continues to crack jokes. I slide lower in my seat. “Oh man, look at that guy.” A poor smoker frantically roles up his window as we pull even, our smoke catching up with us as the wind blows it foreword and rolls it into the crowd crossing the street in front of us.

“Dear God” I pray, “please perform a miracle on our poor car and heal it of this disease”. Pedestrians cover their noses with scarves or sleeves as they pass and stare at me, sitting in what should be the driver’s seat because our car is a right sided steering model from Japan. ‘This must be God’s answer to keep us humble’, I think as I turn to fiddle with something, anything. “Let’s take public transport next time” I suggest helpfully. Aaron nods his head abstractedly, glancing in the rear view mirror.

“Well no one will rear end us in this vehicle” he comments “they have to stay so far back just to be able to see the road.” I peer back through our smoke cloud and see the cars trailing far behind, an almost unseen event in Russia. Suddenly the humor of the situation hits us and we start laughing.

Our car, the thorn in our flesh, has spent more times in the shop than out, giving us one trial after the other. Bills continue to mount as we and our mechanic try one thing after the other to find the problem and fix it. To date we have probably spent over half of what we bought it for in trying to repair it. It currently sits on a road on the way to Aaron’s work where it broke down once again. Our desire is to get it in running condition and then sell it to someone who loves to fix cars for a very low price, just to get it off our hands. But we can’t even get it running, so it sits, deserted, lonely, cold, and we continue to pack up the two kids, with all our stuff and go by public transport to various destinations. Every time I think about it, my heart aches for Aaron because he has to deal with the situations that arise. But God is faithful, His ways are not our own. He can even use a car to teach us.

I have started back at work at the International Clinic and Hospital MEDEM. I spoke with the Director and he has agreed to start a fund for needy people instead of paying a salary to me. I decided that whatever money I might make at this job would be used to bless and benefit others in need. He was so shocked by my suggestion of starting this fund that he asked if others could donate to it. Smiling, I quickly agreed. My hope is to find individuals who cannot pay for an operation, or medical treatment, and use the clinic to treat them, paying their way using money from the fund. As MEDEM is one of the best clinics/hospitals in the city I want to see it used to bless and serve those who are less fortunate than others.

I start a medical terminology class next week with a group of 11 doctors and nurses. That is all I can allow in the class at this time as it is difficult to teach a larger group. There are over 300 staff working at MEDEM with 150 of them being medical, all in sore need of English language training. Another nurse from the States is joining me in teaching these classes (also a missionary). Please pray for us as we work in this secular field that God can use us to touch and minister to the lives of many.

We had a lovely New Year’s party with the YWAM staff. I found the last turkey in our local grocery store, almost had to fight off another shopper for it, and we had roast turkey and stuffing for dinner that night. Several of the Russian staff had never eaten turkey in their life, so it was a culinary experience for them. I made fudge and the rest brought Russian salads. We ate from 8 in the evening until close to midnight, a very Russian tradition, and then everyone (except for us and the base leaders) went out walking until morning. Fireworks from the neighborhood parties stopped around 4 am when Aaron and I went to bed. It’s amazing the kinds of fireworks you can buy here. Some of them should only be lit by professionals, but you have groups of drunk men lighting these massive four feet rockets from the streets below our balcony. I’m surprised more people aren’t seriously injured by the amount of explosive material being lit on New Years morn. Our windows were rattling from the blasts as one group after another made their way out onto the street to set off their noisemakers and rockets. Fun fun fun !

Blessings to all of you in this coming year.

Aaron, Ramona, Timothy, and Abigail