Thursday, January 22, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015 and more CHRISTMAS....

OK...so it is a little past the first of January, however, there will be plenty of pictures to follow.  We will start this 'journey' by going back to the Christmas that is celebrated on the 25th of December. (Yes, there is another date to celebrate Christmas) Sooooo... we decided this year instead of giving each other gifts, we'd just 'get away' for a few days. We also decided that we wouldn't tell anyone here where we were going as well as turn off our phones! Successful? VERY...we had three relaxing days in the city where all we did was eat, sleep, talk to our families via Skype, eat, sleep, walk around town, drink coffee, ...did we mention eat? It was a good time for rest and re-charging our 'batteries' for the coming year!





With so many choices these days, it was difficult to decide what new food to try and we could never have imagined a coffee shop that serves 'real' coffee with many choices! Guess we're just excited about the smaller things in life :)

Because New Years is a much bigger celebration here, there are 'ice parks' everywhere. We decided to take a walk to the center of the city and see some amazing ice sculptures!!



   
Returning to the village refreshed, we had a week to deliver food boxes and loads of wood to those in extreme need. We are working through the local social service's office and have been able to bless 20 families over the last few weeks! Our goal is to reach at least that many more with free wood as the weather is about to get much colder. (We will see -40 in about a week and this could last a week or more.) 

Bringing in the New Year together! The vote this year was a unanimous YES; we were going to celebrate at the church. Each year, we ask the fellowship if they prefer to stay at home or gather together for the New Year’s celebration. This is possibly the biggest holiday for Russia. Imagine Madis Gras, Christmas, and New Year all rolled into one celebration. Costumes, gifts, tons of food, fireworks, and for most Russians, lots of alcohol!! For many of our folks this is a difficult time to be alone or to celebrate with family; the temptation to drink is often too much to ignore. There were games for young and old alike, everyone brought more than enough food, and two of the men built an ice ‘hill’ for the kids to slide down. We all agreed the highlight of the evening was standing together in a circle and giving thanks for all that HE had done for us this past year!  This year’s celebration ended early by Russian standards; we left about 2:00 am and were able to get into bed by 3:00 am…some would say early some would say late…We just know we were tired. 




Fast forward one week...In Russia we celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January. This year our folks put some serious effort into reaching out to their friends and neighbors...the result was 70 people were present to hear the real reason to celebrate Christmas! We were truly blessed as folks shared poems, songs, testimonies of how the Lord worked in their lives this past year, and sharing a meal together! We also gave small gifts of candies, fruit, and a toy to all the children. We are so grateful for our church family as they put in a lot of time to make the day a success. 


As you can see, we've had an exciting and extremely busy month! We have also had another celebration this month. Actually, a celebration of two miracles. During 2014, we had two of our kids go through severe difficulties. We have written about both so we won’t re-tell their stories. (Anna had gotten ill with meningitis and encephalitis. Max had been hit by a car while riding his bike. Both had suffered brain trauma.) On January 7th, 2015 we gave thanks to God for Anna and Maxim sitting in the congregation. It wasn’t that many months ago that we didn’t know if that would ever happen again this side of heaven. They are both slowly improving in their abilities to walk, talk, eat and/or feed themselves. THANK YOU to all who have been praying for Anna and Max!!! Our prayer is that one day soon, they would be able to sing and share with others what the Father has done in their lives! 
 


Blessings,
Kevin & Laura

Friday, December 19, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Merry Christmas from Siberia!

We don't know about you, but this is our absolute favorite time of year! Over the years, we've tried to keep some of our family traditions and have kept it a day to remember our Savior leaving perfection to dwell with us on earth! It has opened opportunities to share with folks the true importance of the day for many around the world. There aren't really any huge traditions here like you see in the States; however, there is "Father Frost", decorated trees, gifts, and LOTS of food at midnight on New Years. Did we mention lots of food at midnight and the children dress in costumes for the evening as well. (Sort of a halloween/madisgras feel.) Christmas is observed on the 7th of January with very little 'celebration' - just another day off from work and school.

Speaking of celebrations: the first Deaf Church in Siberia celebrated 20 years! We had the honor of receiving an invitation to the festivities earlier this month. It was difficult for us to imagine it has been 20 years for them and that we began working with this fellowship when we arrived in 1997! Going back all those years through pictures, stories, and songs; we watched the incredible journey a small group of nationals and foreign workers had begun all those years ago. This deaf fellowship is also the first in all of Russia to have a deaf pastor. Because they also have hearing folks in attendance, there is a hearing pastor as well. Since their beginning, these devoted folks have been the driving force in building and running children’s and church camps, as well as conferences on Lake Baikal. They have been a great influence not only in their community, but also for the deaf across Russia. . We are eager to see where the next 20 years will take this fellowship, as they are ‘sending out’ workers to reach the deaf in other areas of Siberia.

Pastor Zhenia and part of his family...

The three pastors with one of the elders.
Pastor Zhenia is the only 'hearing' leader pictured.

















The original men 'singing', "Our God is an Awesome God".
This was one of the first songs learned during a summer camp.

We mentioned under the first picture that only a portion of his family was present. This past year, he and his wife took in four boys as foster parents. (They already have six children of their own.) Needless to say, they have a full house  - five of them are under the age of three! This family is  a wonderful example of HIS love for the little ones who are less fortunate! 

Patiently waiting for lunch - they were called to the table,
and within a few minutes, climbed into their seats and
waited for lunch!

“Your daughter will probably not live through the night”… Anya’s mother was given this news in November of 2013 by a team of doctors in the city of Ulan Ude; a year later, this beautiful young girl is a walking miracle! She was eight months pregnant and was to register her marriage with the county judge when she became seriously ill. The doctors here in the village thought it were just the flu and sent her home. Within hours, she was in the city hospital; 48 hours later, she was in a comma. Days later, her heart stopped for about two minutes so the decision was made to take her baby by cesarean. Anya worsened over the next week and the doctors had all but given up. Although many of us had been praying for her recovery, the pastor and an elder drove to the city to pray with Anya’s mom and asked to go into Anya’s room. (This is not usually allowed.) After their prayers, she came out of her coma and was back home within a month! It has been a long road to recovery; she was paralyzed on one side of her body and could barely speak at one point. Today, she still has some issues with walking and with one arm. However, she is definitely a walking miracle. The bigger news – she decided to follow her Savior and has been meeting with us to study His Word. Please remember Anya, her son, and the relationship with her son’s father and family.

Anya and Laura spending time together.
WOW project takes on a new look for the winter! You may be familiar with an ongoing project we call WOW - Windows of Warmth. In short, we install new windows for widows, single moms, or those in desperate need. This is all done free of charge because of your donations! This year we thought - why not take this project into the winter months - let's just rename it, "Wood of Warmth". There are always folks in need of fire wood for the winter months, this year will be no exception. There are many in dire need of wood and either no means to gather enough or to pay for the wood needed to keep warm through -40 degree temperatures. We have gone to the local Social Services office and joined with them in helping five families in the most of desperate situations. Our desire is to add MANY more to this list over the next months. At this time, we are able to buy a two month supply of wood for approx. $50.00. If you are interested in helping with this project, send us an email at  klwooster@aol.com, we'll be glad to give you all pertinent information.
These men are cutting wood for a family in
our village. The husband has been in the city
for the past two months with a back injury, 
leaving his wife and three children without
an income. They were extremely grateful for
the wood and having it cut and stacked!















       


We pray your Christmas is filled with the love of our Savior! Have a blessed and Joyous Christmas!
  For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.    
       Isaiah 9:6
 Merry Christmas!  
 Kevin & Laura


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WOW (Windows of Warmth) Update

I can't afford new windows...

Why would anyone want to help me?

I don't understand why people would help someone they do not know.

There must be a catch.

This is amazing I could never have afforded new windows.

These are just some of the responses we get when we talk to people as we are doing our WOW projects.

First of all,  we want to say thank you to so many that have given to this project over the years. During the past two months we were able to do three window projects.  It has opened many doors for us to share His love.  We will let the pictures tell the story for two os these projects....


Getting ready to take out the old window

Kitchen window from the outside

New Kitchen window...
Bedroom window
We replaced two windows at this home, where a single mom lives with her two children...thank you for helping us bless them with a very tangible reminder of His love.


The window on the right is to the kitchen...

Doug helping to measure the window sill...

repairs underway...notice above the window on the right, there is no electricity coming into this home

This project was for a man with severe arthritis in his legs...he was very grateful for the help with the new windows.  One of his windows was just a single pane of glass.


This will be a warmer winter for the folks we have been able to help.  As the winter is now coming on pretty strong (nights are now -10F), we are reaching a time of year when it is too cold to install windows.  We would still like to do projects to help people stay warm this winter...for that reason we would like to expand our WOW project to now include wood for needy people in our area.  Please lift up this need so we can be a blessing to many this winter with wood, and to many more when the weather gets warmer with new windows.

THANK YOU again for the many who have made WOW such a huge success over the years! This is an amazing, yet simple way to help show His love.

Blessings,
Kevin & Laura


Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart. ~Victor Hugo





Friday, October 17, 2014

October??!! Where Did September Go??!!!



As you can see, this has become a common remark in our home over the past months; of course the name of the month has changed as well :) We find time NEVER stops and the days turn into months in the blink of an eye! In any case, Fall has come and gone and we had our first snow the other day. Of course it was beautiful, lasted about an hour, then within 30 minutes was gone! Grab your coffee and a comfy chair....we have some catching up to do!

September first in Russia is the first day of school. This day is a HUGE celebration where ALL the kids, with their relatives, meet in  front of their school dressed in their very best – the boys in their suits and the girls in their new dresses as well as big bows called ‘bantiks’ worn in their hair. The first graders are brought to the center of the crowd and introduced to the entire school. There are songs, poems, and words of encouragement given to the students by the principal. 
First graders presented to the school and community.
This year we attended the celebration at the ‘First School’, which is located behind our home. (There is another school here named ‘School # 2,’ on the other side of the village.) Before all the students were dismissed to their classrooms, one boy from the senior class carries a girl from first grade on his shoulders – the first grader rings a bell as they walk around the other students. This signifies the ‘first bell’ or start of the new school year.  Oh…did we mention the flowers…LOTS of flowers!! There are flowers for the teachers, for the students, and for the parents as well. In the villages and smaller areas where people have gardens, the children bring flowers they picked themselves; others buy them for a fairly hefty price! 

Laura and Natasha

Brother holding flowers...girls with their bows or 'bantiks'.
































During the middle of September, We decided the leaves were changing enough to warrant a ride northward...there's a couple of large lakes there and beautiful forests along the way! The ride was  beautiful even though most of the trees were just shades of yellow, no oranges or reds here. (Apparently birch trees just turn shades of yellow.) It was a fun day, just the same, and the first time for Laura to see the lakes that everyone talks about!
Water tanker filling up from the lake.

Road about 40 miles north of our village.
Hopefully, you can see the hay stacked above the fence line.



























On our return home, we passed a "place of worship" the Buddhists  have along many of our roads. This particular place had a table for folks to sit and drink or eat at as well as the prayer cloths on poles. The statue behind the poles has a swan on the top, significant for this area, where people can lay money, cigarettes, or sprinkle vodka to appease the gods. In the distance on the side of the hill, is a small 'datsun' or temple with prayer wheels surrounding. We decided not to drive up the hill but took a picture of the barrel filled with empty vodka bottles near the table. There is a stronghold here that is growing each year as Buddhism is now recognized as a religion in Russia.




Orthodox cross...not far from the Buddhist place of worship.
 This time each year, we celebrate the harvest we are abundantly given. This year was no exception....With the arrival of our cold weather and all the vegetables picked, stored or canned; we began the month of October with the fellowship’s annual harvest celebration. Although folks here will tell you this was not an extraordinarily good year for crops; our folks felt very blessed with the results from their gardens and the food that will help sustain them through the coming winter months. (We are beginning to feel the results of the food sanctions placed against the country and are grateful we took the time and work to have a small garden this year! )We began our harvest celebration with prayer and communion, then a time of praise and sharing from His Word. Our ladies then prepared a feast using vegetables from everyone’s gardens plus some meat from the market. We may be small in numbers, but we saw a tremendous desire to share with others what was so graciously given to them! Our tables were filled to capacity! Afterwards, we enjoyed a time of sharing poems, special verses, and our annual contest to see who grew the largest carrots, beets, potatoes, pumpkins, onions… (we won for the largest carrot, a little over a pound in weight) Well you get the picture.... It was a great way to end an awesome day of fellowship!
Preparing for communion.

This year's harvest!!

Everything is ready........

One of the younger boys prays for our meal...


Let's eat!!!!

Relaxing after the meal in song........



Some of our ladies enjoying time together..

And now for the biggest vegetables grown competition....

Our carrot weighed over 1 pound and was over 12 inches long!

One grandmother won the largest pumpkin, onions, tomato, & beet!
There is more we could share this week, however, we believe it would be information overload! We may just have to write another update in a week! Please remember the folks here in prayer; breaking away from 'religion' to turn to a 'relationship' with a living God is not comfortable. There are so many folks who don't know the difference. We are immensely grateful for ALL who stand with us in so many ways; you truly bless us and the folks here as well. 

Blessings Dear Friends,
   Kevin & Laura