Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 2015

It must be Spring in Siberia! At least it is getting warmer...we've been above freezing for over a week now, (only during the daytime); AND Kevin made his first ice-coffee of the year today, so it MUST be Spring! We're pretty much ready for the warmer weather and being able to work outside without three layers of clothing plus coats. The more important news; we are very grateful for your faithful prayers because they're being answered! Although we are still hoping for more men; recently we have seen a small increase in the fellowship. These men have been a huge blessing in so many practical ways as well as growing in their knowledge and understanding of the Lord. Keep praying!

WOW update.... for those of you who might be new, WOW originally stood for 'Windows of Warmth'. However, we realized that during the winter months firewood was a huge need as well, hence 'Wood of Warmth' was born. In short, we have a contract with the social services department in our village. They know of folks that are struggling to have food on their tables much less wood for their stoves to keep warm. A few months ago, we wrote about the need for firewood  and your response has been amazing. Because of your generosity, for the month of February we were able to provide about two months of firewood for 21 families! If we translate that into rubles, we spent 85,000 rubles on wood which is a little over $1300 dollars. That was just for one month; we've been able to help over 40 families since December. A HUGE thank you to all that gave sacrificially. We will be working with the same office to install windows once the temperatures are warmer.

Defender of the Fatherland …23rd of February.  Looking into the history of this holiday, we found some interesting information. Begun in 1923, this holiday was called The Day of the Red Army. Then in 1949 it was changed to Soviet Army and Navy Day. The latest change in 2002; President Putin gave the holiday it’s current name, Defender of the Fatherland. Originally, the day was meant to celebrate men serving or who had served in the military with parades and of course lots of vodka. Over the last few years, it has turned into what may be called “men’s day” or similar to our Father’s Day. Why is this so important? This year we had nine men and some boys from one of the local schools travel to a church in Ulan Ude for a conference celebrating this holiday.  As Kevin and our elders sat in the auditorium and the MC greeted everyone, it turned out that we had more people attending than any other fellowship; there were fifteen people from our village.  What an amazing time as our guys worshiped together with men from twelve other fellowships in Buryatia as well as one group that traveled in from a neighboring region. The purpose of the conference was fellowship, the Word, testimonies and sharing a meal. HIS truth is being heard and received in this part of the world. 

These men represented 12 different churches from the region.

Some of our men....

Young men leading worship for the first time!
International Woman's Day.....   8th of March
We’re not certain if this day is popular in the U.S., however, the 8th of March is an important day in Russia! Women are given gifts and/or flowers as a thank you for all they have done throughout the year. Since the fellowship has more men, this year they cooked and served our ladies a meal, presented them with flowers and a small gift, then sang some wonderful songs of praise. The women truly enjoyed the evening! Most of our ladies are widows and do not have older sons, so this was a huge treat! The men truly "served" the ladies in our fellowship in a Christ-like manner.  Did we mention the meal actually took place on the 7th? Then on the 8th of March , the women were once again treated to songs and 'tea' after the service...all-in-all, a special weekend for our ladies!

Sunday service - men and children sang for Woman's Day.

Baby Dedication…when we see more and more children being born into our fellowship, we feel it is God’s way of showing us he is not through with us yet. This past month we celebrated another baby dedication.  This mother and her daughter came into the family last year when she moved to the village from outside the Omsk region of Russia. Because of her mother and sister, she also started attending our fellowship. It wasn't long before she began attending our GKGW classes (Growing Kids God’s Way); we have seen so many positive changes in her and her lovely daughter.  

You may have noticed we have written a lot about men this month. We wanted to share one last story as to how these new men blessed our fellowship. A woman from our church lost her husband a few weeks ago. Some of her family members weren't speaking to her at the time. When someone passes here, the family does EVERYTHING! There are no funeral homes or services here that take care of the deceased. Four men from our fellowship, three of whom had never met this woman or her husband, dug the grave in -25C temperatures! This was an amazing testimony of HIS love in action to this woman's family.We are eternally grateful for your faithfulness in support for the work, emails, words of encouragement, and most importantly, your continued prayers.

Kevin & Laura

" Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion - it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ. "

Thursday, January 22, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015 and more CHRISTMAS.... 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! 

Kevin & Laura