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

Monday, August 25, 2014

The End of Summer - August


WHEW...Where did the last month go??? It's just not possible that this is the end of August already! That means only one thing here....it's time to bring in hay for the animals and buy wood to heat homes for the winter, AND just beginning to harvest some of the vegetables everyone has worked so hard to grow during our short summer months! This past month was also filled with unexpected guests; five different times to be exact, however, several of these visits turned into huge blessings for the community. During this past month, the fellowship also received an awesome gift that we pray will be used wisely in the coming years. Lastly, this past month saw our fellowship grow in numbers. There are LOTS of pictures this month, so find a comfortable seat, relax and enjoy...


                               This was the 9th of July in our small greenhouse....


This was the beginning of August...tomatoes on the left,
peppers on the right, and cucumbers in the back!
Potatoes...hopefully another month before harvest!


The rest of our garden.
As we mentioned above, there were some unexpected guests over the last month. Apparently, there was a huge push to send groups from S. Korean churches this summer to areas around the world. Our area was on their list and to our surprise, groups would just show up at our door looking for a place to rest before heading out into surrounding villages. However, there were two larger groups that stayed for several days and blessed the community with some great programs. One such group was 16 ladies that wanted to give free haircuts, manicures, massages, and mini- portraits to anyone they met on the street. There was a good turnout and folks stayed around to just talk and hear the Good News from some very enthusiastic ladies! (Did we mention they didn't have a translator, spoke very little Russian and no English? They had things written down and used a lot of pointing and 'sign language'.)
Facials with masks and massages  :)

Manicures and hearing the Good News



The ladies sang "Jesus Loves Me" in Korean and Russian.
The next large group, 17 students, showed up with a tremendous children's program. Unfortunately for them, we didn't know they were coming until a few hours before their arrival - we could have advertised in the local paper and done some great advance preparations...however, this group was amazing and went door to door with balloons and lots of enthusiasm. An hour later, there were over 30 kids ready to hear songs, skits, play games and do crafts for the next two days! What a blessing for these kids, our neighborhood, and our fellowship as well - they saw firsthand how to meet and work with local children.  We hope this will open doors to meet the parents as well!

Children's program on the final day.
One of many puppet presentations...

Games where everyone could get at least one prize!



New songs with lots of motions to make it interesting!

Craft time...making crowns.

When we wrote our last update, we were in the process of purchasing a van specifically to be used for the fellowship. A gentleman in the US felt the need should be met and donated enough cash for us to purchase a used van from Korea. Even though it had been used here in Russia for quite a few years, it was well cared for and should give us many more miles and years of service. The person will remain nameless so many THANKS from the folks here!


Last but certainly not the least of our news...we added another member to our 'family' last week as we celebrated a time of fellowship and a baptism. The guys were very grateful for the warm weather as it was in the 80's that day; the 'creek'  on the other hand was NOT so warm. It's spring-fed and never gets above 50F. (Kevin said it felt a lot colder than that...not much more than 40F!!) The kids didn't seem to mind, they jumped in later that day and immediately jumped out!! They just had to get in one more swim before summer is over.

Very proud Mom and daughter.


Preparing lunch .....

Time of singing together...

Playing games ....egg toss (1st time for all the kids)

dunking for apples (they had never heard of this game)


One of our youth group kids goofing around with Kevin.
Thank you for taking the time to read our update and most of all THANK YOU for the continued sacrifice of prayers! We'll 'see' you next month with many more pictures and news from Siberia!
  Kevin & Laura

"Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?"   Corrie Ten Boom

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Celebration and Crisis in July

Yep...when we are able, we celebrate the 4th of July even in the middle of Siberia! This year we joined our fellow worker Doug and his family for an afternoon of food, hikes, and just some time to relax in the woods. We didn't have fireworks or sparklers this year, but it was fun just the same watching their kids play American football, having a pine cone war, and chasing their dogs away from the food on the grill!

"Shashlik" or kebobs on the grill!!! YUMMY

Team mate's kids and Kevin on the hike....



Doug with his kids in 'tower' they found.
My Siberian Cowboy  :)   
We (the Moms), let everyone enjoy a hike while we rested and caught up on more important things. (Actually, we were just too full to go anywhere at that point!)

The end of June, we were greeted one afternoon by a group of believers up from Mongolia. One of the gentlemen had been here before to visit his relatives. He has a huge burden to share the Truth with them and has made the long journey many times. He brought some friends this time and stopped by the church to say "hello" and have tea! (Mongolians drink tea with salt and milk...it's an acquired taste!) What a HUGE blessing to fellowship with 'family' from other cultures and countries!
Group from Mongolia.


Crisis hits our fellowship....A little over two weeks ago, one of our 'kids' was coming home from the river with his sister and some friends. When it's hot here, EVERYONE goes to the river to cool off! The road they take is well known to all from this area, so driving along this particular road is usually done with caution. This time was not one of those days. The driver had been drinking, it was four in the afternoon, and was returning home with friends. He didn't see Maxim (Maxeem) in time and hit his bike, not the boy, sending Maxim flying through the air and landing on his head. He was immediately taken to the hospital here in the village by another car that came upon the accident. After a couple of hours, the doctors here were wise enough to realize they needed someone with more experience to take a look at this boy. Within six hours after the accident, a team of doctors from the city were here deciding what would be best for Maxim. They felt he needed better care and equipment to aide in his recovery and after three days a plane was called to take Max to the city children's hospital! For most of us, this seems like 'no big deal'; for a village in Siberia, this was a HUGE deal! We are so grateful for the prayers that have been lifted for Maxim. We feel it is the reason they called for specialists and for the plane that was sent to take him to a better facility. He was in a comma for 12 days and is now awake, however, he is totally paralyzed at this point and unable to speak. There is still some swelling of the brain but he breathes on his own and recognizes voices. PLEASE continue to remember this little guy, he's only five, and pray for his family as well. (Our latest news from the doctors is that most of his brain is 'dead' and most likely there isn't much more to do....we are praying as to what we should do next, if anything more!)

Natasha and Maxim in May

Max's Grandmother and sister, Natasha, at the hospital...

Loading Maxim onto the plane from our village, first time
locals remember a plane being used for an
evacuation...PTL

Taking off for Ulan Ude....
Through all of this with Maxim, we've seen growth in the fellowship. Of course, there are lots of questions as to 'why', however, we are learning what true faith looks like and how to"5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Prov. 3:5,6   Thank you to all who pray for us and remember the folks here as well!!  

We are so very blessed!!  
   Kevin & Laura

“Faith takes God without any ifs.” ~ D.L. Moody