Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Greetings from Siberia!

This is the best time of year...cookies in the oven, pies going in next.  You have to love this time of year! Christmas songs ALL day long streaming online (I guess you have to love Christmas songs like we do).  The problem with this time of year is that we too often forget the reason for the season...we heard it said best today as we listened to a candlelight service from the states...Please listen to this message from Peanuts...

As you go about your day today remember THE REASON for the season!

In the center of town in front of the 
"New Years tree"

Have a Blessed Christmas day!

Kevin and Laura

Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'."
~ Bing Crosby (1904-1977)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

WOW update November 2011

WOW, what a name for a project in Siberia, Windows of Warmth.  This project was not your typical one, but  one that was rather large for us.  We partnered with the local Music/Art school to remodel the front of their school.  The work consisted of replacing the old style windows, many of which were broken, with new three-pane European windows, insulating the front of the building and installing new metal siding (WOW donations were not used for the purchase of siding/insulation with this project, those funds came from another source). This particular school has over 150 students enrolled in its various programs ranging from piano, art and dance lessons to traditional classes on making Buryat clothing.  This was a VERY visible project for our team in the village.  The school is located in the center of town directly across from the library and next door to one of the local clinics.  Please enjoy the pictures and thank you for making this project possible with the many donations that have come in for WOW.  

Kevin with the load of building materials needed

A glimpse of the old windows and front of the building

The window replacement beginning, and the insulation going up.
Notice our OSHA approved ladders...

beginning the siding work...

Making precision cuts on the siding... 
coming to the end of the building...

Everyone busy with the work...

The front of the building, looks modern now....
The street in front of the Music School

Library in front of the music school

Hope you all enjoyed the pictures of our latest project.  Have a GREAT day and thanks for thinking of us...oh by the way it was a little cold today, it was -17 degrees this morning...what can we expect we do live in Siberia.  

Winter is the season in which people try to keep the house as warm as it was in the summer, when they complained about the heat.  ~Author Unknown

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fall happenings...

There's no way this is the END of October already....OK.. it is the end of the month and we have lots of pictures and some great stories to share!

The beginning of the month took us to the city with our youth group for some rock climbing and time with other youth groups! We left the village early to a beautiful sunny morning and arrived in the city to a cold and rainy day! That didn't stop the trek to the rocks where we met up with another youth group and some students that belong to the local 'extreme club.' Eventually the weather cleared up enough for some of us to climb while the rest of us played games or prepared lunch! In the end, we all agreed it was a great day and we're eager to give it another try...when the weather is warmer and there's no rain!  The following day we went to church then it was off to the local mall to 'hang out'. (A brief pause here, we didn't realize that some of our gals had never seen an escalator...we didn't want to embarrass them so there aren't any pictures. Let's just say we spent a lot of time riding the escalators and the elevator!!Inexpensive fun is easy if you look for it! ) Next stop was a park that still had the rides going..the weather has been awesome! Then it was time to head back home and rest.. :)  All in all, it was a great weekend and the girls are looking forward to our next trip to the city!

 Some of our girls "helping" with lunch.
Kevin helping with the salad!

Throwing the ropes for our climbers.

The only girl from our group to climb...this time that is!


     September and October are also the last months to bring in hay for the winter. Cow, pigs, chicken, geese, and horses are kept in small barns or areas closer to home. The hay helps feed these animals during those very cold winter months! We thought you'd enjoy a picture of folks 'bringing in the hay'. (By the way, there are many folks who still do all of this by hand - a sickle and wooden rakes...amazing to watch!)

                                           Hay being trucked in from the fields...

           Each year seems to bring us 'city folks' a new challenge to living in a village. This year was no exception! We had built the 'barn' for our cows last year.....this year we added a chicken coop to the barn and made room for pigs. (Since the cows were lost last fall and we haven't replaced them yet.) Instead of milk, we'll now have eggs and some nice sides of pork for the winter!!

 Our chickens in their new 'home'.

Getting ready for the pig and her piglets.

      October also brings for us a time of thanksgiving for ALL we've harvested from our gardens. Early on in this work, it was decided not to be 'westernized' if at all possible. That means not celebrating holidays that aren't familiar to the folks here as well as 'our' ideas as to how to celebrate when there are similar holidays. Hence, we have our 'Harvest Sunday' each year to celebrate and give thanks for our gardens and the food that will keep many families from starving throughout the coming winter. As you can, there was 'much' to be thankful for this year. (Some of you may remember our enormous cabbages...this was not a good year for us and many others.) We even had a contest for the biggest of every vegetable brought in....our pumpkin was a winner, weighing in at 22 pounds! Now that will make a fair amount of pies and cookies!!
Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  Mat 9:38  итак молите Господина жатвы, чтобы выслал делателей на жатву Свою.

First snow!!  Hahahaha ...why are we laughing??? Just spoke with my folks and our youngest son...they both have snow and we didn't get any until three days later.....YA Siberia!!!  OK, so it's the small things that make us smile :)  This could mean only five months of winter instead of the six or seven we usually get!!

Kevin and some friends are finishing up on a community project. They were able to have windows installed and put up siding on the front of our local music/art school. Completion is expected this week so some great pictures will follow. 
    Blessings to ALL
     Kevin & Laura

"If you want a thing done, go-if not, send"...Benjamin Franklin

Monday, September 5, 2011

4000 miles...nine days...Trains, buses and automobiles

There was no way we could have ever guessed it would take this amount of time; believe it or not, this was our adventure for the summer AND how we traveled to get our new mini-van! Why so far away, you may ask? We searched the internet and newspapers in this area for months!! The prices were just way out of our range. We have a friend/fellow worker that lived in a region west of here who was selling her van...hence the title to our 'road trip'.

 It began with a two hour drive to the city then a 40 hour train ride. After spending a night at the train station in the city of Novosibirsk, (They have great hotels there with hot showers and comfortable beds!) we embarked on an eight hour bus trip to the city of Gorno-Altaisk. This region is incredibly beautiful, surrounded by mountains with great rivers in it's valleys! (Some of the best white-water rafting/kayaking in the world.)  The roads are good in this area so this part of the trip was smooth and restful. (You'll understand later why this comment is important!)    Days one and two of our trip....

Train station in Ulan Ude  (40 hrs. our next stop)
Train station in Novosibirsk (has a great hotel)

Bus to Gorno-Altaisk... eight hours to go, 
almost where the van is located.

 I (Laura) am not sure how long it takes in the US to transfer a title, get temp. tags and get car insurance. It took an entire day...9am to 5pm of waiting in lines, running to other offices, coming back to the original line, and being told around 4pm that you would have to return the next day! This is where a huge answer to many prayers took place...Kevin was standing in the hallway talking with others who were 'waiting' when the Asst. Director of the department walked by and heard his comment about the amount of time it was taking. (There was one person doing all the work and at least 50 people waiting) The next thing we knew the A.D. took our paper work and handed it to another women...told us to standby and everything would be ready by 5pm that day! (not the next) We were amazed and very grateful...this was just day one in our journey back home.  End of day three....
Our new van!!  2000 Honda Odyssey 4WD
  We were told by our friend who sold us the van that we would need to replace the springs and tires on the van before heading out on our return trip. (These parts are quite often in need of replacing because the roads are so bad here.) Thus, we began the 'hunt' for Honda parts in a not so large city. After hours of searching, another friend of ours suggested the next city was larger and would most likely have what we needed. We drove an hour + to the next city, found the parts, found a place to do the repairs....wrong parts! After hours of running and waiting, we returned to our friend's home and decided to try again the following day...this is now day four.
  Day five....returned to the garage with another set of parts...they couldn't begin work until after lunch, so we drove around a little and found a great coffee shop with free WiFi so we checked our emails and let our families know we were OK and alive. Returned to the garage and they began working on the van around 1pm...finishing around 8pm! (They did a great job, just had slow workers with lots of breaks.) We found a hotel down the street, spent the night and started out the next morning for home - finally!!
 Day six....we were finally on the road...the van is amazing and it was awesome to be heading home. The day started out sunny and warm, great for driving...our first stop would be back to Novosibirsk where they have an Ikea store. The prices and choices are great so we 'had' to  stop and find a few things for us and others as well. Although is was now raining and we weren't exactly sure where we were going, we found the store....shopped, had lunch, shopped, had coffee and headed out for what we thought would be a few more hours on the road. We quickly realized there weren't a lot of roadside motels and drove until almost 11pm in the rain..on two lane highways. Kevin decided it was time to stop when he saw four lanes of traffic on a two-lane road and cars passing each other when there was no sane reason to do so! We found a great place to sleep for the night and began the long drive early the next morning.
   Days seven, eight, and nine are all the same....the roads we thought would be some of the best were some of the worst we had ever seen! We would come upon a section of new highway that was awesome, four lanes with lines potholes where you could lose your car...we felt like we were driving in the US...then just as quickly as they would end. Back to two lanes and often they were too bad to drive any faster than 40mph!  There was even a stretch of road where we traveled an amazing 12 miles and it took us 2 hours, we are just glad it was not all that bad. We had been told that we should expect trouble with the police and maybe even bandits on this trip. Our Father is soooooo wonderful...we were only stopped once (it was 1am and they were checking everyone's documents) and NEVER had a problem with folks along the way. In fact, we met great people and were helped whenever we thought we were lost or looking for something specific. It's definitely a trip we'll long remember and one we're not likely to take again.

Road side and clean toilets..Yay!

Wheat fields for miles.........

Some of the better paved highways!

                                           This became a familiar sign for us to see, it means bumpy road ahead.
The 'not -so-great' part of the roads we traveled.
This was the second worst section, we couldn't take
pictures while driving on the worst road!
This ran through a small town and turned out to be the
main federal highway ...we had thought we were lost!

Typical gas station.

Getting close to home...first site of Lake Baikal,
only 6 hours to go!
Kevin eating shisk-kebob or shashlik (as it's called
in Russian) no matter the's DELICIOUS!
We're back home and busy with getting study groups started and finishing projects before the real cold weather sets in. Kevin celebrated his 49th on August 26th so we decided to take the day, head to the river and eat his favorite food. (Well, almost everything is his favorite, but this is fun to do as well.) We have many more stories to share and will be updating the blog again in a week or so. I must get back to preparing lessons and canning the vegies from the garden!
  Joyfully Serving in Siberia,
         Kevin & Laura


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Party for the dead....

    A dear friend and young widow came over for tea. She had also come to cut hair but Laura could tell she had something on her mind...."Friends and family are asking me why I'm not have a 'memorial party' for my husband's birthday!" (Four years ago, this girl's husband and brother had gotten into a fight while drinking and the brother stabbed her husband to death!) The culture here expects several 'memorials' actually; the first on the day of the funeral, then at 40 days after the person's death, then again a year later. These 'parties' are for a time of remembrance and most importantly...drinking. We had never heard of remembering someone on their birthdays, but apparently it's also a practice in the area and another opportunity to gather, remember, and drink. Wait...this isn't all depressing....our friend asked the question because she wanted to know what we should do as Christians. In all the years we've lived here, we don't think we've had this question before. However, it was a chance to talk about death and what we know to be true as Christians.
     Julie lives in the same building as our friend we mentioned above. We've shared a little about her in the past...her husband had been responsible for the death of their five year old son. It's been difficult at best for Julie, but she has grown so much in her understanding of the Bible and her faith is amazing. At a recent visit, she was sharing how something so horrible - losing her son - could be taken and used for something good! What is so good you ask???? Through this experience, she as well as her daughter, and mother have made decisions to follow the Lord and her younger sister is very close!! This was a family where drinking was a huge part of their lives. How amazing to see lives transformed so drastically.

Julie and friend....

     So far, this summer has been filled more with great opportunities for conversation and not so much with projects. We are truly enjoying the time of fellowship and having opportunities to sit and talk with folks who have been quite interested in who we are and why we're here. We were able to complete two small projects for the fellowship's building were a new window and a small drain field for the kitchen. (We're hoping for running water this year!) The window will allow light and fresh air in for our children's room. We have 15 or more kids attend services each week to sing songs, play games, hear stories and learn verses! This room will be a huge asset to the fellowship's meeting place.

Digging the drain field...

Our little helper Luke...he fit in the hole better than the big guys!

Preparing to cut through logs for a new window...

Next step...getting the window to fit properly.
For some reason, the camera didn't work when the window was'll just have to check in next time for the finished product!

    Going though our pictures I found the following and just had to add them to the update....Most items needed can be bought here in the village, however, the price is 20% higher. When there's an opportunity to go the city, we all pile in a truck, buy the bigger items and load the truck as much as possible. You never know what you'll be bringing back to the village.....
Feed for the animals, cement, and bikes.....still some room left!

The fellowship has lunch together once a month after Sunday services...there's always plenty of food and fellowship and the property has lots of running space for the kids......
Not close to a lake or ocean??? Make a raft anyway!!!
There's more to share....but we'll save that for next time. With humble hearts we say, "Thanks", to all who take the time to read our blog and  for the faithful support and prayers. We pray you are blessed and encouraged through these pictures and updates.
   Kevin & Laura

Talent is God-given; be thankful.
Praise is man-given; be humble.
Conceit is self-given; be careful.
                           Dave Driscoll

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Back in Russia.... JULY 2011

We're finally in Russia!
(I, Laura, must confess that I wanted to use an old Beatles' song here...but decided to let it go :0 )
  We really can not believe this is July already!!!  The month of June came and went before we could catch our breath! As you can see, we arrived into Russia on the 2nd of June. (We had an extended stay in  Mongolia because we couldn't get tickets for the train back into Russia.) After a few days  of waiting, we took the train into Ulan Ude. We were greeted by our fellow worker and good friend Doug around 9am....made a lot of stops in the city, (we buy our groceries and bigger items there because the prices are better)....then off to the village we drove....arriving home around 11pm!
   We share a garden with the family that watches our fellowship building and were pleased to see that much of the garden had been planted. (It's usually done by the first week of June.) However, Kevin had wanted to plant more vegetables than potatoes this year so we set out for the garden and filled in all available space possible to plant corn, peas, three kinds of squash, green beans, carrots, tomato plants and sunflowers for the seeds. Hopefully we'll have good weather this year with some rain.
  Not to get too comfortable with summer life; we quickly realized we had less than one week to get ready for guests arriving from the States. They would be in Siberia on the 10th! (Remember, we've been back in Russia only a few days's now around the 5th of June.) Our pastor from Sarasota and a dear friend of ours were coming to encourage and meet with leaders of the fellowships in the city and encourage the folks here in the village. After delays and a missed flight in Moscow, our guests arrived safely on the 11th....they were quickly fed and showered, then were off to speak at not one, but two different meetings and met with leaders afterwards! (All this after being up for about 48 hours!)

They were able to spend some quality time with many of the fellowship leaders in the city and the fellowship in our village.  It was an awesome time for ALL the folks here as well as a huge encouragement for our pastor and friend!

First stop in Ulan Ude......

Second stop in Ulan Ude....

Leader's meeting......end of day one!

Seminar held in Ulan Ude with many fellowships.
Seminar held in village
Day trip to Baikal to see the camp

Building a new 'mess hall' for the camps!

A new port being built on Baikal...if you look closely,
you'll see a great symbol on the fence........

Our guests left on the 21st of June and we began to settle back into life in the village. What does that look like? Meeting with folks to help settle differences correctly, discuss summer plans and projects, catching up on things that have happened the last six months, (drinking a lot of tea) helping a single mom with her two yr. old son....a drunk had grabbed him by the arms and shook him so hard it broke one arm....and so on. Our life here is never boring and through it all, we also learn so much from the Father and those around us!

On the 29th, we celebrated our 26th anniversary at home. We had hoped to have a vehicle by now, but that has become yet another story. Soooo...we bought the next best thing, especially for out here in the village...
Our transportation for gas required :)

We are thankful for:
  • safe travel on the return to Russia
  • a great time of encouragement through the seminars and meetings with our friends from the U.S.
  • our home, neighbors and friends in the village
  • ALL who so faithfully stand with us in the work here in Siberia
We ask that you remember these needs:
  • a vehicle ( we came with what we felt was enough cash and find prices have risen!)
  • wisdom as we make plans with the fellowship for growth
  • to love those around us (even the drunks)
We are getting the food ready for our 4th of July party....we pray you all enjoy your holiday as well and please remember those who give so much so that we in America can remain so free!
Kevin wanted to add this quote......Be Blessed,
   Kevin & Laura
A quote we heard not long ago...wish we knew who said it...but it is worth thinking about...
"The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing"