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