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