Monday, March 31, 2008

welcome back!

After three impatient knocks at the door I answer it. Looking through the peep hole I can see that Tom is standing out there and Spencer is behind him. I wonder to myself “why doesn’t Spencer use his keys?” When three people walk in and I can finally see that it is not Spencer behind Tom but our friend Sasha, dressed in Spencer’s coat and hat! Spencer was standing further down on the stairs so I could not see him at all. I shriek, jump up and down and hug Sasha over and over. I had not seen her for three months. She had many stories to tell us about her travels to Germany, Spain and Austria, and we hung on her every word. Normally, I hate surprises but this was a beautiful one!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

How People Grow Week 3

Today was the last teaching for the month of March… and the topic for today was Understanding the Grace of God.

Here are a few of the points that stood out for me:
Grace and mercy are not the same
Grace is an experience and not a commodity
Grace is a verb
Grace is an ongoing process
Grace is only experienced in relationship
Grace is a supernatural gift from God to us

At some point during the seminar the little ones playing in the childcare room had an accident. Somehow through the game they were playing the curtain rod fell. They tried to put it back up and it fell down again. Lena the childcare worker apologized to Tom over and over and was very distraught over it. He finally told her what today’s topic was and reassured her that it was okay and that he would fix it. What a practical example Tom was of God’s grace. We tried to do this with our children as they were growing up… if something was dropped or fell our first question was “are you alright?” and not “what did you break?” People have always been more important to us than our things.

As I type this Tom and Spencer are over at the church repairing the curtain rod!

Friday, March 28, 2008

“Как тебе не стыдно?!”

kak tibyeh ne stidna?!

The first teens standing near us on the tramvai were two young men from the military academy. The next group was four teens… three girls and one boy. One girl could not stop laughing, one girl was doing graffiti on the window, the boy was doing pull ups on the bar that passengers hold onto to steady themselves, and the last girl was trying to get them all to settle down. She fussed at them to “be quiet” or “be careful” and when that didn’t work it was a loud “Как тебе не стыдно?!” or roughly translated “have you no shame?!” It only worked for a short while.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

family fun!

Fortunately the flood in our bathroom didn’t last 40 days and 40 nights… it lasted just long enough for there to be about an inch of water on the bathroom floor. There is a pipe at the back of the washing machine that worked itself loose. The three of us had to work together as a team to get all the water cleaned up off of the floor. And Tom secured the pipe back into the wall. All that is left to do is to wash up all clothes that were soaked by the flood along with the towels that we used to dry up the floor. Just another day in apartment land!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

thought for today

He was shirtless, dirty and seemingly disoriented. Lying on the ground near the bus stop was a man who appeared to be around 50 years old. He looked up at people as they walked by. It was not quite 9 am and he was still trying to get some sleep. Three and a half hours later, we stood at the bus stop waiting for the bus home. I noticed his bedding…a pile of clothing on the ground behind the trashcan in front of the bench where people sit while they wait for the bus. He was gone. Taking it all in I prayed a silent prayer for him. I don’t know if he will be there again tomorrow.

This evening as the wind picked up, rain began to fall and the sun went down the man from this morning came to my mind again. I rarely think about the population of homeless people here in our city. Back in California it was hard to tell who was truly down on their luck. We saw men standing near the freeway holding signs that said “will work for food” or “help a vet”.

Tonight as I sit in my warm apartment I am wondering how many needy people are out there and what resources are available to help them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

People watching..

Tom saw these boys outside playing with a large of course I had to get out the camera!
working together they rolled it past the garages and across the soccer field...

We were not quite sure the purpose of their game, perhaps it was just something fun to do on a sunny spring afternoon!
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Monday, March 24, 2008

70th Birthday Celebration!

Last night we attended the 70th Birthday Concert for the director of the Kuban Cossack Choir!

We always enjoy the costumes...

and how expressive the performers are...

Here is the birthday boy; Victor Gavrilovich Zakharchenko!

You can read more about Victor Gavrilovich by clicking here and more about the choir by clicking here. We invited the Radjobov family to come with us and we all had a great time! It was a treat for us to include them in our outing... we love going to concerts but it is always more fun to attend a Russian cultural event with our Russian friends! It was their first time attending a concert and we were Thankful that it was a great one to start with!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

How People Grow Week 2

Today we had a few more people attend the seminar Tom is doing at the church and we were thrilled to have the men outnumber the women!

Tom spoke on The 3 Secret Components to Personal Growth… Grace, Truth and Time. Tom shared with us how the Bible outlines growth as a process.

He shared about change versus growth and one of the things that stood out for me from that section is that “change” might be good but “growth” is better!

One of the most impactful pieces of information that Tom shared today were three equations:
Grace without truth equals license.
Truth without grace equals condemnation.
Grace plus truth without time equals an event mentality.

I came away with the understanding that all three components work together and are vital in life, in relationships and in churches so that we can avoid licentiousness, condemnation of others as we relate to one another and finally grace, truth and time are vital in order to avoid the expectation that growth will happen in ourselves or in others as an event when quite often growth is a process!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Are you a reader?

Our current lesson is on Russian literature... I have to confess I didn't think much about studying Russian literature until we were in the process of moving here.

I read a few short stories by Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy and Zoshchenko. I did read Master and Margarita by Bulgakov, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and am in the process of reading the Brothers Karamozov by Dostoevsky.

There is a rich treasure of books, poems, short stories and plays to choose from among the Russian authors... and I am grateful that we are being challenged to read them!

A challenge I am not quite thrilled with is memorizing... we were assigned poems to memorize by Monday! It wouldn't be so bad if we had not been told that every Russian school child can memorize poems this long! Did your school do this? I don't remember doing this in school. I do remember doing this in church! Did your church do Easter or Christmas programs and have all the kids take turns saying their "pieces"?

I remember one year my grandmother made me and my Aunt Lisa learn long poems... but it seemed like the boys got by with short ones. I remember one little boy proudly stepping up to the mic and shouting "HAPPY EASTER EVERYBODY!!!" he bowed and then sat back down.

Oh well... I need to go and start working on my "piece" for Monday!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thought for today

"Christians are like nails; the harder you hit them, the deeper they go"

------ A Romanian pastor who suffered under Communism

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

like Christmas day!

Over the past few weeks we have been blessed with three care packages from America! We love it when that happens!! I am constantly overwhelmed by the love and support we have received since we made the move here to Russia.

Life abroad has it's challenges, one of which is learning to "live without", another would be learning to value what you do have and finally learning how to receive from others.

Thank you to those of you who have taken the time and energy to support us in this way... we truly value each and every gift!

Monday, March 17, 2008

another Monday...

Spencer and I were back in class... Tom was home working on his teaching for the Saturday seminar. Then he went over to help out with an English class.

I was craving chocolate this evening so Spencer was kind enough to go and get some for me... right after he came there was a knock on the door. We were both a little spooked by that. He opened the door slowly and it was Vova! He had been in Moscow helping out his brother with his construction business.

Vova was returning a suitcase that we loaned him and he brought us over some chocolate in payment! So not only did I get a snickers bar from Spencer but another chocolate bar from Vova!

It was great to see him again. He had lots of stories to tell! Including the one about how he surprised Olya with his early return from Moscow. He didn't tell her he was coming home... he calls her as he is walking toward our building and they talk about the weather and how much they miss each other, he gets up to their apartment door and knocks on the door. She asks him to hang on while she answers the door, not knowing it would be him. Imagine her surprise when she opens the door with her cell phone to one ear and sees him standing there!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Tom's March seminar begins!!!

This month’s theme is “How People Grow” and today’s topic was “Growth as a Process”.

Tom was pleased with the turn out… we had 20 people today including the two little ones in childcare!

Dima did such a great job translating, Lena B. was awesome with the children, Spencer was in charge of the audio visual, he did an excellent job handling the PowerPoint and showing video clips… and I got to wear a few hats today, I did registration, made sure that there were snacks for the kids as well as prepared the tea and dessert for the adults and finally making sure that everyone who worked got paid!

We had a few new faces today which were great to see… I have a few special memories I will carry away from today, one of them was seeing the two little girls in childcare so excited to see one another! They met for the first time back during Tom’s first seminar in November. And they had not seen each other since the end of December. The other memory is of the number of men we had today. There were an equal number of men and women. Typically topics like this attract women… so you can imagine my excitement when the women finished up our small group time ahead of the men. It truly thrills our hearts to see such enthusiasm for this topic from the men!

Tom has two more topics to cover in this seminar… and we ask that you pray for us as our family works to make this time comfortable and enjoyable for all!

Friday, March 14, 2008

just girl time!

Stephanie opened her home today for a time of playing with makeup and foot massages for the teachers!

This was one of the highlights of my week, I totally enjoyed putting make up on Stephanie's two youngest daughters... I rarely get to play like this!

Megan and me!

all the goodies!

Goar getting her feet massaged by Rebecca!

Tania, our school director, putting makeup on Brianna!
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

another day abroad!

Yesterday Tom tried to make a withdrawal from an ATM… it didn’t work. He tried another one… that one didn’t work either. He came home and called the bank in America to find out what the problem was. It turns out that someone in Texas had made a copy of his card and tried to use it at a Walmart. After 65 minutes on the phone he got the problem rectified and a new card is on the way. There are times when we are annoyed with our bank but yesterday was not one of those days… we are grateful that they noticed activity and immediately put a block on the account.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Final week!

We ended up skipping a week due to so many of the women or their small children being ill. Yesterday was our final meeting and Lena R. did a great job leading us.

One of the things that stood out for me from her teaching was that Mary Magdalene made history by being the first person to see Christ after his resurrection... it showed how much value Jesus placed on women!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday outing!

Spencer, Tom and I all went out to lunch today... as we were walking we saw this band of Cossacks headed our way!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Happy International Women's Day!

As Tom and I were coming home from our lunch date to celebrate the holiday today we saw that our local outdoor market was flooded with a variety of flowers... mostly tulips from vendors we had never seen before!

Flowers are a major part of this holiday here in Russia. I was excited to receive flowers at school on Thursday and then again on Friday from Tom! We also noticed today that many women owned or run businesses were closed.

Here is a great way to describe the overall spirit of the holiday:
“We have many good holidays, but March 8 is special one, as on this day we congratulate our mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers,” Tomsk city mayor Nikolai Nikolaichuk said. To read the rest of this article you can click here

On Thursday the women from the BLTC were all treated to an incredibly beautiful Russian banya... we enjoyed the sauna, pool, the comfort & beauty of the halls we were in and the time of fellowship with one another. I am grateful that my first experience in a Russian banya was in a place so luxurious! We were split into two groups one group occupied the Africa themed room and the other group was in the Indonesia themed room. Some of the gals who had been before brought things like body salt scrubs and honey to massage into our skin... I am still feeling the affects of how smooth and silky the honey made my skin feel!

I love this holiday! On Monday we have the day off of school and the women from the language school will be enjoying lunch together!

To learn more about this holiday click here

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

smile for the day

We saw this sign when we were in Cyprus! (The Blind Beggar is the name of a pub)

Monday, March 03, 2008

passing the baton...

For a closer look at President-elect Dmitry Medvedev... click Here or Here.

Tom, Spencer and I have each heard various things from people about the voting process. One story is that there was an elderly couple who voted for the Communist Party candidate because they felt sorry for him, after having done that they had to face being chastised by their middle aged son for wasting their vote. Democracy looks a little different in this part of the world... it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Russia's presidential election

With 25% of the precincts reporting election results we are being told that Putin's handpicked successor Dmitry Medvedev has a commanding 63% of the vote right now... his closest rival only has 19%.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

what to watch first?!

Yesterday we received a box that was full of TV shows! Thanks so much Mom, Dad and Nathan.

It is such a blessing each time we get things to watch in English. We do watch movies in Russian and enjoy them... but watching in English is our way to relax and recoup from the stressors of the day!

What a great problem we have now... what to watch first!? We started with one episode from the 1st season of Saturday Night Live and then went on to watch a few episodes from the 1st season of Arrested Development!