Thursday, March 23, 2006

Catching up...

Well it's been way too long since I got on the computer...

I rememeber on March 1st thinking to myself 'wow, we've made it through the whole winter without ANYONE getting sick - not one sniffle, fever or earache.' Famous last words... David and I got terrible head colds, and then one by one every member of the family followed suit. Poor Johanna stayed healthy to the very end.. and then got a terrible congested nose - so sad when you can't nurse :(

Thought you'd enjoy this picture of James & Caleb snuggling on the couch between rounds of garlic & honey. After this last week all I can say is I am very VERY grateful that usually our kids are extremely healthy.

One other thing I wanted to make sure and write about was Svieta's birthday party two weeks ago. Svieta is our neighbor and is only 3 months younger than Rachel - she spends at least two afternoons a week playing outside or going skiing with Rachel. She lives with her Mother and Grandparents, and has been such a good, sweet friend for our kids. Anyway, Svieta was so excited about her 7th birthday party.. she even rang our doorbell early Saturday morning to make sure we were coming and to tell us 'not to forgot the presents' :) James went along with Rachel, David & Caleb and they has such a memorable time. They got home late and I noticed Caleb's stomach was enormous and his eyes was glassed over (he could hardly walk!) I asked James what Caleb had to eat, to which he replied 'ohh 4 pieces of fried chicken, 3 bowls of mashed potatoes, 2 or 3 pieces of cake, a couple of candy bars and a few glasses of Coke.' (!!!!!) James said Svieta's Grandmother was completely smitten with Caleb and kept him beside her the entire time shoveling food into him... she kept saying that Caleb looked exactly like the little girl on the "Alonka" candy bar. (if you lived in Russia you would know how funny this statement is.. no resemblance trust me!). Anyway, Caleb looked so so funny when he came back from the party and talked about it all week.. they had a wonderful time.

Also wanted to update a previous post about our friend Dima that was thrown from a train. He is doing much better - the Dr. said it was a miracle he survived with such a serious head injury. He did have to have his ring finger on his left hand amputated due to a serious cut/mangled that later got infected. Thanks for praying for him and his family! James & Andrei visited him several times in the hospital and as a result were able to have lots of interesting conversations with people in his room.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

In loving memory of Yuri Zhakrov

March 1st our dear friend Yuri died from liver & kidney failure. Yuri was the choir director at Nemchinovka Church where James worked when we first came to Russia. Yuri and Pastor Nicolai Epishin were the two men James traveled with as their interpretor when they spoke in churches in 1996 & 97.

Yuri had the most interesting history and life story of any Russian I had ever met. His mother was a famous soprano that performed at the Bolshoi during the 1930's, and narrowly escaped death during Stalin's purges in the late 1940's. Yuri grew up with the finest education and musical training available and showed great potential to be a rising star. However as a young man Yuri said he could never find 'peace in his soul'.. he began drinking heavily and using drugs. He also began to hang out with the Hippies (as they called themselves) and soon began selling bell bottom Levi's, Elvis records and Orthodox icons on the black market. This may not seem like serious criminal activity, but in the early 70's in Moscow this was a major crime. He and some of his friends were caught exchanging dollars for rubles and the entire *band* was put on trial. Part of the trial was televised and Yuri and his friends became celebrities of the era. The government decided to make an example of this kind of activity and so two of Yuri's friends received the death penalty. Yuri was put in prison (can't remember how long). When he was released from prison, he continued a life of drugs and alcohol... he was eventually put in a mental hospital and told that he had such severe problems he would never lead a normal life. He remained in the mental hospital for over a year being drugged and having shock treatments. In the midst of all this Yuri's Mother began praying for him and attending Moscow Central Baptist Church which was the only church allowed to open during Communism. I can't remember the date but sometime in the early 70's ???? Billy Graham made a historic visit to Moscow and preached at Moscow Central Baptist Church, Yuri ended up going for the first time in his life but the church was so crowded he couldn't get in.. he ended up walking around Moscow getting drunk. I can't remember the exact details, but somehow Yuri went to his Mother's friends and asked them to pray for Him.. there he ended up repenting and asking God to save him. I do remember he always talked about Luke 13 and how this was a picture of what had happened to him.. "And there was a woman who for 18 years had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not staighten up at all. And when Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, 'Woman, you are freed from your sickness.' And He laid hands upon her; and immediately she was made erect again, and began glorifying God." Yuri always shared this passage when he spoke in churches and told how God instantly healed him from alcoholism and drug addiction. From that day on Yuri walked in freedom and had such a love for his Savior. He began singing in the choir and soon met Nicolai Epishin - they became close friends and began holding secret meetings in the woods with young people from all over Russia. I could go on and on of all Yuri's fascinating stories. In 2001 a famous Russian television show (their equivalant of '60 minutes') did a one hour documentary of Yuri's life and the famous trial that had taken place. On national television Yuri got to share his life story and give glory to God for changing his life. Some 15 million viewers watched this show and heard his testimony. Yuri also wrote a book 'The chronicles of a prodigal son' that was published and sold throughout Russia. In the last 8 years Yuri has visited and shared in many different prisons, hospitals and churches with the simple message "I was a slave to sin, bent over and could not help myself; JESUS saved me!" With a smile spread across his face and his eyes beaming, his joy for life was contagious.

My personal favorite memories of Yuri are from our cross country trip made in 1997. James & I had been married 3 weeks when we picked up Yuri & Nicolai in our beloved Lincoln (Yuri called it 'the Leemooseen') and headed off for a month long adventure of travel and speaking in churches. One thing that fascinated Yuri about America was the Kentucky Fried Chicken lunch buffet.. he could not comprehend a restaurant where you could eat as much chicken as you wanted for only $2.99. I think we ate at KFC's in at least 7 different states - of course if every customer loved chicken as much as Yuri they would most likely no longer be in business. Yuri also loved American thrift stores... James said he had to smile when he walked into Nemchinovka church for Yuri's funeral and saw that he was being buried in his favorite blue suit they had bought together at a Texas thrift store.

Your life taught us so much Yuri. I'll never forget driving down the highway with you, Nicolai & James singing all your favorite hymns in three part harmony.. and you always telling Nicolai he was drowning you out.. I'll never forget kneeling every evening and praying all four of us for God to pour out His spirit with power and change people's lives all across America and Russia. I'll never forget your example of faith that even though the Doctors told you it was impossible for you to have children you have a 19 year old son Elisha who loves God with all his heart. I'll never forget how you loved to quote the verse 'for we were not given a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.' You forever had that gigantic smile spread across your face because you knew your loving Father and Savior had everything under His control. Our lives are forever changed because your life Yuri is in our memories.

Our hearts rejoice though because we can picture you before your Savior's throne hearing these words 'Well done thou good and faithful servant.'

Here is one of Yuri's favorite songs (this was also sung at our wedding, but it's even more beautiful in Russian)

O Lord, Thy light has shined in our darkness;
Thy love has claimed us each as Thine own,
Thy hands have opened windows of heaven,
meeting our needs with treasures from Thy throne,
How great our LORD, how glorious His splendor,
Shines through our nights, and fills us through all our days.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I am officially old!

Well today I turned 35.. which in my mind is definately 'middle-aged' :) We had a great day.. my friend Oksana came over with blinis (like crepes) that she had made. This week is 'maslanitsa' or the Russian version of Mardis Gras - so everyone eats blinis and lots of fattening foods before Lent starts. We had so much fun, and took the opportunity to get some family pictures. Unfortunately family pictures with four little kids it seems impossible to get EVERYONE smiling and looking at the camera.. oh well close enough!

Does this look familiar?

Took this picture today and thought my side of the family would enjoy seeing the second generation of *two finger sucker with one up your nose* :) Hopefully she won't start the finger up the nose!

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