Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hooray for a good report!

I am done with the radioactive iodine treatment!  I had the full body scan Friday and everything looked great.  The Doctor said if she had to put it as a statistic she would give me a 98% chance of being cancer free and not having to repeat the radioactive iodine treatment anytime in the distant future. (sometimes it has to be repeated after 6 months).  So now we just wait and see.. I have another check-up with the surgeon the beginning of December and then another whole body scan scheduled in February.

To be quite honest I feel like I've been run over by a train! :)  I kept thinking today 'why am I so stinkin' tired?'  and then realized it has been a little bit of a stressful 6 weeks ~ so maybe now that all the treatments, tests etc. are over I just need to chill and slowly regain my strength and energy.  

It's been great to be back home with everyone and see how well the kids are doing.  Rachel really misses Russia.  David loves being in America .. today in the car we were talking and I told them about Jim Elliot and his quote 'wherever you are be ALL there'.  So David replied to Rachel, 'yeah Rachel, it's like when we're in Russia you have to love Russia but when we're in America you have to love America.'   Rachel thought about it long and hard and then grudgingly replied 'yeah I guess you're right, I mean they don't have cheese sauce in Russia.'  :) 

We signed the boys up to play flag football - they have had zero exposure to the sport of football so we thought it would be a neat learning experience for them.  I got so tickled when I overheard David talking on the phone to his Gran and telling her 'I'm gonna play ___ ... umm what's that thing called you play with a ball that looks like an egg??'  Life is all about learning something new, so it's been quite entertaining watching them learn to block and run.  Soccer and basketball are pretty much the only thing kids play back home.

Please pray for us as we are trying to figure out when we should return to Russia,  and just all the long-term medical ramifications that this has brought into our lives.  If we think about it too long and hard it gets a bit overwhelming.  Thank you again for all the love and prayers for our family!  

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Radioactive Iodine treatment tomorrow

Please be praying as I go tomorrow afternoon to swallow a little pill of radioactive iodine.  I'll be *in isolation* for the next 14 days and I already know I'm gonna be majorly missing my littlest JoJo.  When I was in isolation for just 3 days for the whole body scan JoJo kept telling James 'you go back home and bring me my Mommy RIGHT NOW!'  :)   It's also got to rank pretty near the bottom on the list of 'romantic ways to celebrate your wedding anniversary.'   But hey the past 11 years with James have been such an incredible, wonderful, never a dull moment adventure so I can just chalk this one up for the memory books.

I would like to say a huge thank you for your prayers regarding the whole body scan.. the results were excellent!!  In fact the Dr. came into the room looked at the pictures then said I'm going to go look directly at the computer images.'  She came back sort of shaking her head and said 'this is much better than I would have expected.'   So a big YEAH!  Because of the great body scan and other test results I will be given a smaller amount of radioactive iodine than originally talked about ~ another big praise!

Also just 3 more days until I will be given thyroid medication - YEAHAAA!  It has been no fun to be severely hypothyroid ~ my face and eyes are extremely puffy, about half of my eyelashes have fallen out, and although my energy level is okay my brain function is extremely diminished ~ I mean seriously this makes *pregnancy brain* looks like someone that should be in Mensa.  So I'm looking forward to getting my thinking capacities back again.  

I kept meaning to share this quote from one of my heroes, Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom.   'Worry does not empty tomorrow of it's sorrow, it only empties today of it's strength.'

Isn't that great.. go back and read it again! :)  It certainly has encouraged me many times.  Also the one song that has gone through my mind over and over and over again is "Blessed be the name of the Lord".   As we drove home after the excellent report from the whole body scan I kept thinking to myself 'would I be able to rejoice like this if I had been told my whole neck was full of cancer?'  And yet God would still be God and His love for me unmeasurable and constant.  So thankful for our friends and family who have walked this path by our side ~ thank you again!

Blessed by Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

And blessed be Your name 
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing you pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say, Lord
Blessed be Your name

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Health Update

I apologize for not updating this sooner.. every single time I sat down to write I was stuck with brain fog... plus there were soooo many factors up in the air I wanted to wait until something was concrete.

So to catch you up.. after surgery you enter a waiting period until your TSH level (thyroid hormone) gets above 40.  (a normal TSH level is like somewhere between 0 - 2, over that and you feel yucky.)  Some people wait weeks to get their numbers above 40.  I had my first visit with my Endocrinologist last Friday and had lots of bloodwork done.  We were quite surprised to find out my TSH went to 98 in 10 days!  So although the affect is I feel terrible, the good news from that is I could proceed immediately to the next stage of treatment ~ radioactive iodine.  (haha I feel like I'm writing about monopoly)

So tomorrow morning I go in to drink a teeny tiny bit of radioactive iodine.  Then Friday I will have a whole body scan.  They will use this whole body scan as a *marker* to determine the dosage of radioactive iodine I will receive next Tuesday.   I asked the Doctor what would be the procedure if the whole body scan came back completely clean with not one single 'lit up spot'.   She replied 'in 35 years of practice I've only seen it twice so don't count on it.'  So that has given me a new prayer request - a completely clean whole body scan.  For some reason I just love hearing the words 'that never happens'  :)   because then if it does God gets all the glory not the Doctors ~ heh!   So if you would join me in prayer for great results of the whole body scan that would be greatly appreciated.   One note I received from the prayer room up in Borger read Ps. 101:15 'Do not touch my anointed ones.' We are claiming this verse for you.  I am praying for nothing when they do the body scan - totally clear!'  Can you imagine getting all sorts of notes saying things like that ~ what a HUGE encouragement.

Our family is overwhelmed at the love, letters, meals and acts of kindness we have received from brothers & sisters in Christ and total strangers.  Seriously, I could write a whole epistle - our family will never forget the past 3 weeks.  Our lives were certainly turned upside down and yet as we wake up each day and keep 'doing the next thing' as Elizabeth Elliot always says, we have been amazed at the grace and peace we've been given.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

THANK YOU for praying!

Susan Beaird is actually sitting at a computer typing this!! :) Okay where to begin.. we met with the Doctor Monday afternoon and it was a bit disappointing to discover the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes outside the thyroid cavity. So instead of a simple 90 minute thryoidectomy I would be undergoing an extensive surgery where both thyroid glands and all lymph nodes would have to go. We were up early Tuesday morning walked into the hospital and four hours later was very happy to have an excellent report by the Doctor that my neck area is now free of cancer! YEAH! Although this has been a very tough 2 days.. I can say that God has given us an amazing amount of grace and peace ~ I know only because of so many people around the world were praying for us. I can not thank you enough!! I will write more soon.. but just wanted to say I am doing very well and on the road to a full recovery. Thank you for your love and prayers!!! I would wax eloquent but I'm still woozy :) All I can say is I have some amazing friends and wanted to say thank you from the very bottom of our hearts!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Update on Susan's health

What a week we've had.. amazing how drastically your life can change in just a few hours.  It's hard to even put in words... so here's a feeble attempt.

Our whole family is going to the States.  How God worked out plane tickets and the document we needed to leave (looong story) is a miracle and we literally have been in awe of how God has worked out details and provision for our family.  Susan will have tests on Monday the 11th and then surgery is scheduled for Tuesday morning with Dr. Rosendahl.  Please continue to pray that God will give us wisdom and clear direction on the many decisions that need to be made. We did have some very good news today ~ the cancer seems to be contained to the thyroid area and has not spread anywhere else; big praise! 

Also pray for our children as we leave, many tears have already been shed. If nothing else I keep telling myself our children will have learned to be super flexible and live out of a suitcase :)

For myself this experience has opened 'Pandora's Box' so to speak of my secret fears.  When the Dr. told me she thought the cancer was caused from exposure to radiation it was very tough news to take.  I remember 10 years ago being pregnant with Rachel and having this little gnawing fear in the back of my mind 'what if your children get sick or are permanently damaged just because you decided to live in Russia?'  I know the truth that God is all powerful and able to protect.. and yet what about the personal responsibility of every person to care for their children?

I was up early yesterday reading and thinking through things.. I finally got up and walked past Rachel's bedroom, her door was cracked and I heard her happily singing

Here am I Lord, send me
Here am I Lord, send me
I will serve you faithfully, here am I Lord send me

I couldn't breathe for a minute and went back into my bedroom and shut the door.  In that moment I realized how much I had changed over the years without even realizing... I remember singing that song when I was a teenager ~ I mean really signing it not just saying the words.  I remember telling God my life was a blank check and He could do whatever, wherever, whenever.  

But over the years things had changed.. now I more or less was singing 'Here am I Lord, send me only to where it's safe and radiation free and my children will be protected.  Send me where I can still do everything in my own strength and feel confident ~ I'll serve you faithfully as long as it's in my comfort zone and on my terms.'  Things needed to change in my heart - big time.

I kept thinking of the verse in John 17:4 when Jesus is praying in the garden;  "I have glorified You on the earth, I have finished the work which you have given me to do."  How could Jesus say he had finished the work God had given to him when Jesus had yet to die on the cross or raise from the dead??  Could it be the whole battle was won when Jesus was willing to be obedient to what His Father asked of him?  

Could it be that what God looks for in our lives is not the summer camps, the Bible studies, the orphanage visits.. but the very simple fact that when HE directs we obey.  Is that where the battle is won or lost?  Will we make our own decisions or yield ourselves to the one who gave us life in the first place?  Can I say like Mary 'Behold the maidservant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word " Or like King David 'I will not give unto the Lord that which cost me nothing.'

Well I've gotten all philosophical and wordy on you :)  heh!  But my dearest prayer has been that we will walk through this trial and become more like Christ.  That our kids will see that even when life throws you a curve ball that you never have to fear.  "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."   Thank you again for your love for our family and walking through this test by our side.  Your notes and prayers have been greatly appreciated.  

Monday, July 28, 2008

Please pray for Susan

Last Friday Susan had a biopsy of her thyroid glands.. we knew that 95% of the time these nodules on the thyroid are benign so we tried to not get too stressed.  Today we went back to the Dr. for the results and were told she has papillary thyroid cancer.  I must confess when you have four little precious children and haven't even hit 40 hearing you have the *C* word can be quite scary.  

The good news in all this ~ there are four types of thyroid cancer and papillary is the easiest to treat and has an excellent chance of a full recovery.  So we got back from the Doctor and have tried to sort through the dozens of decisions that have to be made by.. tomorrow.  1. Where to have the surgery ~ Russia or America?  2. If we choose the States does Susan go alone or do we drag the whole family along for the ride?  3. What hospital/Dr. do we choose?  What did we do before Google?! :)   Right now we are leaning toward Dr. Anders Rosendahl of the Thyroid Cancer Clinic in Austin, Texas.  If anyone out there has any information or personal experience with Dr. Rosendahl we'd greatly appreciate you contacting us.  We also are thinking about the possibility of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.. if anyone has some personal experience there please pass on any good Dr. referrals.  

So please pray for our family to have wisdom and peace as we make so many decisions.   One thing that was a huge encouragement to me the day before the biopsy was getting this in my e-mail 'What is needed then is to see God is everything, and to receive everything directly from HIS hands, with no intervention of second causes... to the children of God everything comes directly from their Father's hand, no matter who or what may have been the apparent agents.'  Hannah Whitall Smith.   I'm having trouble getting a link to work, but you can read the entire article at  scroll down to 'when bad things happen'.

Thank you for your love and prayers for our family during this difficult time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Camp Update

Well I had every intention of writing out a big report about camp as soon as they got back.. but it never happened because James was so busy running around getting ready for the 2nd English camp that we never really got a chance to talk.  He did report that 5 youth repented;  I will try to post their stories later.   James and several others commented it was the best camp ever and said kids were staying up late at night talking about the Bible and wanting to know more.  

One huge miracle that happened was the weather.  The next to the last day of camp we had torrential thunderstorms here in our city (60km away from the camp). We're talking 12 straight hours... it ruined my beloved spinach in the garden (you have no idea how much I love spinach ~ they don't sell it here fresh).  Anyway I finally called James late that night thinking he would be huddled in his soaked tent.. he cheerfully answered the phone and reported that it had lightly rained for 10 minutes early that morning.  No thunder or lightning or strong winds or anything ~ Wahoo!

So here's some random pictures.  The English camp ends tomorrow ~ please pray for continued safety and God's grace and presence.  I'll make sure and post plenty more pictures and stories. 
Riding out to camp on the bus
The american style potato salad was a huge hit
Megan doing a skit
Most of these young men were part of a soccer team.. James said they were so great to get to know and share with them about the Bible
God provided a great song leader/guitar player

I liked this picture of James.. he was passing out invitations to the English camp ~ he is so good at just going up and talking with people.  Many times he'll go to the local basketball court and play ball for awhile and then sit around for hours talking.  Guess it's that easy going Texan charm :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Please pray for Aunt Loy - UPDATED!

James' Aunt Loy has been waiting on the heart transplant list... she got *the* call late tonight!  (She lives in Kerrville, and the surgery will be in San Antonio).  Please be praying for her.  She is such an amazing, wonderful person and our thoughts and prayers will be with her today.

Thank you for praying!!  We are rejoicing and praising God for a wonderful surgery, recovery and late last night she's back home ~ amazing! 

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Camp Update

Yesterday we got to travel out to the camp and see Daddy and wish him a Happy Birthday!!  Everyone had a GREAT day! 
When we got there Johanna wrapped her arms around James and just squeezed him for 10 minutes.. 'I WUV oo Daddy!'  He's been missed! :)
The kids loved playing in the lake
The kids thought it was so great to eat ramen noodles... Rachel said 'This is like the best stuff I've EVER eaten in my whole entire life!!'  Why do I try so hard making everything from scratch when such happiness can be found in instant noodles??  Johanna ate and then curled up with her blanket right there on the table for her afternoon nap ~ gotta love that ability to sleep whenever/however.
Keep praying for our friends Megan, Tabitha & Micah.  They are AMAZING and do such a fantastic job helping, serving and talking with the Russian young people.  Pray for wisdom and physical strength and health for them.. it is not easy living out in the boonies for 10 days.
The view from the meeting area.. just gorgeous.
I'm always impressed to see how they build the kitchen, eating tables, benches ~ very creative
That evening enjoying mushroom soup they had picked themselves in the woods.
Getting ready for capture the flag
The victorious red team!

Please continue to pray the rain away.  The forecast is scattered showers the next 8 days - yikes!  James said the camp is going very well.  Many new young men who have never come to camp before are really enjoying camp life.  None of them have ever read a Bible and say they don't believe God even exists;  and yet James said they have been listening very intensely during each morning and evening Bible session.  Please pray for God to work in these lives.  I know God is faithful and HE is at work this week. Can't wait to give you another update this weekend when they return.  

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thanks for praying!

Well camp started this morning!  HOORAY!  Thank you so much for praying for the weather ~ it's been amazing... after predicting rain every single day this past week it ended up only raining for about an hour Wednesday and Thursday it was actually HOT with sunshine!  They were able to get things set up and the ground somewhat dried up ~ what a huge praise.

The camp bus left this morning and I haven't talked with James to see how many youth actually ended up coming.  We were quite disappointed at how many signed up to come but then at the last minute the parents wouldn't allow them.   James ended up going to visit several families to answer their questions... here is a typical conversation.

Parent: my friend said that her daughter Julia went to camp last year and when she came back she stopped drinking, yelling at her brother, and read the Bible instead of going out drinking with her friends.  I do not want my child to become some religious fanatic.

James: Oh so you would rather your daughter becomes an alcoholic and runs around on the street all night..

Parent: Yes, exactly, it's normal to become an alcoholic and party all night.. it's just not normal for a teenager to read a Bible.

**hitting head against a brick wall**

So that's been the last week in a nutshell.  Most nights James went to bed around 3am and was up at 6am.. pray for strength and wisdom.  Pray for our three friends from Florda ~ Micah, Megan and Tabitha to be protected and see God at work in people's lives.  Pray for us on the homefront.  

And last of all Happy Independence Day!!  I am so very thankful for the men & women who have sacrificed so much to give us the freedom we all enjoy.  Thanks for your prayers and willingness to be involved in what God is doing over here in our small corner of the world.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Please be praying!

We could really use your prayers!  Camp begins this Friday and we are in desperate need of some dry weather and sunshine.  It has rained for most of the month of June (I think the high temperature was 72 degrees) and according to the weather forecast it is supposed to rain for the next 10 days ~ not good!  Please be praying for a miraculous turn in the weather.. for clear skies and SUNshine.   Pray for new youth that have never come to camp to attend.

Thank you so much for your love and prayers for our family.  This is such a huge part of our ministry here ~ such a great way to invest in young people's lives.. please be praying!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY to my own wonderful Daddy!  Wish you were here to snuggle your grandyoungins and give us a break! :)  
And a very happy Father's Day to this most wonderful Daddy!  The kids had so much fun all week making secret gifts, cards and plans for the day.  As soon as they got up they made James go outside while we made a huge pancake, strawberries & whipped cream breakfast.  Then they blindfolded James, led him inside and surprised him with a crown and a breakfast fit for our King.   You are an amazing Father and we love you Daddy!!
Church was so good today ~ the first part of Ephesians 4.  It was Lena's (below) 21st birthday.  We had so much fun eating cake and celebrating her life.  I couldn't help but think back to exactly 4 years ago.. James met Lena on the street corner passing out invitations to our first summer camp (we had just moved to Nara-Faminsk).  Lena ended up coming to camp ~ the first night she snuck out to go drinking and James almost sent her home.  They talked all afternoon... 9 more days of camp, Lena was a trouble-maker, obnoxious, mean and caused James no end of headaches.  The last night of camp she went forward crying and said she wanted to repent.  The change in her life was so drastic ~ truly a new creature.  Lena had attended a Satanic group, had cuttings all over her body, and by her own admission was one of the 'meanest people alive.'  Now she is 21, recently married to a Christian man, attending the Christian University in Moscow and is actively holding Bible studies in her own apartment during the week.  What pure JOY it is to be involved in people's lives.  To see the changes that come from the Holy Spirit alone.  

May your day be filled with the wonder and enjoyment of your Heavenly Daddy's love for you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Update time...

We've had quite the busy week.  Out internet server went down for 9 days.. it was a happy day when they finally got that working again.  Two weekends ago there was a terrible car crash ~ seven youth in a tiny Russian car.  Three of the passengers had attended our summer camp last year.  One 16 year old young man was killed and a 17 year old Olga was seriously injured.  Olga broke two vertebras in her spine, broke both arms, one leg and lots of cuts, bruises and blood loss.   She's been told that she will be paralyzed from the waist down.  James has gone to see her several times, the whole situation is just so very tragic.  The young man that was driving is looking at a possible 5 year jail sentence because he did not have a license.  Pray as James is trying to go visit with him in prison.   Also pray for Olga's Mother as James had had several good conversations with her when he goes to visit.

We have started handing out invitations for summer camp.. please be praying.  The weeks of preparation alway seem difficult.  Pray for workers.. especially someone to oversea the cooking (so James doesn't have to do it :).  
It's been unusually cool, but we finally got most of the garden planted... thanks to such great helpers!
David has been reading to Johanna every afternoon before naptime.  I just love watching them interact together ~ they have such similar personalities.  And yes JoJo is *still* very, very attached to her fingers...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting back in the swing of things..

Thought I'd update with some pictures.  We worked in the yard/garden all day today and the only muscles that aren't killing me right now are in my fingertips, so at least I can type.  Last week was very cold (38 one morning brrrr), and rained every day, windy, no sun.  We ended up staying in and getting lots of schoolwork done and organizing.  James got back in his routine ~ he has evening Bible studies at either the youth center or somewhere in the city Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and then the Sunday afternoon Bible study at the youth center. 

Our big excitement today was the sun was shining and we took off the training wheels on Caleb's bike!  Talk about a fast learner.. I was so impressed.  There are few things in this world sweeter to watch than a 4 year old riding a *real* bike for the first time! :)
Although I'd have to say a little towhead girl running up to you with a dandelion bouquet yelling 'pick flowers a Mommy!!' is also pretty sweet. :)  I would rather have dandelions from the roadside than roses from a store any day.
Yesterday we took our first walk to the woods ~ the kids loved it and had their special hidden *places* they had to re-visit.  Since coming back Johanna has dragged her stuffed stick horse ev.ery.where.  it's actually about to drive me nuts... but it was hilarious to watch her running through the trees yelling 'gid YUP BACK BOOOTY' 
All the wildflowers were blooming.. just beautiful. 
I just read something that made me laugh.. 'I used to have many theories about raising children, and no children.  Now I have many children and no theories.'  heh!  I can soooo relate.   Anyway, random notes from our lives.  Love to all...

Monday, May 19, 2008

We're back home! :)

Thanks for your prayers!  We had a great trip back.  The kids traveled well, Johanna even slept 6 hours straight.  I should have taken a picture of her, she looked so cute sprawled out on the floor.  Here's a picture of them watching planes in San Antonio.
We arrived Saturday morning to a cool but beautiful day.  Our back yard was carpeted with dandelions and the lilacs were blooming out front ~ Rachel went wild and happily picked huge bouquets.. and then took her beloved dog for a long walk.  Everyone seemed happy to be back home.

Here's a picture from the Sunday afternoon Bible study, when the weather is nice we have it in our backyard.  It was great to see everyone again and hear all the news.  

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Update on Grandpa Jack

This picture means the world to me.. doesn't Johanna look the picture of happiness and security?  James' wonderful Dad *Grandpa Jack* was diagnosed 6 years ago with spinocerebellar ataxia.   In laymen's vocabulary part of his brain is shrinking causing him to lose motor and speech abilities. 

It's been very difficult to watch this tall, strong, independent man become confined to a wheelchair and unable to talk.  As I've watched how Grandpa Jack has dealt with and confronted this crippling disease I am always reminded of Habakkuk 3:17 - 19 "Even though the fig tree shall not blossom, or the fruit be in the vines;  the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall  yield no meat;  the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  The Lord God is my strength, and HE will make my feet like hinds' feet, and HE will make me to walk upon mine high places."  No matter the sadness and disappointments that life has given Grandpa Jack he has faced every.single.battle with a smile on his face, acceptance in his soul and the knowledge that his loving heavenly Father still loves him even though he is suffering.  There is no pity-party going on, just loving acceptance that God will get me through this.  What an example to us all of how to *finish well* the race of life;  to bless God's name no matter what our personal difficulties.   We may be hugging Grandpa Jack's neck for the last time on this earth tomorrow morning.. so please pray for grace and peace in our hearts.  We so wish we could stay and live here for the next year and help out and make life easier for Nana..  but at the same time clearly know that is not God's plan right now for our family ~ our hearts are breaking to be quite honest.

Well we're packed and ready to go.. and about to pack up the computer so I better end.  Pray as we fly out of San Antonio tomorrow morning.  And pray for all those passengers and flight attendants on Flight 46 non-stop from Atlanta to Moscow tomorrow.. :0  they will be the ones needing grace - heh! :)

Thank you for your prayers and love for our family... we can never re-pay the kindness we have been shown by so many the last 3 months.. May God richly repay you.

Friday, May 09, 2008


Seven years ago yesterday at a few minutes before midnight a beautiful 8lb little boy was born. The fact that he was a boy was a huge surprise to his parents as the Dr. told them at the ultrasound to expect a little girl... well lo and behold *Hannah Grace* turned out a bit different than planned.   We love to look at his first baby pictures wrapped in an adorable pink outfit and wrapped in a pink blanket.  We didn't even have a name picked out... but the only thought and prayer running through our heart at the moment was "God we beg you, make this baby boy grow up to be a man after God's own heart".. so we decided to name him David.   I can not imagine our lives without this amazing, incredible gift & blessing.  He is the kind, loving, quiet peacemaker of the family.  So loving to his little sister;  and is constantly making me think with all the questions of how something works or why, why why is it that way and not this way. Thank you Father in Heaven for the gift of David's life.  

David's current favori
te activities have been shooting a bow and arrow and exploring every water crossings/creek he can find.

For his birthday we went for lunch to a Mexican restaurant where he got to wear this sombrero and watch Daniel Boone pop out and play Happy Birthday on the violin.. I think he felt special!  Oh and please note his battered shirt.. I almost asked him to change because I knew I'd be taking pictures, but didn't because he LOVES his *soldier shirt*   I think he would happily wear it every single day.

I love these pictures.. for his birthday he received two cap gun pistols with a holster!!  Talk about joy unspeakable! :)   He is quite the 7 year old cowboy.

We love you with all of our hearts David and think you're the greatest thing ever!!!!

Your adoring fan club!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Travel Update.. *sigh*

Well I wrote the update below immediately upon receiving our visas.. I was in a hurry to share the happy news.  When I then called Delta to change the tickets I found out that to fly out anytime the 9th - 15th would cost $4800 more :0   plus we would have to split up as there weren't 6 seats available.   So we have tickets bought and we will be flying out Friday the 16th.  As much as we are enjoying this visit we are very much wanting to be back home.  Thanks for your love and prayers for our family.. 9.more.days.  :)  I guess we just needed to learn a little bit more about being flexible...

HOORAY!! Visas came today!

Our visas arrived safe & sound... only 5 months after we started the process ~ that's gotta be a record or something! :)  Anyway, we now have a work permit and if everything works according to plan we will be able to stay a whole year without leaving the country.. that's if no new visa laws are passed.  

We are planning to fly out Friday arriving in Russia Saturday the 10th.  I was sorta hoping to be there for the big May 9th celebration; after New Year's Eve this is THE big holiday of the year.   When James called Andrei about getting a van to pick us up at the airport Andrei suggested we wait to arrive the 10th because all the drivers would be drunk on the 9th... sounded like a good plan to us! :)

Thank you for your prayers and now you can rejoice with us!  Also pray as we pack up, clean, and say good-bye.  

Friday, April 25, 2008

Visa Update

Thanks to all who have been praying for us regarding our current visa situation!   God's answer has been to *wait* a bit longer... :)  We've been told the paperwork will leave Moscow on Monday and then it will take a few days to be processed at the Russian Embassy in Houston.  We will have to change our plane tickets, most likely to May 7th.  We are hoping to get back home before the big May 9th holiday weekend.

As disappointed as we were about the cost of changing tickets, we did have some WONDERFUL news yesterday - the sale of the Youth Center is completed!!!  We now are the happy owners and have the right to fix up, change and use the facility however we see fit.  The paperwork has been a looonnggg two years in the making (I should mention that everything takes longer over there!) so we are very happy that God worked out every single detail.  Andrei said the youth are so happy and have been working all week removing trash from the grounds, cleaning, planting flowers, fixing the fence - he said we won't recognize the place when we return.  May God use this little wooden house as a testimony of His character and love... and may many people come to study the Bible.

I ran across an interesting 7 minute video in today's edition of the New York Times titled A crackdown on Russian Protestants.   The video can viewed at     and then scroll down to the left hand bottom corner.  (sorry I had a problem with the link.. one day I'll figure out how to do that pretty)

I thought this video did an excellent job of showing how people of Protestant faith are treated like the dreaded *sects* and lumped together with Moonies, Jehovah-Witnesses, Scientology and anyone who is not Orthodox.  Also how they explained that many Russians believe that American Protestants are trying to influence Russians and change them from their Russian Orthodox roots and therefore weaken Russia as a nation.   We need so much wisdom in talking with people and sharing with them why we live and believe what we do and why we have chosen to live in Russia.  And we hope one day people will stop calling James 'James Bond' and believing he works for the CIA. :)  Anyway, if you have 7 minutes it is very informative.

Thanks again for your continued love & prayers!   

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Please be praying!

Well we're in need of a miracle!  I know it's always a good thing to be completely dependent on Almighty God to lead, guide, direct and miraculously provide when humanly speaking things just *aren't gonna happen*.   We find ourselves yet again in such a position...

We have plane tickets to return to Moscow next Tuesday the 30th - but we have no visas.  Every day last week James talked with the man getting our work permit.. 'the paperwork will be here tomorrow.'  Well many *tomorrows* came and went and we're still waiting.  This Wednesday is the deadline and if we haven't received it by then we'll have to change our tickets and fly out whenever ?? an extra week, two weeks, months ?? (did I fail to mention I don't like unknows?)  So we wait and pray.  If you think of it we'd appreciate some prayer warriors alongside us :)

In other news... Andrei back in Russia has amazing news reports every time we talk with him.  Andrei was invited (amazing string of events) to teach twice a month in the local public school about "Religion and how to know God".   Some youth that were saved at camp but do not live in Nara-Faminsk have started their own Bible study in their apartments.  Andrei talks with them every week to give them ideas, encouragement etc.  So as much as we are aching to be back home we realize that God will continue to work in people's lives even when we're on this side of the ocean.  Thanks again for your prayers and loving, faithful support for our family.   We are so humbled by all people have done for us in the past 3 months.

What Pastors do when they retire...

YEEEHAAAA!!  After over 40 years of preaching Pap finally gets to take a break and spend a whole week loving on his Grandyoungins... twas bliss!
Caleb even managed to get Gran in on the action
What an incredibly special week.. and what wonderful Grandparents we've been blessed with!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

No we did not fall off the face of the earth..

We are alive and well and presently abiding in a wonderful missionary house in Kerrville, Texas (near San Antonio).  We had a good plane ride from Russia and the kids actually traveled fantastic!  (complete miracle so thank you for praying!).    We adjusted to jet lag and settled in and then James' dear Grandfather Virgil Gorden passed away.  We were very thankful we could hold his hand and sing to him that morning before he went to be with Jesus.  Such a precious memory we will hold in our heart;  God was merciful to let us be there and not on the other side of the world.  

After the funeral we began a new family adventure.. called.. the FLU.  You know how you get sick in the winter and think to yourself, 'oh I must have the flu.'   I used to think that.. and then I got the real honest to goodness Texas version of the flu - I have never been so sick in my life!   Made me very, very thankful I rarely get sick! :)

The last few weeks have been quite blissful..  we have accomplished so much in the schooling department - HOORAH!  And have just been loving the sunshine, outdoors, playing in the creeks and warm weather.  I think I have read my Bible more in the past two weeks than all of last year.  (actually I guess that's a confession)  It's seriously been just unreal and exactly what we needed.  Time to think, pray about what God has for our future and the ministry in Nara-Faminsk.  James has often said that the most helpful preparation for the ministry in Russia was the years he worked on the Texas panhandle farm - time to be alone, think, meditate on scripture.   We're just beyond grateful for the past few weeks and the refreshment and encouragement we've received.

In touristy news... we got to visit the Alamo and take a boat ride through downtown San Antonio with dear friends.  Rachel has been riding almost every week with James' cousin's family - wonderful place, better than a petting zoo.  (if you want to see some cute pictures of the kids, go to and scroll down to February 2nd)  And of course best of all lots of loving on by the Grandparents.  The kids have enjoyed taking their turn to spend the night at Nana & Grandpa's all by themselves.  I cracked up when Caleb returned from his big adventure and the first thing David asked him was .. 'how much sugary stuff did Nana give you????!'   Oh the joys of staying with Grandparents! :)

We have been overjoyed at the reports we're receiving from Andrei back in Nara-Faminsk.  The local school invited him to have a class twice a month!!  Lena & Vitaley (got saved at the first camp we held three years ago) continue to have Bible studies in their apartment.   It's so rewarding to see how people have become more active and taken on more responsibility in our absence.  (hmmm we should leave more often! :)   

Thank you again for your prayers for our family!  Blessings to each of you!  And yes pictures will follow hopefully soon :)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Visa Update

I almost titled this update 'Death by Documentation'. I have decided that the new visa laws have been passed to drive all expats working here on humanitarian visas to the brink of insanity! :0 Seriously you would not believe the amount of documents, apostilles, standing in line to get information we have faced the past two months. In the end when we talked with the man who has done our visas for the past 8 years and told him 'we HAVE to be in Russia this summer for the camps.. how can we do that for sure!!???' He replied 'get out of Russia and come back the end of April.' So that's what we're doing. We'll be leaving January 18th and returning the end of April. We have been very sad about leaving as it almost feels like a self-imposed exile. But at the same time we are very thankful we can help out with James' Dad who needs constant care; and of course can't wait to spend time with Grandparents and other extended family. Please pray as we have a busy week ahead wrapping up lots of loose ends and details (and more paperwork :) Pray for our children to happily adjust to all the changes. There have been lots of tears shed lately about 'who will take care of Snowflake (Rachel's beloved dog) , to 'I don't like living in America.. the milk tastes funny and the keifer tastes strange, and there's no snow!' I had to crack up as I overheard David trying to *encourage* Rachel.. he told her 'but remember the churches in America give you doughnuts and you can wear your shoes INSIDE the houses there..' Quite extraordinary indeed! :) So pray as our family travels that we will know God's peace and presence and be still and know HE is in control of each and every circumstance...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Outreach Update

We were amazed to see how God worked this year! In the past we've been given the names/addresses of about 120 families to give presents/food baskets. The Director of the Social Services has always been cordial to James but not exactly friendly. This year however she repeatedly thanked James and asked him if next year we could do this for all 1,000 families in the entire region. (!!WOW!!) It took most of a week to visit all 160 family. James was especially glad to get to talk and visit with the social worker that went along each day. I could write a small book about all the many adventures James, Rachel, Micah & Megan had... everything from near death by a pack of dogs (James was thankfully alone for this one..) to watching head lice jump around to walking down pitch black staircases and stumbling over passed out drunk people lying on the steps. What they will never forget are the precious, precious children; many with alcoholic parents and all living in poverty. Pray that the Bible verses, booklets and gifts given will soften their hearts to seek after God.

The kids thought it great fun to pack up the gifts - we had an assembly line going for the school supplies, toothpaste, soap etc. David piped up, 'WOW we're working like a factory!!'

Micah thinking 'shwoooo, we're only halfway there!! And next year they want us to do 1,000!!' Thank you Father for giving us this opportunity... may you be glorified.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Merry Russian Christmas!

Well it's Merry Christmas here in Russia today.. no matter how many times I try to explain to David that America uses one calendar and Russia a different one, I don't think it's sunk in.. he keeps asking why Jesus gets two birthdays and everyone else just gets one birthday celebration. :)
We had a beautiful sunny but cold day to celebrate, and our favorite tradition of taking cookies to all our neighbors. Here's Rachel, David & Caleb packing up the boxes of cookies and candy
And here we are walking down our street..
The one downside to this has been that I sometimes wonder if our kids are really learning the truth of 'it's better to give than to receive'. By the time we went up & down our street we had our sled filled with chocolate bars, pickles, and oranges... we have such wonderful neighbors! And had so so much fun getting to visit them - the kids all said this was their favorite part of the holiday celebrations.
Johanna especially loved getting to push the sled.. and her assortment of puppy dogs, horses and lamb.

Saturday night our doorbell rang.. at the door was this precious elderly man Nicolai Igorivich. He is our adopted *Grandfather* and the most amazing 79 year old Russian man I've ever met. The stories he can tell of being a young cook in WWII are just unbelievable. Anyway, he showed up at our doorstep telling the kids that "Ded Moroz" (Father Frost) had come to visit them. He had presents for them and a jar of jelly for us. I wanted to cry as I pictured this dear man standing in live for the bus and traveling well over an hour and then walking the sheet of ice path to our house from the bus stop... all to give us a jar of homemade jelly. Truly the one giving the gift is infinitely more precious than the actual gift. When I scolded him that there was no way he should be traipsing about on such a cold night, he answered, 'but Susanitchka, you are so far away from your parents so I had to take their place tonight. I wanted to make sure you knew you were loved.' Such a priceless memory.. and jelly.. :) We are so blessed...

May you rejoice today and every day as you remember the miracle of God with us.. may all of our lives bring Him glory. And as our tradition we always read this story with the children by Leo Tolstoy - you can read it here
What a reminder that where love is.. God is..

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