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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