Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thank you for praying!

We are deeply grateful for so many of you that have been praying for our family & our neighbors.  I didn't have time to explain the other day but the past four years have been very difficult with our next door neighbors.   The very first time James met our neighbor Zhenya he began ranting about how much he hated foreigners, how much he hated anyone who believed in God and how much he hated children.  ( I had walked over with the children and was about five months pregnant).   We then  found out Zhenya was a Doctor that performed abortions at a large clinic in Moscow... we also found out he was a staunch Atheist.   Through the years we endured many, many rants, yelling, screaming at us; other neighbors told us not to worry he treated everyone like that.  But still many times over the the past four years I wondered why out of all the houses in a city of 100,000 we would end up right beside (we're talking our windows are a mere 20 feet from each other) a man that hated children and anyone who believed in God.  (Remember in this culture having four children is a HUGE family!)  So that's the background of our relationship.. this is why James was surprised when the mother Olga asked James to pray at the funeral.  We kept thinking to ourselves how is Zhenya going to handle prayer at his son's funeral?? 

Well the day before the funeral we found out Zhenya had refused to have any mention of God, prayer or anything at the funeral.    Olga did say that he agreed to her request to allow Ksenya (our ministry partner) to pass out a tract with lots of Bible verses in it.. she said that all last week she kept finding Dima reading that tract over and over again.. it was the last thing she saw him read before his death. 

Friday morning came and about 90 young people gathered outside Dima's house.  They went inside in small groups to have a viewing of the body.  Then they carried the body outside on the street and all the neighbors and other friends gathered.  What stuck me as so sad was that nothing was said, nothing was read... nothing.  No one talked as eight friends carried the coffin down the street with everyone walking behind.    I came home then and wept; I realized that grief with no hope is overwhelming.  

Late that night James returned and said a total miracle had taken place.  After the burial everyone went to a restaurant to have a meal and part of the tradition is to give toasts with vodka and a small speech.  He said Ksenya got up to the microphone with Bible in hand and told about the night before Dima's death and how they had talked about God, purpose in life, forgiveness of sin etc.  James said she then gave a very powerful, clear presentation of the entire plan of salvation.  She talked about the only hope we can have is that Dima may have turned to Jesus for forgiveness before his death.  That we can not have hope in religious traditions or our own good works but only in Jesus.  At the end she passed out the tract Dima had been reading to everyone present.. even Zhenya the Father.   James said after five solid hours of just heart-wrenching mourning..  the truth was finally clearly told and hope was given.  James was afraid Zhenya would be upset, but instead he very sincerely thanked Ksenya and James for coming and sharing.  

Please continue to be in prayer as I know the next few weeks will be so difficult.  I know that it was only the prayers of so many that allowed the truth to be shared at Dima's funeral.   I keep thinking of Jim Elliot's quote  'Father, make of me a crisis man.  Make of me a fork, so that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.'   This has been such a tragedy for so many, and yet it may be the only thing in their lives that will make them stop and think about their soul and eternity.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Prayer Request

Our hearts are very, very sad right now and wanted to ask you to pray for our next door neighbors Olga and Zhenya.   Yesterday afternoon their 24 year old son Dima took his own life.   His Mother Olga ran out into the street yelling for help and Andrei (our ministry partner) and another Christian young man at the Youth Center ran over and ended up taking care of the body and being with her the rest of the afternoon.  

James had just talked to Dima the night before.  Our fellow worker Ksenya had sat on a park bench the night before until after midnight talking about the Bible, God, does God exist, purpose in life.   It hurts to remember all the times I would walk down the road with the kids and always stop and talk with Dima... he was a great young man that always had a smile on his face and a cheerful hello.   It's also hard to think about all the times I invited him to a Bible study or to summer camp... but he never had time... he was never interested.  His girlfriend had broken up with him and the note he left his parents read simply 'there is no reason to live'.  

Please pray that we will have wisdom to know how to show love to Dima's parents and Grandfather.  He was an only child, and his parent's grief is very great.  

^^I wrote the above late last night.. and then near midnight James finally came home from the youth center.  The mother Olga had come over to talk with him for a very long time.  Olga wanted to know if James could 'pray his soul out of purgatory' - which is a Russian Orthodox tradition performed at funerals.   Since Dima's death was suicide the Orthodox Priest refused to conduct the service and the family can not have the funeral inside a church.  She also asked if they could have the funeral at the Youth Center.    Please pray for James tomorrow as we have this funeral at the Youth Center.. it will be Friday afternoon our time - about 2:00am EST.  James will need much wisdom and grace.  Please pray that we will know how to show out deep sorrow and God's love to these parents and Grandfather.   Pray that they will understand that we can only find purpose in life when we have a personal relationship with our Creator, the God of the Universe.   Pray that they will see past the empty religious traditions and find Jesus waiting there with true life.   

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