More than a month has gone by since I have written. It has been an interesting month for me personally as I enjoyed time with friends and family at my beach home in Delaware. It has also been a time of reflection and searching for me as I seek God's will for my retirement years. I have no definite directions, but wherever He leads me I know my life will be exciting.
Each month as I begin to prepare for my newsletter, I have had last minute news from Khabarovsk that has changed all my ideas. This month I waited for that special news concerning Pastor Yura's American tour and I didn't receive what I was hoping to hear. All this to say that there is no new news concerning Yura's visit. I believe the LOIs are once again in the hands of Yura and those coming with him, but there is no news concerning their VISAs. I promise to write a letter as soon as I know anything that will help us begin to make plans for his tour.
Although I haven't heard about Yura's visit, I am in constant communication with Khabarovsk through friends who live there as team members or as Russian citizens. I know some of the news they send will be of interest to you and so I will use the rest of this letter to give you some of the exciting ministry God is leading in the city.
"I mentioned in a previous update that the adoption laws in Russia had been changed, requiring each adoption agency to be certified - a three-month process. During this time, any pending adoptions were put on hold. In some cases, prospective parents were sent home with empty arms after making the long trek from the U.S. to Khabarovsk. During this time, Tanya has been taking pictures with my digital camera of the babies at the hospital and sending them along with updates to these broken hearted folks. It is heart-wrenching to realize that you are watching a baby take its first steps - a real benchmark in a baby's life all parents cherish--and their parents are nowhere near. Well, I have good news!
A few weeks ago I went to the airport to see Ari, Sue, Tanya and Tom off to the Amsterdam 2000 Conference. We arrived early because one of the couples, who were sent home without their babies was arriving to try again. They were given a 50/50 chance that they would be able to return home with the children they now called their own. They came bearing gifts and a big thank-you for Tanya. Since Tanya and the girls were leaving, I gave the couple my phone number and invited them to call me for any reason.
A couple of days later I got a call from Susan, another prospective parent with whom Tanya had corresponded, saying they all wanted to meet me. So I invited Chris and Karen B. and Susan S., a single adopting parent and her traveling companion, Jo Ann, for lunch. They came bearing their newly adopted families! I cannot begin to express the joy I felt at seeing two of the three babies I had held in the hospital and had to leave behind once a week, in the arms of their permanent new family!
The new families flew home. Susan plans to be married in the near future and her fiancÚ will be at the airport with open arms to welcome his new son. The Barretts adopted two children at the same time so they'll have their hands full!
Thank you, dear friends, for your prayers regarding these adoptions. Please keep these new families and the orphaned and abandoned children of Russia in your prayers continually. There are so many and so many are lost."
"Recently, I was reminded that sometimes the ministry to orphans that is most effective involves not only our words but our actions. We surprised the kids in the village orphanage in Karsockova. We have been specifically concentrating on this orphanage the last six months as the Lord opened many doors for us to spend time with the young people here. We started a program for some of the older girls (ages 11-15) to make crib sheets, shirts and knit socks for the baby orphans that we visit. The girls like to sew and it gives them an opportunity to channel some of their energies into something helpful to others. The weather was very hot and we brought along our bathing suits in case we had a chance somewhere in our day to catch a quick swim in the Amur River. We didn't know that their teacher had promised the children that they could go swimming that afternoon. The children invited us to go along. We agreed (much to their amazement) and we had a blast with them. The kids, who are sometimes not so affectionate loved hanging on us and playing with us in the water. It broke down yet another barrier that so many orphaned children put up between themselves and adults. We praise the Lord for cool rivers on hot days and for the fun of playing with these children.
The baby orphanage work continues--please pray for this ministry. Foreign adoptions that had been stopped for a few months are beginning to start up again. Praise God!"
"We have been to see our babies. I was amazed by how much they had matured. I can't really say they have grown; they're still undersized. The families that had come for their second adoption hearings are safely back in the States WITH THEIR BABIES, THANK GOD!!
The more time I spend in the orphanages, the more I thank God for the people who make the effort and sacrifice to adopt these children."
In June, Ari wrote:
"We got out to see our babies a couple times. We delivered some new cribs to the hospital, thanks to gifts from supporters in the States. The director and staff were so excited and spent the entire time we were there putting one of the cribs together. The next time we came all the cribs had been assembled and the worst of the old cribs had been removed. We hope to replace the remainder of the old cribs this month.
A neat thing has grown out of helping the infant hospital. A woman in the States makes baby shirts as a ministry and donates them to oversea fields. We received about 300 of them this month. That sounds like a lot and it is, but the hospital can go through that many in one day. They don't use diapers on the babies (because they don't have them), so they will change outfits and sheets about ten times a day.
The girls at the Karsakova orphanage enjoy sewing and Tanya asked them if they'd be interested in making shirts and sheets for the hospital. We offered to pay them a little something for their work, which they will appreciate, but one of the girls said they'd do it to help others because of the help they'd received themselves. They even asked if little socks would be needed since they knew how to knit.
We took two of the girls downtown to buy material and yarn for them to get started. We're really excited about their enthusiasm. Statistics here say that 90 percent of the kids in orphanages will end up as prostitutes or in jail because of a lack of training and education. Most are not encouraged to pursue higher education, and are turned out of the orphanages at 17 or 18. We're really glad that these are skills they can take with them. We are also happy they want to help others in the process of learning. Who knows where it will lead from here?"
Pastor Yura has access to e-mail now and I received my first letter from him today. I believe he uses a program that allows him to type in Russian and the program translates into English. Don't hold me to that statement, but that is what I heard. He wrote that he continues his ministry to the homeless and to those living on the city garbage dump.
This is what he wrote:
" We want to develop the ministry of feeding. We want to feed 150 persons twice a week. But that is not all. I think God also has another plan. So, I plan to live at the garbage dump for some days and pray there."
Yura's words are few, but I know you can sense the genuine commitment he has to do the will of God. He also shared some of his other praises with me.
Here's the rest of his short letter:
"We are fine--all things are fine. We now have a contract to rent our hall for church services. We now have an official contract for the use of the hall. It was very hard to get.
I visited Amsterdam 2000 and God spoke to me about lots of things. He told me that we must preach the Gospel without diluting it with other things. We spent time evangelizing with our big tent in the Ninian villages. God was working there and people repented of their sins.
We wait for the invitations now and ask you to please pray for our Visas. I pray for God to fill you with the power of His Spirit for the battle and may the blood of the Lamb be on you for protection."
As you can see, Yura's ministry is filled with blessings. He is working continually for the Lord and allows the Spirit of God to lead his way. I know many of you are praying for this humble Russian pastor as he does God's will. Please continue your prayers and especially pray that the Visas needed for his trip to America will soon be in his hands.
In closing, I want to share a story I received from friends who were missionaries in Khabarovsk while I was there. They are home now, but they continue to hear about what God is doing in the lives of Russian friends. I hope it touches your heart with its simple faith.
" Our friend Sasha sent us the following personal letter and gave us permission to pass it on to you. We first met her when she was still studying at the Pedagogical University in Khabarovsk. She began to study the Bible with one of the team members. She is now out of school and working for a small business in Khabarovsk. She is a strong Christian and she longs for her other family members to have a personal relationship with Christ.
"Would you like a story about God? Those of you who've been to Russia know that in order to survive the long and cold winter, people make lots and lots of jam, pickles, dried fruit, and so on. All summer they buy (or grow) berries and vegetables by buckets by buckets.
My sister doesn't have a dacha (private garden), which is a source of great sorrow for her. This summer we couldn't afford any berries. Irene was especially upset when the time for blueberries came. She waited late in the season and still they were too expensive - 500 rubles for a bucket! (half of her monthly salary). Finally we gave up the idea.
One early morning my boss called me at home and said, 'Don't go to the office. You're going on a business trip! Our company is building a sawmill, a 4 -5 hour drive deep into the forest.' And so, we went.
Village people want to survive too, so they stand along the road and sell their harvest and what they have gathered in the forest.
My boss said, 'Do you need potatoes?' And he kept driving. This was probably his way of kidding, but I said, 'I DO!' He stopped the car. I checked the price and it was so low I couldn't believe it. So I bought two buckets of potatoes. I didn't have any money, so my boss told me to use office money and pay him back later.
We kept going and then I saw people selling blueberries and then more people selling blueberries and more! But I thought, 'No way! I can't afford it!' Then I sheepishly asked my boss if we could stop and just check the price. We did. Guess how much a bucket was--75 rubles!! This sounded almost like a joke to me. Almost seven times less! So, I bought two buckets of blueberries.
We spent all day in the car and I kept thinking, 'This is God!' I wasn't supposed to be on that trip. I had no money to afford the stuff. This was the end of the season and it was exactly the kind of berries my sister longed for! And God gave us twice more than we even wanted! We wouldn't even dare to plan to buy two buckets. Another detail: before the trip I went to buy some mosquito repellent (they are terrible in the forest) and I also bought a pack of garbage bags.
My boss asked, 'What did you buy THOSE for?' I said, 'I don't know what I was thinking about, but somehow they caught my eye.' Well those were the bags where I put all my potatoes and the berries. Isn't God amazing in the very little details! Just thinking of this squeezes my heart.
We came back home. I kicked the door open and screamed to my sister, 'Did I tell you that God loves you?' She said, 'No-o-o.' I said, 'Well, I'm telling you now. God loves you! Let's go and unload the car!'
You should have seen how happy she was. After all the excitement and price discussion had calmed down she said very quietly, 'Maybe God really loves me!'
Just two days before this happened I made a commitment to pray 5 days a week for 5 weeks that God would show his grace and kindness to my family and that they would come to know Him through that. He did show his love to my family. But yet, that is not the end of the story.
My boss saw my sister's excitement. He asked me the next morning, 'Was your sister happy?' I told him she was more than happy.
He said, 'Then don't give the money back. Let it be a gift from the office.'
He also paid for the sugar to make jam out of those berries. Can you believe it!! This just leaves me wondering how many more miracles I'll need to believe how much my God loves me.
And this was my first business trip ever.
Love, Sasha "
As always, I am happy to continue to tell the story of Khabarovsk, Russia. As you read, the needs of the orphans and the homeless remain critical. Some of you may be led to send a gift for these ministries. Others may be called to help provide transportation and other costs of travel for Yura and his family as they make plans to come to America this fall. Please make checks payable to Fishburn UMC and designate clearly how the gift should be used.
Please continue to pray for our Russian brothers and sisters in Christ as they seek the will of God concerning the many needs in their country.
In His Love,
Fishburn United Methodist Church
1215 Fishburn Rd.
Hershey, PA 17033
Telephone (717) 534-1087
web site: http://get.to/faith
(The web site is my Russian friend Andrey's site.)