It is hard to believe that almost a month has gone by since I wrote. These weeks have been difficult as I waited for my health to return to normal. I am well now and do not need to return to my doctor. I am praising God for your prayers and for His mercy.
I am still hearing from Russian friends and/or missionary friends each week, sometimes daily. There is much to share and as I prayed about this newsletter, I was led to continue to share messages from Ura's congregation. I am also led to share in their words instead of trying to tell you what I understand them to be saying. I pray that you will not only hear their words, but that you will also hear their faith and sense the joy and hope that God gives them in the midst of poverty that few of us can know. I pray that you sense their dedication and determination to do God's will.
The letters I share were translated from Russian to English by a young girl in Ura's congregation. I wasn't able to get her name, but I'm told that she wasn't attending church while I was there. I am so grateful to her for being willing to be the connection between us and I thank God that she was led to do this tedious work.
From Ura's Congregation:
The first letter is from Lena who was 15 when I met her. She had been a Christian for two years and was already teaching Sunday School and witnessing to her family and neighborhood. Lena's love for our Lord is very deep and her trust in the Lord has increased my faith. Lena's health is not good. She was hospitalized several times with hepatitis and as a result of missing so much time, she had to drop out of school at the age of 16.
Hello! It's me, Lena Zakharova from the Full Gospel Church of Pastor Ura. How are you? We (our church) remember you and love you very much. We always pray for you, your family, and your health. We miss you very much.
You were so useful for us here in Khabarovsk. We believe that it was not the last time you will be in our city and you will come to us again. We miss you. I remember you teaching me English. Last year we spent a lot of time together. You often came to Olga's home to our home group. I'm grateful to you for everything you have done for me. Thank you for your love and goodness. But, all this is only thanks to our Lord. Only He could give us those wonderful days.
As for me, I am learning in an evening school. I work together with Olga in the hospital for orphaned babies. Jesus is changing my life now. He teaches and edifies me in my prayers and through the Bible. I had a birthday on the 20th of November. I'm 17 now. It's wonderful to grow up in Jesus Christ!
Even my family is all right now. My mother comes to the church more often, even though she is ill. My brother Dima has become obedient to me and my mother. He also comes to the church.
That's all the news for today. We remember and love you very much. We believe that God is almighty and has many blessings for you. God used you to do a great work while being in Khabarovsk. Thank you!
Charlene, don't forget to write me, please! I'm waiting for your letter as for the present of Jesus Christ. I love you very much and always pray for you.
God Bless You!
Lena mentioned Olga in her letter and the next letter is from Olga. Olga and Lena work together in Ura's church. They teach the children in Sunday School and sing in the church services. Olga was drawn to Ura's church at the urging of her little sister, Masha. At the time, Olga was attending Jehovah Witness meetings with her grandmother and did not feel she needed to go to church. Masha would not let her rest until she came, and Olga told us that God spoke to her on that first visit. Immediately, her heart was changed and she became a powerful disciple for our Lord.
Here is Olga's letter:
I thank God because He sent you to Khabarovsk to help people understand God better. My mother started to believe in Jesus Christ only thanks to you and to Joyce coming to our home for Bible Study.
Thank you for your help in teaching me to understand English. I can't speak and understand German though I have learned it for seven years in school, but I know English well. I remember our lessons with happiness.
I also thank God for our trip to Moscow. I will always remember our promenades through the city (it was the first time I traveled by air). And, I thank you for the whole year and one-half you were here. I thank God for every Sunday you and Joyce were in our church, for every holiday you organized for us and for our trip to the wildlife sanctuary (it was the first time I saw wild animals).
I saw in you the person who went forward in spite of all problems. I also want to look forward and not to see what happened in the past or what is happening now. I try to follow our God and live with Him. I'm working now in the hospital for orphan babies. It's the work I do for God.
I remember you told me that I would be a good teacher. Well, next year I'm going to Irkutsk to enter the Theological Institute. I want to study there two years and become a preacher and a teacher of Sunday Schools. I believe that God will show me what to do when I finish studying.
I love you,
I wonder if you notice the age of these young people and their security in the Christian faith? I was overwhelmed by the maturity of their faith and the dedication they had to be disciples of Jesus. The next letter is from a young boy in the church. Lyosha was about 15 when we first met him.
It's me, Lyosha (the piano player from the Full Gospel Church). We remember you; we remember your kindness and your faith.
Thank you that you have sacrificed much to come to Khabarovsk. Thank you for your work. You have helped many people and made many people happy.
Now it is a difficult period in Russia, and good is very seldom seen. Everybody takes care only of himself paying no attention to others. But you gave your joy and kindness to everyone you met.
I thank God for such people as you. Even just looking at you, just mixing with you, we become purer. I think we have not appraised the sacrifice yet that you made by living in Russia.
God bless you!
I wrote Lyosha expressing my amazement that he felt my time in Russia to be a sacrifice for me. I also told him that I thanked God for calling me to Khabvarovsk where I had the privilege of knowing such wonderful Christians. Lyosha's choice of words touched my heart and I found myself knowing that I became "purer" by just mixing with these dear Christian brothers and sisters.
The next letter is from a woman old enough to be my younger sister. Her name is Tatyana and Joyce and I went to her home each week for Bible Study. She was elected Deacon of Ura's church, and was totally committed to Christ. She and Olga were some of the Russian Christians who traveled to Rybinsk (near Moscow) to receive training to help unite Christians in Russia and to make disciples by increasing small groups (Bible Studies) in Khabarovsk. God is first in Tatyana's life.
Hello! How are you? We have heard of the grief in your family concerning the eyesight of your grandson. We are one with you as we petition God for complete healing. I always pray for you and believe that God will support and reinforce you because it is written, "I'll never leave you because you have chosen me."
I love you and often recollect you and our trip to Moscow. Our adventure was great, though not easy.
I pray that God will bless you and your family. I pray that your service and the service of your family will be under the mighty and loving hand of our Lord.
Our church misses you. We love you very much.
Ura's congregation knows the power of prayer and they continually pray for healing of the sick. Before I left Russia, I learned that my grandson's eye had been injured by accident. The prayers began immediately and continued. They rejoiced with us as Brandon's eye was healed. God is amazing in many ways, and I know that the prayers of my church family in Russia were an important part of the healing process.
The last letter I will share this time is from Pastor Ura, his wife, Jenya, his little girl, Nadya, and his baby son, Nikita. Each Sunday evening, I was greeted with warm smiles and hugs from Ura and Jenya. I became BaBa (grandma) Charlene to little Nadya, and was trusted to hold and love baby Nikita. It is good to hear from them.
Here is Ura's letter:
Hello! I'm writing this letter to express the feeling of love to you, because earlier, when you were here, I didn't tell you about it. Now, I want to tell you that I'm grateful to our God for He has given us an opportunity to meet and to learn to know one another.
I am glad that the number of my brothers and sisters from America is increasing. I always pray for an opportunity to meet you again and in my prayers I always mention you and pray for your health and for God's blessings for you. I also ask you not to forget my family and to pray for us.
Our church has moved to another place and we (our family) by God's help have moved to a new apartment. Our children are very happy because there's enough room to run and play.
I'd like you to give our best regards to your family and to your brothers and sisters from the church. Please tell them, "Thank you for your financial and spiritual support. I'm sure that our God will never leave you because He sees your heart and your love to all people."
Thank you for everything. God bless you. I will always pray for you.
With love in Jesus Christ,
Jenya, Ura, Nadya and Nikita
It is a privilege for me to share the hearts of our Russian brothers and sisters in Christ. It is good to know that God is leading me to continue to write the stories. My greatest joy and peace comes from knowing that God has a purpose for asking me to share the news I receive with you. He has given me peace in realizing that I do not need to know how He will use the news I share. It is exciting to know that He has given me the privilege to be a part of His plan.
I want to close by thanking all of you who were moved by God to respond to Ura's vision. Your prayers will uphold these dear people and give comfort and peace to them in the midst of untold poverty. Your gifts will go to Russia with the next missionary to travel to Khabarovsk which may be this month. My teammate and friend, Susan Fuller is going back to Khabarovsk as a full-time missionary soon. The exciting news is that 100% of your gift will go to Ura to be used as God directs for his vision.
Fishburn Church will continue to accept your donations and pass them on to those going back to Khabarovsk.
The address is:
Fishburn United Methodist Church
Attention: Charlene Reitz
1215 Fishburn Rd.
Hershey, PA 17033
Telephone: (717) 534-1087
Please specify your gift "for Ura's vision".
I know you will keep the Russian people in your prayers. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. I continually thank God for your love.
In His Love,