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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Zavolzha Churchplant Update

On Friday November 18, we visited Eduard and Vadim at Vadim’s home in a village on the edge of Zavolzha. We met for the first time, Vadim’s wife Tatiana and their two children. Vadim lives in a typical village home, constructed of logs and then trimmed with wooden siding. The main house is two rooms; a large kitchen and dining area, and a living room/bedroom combination. The house is heated by forced hot water. They have running cold water, but no actual hot water heater, so they heat all their cleaning water on the small stove. By Russian village standards they live pretty well. They have a small garden and the house has several storage areas and as well they have several small storage buildings on their lot. The bathroom facilities consist of an unattached outhouse.

Our meeting was quite encouraging. These folks are really excited about the coming church plant. They are working diligently to evangelize their town. Both brothers visit local hospitals and orphanages to distribute literature and pray for people. Eduard openly shares the Gospel with those that he works with. Recently Eduard was appointed to a commission to study the city’s response in case of a natural or man made disaster. At the end of the meeting Eduard told the attendees, “all this planning is good, but we need to remember that ultimately it is God who is our source of protection!”

Eduard and Vadim also write and distribute a two page Christian journal in town. This month’s journal was devoted to an article describing the dangers of non-Christian sects. This was an important article as in Russia, anything that is not part of the Orthodox Church is usually consider a sect or cult. They have also spent some time witnessing to local teens and discussing with them the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Last month we were able to purchase $100.00 worth of literature for distribution in Zavolzha. Eduard and Vadim have asked for more as they have nearly distributed everything that was purchased. Next month we will purchase a new guitar for the church plant and another $100.00 worth of literature. We are working on a budget proposal for the outreaches we plan in late January. Our plan is to rent a small hall, do some advertising in the local newspaper and bus-stop billboards and then show evangelistic movies and have a guest speaker. We are also looking into the possibility of having several Christian music groups help with a concert or two in Zavolzha.

Please pray with us that this church plant will be succesful in reaching the city of Zazolzha.

Russian Road Trip

On Friday November 18 we took a bus ride to Zavolzha to visit our church planting partners, Eduard and Vadim (more about that in the next post). In America when you mention taking a trip by bus it conjures up pictures of Greyhound, or Trailways, a nice clean comfortable bus with either heat in the winter or air-conditioning in the summer. When you read about us taking a bus trip here in Russia, put those pictures out of your mind.

City Bus pictured here

Our trip began by meeting Ira, our translator at the local city bus stop by our apartment. We stood out in the 34 degree temperatures and the pouring rain for about ten minutes as we waited for a city bus to take us to the inter-city bus terminal. As it was about 4:00 PM the buses are jam packed with people. There is usually just enough room to squeeze on. Wresting with an umbrella, a back-back and the small change to pay the ticket person, while trying to hang on desperately as the drive imagines he is racing the Grand Prix in France is challenging at best. The drivers usually race down the streets as fast as they can, edging out other buses and cars as they seek to be the first to the next stop light.

When the light changes to green we’re off! With the horn blaring and the driver muttering curses we careen our way down the street. As we approach the next stop everyone wonders if the driver is actually going to stop. He approaches the stop at full speed and then at the last second slams on the brakes and slides toward the curb, never worrying about pedestrians or cars. All of us who are crammed in and standing are propelled into the person in front of us and we hang onto the overhead hand rail hoping we won’t lose our grip, fall to the floor and be trampled by the exiting and entering passengers. In Russia, as a little child, you are taught to get on the bus as soon as the door opens,… so, as soon as the door opens the exiting passengers and the entering passengers collide in a tangle as each tries to make their way. The driver, still in a hurry waits impatiently. Other buses pull up behind ours and begin blowing their horns so our driver will leave. As the last passengers squeeze into the bus, some, barely in the door, the bus leaves. It’s not uncommon for a bus to start off with the door still open and a passenger trying to get up the stairs and onto the bus. If anyone is not all the way in, the door slams into them forcing them to step up the stairs and literally shove the people in front of them. This is very normal and not considered rude for the Russians, but oh, so very difficult for us westerners who were taught that it is very wrong to push and shove. We find that we have had to learn to act against our preconditioned thinking and behaving and act contrary to everything that “seems natural” to us in order to carry on here.

The ride across the city is complicated by the old Soviet city designs. Russian cities simply were not designed to handle the amount of traffic that they see today. In the Soviet era, only a few people were able to own cars. Traffic was light and most people rode public transportation. Nowadays more and more Russians are purchasing automobiles and learning to drive. City streets are jammed with cars and buses during the rush hours. On this particular trip a small fender bender caused traffic to back up about two miles on our side of the river. After riding in the Grand Prix, we rolled to a stop and then crawled bumper to bumper as we made our way over the bridge toward the train station. To get to the bus station we had to walk a quarter mile in the rain from the train station. Of course we were late!

An inter-city bus station

Arriving at the bus station, which looks a bit like an old warehouse in any inner city industrial area in America, we could see no buses headed toward Zavolzha. Ira stood in line for about ten minutes (we can discuss waiting in lines in Russia in future post) and found out that the next bus to Zavolzha didn’t leave for about 40 minutes. So, we bought our tickets and sat and waited. The bus arrived right on time and we were able to get decent seats. Off we went into the night.

An inter-city bus

The ride itself was uneventful. The driver was pretty good and nothing broke down. The bus wasn’t heated very well so we were cold and the windows were covered with condensation making it difficult to see anything on the ride. After arriving at the bus station in Zavolzha we walked from there, through the edge of town in the dark, crossed over the train tracks and made our way down a muddy, pot hole filled dirt road for about ½ a mile toward Vadim’s home with only a flash light to keep us from falling into the pot holes. Total time, door to door, 3 ½ hours.

The hot cup of tea we were offered when we arrived never tasted so good!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A Wonderful Russian Family

Nikolai and Irena Tsaryovi with 4 of their six children

As we mentioned in our last post, we are in the beginning of a relationship with Nikolai and Irena Tsaryovi. This week we visited them in their apartment, had dinner together and just spent time getting to know one another. This family of 8 lives in a very small 2 room apartment. In America we would call it a three room apartment, but in Russia the kitchen is not counted. It is no wonder in this apartment as the kitchen is about five feet by five feet (which is smaller than the average walk in closet in an American home). It contains a small sink, a water heater, a very small and old refrigerator, an ancient two burner gas stove and a very tiny washing machine.

The living room (pictured here) also functions as the family room, dining room, and bedroom for Nick and Irena. Every night they roll out a thin mattress on the floor for their bed. The six children ranging in age from 2 ½ to 19 all sleep in the bedroom, dormitory style in three sets of bunk beds. We don’t say any of this to invoke sympathy for these folks, but rather to just shed some light on the living conditions of many families in Russia. Unlike most families, Nick and Irena made the decision to have a large family. They believe that children are a blessing from the Lord. The children are wonderful examples of what effect Christian parents can have. They were well behaved, gracious and friendly and obviously helpful and caring toward one another. It was a delight to have the honor of being invited into their home and into their family circle.

We hope to be able to help out this family and others by providing clothing for the children. If you or your church would like to be involved in this project please let us know. We can always use new, or good quality used clothing here. Many Christian families struggle with poverty due to the continuing economic woes in Russia. If you are interested in helping, drop us an email at . Anything you can do would be greatly appreciated. Clothing or other packages would need to be mailed, surface mail to our address. Shipping time is 6 to 12 weeks.

We will continue meeting with Nick and Irena weekly over the next months as we plan for the planting of the first Foursquare church in Nizhny Novgorod. Please pray with us that the Lord will send laborers into the harvest and that this new church will be a light in this desperately dark place. Pray that the Lord will provide the needed rental facility, the equipment and the finances to get this church up and running.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Russian Winter

Winter is upon us here in Russia. We have had snow several times and soon the ground will be blanketed until next spring. Winter here always reminds us of the harsh reality of life in Russia. Many Russian believers live below the poverty level set by the government. Orphanages struggle to cloth the children in their care.

We are often amazed by how little money Russian families live on. We recently met a Russian Pastor and his wife,Nikolai and Irina This couple has 6 children, which is a huge family by Russian standards. The average Russian family has one child. All other pregnancies are terminated by abortion.

Nikolai and Irina subsist on about $200 US per month. This is way below the poverty level. Their children range in age from university student to toddler. Nikolai works as a car mechanic often working 14 hours a day. Due to the destruction of the Russian economy and widespread unemployment, this is the only work he can find. Nikolai is a qualified pastor who leads a home Bible study. We hope to work with them in the near future to plant the first Foursquare church in Nizhny Novgorod.

Karen and I will be helping this family this winter. We though that our readers would want to know of ways they can do the same. If you would be interested in helping to bless this family or other Russian believers like them there are several ways you could do so.
  • You or your church could collect good quality used or new clothing and mail it to us. We could then distribute it to those in need.
  • You could make a financial donation which we could use to purchase clothing or food here in Russia.

We were thrilled to hear that the Bath Maine Foursquare church is sending a box of mittens, scarves hats and other items for us to distribute to orphans. This is a real blessing and we could use more items like this.

If this is of interest to you please let us know via email or by posting a comment to this article.