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Sunday, July 16, 2006

While in Vacha

Nadezhda with her grandson Daniel

While in Vacha Nadezhda and Zhenya Ribini were our hosts. This couple is in their mid 50's and Zhenya is a local soccer coach. His young girls “mini-soccer” team has won 2nd place in all of Russia last year. This is quite an accomplishment for a team from a small, impoverished town.

Oxana, their daughter, is a friend of ours who lives in Nizhny Novgorod and visited her parents the whole time we were there. Over the weekend her sister and brother-in-law came for a visit. It was such a pleasure being included in this extended family’s life for the week.

The weather was nice and hot when we left the city so on the afternoon we arrived in Vacha we went to the local pond went swimming for a while and just hung out. We had no interpreter on this trip, a first for us. We enjoyed spending time speaking only in Russian and trying to stretch our language skills.

While at the pond we met Galya. Galya is a believer who, before she came to Christ, threw herself off her balcony in an attempt to committ suicide. She survived the fall but damaged her spine and is now parapalegic. She has been told that she will never walk again, but she is determined that by God's grace and healing power she will. In the mean time, she is a cheerful and plucky woman who works hard at exercising her legs and praising the Lord for His goodness.

Imagine our surprise when we saw her at the pond! Somehow she had managed to get her wheelchair down the rutted dirt street and along the path to the pond and when we arrived she was in the pond swimming. Her swimming was quite a feat and we could see that she has regained some of the use of her legs. After the swim, we helped Galya get back to her apartment, pushing her up the hillside path by the pond, up a long dirt road and then down the rutted streets to her home.

Most of the week was very cool with wind and rain. We spent our time walking around town, visiting with friends, drinking gallons of tea, and being fed until we could not swallow another bite. Russian hospitality was at its best as we were treated like visiting royalty. Zhenya, the soccer coach, knows just about everyone in town. Wherever we went he would proudly introduce us as his friends from America. We visited a local metal factory, saw an exhibition of products made in the region and attended several soccer games. In the evening we would take walks, or sit outside and chat with the village folk.

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