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Monday, January 29, 2007

Christmas in January

We recently received 8 boxes of clothing and food from America! Because we were busy with the First Nations Team (see articles below), we hadn’t had time to visit the local Post Office. By the time we were able to go we had six notices in our apartment mailbox saying that we had packages waiting for pick-up. We assumed that some of them were duplicates since we hadn’t responded promptly. We took our hand cart and walked to the Post Office assuming that we had 3-5 boxes to pick-up. Imagine our surprise when the ladies at the Post Office gave us two more pick-up slips and now we had a total of 8 boxes! We ended up making two trips from our apartment to the Post Office and back. Each time we loaded our hand cart and pulled the boxes the 6 blocks back to our apartment, up the stairs and into the elevator.

After the last trip we began to open boxes. One box was from Karen’s mom and included cereal and other goodies. Two other boxes had been sent by Grace Capital Church in Concord, NH. These boxes had Ritz crackers, candy, brown sugar, maple syrup, peanut butter, salsa mix and books. What a blessing it was for us to open these packages!

The other five boxes were from The Charlestown, NH Foursquare Church, the Bath, Maine Foursquare church and three from the South Royalton, VT Foursquare Church. These boxes each contained winter hats, socks, sweaters, mittens, scarves, gloves and other clothing items. We will be distributing the clothing through two local churches. The clothing will go to deserving Christian families, orphans and people who are attending a local Christian based drug rehab center.

It is difficult to tell of the blessing it is for a family, orphan or single person to receive needed clothing from their brothers and sisters in America. The simple gift of a warm hat, mittens, gloves or scarves can help families or individuals who are struggling in today’s Russian economy. Thank you so much for blessing the people of Russia and remembering us as we work here in Russia, far from our family and friends.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

First Nations Team - Day 6-7 - Concerts

On Monday afternoon we all met at our apartment and we then took the team to the Kremlin region of Nizhny Novgorod for a brief time of site seeing. We walked to the bottom of Pokrovka Street where we could see both the Kremlin and the overlook of the Oka and Volga rivers. After taking a few photos we walked through the Kremlin, down the hill and stopped to view one of Nizhny’s many Orthodox churches. By this time we needed to head to the bus station were we would purchase tickets for the ride to Zavolzha and our second concert.

Overlook of the Volga River near the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin

One of the Kremlin towers in Nizhny Novgorod

Kremlin Gate - Karen and Cheryl
Karen and Heidi walking through the Kremlin

Down the hill outside the Kremlin

Orthodox Chapel at the base of the Kremlin
The team outside of an Orthodox Church building

Looking up the hill toward the Kremlin

A veiw of the Kremlin and an Orthodox Church

Our friend Chris Gandy, James and Heidi
clowning around at the bus station
Karen and a new friend at the bus station

Riding in the taxi-van to Zavolzha

The team performed concerts both Monday and Tuesday evening. The basic format was the same with a few minor changes each evening.

Here are a few photos from Monday and Tuesday evening.

The Cultural Palace where the concerts were held

The team with Eduard and Vadim
our church planting partners in Zavolzha

A view of the hall from the balcony

The team onstage with Anya Gandy (seated left)
who translated for the concert
James signing autographs after the concert
Anya and a young friend after the concert

Cheryl receiving a gift after the concert

Speaking of gifts, one night a woman came up to Cheryl and put a kitten on her shoulder after the concert. Cheryl assumed that the woman was showing her the kitten but the woman told her "it is a gift" and walked away! Obviously Cheryl couldn't keep the kitten and take it back to the U.S. so....Karen and I are now parents to Mishka, which means "Little Bear", or "Teddy Bear" in the Russian language.

Karen and Mishka (Little Bear)

First Nations Team - Day 5 - Sunday, January 14

Above: Pastor Igor Voronin, his daughter Lera, Cheryl Bear and our friend Sveta Kuzmintseva

Sunday was a very busy day for the team. We started the day by visiting a local church called “The Vine” which is pastored by our good friends Igor and Olga Voronin. The team gave their usual presentation, combining Native American culture with a Christian message from a First Nations perspective.
Heidi performing a traditional dance

The team was again, well received. After the service everyone wanted photos and to speak with the team members.

After the Church Service

Heidi with children after the service
Following the meeting we packed all the equipment into two cars and began the 1 ½ hour drive to Zavolzha, where the team would be performing the first of three nightly concerts.

Three photos on the road to Zavolzha

The sign says

"First Time in Zavolzha, 14,15,16 January, Indians from America, free admission.After arriving in Zavolzha, we were served dinner and then had a 15 minute walk to the Cultural Palace were the performance would take place. The purpose of the performances were two-fold. One was to present First Nations culture and spirituality to the Russian People, and the second was to distribute Christian literature and an invitation to a follow-up meeting the day after the three concerts. From this follow-up meeting where the team would share about their relationship to Christ, it is hoped that we can gather a core group for an evangelistic Bible study.

The first night of the concert went very well, We had about 125 people in attendance and they all enjoyed the presentation. Afterwards the team was again surrounded by people taking photos, speaking with the team members and getting autographs.

The Team Onstage

Cheryl with new friends after the concert

After the concert we hired two vehicles and made the 1 ½ hour trip back to Nizhny and to a well deserved rest.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

First Nations Team - Day Four - January 13

On Saturday the team participated in worship at the local Messianic fellowship. Worship started at 12:00 AM and Heidi and Cheryl quickly joined in the group dancing which takes place every Sabbath in this congregation. After a time of worship through song the team was invited to the platform to share. They talked about their native culture, offered prayer with sage incense and a prayer song on flute and then sang several worship songs and dances. The members of the congregation received them with great joy. At the close of the service, as the worship team was leading a Hebraic song, Cheryl and Heidi danced before the congregation.

After the service many pictures where taken and everyone wanted to meet the “Indians.” This was a good time for all.

In the afternoon we hosted a small meeting at our home to discuss “Contextualization of the Gospel.” The team shared about their experience as First Nations people who had worshiped in white American churches and encouraged the Russian believers to consider the idea of planting new churches which would reach the many people in Russia who will never step inside a traditional Protestant Baptist or Charismatic style church.

Fisrt Nations Team - Day Three - January 12

On Friday evryone was allowed to sleep in a bit because of jet lag. In the early afternoon we gathered the team’s equipment, loaded it on a hand cart and walked to the tram line which we rode to a local school. There the team did a cultural presentation to two groups of students.

The Team with one of the classes

A presentation of First Nations culture

At the school we were warmly received. The team did two one hour assemblies during which they shared about First Nations culture, life and music. The students and teachers greatly enjoyed the presentations. Afterwards the team was surrounded by students eager to speak with them, get an autograph, and a photo.

Heidi signing autographs after an assembly

After the school presentation we hurriedly packed the equipment and headed off to meet Pastor Dmitry from the drug rehabilitation center. At the pastor's meeting yesterday we met Pastor Dmitry who has planted a church in Nizhny Novgorod this last year as well as start a drug and alcohol rehab center. Dmitry invited us to visit the drug rehab that he has begun outside the city, and to minister to those who were going through the program. Dmitry had arranged transportation for the team and had also decided to bless us by taking us all to dinner at a local cafeteria.

Pastor Dmitry, Cheryl and Dmitry's wife

We learned that Dmitry has been in Nizhny Novgorod for about one year. Before becoming a believer he was involved in drug use. Christ changed his life, he attended Bible School and is now a pastor. In Nizhny Novgorod he has begun a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center and from this he planted a new church. His church has about 50 regular attendees, most of whom are new believers. This is a very impressive work for Russia where the spiritual soil is very hard.

The drug rehab program is very intensive. All participants must live at the center, receive counseling, attend Bible studies and church. Family members are also required to attend church and Bible studies. As a result people begin to come to Christ and lives begin to change. Dmitry says they have about an 80% success rate working with drug and alcohol addicts. Dmitry’s dream is to see more churches planted, people discipled and drug addicts set free from their addictions.

At the small center we were given a quick tour. The center is in reality a small Russian village house with several outbuildings, including a typical Russian banya, or wood heated sauna.

Two of the guys with our interpreter and friend, Sveta

Inside the Banya, which serves as a washroom/shower for the rehab
Cheryl in the Banya
A bedroom at the rehab center

We completed the tour and the team was asked to talk about who they were, and why they where in Russia. They sang a few songs, shared a bit about how First Nations people worship Christ and Cheryl gave everyone a gift of her music CD. Mike was asked to share a word with the group and he spoke about his passion for seeing new churches planted in Russia. He gave a strong challenge to these new converts to take up the challenge to reach their country for Christ by paying the price to plant new churches wherever possible.

After Mike shared there was a powerful time of prayer and worship. James Kellums was able to pray individually for everyone present and spoke an encouraging word to each person.

After more than three hours of ministry and fellowship the team packed up and rode back to Nizhny.

First Nations Team - Day Two - January 11

The team's first day in Nizhny Novgorod was a busy one. We came overnight from Moscow arriving at 7:30 AM. The team was exhausted, but in good spirits.
Train Station - Nizhny Novgorod

At 10:00 AM we met at the Central Baptist church were we participated in the monthly pastor’s meeting. Cheryl introduced the team, told everyone a bit about the purpose of the visit and then invited questions. We were invited to participate in the worship services of two of the local congregations on Saturday and also Sunday morning.

In the afternoon we took the team by bus to the Central Hotel on the other side of the river. At the hotel the team received an official registration stamp for their visas. Without this stamp the team would not have been allowed to leave the country. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, eating supper together and getting to know each other.

Here are photos from the Pastor's meeting