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Monday, April 14, 2008

33rd Anniversary

On April 12 Karen and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary! We had a late evening date at a local bliny (Russian pancakes) cafe. Earlier in the day we hosted a young couples Bible study.

I can say that we are more in love with each other than ever. We enjoy our lives immensely, and daily thank God that we can work together, side by side, doing what we want.

We have had a wonderful life together and consider ourselves extremely blessed by God. We are looking forward to another 33 years.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ground Broken for First Building!

Cornerstone Church has a large vision. That vision is to reach thousands of drug addicts and their families, continue to grow the original church, plant several more congregations in Nizhny Novgorod, begin a Bible School, send missionary teams to other cities and countries and build a permanent church structure.

This past fall the church was able to purchase land outside of the city for a permanent rehab center. The land is in a small village about 50 kilometers outside the city. There were originally two small log homes, a couple of outbuildings and a banya.

A team of guys moved to this location and began preparing to renovate for a permanent rehab center. Unfortunately the banya caught fire and burned to the ground. With no running water on the property the banya is the only means of bathing, and so the guys had to return to the city for the winter and the plans were put on hold till this spring. Over the winter the church was challenged to give monthly offerings specifically for building this center. Recently a team moved back to the location and work has begun.

The oldest log home was taken down, and in general the land had been cleared and cleaned. The work is ongoing. This week a foundation for a new building was begun. The building will be two floors, made of brick and measure roughly 18'x36'. Here are some photos of the work.

At the Center
Early Morning Sun

The Building to be Torn Down

The Burned Banya

Karen Cleaning the Grounds

The House Coming Down

Karen Raking

Cooking Lunch on an Open Fire

Michael & a Brother Tossing a Log

More Lunch Preparation

The Center Bedding

Almost Down!

Karen and a Friend

Digging a Foundation by Hand

Foundation Materials Delivered

Dragging 500 lb Foundations Blocks

Now I know how the Pyramids were built!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Another Russian Adventure

We have owned a car in Russia for 6 months. In that time we have been stopped by the police more times than my entire life in America! The police in Russia regularly pull people over at random to check documents and check for drivers who have been drinking.

Today it was my fault. I was pulled over at a speed trap on a side street in the center of Nizhny Novgorod. I was doing 46 KPH (26MPH) in a 30KPH (19MPH) zone. The police clock your speed and wave you over. They show you how fast you were going and then you are told to go see the other officer who is sitting in the car.

I waited in line as they were pulling over a lot of cars. When my turn came I sat down in the car, gave the guy my passport and license (everyone in Russia carries a passport), and then told him, "I am a foreigner, I don't speak much Russian". He rolled his eyes and looked at my license and passport. He then asked if I had my car documents. These are basically the registration and proof of insurance. I had mine so he looked through them, not saying anything.

I have found that it usually pays to be an American in these situations. The police are usually surprised to see Americans. They are also surprised when an American is driving a Russian car. We were joined by a second officer and the first one said to the other one, "He is an American".

"An American!", the other guy replied. The second officer then said in English what were probably the only English words he knew, "Thank you very much". I looked at them both, they waved me out of the car and as I stepped out I replied in English, "Thank you very much". They both smiled for the first time and off Karen and I went on our way home.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Like A Christmas Turkey

Learning life’s Significant Lessons in the most unexplainable ways at the most unexpected times can be a remarkable. Michael and I (see my story in the November 2007 archive) have both blogged about our banya experiences, but I learned something from the Lord on my latest visit to the banya and it was an epiphany of sorts for me.

As we’ve said before, the banya is a revered, cultural function and the ladies of the church are always eager for me to take part. Recently they invited me, so, once again I said, “thank you, I’d love to!” Privately screwing up my courage and squashing down my inhibitions I joined the other 7 ladies for an evening of fellowship.

On the surface of the situation I learned some new tricks to improve my health and prolong my life (smile). After baking in a dry heat room and then cooling off in a beautiful pool I was handed a container of kosher salt and told to rub it all over me and then go back into the dry heat room. Supposedly this pulls the poisons out of your body through your skin, but sitting in a small, very hot room, covered in salt I felt like the Christmas turkey, seasoned and then popped into the oven to bake.

We rinsed the salt off under a shower and then rubbed spun honey all over ourselves and went to sit in the steam chamber so that more poisons could be leached out of our skin. With the steam and the honey I felt like the turkey that was being basted.

We spent 3 hours together in the ‘altogether’, baking, cooling off in the pool, steaming, cooling off in the pool, drinking juice and eating snacks together, then doing it all over again. After some time I realized that I had completely relaxed and was experiencing a very precious sense of acceptance greater than any I have ever known. I understood that what was happening in me was something of a spiritual nature. By unclothing myself in the presence of these ladies, most of whom were 25 or more years younger than I am, I was able to hide nothing from their eyes and I became totally vulnerable. There was such an uninhibited sense of innocence among the group and a joyful acceptance of each other as whole persons in spite of our imperfections. I truly felt a sense of acceptance on a level that I had never before experienced.

I feel as if I have a better understanding of what relationships in Jesus Christ should really be like; nothing hidden, nothing covered up in our spirit or our character, but completely honest, uncovered and vulnerable before each other. As Christians we speak this truth to each other, but this time, for me, it has left a lasting glow because I experienced the truth in a new and deeper way.