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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A day of testing aka Character Development

This past Sunday Michael and I went our separate ways to preach in two different churches.  Michael stayed in Nizhny Novgorod to preach in Cornerstone Church and I went to Gorodetz to preach in that Cornerstone church.  There was a conference in Moscow for Russian pastors and so we were asked to cover the churches while the pastors went to get refreshed.

We were both preaching on the subject of baptism because this coming Saturday both churches will come together for a baptism celebration in the olympic swimming pool of a resort.  “Resort” is somewhat of a euphemism for this place, but it was the only English word I could think of to describe it.  More about this will be coming in the next story.

It was a day of testing for me.  I enjoy teaching, but I am not a preacher.  My choice would be to turn down any invitation to preach, but I have told the Lord that if ever I am asked I will receive it as His request and do it in obedience.  That said, and sounding so very spiritual, I have to say that it is intensely uncomfortable for me and my self doubting goes wild.

The resistance to my task began before I left home.  Michael’s and my relationship, normally placid and peaceful, flared up into barking at each other. I don’t even remember what it was about.  Then, when I went out to the car it would not start.  The ignition was locked and the key would not turn.  Jogging the steering wheel is always enough to unlock the key, but of course, not this time.  It took 5 or 6 tries before it worked with each unsuccessful try causing my tension level to go up.

When driving to Gorodets there is only one, two lane bridge to cross the river and in regular traffic it can take up to an hour just to get across.  On any given Sunday though, traffic is light around the city so I estimated the time it would take to get to church accordingly, including the bridge crossing.  My plan was to arrive at church with my interpreter 15-20 minutes before the service started.  As expected, traffic was light and I breezed across the city to the bridge only to find that the police had stopped all outgoing traffic across the bridge. YIKES!  We sat without moving an inch.  In fact when this happens everyone stops their engines and gets out of their cars for a smoke.  After the longest ten minutes of my life I was just feeling the first pangs of nausea when I saw people getting back into their cars and starting them up again.  Very slowly we crawled the final kilometer to the bridge and then across.  The final trial on the drive came when we had to cross a double train track and had to wait in line for two trains before we could cross and continue on our way.

From that point on the road was clear, but we were still a little less than half way.   We arrived at exactly 11:05 AM.  Everyone was there and waiting for us. 

reading from a selected scripture

"Baptizing" a piece of cloth

The old has past away, behold the new has come

The service was good despite my inner turmoil and those who will be baptized this coming Saturday seemed to listen intently. They liked my object lesson.  When I ‘baptized’ a piece of white cotton cloth into grape juice they were able to visualize how our identity is changed, not by an outward action, but by Christ in us, indelibly changing our identity by His grace.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another Wedding

On Friday September 23 we attended the wedding of our friends Mikael and Tatiana.  

Mikael is a new believer who came to Christ eight months ago when he entered the drug rehabilitation program.  We have been watching him grow in his new found faith for all those months.  He and his bride, Tatiana, had a long relationship together.  Once Mikael came to Christ Tatiana followed, and began serving in the church.  They decided to marry and legalize their relationship when Mikael graduated from the rehab course.   We were honored when they asked us to take part in the wedding and the party afterwards.

Here are a few of the photos that we took that day.

The Bride, Tatiana

Guests Arriving for the Wedding

The Wedding Car
with traditional decorations

Mikael and Tatiana

Exchanging Rings

You May Now Kiss the Bride

Communion Together as a Couple

The New Couple with Family


At the rehab center waiting for the Wedding Party to arrive

Karen and our Co-worker Sveta

Here They Come! 

Cutting the Ribbon In Order To Be Allowed To Enter

Part of Russian tradition is a fun game where the groom has to "purchase" his bride.  This takes place before the wedding.  Mikael did this, but after the ceremony we all went to the rehab center to allow the rehabilitants to join in some of the fun and, with a twist on the game, Tatiana had to "purchase" her husband from the center where he has been living.  This was done by laying paper foot prints up the long, entrance staircase.  Under each footprint (2 on each step) was printed a number or a letter.  She got to choose one footprint from each step and if it had a number she had to pay that many rubles to the center.  Her final debt was 100 rubles (about $3). There was a lot of laughter and fun.

Some of the Young Women Prepared a Skit and a Song

After the rehab center we all drove to a local river where many wedding parties go for photos. 

We counted 8 different wedding parties while we were there and more kept coming as we drove away

Mikael and Tatiana on the footbridge
Some of the Guys with Pastor Oleg (Pastor O 3rd from the left)

After pictures at the river we went to a restaurant for the Wedding Banquet
Here is the Couple as They Enter

A Traditional greeting of bread and salt is presented by the parents as a symbol of health, prosperity and long life. Both bride and groom must take a bite of the bread and the one that takes the largest bite will be the head of the family!

Let's Eat!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Typical Friday

On most Fridays we travel outside of Nizhny Novgorod to teach at two rehab centers.  Both centers are operated by Cornerstone Church in the small city of Gorodets.  The work was begun 3 years ago when the drug rehab center was opened in the village of Mogiltsi.  Later the church opened a home to help men and women transition from life on the streets.  Both of the centers were begun when the church had less than 10 people, and no public worship service.  It was only after more than two years of serving their community that the church began to hold public meetings.

Our morning actually started off with finding that overnight someone had tried to siphon our gas tank.  The siphon hose was still in the tank and the gas cap was on the ground covered in dirt.

 We think that whoever it was probably got interrupted by someone and fled from the scene before completing the siphoning.  Fortunately we had enough fuel to drive to a gas station.  Lesson learned, keep the gas cap locked!

 Once we arrived in the Mogiltsi center we found that they had adopted a new dog. Here is Karen with Sarah.  Sarah is a really sweet and well behaved Lab

 After we teach we usually have a meal and tea

 Karen and some of the young women in the rehab program

 Sergei is a senior leader. He began the program just a year ago. Now he serves others as they go through the rehab process.

 As we left the center it was raining.  On the drive to Gorodets we saw this double rainbow!

 At both centers we were able to distribute Bibles

 Some of the brothers at the Social Center (for homeless people) taking notes while Karen teaches

 Three of the brothers and the only sister currently in this center

Karen is signing and writing a blessing in one guys' Bible

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Today, thanks to some generous friends in America, we purchased 116 Bibles.  We will distribute theses Bibles in the various rehab centers where we teach.

When someone enters the rehab program they are given a Bible.  There are always people entering and leaving the program. Some stay through completion, other might leave after only a day or two.  When you leave, even if you do not complete the course, the Bible is yours to keep if you want it.  The Bibles are well used by those in the program.  The rehabilitants read them, study them underline them.

Currently there are over 60 people in the 7 rehabs that we visit and teach in. During the winter months this number will probably double.  The need for Bibles is ongoing and large.  The centers probably use 500 every year.  At a minimum of $3.00 per Bible that can add up quickly.

If you are interested in helping purchase more Bible drop us an email and let us know.

Below are some photos of the brothers taking Bibles into the Social Center for Homeless people.

Tonight two people in this center received a new Bible and they the prayed a prayer of repentance after I taught from Word.

A Wedding

Last Friday we attended the wedding of our friends Oleg and Irina.  It was a lot of fun.  We have known this couple for several years.  It has been interesting watching their relationship grow and then their decision to marry.  We pray that they will have many happy years as they follow Christ together.

The Happy Couple
After the Blessing at the Church

At the Church Office 

Oleg & Irina

The Reception Hall

The Mothers

The Happy Couple

With the Bride


Ladies at the Wedding

Oleg Speaking 
Guests Dancing

Lighting the Unity Candle

The First Dance