Update from Russia, 20. September 18th, 2007
âBecause Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.â (Psalm 63:3, NASB)
9/12/07, Wednesday: In the evening, my neighbor Madina stopped by for help with her English homework. Madina is around 15, and is a really great girl. She smiles easily and often, and one would never be able to guess she herself was one of the more than 1,000 hostages who were held for three days in the gym during the terrorist attack. Madina was a hostage, along with all (four) of her siblings; she is the only one who survived. She is a believer, as are her parents, and they are amazing testimonies of trusting in Jesus even in the darkest of times. I helped Madina some with her homework, and iâm constantly amazed at what they try and teach these youth â texts which are way too hard for the levels theyâre at. The result is that many students donât really understand anything, and finish high school not being able to communicate hardly at all, although they studied English for 7 years.
9/13/07, Thursday: In the evening, my neighbor Madina dropped by again for help with another English assignment. (Once again, a pretty strange choice of text for these youth to be studying, since the majority of them are probably nowhere near that level of comprehension.) At times, the labor here is very âeverydayâ and âmundane,â meaning that much of ministry â just as in your lives â involves doing very normal, practical, and everyday things. But when I step back and look at the big picture, Iâm amazed at the people God has blessed me to meet, know, and help. Ones such as Madina. True, this evening i just helped a teenage girl understand her English homework. But though Madina is a normal youth, she is not simply any old person. She is a sister in Christ whom The Lord miraculously saved from that horrible massacre; and if we can help her get better grades, and make her smile and laugh while going over English homework, then to God be the praise and letâs do it!
9/14/07, Friday: Taught little George and his cousins (George who survived the attack, but lost his whole family there). Again, Iâm truly amazed at the youth of Bsln. Little George, like Madina above, is another youth who can still laugh and smile. Pray for him often if you would. Since both parents were killed in the terrorist attack, heâs being raised by his aunt, who is a believer.
9/15/07, Saturday: Went to Vladkavkz to teach English at one of the Baptist Fellowships there. My friend who helps me with the lessons, Tamara, and I spent time thinking of ways to improve the lessons and did some re-strategizing. She also shared about some of the problems among the groups who are translating The Bible into Ossetian; Tamara herself has helped some in this work. As Iâve mentioned in the past, the main ethnic group here is Ossetian â though we are geographically located inside Russiaâs borders, the majority of people here are not ethnically Russian: they are Ossetian. Ossetians are related to Persians, and their language is totally different than Russian. Almost everyone here speaks Russian as well, but the ethnic language of most is Ossetian. Anyways, they have The New Testament in their language, but not The Old Testament. There are different people and groups wanting to translate The Old Testament into Ossetian, but there are doctrinal and personal issues between them, and the end result is that the Ossetian people still do not have The Old Testament in their ethnic language. Here is a prayer project I ask you and your church/home groups to consider adopting: for the rest of this month, each time you open up and read The Old Testament in English, thank God for the amazing blessing of being able to read It in your own language, and plead with Him to give the Ossetians that same blessing we treasure â that they too might be able to read The Old Testament in their ethnic language. â¦I also shared one of my ideas with Tamara about putting The Lordâs Word before more people here, and she thought it would be a great idea. The Lord has blessed me to put together some very simple t-shirt designs, ones which simply have Scriptures on them. For example, I think a plain black t-shirt with John 3:16 written in Ossetian in bold, yellow letters would be a great witness and immensely popular with the Ossetian Christians. Please pray for this: Lord willing, Iâd like to find the right person in the future to pass this idea and the t-shirt designs on to. Iâve thought of the possibility of perhaps helping to invest in printing up one or two hundred such shirts, and passing them on to a local believer to sell at a reasonable price. Iâm not at all interested in any part of the financial profit, nor would I agree to receive any of it â I only want to help this get off the ground and pass everything into the hands of a loyal believer here if this is something Yah desires to raise up. â¦Had the opportunity to talk with a younger brother in the faith, and we spoke of the importance of reading The Bible ourselves instead of just relying on othersâ teaching of it. As Iâve written in the past, i can say with all confidence that were the church as a whole to gather together once week and simply read The Scriptures together for an hour or so, The Lord would do awesome things! i mean in addition to our weekly church services, so please donât think Iâm saying we should throw everything else out. Itâs just that the biggest and most serious problem in the church, at least as far as my eyes see, is that we do not really read The Bible â not much in church, and even less at home. (Iâm speaking generally here, of course.) Were local churches to organize a Bible-reading night where saints would once a week gather in local homes and simply read Godâs Word together for an hour or so, I believe that we would see amazing results. This is something Iâve tried to start here more than once, but itâs never taken off. Of course I still have a long way to go in studying Russian and Ossetian, but perhaps Iâve also not succeeded because The Lord would rather have me introduce this vision to the local churches and try to spur them on to embrace the vision themselves. ?
9/16/07, Sunday: To Godâs glory and praise, i finished all the music for the new CD before service this morning! Iâve attached a very short mp3 clip of one of the songs â itâs sung in Ossetian, and is from Psalm 113. The majority of the words on this CD are in English, but there is also some Ossetian, Russian, and Hebrew. Iâm really excited about the new disc, especially since my friend Tamara has been working on translating the lyrics into Russian so that the people here (and specifically the youth) will get a huge dose of Jesus and Gospel truth! Please pray she finishes the translations as soon as possible, and for His guidance. Pray that The Lord will bring everything together quickly, and that the CDs will be put together with great quality and at a good price. â¦Went to the AM fellowship; there were two visiting preachers, and the second oneâs message was really powerful. This brother encouraged us: no matter what happens around us, âRemember your God!â We must never forget Who He Is, His Character, or His power. The preacher also said something like, âThe hardest and most important thing is to strengthen and defend your own faith.â Amen! Of course we are to build into othersâ lives, but our first and greatest spiritual responsibility is to make sure we ourselves are right with Jesus. And âpraying the prayerâ does not end our relationship with The Savior â it begins it!
9/17/07, Monday: One of the ladies I know here asked if I would be interested in teaching a small English group at one of the newly built schools here in Bsln (is the sky blue?), and of course I mentioned I would but that such a decision was not mine to make â the school would have to want and agree to the same. She phoned a teacher she knows, who in turn spoke with the principal, and it looks like a go! I have to provide a copy of my passport/visa so they know who I am and so forth, but this looks like a probable and very good opportunity. Praise The Lord!
â¦Late at night, Nahzee (the grandma I live with here) was having severe heart pain and so she phoned the paramedics, who came and gave her a shot. Two of our neighbors, both men who lost children in the terrorist attack, also have heart problems, and one of them is in the hospital now.
Please pray for:
- Jesus to continually encourage & show His grace to Madina, who lost all her siblings in the massacre;
- Godâs blessing on, and wisdom for, the Vladkavkz English lessons;
- The Lord to raise up His Word in the Ossetian language;
- The Fatherâs wisdom, provision, and favor for the two possible future ministries (Christian shirts in Ossetian, and encouraging local fellowships to start weekly Bible reading groups);
- Jesus to help Tamara quickly and accurately finish the translation work for the new CD, as well as for The Lordâs help in assembling the CD;
- Godâs favor and guidance for the new English group/s at the school;
- The Lord to be Gracious to Nahzee, Taimuraz, and Sergei, who all have heart problems.
As at all times, your prayers are tremendously appreciated, welcome, and crucial for the ministry here. Thank you for continuing to share in this labor, and may our Glorious God use us mightily, both here and in whatever place you may be, to bring Him glory, honor, joy, and praise. Jesus Is Worthy!
Update from Russia, 21. September 27th, 2007
The LORDâs private counsel is with the upright (Proverbs 3:32)
9/19/07, Wednesday: AM fellowship. After the fellowship, Galinaâs (one of my English studentsâ) grandma again told me how much Galina likes the lessons. She mentioned that Galinaâs grandpap drinksâ¦ more on Galina below in the report. â¦Later visited Mairbek, the 11-year-old boy who survived the terrorist attack but lost his mom there. â¦Dropped by Chermenâs house (Chermen survived the attack, but also lost his mom there.) His dad had called me and asked me to help translate some birthday cards some of you sent for Chermen (thanks Denise, Peggy, and Jean Ann!). The Lord blessed me to give them The Gospel of John in Ossetian (their ethnic language), and not merely in Ossetian, but even more specifically in their specific dialect of Ossetian (called Digorski). i believe this is a great witnessing tool because not only is It Godâs Word, but also because there are basically no books in this minor dialect of Ossetian. (Those who speak the Digorski dialect are often stereotyped, laughed at, and looked-down upon.)
9/20/07, Thursday: Visited w/ Alina and family â Alina, whoâs about 15, survived the terrorist attack along with her older brother. We listened to some music, and Alina herself wants to become a singer someday. â¦Later went and visited with Madina (who lost her 10-year-old brother in the school massacre), and helped her with her college English assignment. I talked a little with her dad, Alan, who asked, âWhy wasnât I born in a normal country?… and why did you come from America to here?â i told him that i didnât come here to receive some sort of better life, but that i came out of love – and to try to give some hope.
9/21/07, Friday: On the way to teach little George (who himself survived the terrorist attack but lost his parents, grandma, and only brother/sibling in the attack), i ran into the local deceivers â a.k.a., the Jehovahâs Witnesses. (Yes, theyâre here too.) i shared how their âtranslationâ of The Bible is wrong, and how their translator was actually tried in court and shown to have not known how to translate Hebrew. They tried to take me on their witnessing trail, but I didnât want to go through their planned paths. They shared how theyâre going to live on Earth, and i mentioned their belief that only 144,000 people will actually be in heaven with Godâ¦ the rest will live eternally on Earth. They confirmed that belief of theirs, and i said, âHow sad it is that youâre only going to live on the Earthâ¦ itâs like God says, âIâm sorry, but only 144,000 people will be here. Thereâs not enough room for the others, but you can live on the Earth.â Itâs sad that you know that â well, youâre getting something good â but you know you wonât get the best. You wonât be with God in Heaven, buutttt (said in sarcasm), the Earth is a pretty good placeâ¦â i asked them, âWhat kind of hope is that?â And i shared that – on the contrary – iâm going to be with God. What a great hope The Lord our God has given to us who trust in and follow His Son, Jesus Christ!
9/22/07, Saturday: Thank you for your prayers â this weekâs English lesson in the city of Vladkavkz went really well! â¦When I came back to Bsln, I went to Chermenâs (who was mentioned above) birthday party. When i got there, they seated me with the adults; at birthday parties here, adults normally sit around a long table, drink, offer toasts for health and so forth and call on ethnic/dead âsaints,â âgods,â and so forth. They wanted me to drink with them, but i told them that i donât drink; they wanted me to join in their toasts, but i mentioned that i was a believer, and donât toast like they do. The older man sitting across from me said, âEverybodyâs a believer â I believe in God, too.â i asked him, âWhich god?â The man responded, âThe Ossetian god. And you?â i answered, âi believe in The Real God.â The man asked me, âOur god isnât god?â And i responded, âIf you mean like wasterdjee (their ethnic angel/god/idol), no, heâs not god. i donât pray to himâ¦ i pray to Jesus Christ.â The man was obviously offended, and muttered comments about believers and so forth, but this was one of those times when â now looking back on it â i’m truly glad and happy that i offended that man. What do i mean? Well, of course, we should not set out to offend people. But when the truth offends people, let that be as it may. We are not to offend people; but if The Gospel and truth itself offends others, that is not something to be ashamed of. Speaking the truth will earn you many friends, but bring you even more enemies. â¦Chermenâs uncle came over to me and introduced himself. He told me that he had read the letter which i had written to Chermen when I was back in the US, and he told me how it brought tears to his eyes. With The Lordâs help, we can touch hearts very deeply even through simple letters.
9/24/07, Monday: Today for the first English lesson, it was just Galina (mentioned above) who came. (See attached photo.) Galina turns 14 on October 12th, and i asked if she was going to have a birthday party. She shared that no, their family often doesnât have enough money for parties. She also told me that her dad drinks, and that she herself doesnât really have any friends. Galinaâs one of those kids that you just really feel sorry forâ¦ sheâs very polite, respectful, and seems to be just a good-natured kid; but her family and social life throws so much weight down upon her shoulders. And all of you who may have seen or who still live with alcohol problems in your families, Iâm sure that you especially sympathize with her. Please pray for her, and with Godâs help, i’m hoping to put together a birthday party for her here next month. If youâd like to send a birthday card or anything, you can mail it to me and i’ll pass it on to her. Address: â¦In the evening i went to visit Chermen again, since his dad had asked if I could stop by and help assemble the computer audio system he had bought Chermen for his birthday. – & thanks for all your prayers, to Yahâs glory & praise, the new CD (âglory to Your Nameâ) is now all put together! i gave the first complete CD to Chermen.
9/25/07, Tuesday: Received a package from my cousin Jody (thanks again!), and thank you to all of you who remember me and the ministry here through your prayers, financial support, emails, and packages! It is such a blessing indeed to know and see that you are loved and are not forgotten. J â¦In the evening, as i was just about to leave to visit Madina and help her with her English assignment, she called and told me that her little sister (Alanka) has the mumps, and that i shouldnât come if i’ve never had them. i recall having a very bad case of the chicken pox, but i never had the mumps and so obviously decided not to stop by. Please pray for little Alanka, and also for her their little brother, Alan, who will also probably get the mumps. One of the moms i know here used to be a nurse, and said that if youâve never had the mumps, you are not to be around anyone who has recently had them for a period of 21 days. This is also terrible, because Madinaâs family is one of the ones i’m closest to here, and if little Alanka and then Alan both go through the mumps, i basically wonât be able to visit their family for about a month, which is just about when Iâll be leaving Bsln. L â¦Went and visited w/ my good friend, Batik, and his parents (they are strong believers and very warm people). The Lord blessed us with good fellowship, and we again talked about the importance of just reading His Word. i shared with Batikâs mom, Aza, about my vision of trying to get the local fellowships to begin weekly home group Bible reading nights – she thinks that would be good to present to the fellowships here.
Please pray for:
- The Lord to raise up His Word in the Ossetian language;
- the Jehovahâs Witnesses God enabled me to speak with, that The Holy Spirit would convict them;
- Galina and her family, that The Lord would comfort her in His love, and bring them all to trust and faith in Jesus Christ;
- Little Alanka, who has the mumps;
- YHWHâs guidance and direction for the vision of presenting the local fellowships with the idea of starting weekly home groups which simply gather to read His Word together;
- For Israel and those who love her. For what itâs worth, Iranâs governmentâs spokesman has threatened that those who support the âzionist regimeâ will receive their final response on October 12th. What that does or doesnât mean, I have no idea. Muslims are always threatening things, and their threats are often just words which they never follow up on. But, especially knowing the character of Iranâs president, there could very well be something behind this threat. We should always be praying for Israel, but letâs especially do so in light of this threat: that YHWH would protect His chosen people, as well as all who love and support them.
Thank you for being part of this ministry, and for being available to God for Him to work in and through you to touch the many lives of the people here. All glory be to Our Worthy God!
Jesus Is Alive,
The LORDâs private counsel is with the upright (Proverbs 3:32)