Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2007

A Weekend Stroll

Photos courtesy Юлия Рахматулина :)

A Colorful Lesson

Today I helped teach Sunday school. Our lesson was based on Genesis 37, Joseph and the coat of many colors.

Our lesson was a theatrical performance featuring live action, puppets, and flannel-graph. I played the part of Jacob, wearing a wig, beard, and robe. My 12 “sons” were puppets, engineered and voiced by Olya. Yulia was story-teller and flannel-graph engineer.

So I came in, pretended I was a visitor from a far-off land, and told about my sons. I told about my son Joseph’s dreams with the help of the flannel-graph. After that it got tricky. We switched to a scene with the brothers and I went behind the curtain and helped to make sheep noises. Olya and I got a little confused about which puppet was which. Then I went back out again to play Jacob. The brothers came to deliver the sad news, and the puppets then threw a “bloody cloth” towards me. This was problematic in two ways: 1) the blood consisted of magenta colored paint. 2) The cloth didn’t make it to me but sort of dangled on th…

Camp Karavella-where it all began, #1

The dock by the favorite place to watch the sunset and pray at 11 pm during White Nights! :)

Order versus....democracy???

A survey that I read about recently revealed some interesting statistics about Russian political views. “By undercutting democracy, Putin satisfies the Russian thirst for order. His support exceeds 70 percent in a country where 75 percent rate order as their most important priority (only 13 percent plump for democracy).” (U.S. News and World Report ) The question arises: What kind of order are Russians seeking?

Let’s define the word “order.” There are kinds of order that serve people’s needs and make life easier. Order means justice; a punishment to fit the crime. Order means everyone knowing what they are supposed to be doing; and fulfilling that responsibility. Order means honesty and straightforwardness; with no skewing of the truth that will cause confusion and division. There are also kinds of order which can be harmful: the forcing of unreasonable standards that do not take into account the differences between indivi…

Spiritual Tenacity

The reading from “My Utmost for His Highest” (Chambers) today is…


"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

Tenacity is more than endurance, it is endurance combined with the absolute certainty that what we are looking for is going to transpire. Tenacity is more than hanging on, which may be but the weakness of being too afraid to fall off. Tenacity is the supreme effort of a man refusing to believe that his hero is going to be conquered. The greatest fear a man has is not that he will be damned, but that Jesus Christ will be worsted, that the things He stood for - love and justice and forgiveness and kindness among men - will not win out in the end; the things He stands for look like will-o'-the-wisps. Then comes the call to spiritual tenacity, not to hang ton and do nothing, but to work deliberately on the certainty that God is not going to be worsted.

If our hopes are being disappointed just now, it means that they are being pur…

My favorite kids!

These are kids from one of the children’s homes that I visit. They've changed a lot since a few years ago when I started! Not all of the kids come to English lessons, but we hang out. I try to get them away from the orphanage at least a few times a year for field trips. Since they have school right at the orphanage, it can feel pretty isolated!

Compare the photo of the younger kids with that of the older ones. See the difference? The older girls used to be energetic too.

Of the three older girls pictured, Zhenya was adopted by Americans; Masha is still at the orphanage; and Zina (bottom) ran away last summer. I don’t know if she ran away to a specific place or is living on the street somewhere, but please pray for her safety.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.(Jn.14:18)

Adoption Requirements

One reader left a comment asking about the requirements of adoption for Russian families, and I’m going to answer that question more in depth here.

These are the official requirements for adoption, translated from the government website (, which has a lot of advice and FAQ (in Russian):

The initial documents needed: a short autobiography of the adoptive parent(s); a document from his/her place of work detailing work responsibilities and salary, or a declaration of income; a copy of a payment receipt, or some other document proving ownership of a home; a background check that will prove absence of criminal record; medical records; marriage certificate if there are two adoptive parents (must be married); and a home study.

Not unlike U.S. requirements. But obtaining each of these documents can mean standing in line all day, or perhaps more than one day, and that means taking time off work, and you can see how it gets complicated.

People who are restricted from adopti…

Winter scene

I actually took this photo in October to show the first snow, but we’re having similar weather now. This is my metro stop (Pioneerskaya), right outside the exit.


Sometimes Russian logic about health is beyond me.

Tanya: “I don’t know why I’m sick. I haven’t been cold.”
Liz: “Don’t you work in a preschool?”
Tanya: “I always work in a preschool, but I don’t always get sick.”
Liz: “But if the kids were sick, couldn’t you catch it from them?”
Tanya: “I know what it was! I was sitting on the cold floor doing a puzzle last week.”

Maxim: “Why do people in California get sick? It’s warm there!”
Liz: “Maxim, did you know that Americans don’t believe that you get sick from cold weather?”
Maxim: “Why not?”
Liz: “Because you don’t!”

Katya: “But what if a person is in the middle of the forest in cold temperatures? Won’t he start sneezing and coughing?”
Liz: “No, he’ll get hypothermia.”
Katya: “What’s hypothermia?”
Liz: “It’s what you get when you’re in the middle of the forest in cold temperatures.”

So why do I have a cold right now?

Vince the Sock-Puppet goes to school

I can't believe I'm actually posting this. Here goes...

A little background: in the summer of 2006, the College Church team introduced sock puppets as a camp activity while visiting Camp Karavella near St.Petersburg. That summer, “Vince” came into existence.

When I started teaching English lessons in the fall, I needed a prop. And so, Vince came along to help children learn English. This is especially helpful when you are working with only one child and need to present various conversational models.

Vince liked working with Katya, Maxim, and Ruth, and even stayed there over Christmas break. Now there are a lot of Vince jokes and theories circulating. “What IS Vince? Is he a sock? I think he looks like an eel.” “Vince ate too much chocolate again. He needs to go on a diet.” “If Liz is Vince’s mother, who is his father?” “Is Vince a boy or a girl?” “Why is one of Vince’s eyes bigger than the other?” “Why doesn’t he have any hair?” “Vince missed Christmas! I will make Christmas for …

True worship

Recap from Bible study last night (imagine this is in Russian)...

23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
(Jn.4:23) KJVS

"What it is to worship God in spirit and truth appears clearly from what has been already said. It is to lay aside the entanglements of ancient ceremonies, and to retain merely what is spiritual in the worship of God; for the truth of the worship of God consists in the spirit, and ceremonies are but a sort of appendage. And here again it must be observed, that truth is not compared with falsehood, but with the outward addition of the figures of the Law; so that — to use a common expression — it is the pure and simple substance of spiritual worship." - Commentary on John - Volume 1 by John Calvin

Pray for our leaders

So how are Bush and Putin getting along these days? Does anyone really know?
President Putin was quoted recently as criticizing U.S. foreign policy, saying, "The United States has overstepped its borders in all spheres - economic, political and humanitarian, and has imposed itself on other states," he said. Putin also “accused the US of establishing, or trying to establish, a ‘uni-polar’ world.” -quotes from BBC at
" 'The message I got from his speech was that Putin wants Russia to have the same position in the world as the former Soviet Union,’ a senior European official told Reuters.”
“U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman said the speech was provocative and marked by ‘rhetoric that sounded more like the Cold War.’” (Reuters)

What if Russia closes its doors? What then?

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” Mt.24:6 *photo courtesy A…

A Valentine

“ALOVY”-that’s pronounced “Ah-love-oo,” otherwise known as the 3 magic words that everyone wants to hear on February 14th!

One of my youngest ESL students decided that she knew just how to spell it (evidence shown above). “Don’t worry,” she assured me, “I can translate everything for you.” See the Russian translation that she added underneath. Then she asked me how to spell her name. :)

In case you question my pedagogical methods, this class is still learning their ABC’s. So I’m not too worried.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Traveling (sort of)

I made it to Estonia and back. I was planning to include a lovely photo in this post, but somehow I didn’t manage to take any photos, even though I had a working camera with me….

The day went like this: at 9:00 I met up with a friend from Canada (James) and we got on the bus to leave for Estonia. We drove for 3-4 hours and then got to the Russian border. I was a little nervous going through passport control because I had reason to believe that my documents might not be in order. I was praying for mercy. Then when I stepped up to the window, the officer looked at my passport and said “Do you speak Russian?” Uh oh. I said in English, “Yes, a little.” Then he said, in perfect English, “Take off your glasses (I’m not wearing glasses in the photo).” Then he confirmed it was the same person, stamped my passport, and I was free to leave. Now, why did he ask me if I spoke Russian, since he spoke perfect English? Just a test?

After we drove for a little bit, we began to cross the Estonian border…

An "Oldie but Goodie"

This song popped into my head the other day. In some ways it’s a child’s song, but it’s full of truth and makes a good prayer.If you don’t know how it sounds, go here to listen to the MIDI, and imagine for yourself how the words fit in. :)

Ecclesiastes 3:11"He hath made every thing beautiful in his time:"

In His time, in His time
He makes all things beautiful
In His time.
Lord, please show me every day
As You’re teaching me Your way,
That You do just what You say
In Your time.

In Your time, In Your time
You make all things beautiful
In Your time.
Lord, my life to You I bring;
May each song I have to sing
Be to You a lovely thing
In Your time.

-Diane Ball

Big News

Sunlight at 4:00 p.m.! It's a miracle!!!

Baby Scandal

Someone asked me to comment on the scandal in the baby hospital that was uncovered recently in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The basic story is: someone witnessed a roomful of babies lying in a hospital with their mouths taped shut to keep them quiet.

My reaction? I’m not shocked. I’m dismayed and saddened, but there’s nothing surprising to me about the situation. 1-2 overworked and under equipped adults+dozens of screaming babies leads to desperate measures. What would you do?

This particular article made reference to the nurses having a medical degree but lacking knowledge about how to cope with the babies’ emotional/psychological needs. Honestly, I don’t think you need a degree in psychology to care for babies. Otherwise, a lot of mothers out there are in trouble! It’s a BABY. You pick it up, hold it, love it.

Why are these babies abandoned in hospitals for their first year of life, and what can be done about it?

According to the article, “the main reasons why mothers give up their babies are…

Love and Leaving the Country

"Love first, then suffering, then a deeper love-thus only can God’s work be done.”–from the biography “Hudson Taylor in Early Years” by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor

According to a great article about missionary adaptation, many missionaries still in the preparatory phase go through a time of reading missionary biographies and developing romantic notions about the mission field. I didn’t really experience that. But I do read the biographies now. I look for stories about situations that ring true in my own life. I think that if we’d met in real life, we’d have a lot to talk about. But at the same time, we are all so different. I have no desire to practice medicine like Hudson Taylor, or open an orphanage like Amy Carmichael, as much as I like children. And I don’t want to live in the jungle among headhunters. But I can relate to statements like the one above.

In other news…I found out today that I have to make an impromptu trip to Finland. They’re kicking me out of the country! Just ki…

The State of Things

Yesterday I went to a monthly prayer/news meeting at the non-profit Russian charity where I’m an official “volunteer” (meaning they give me a legal covering and support for what I do). Anyway, there is always a lot going on and most of the workers don’t actually work in the office; they serve in various places in the city and just come to the monthly meetings. So it is good to catch up. Here are some of the things people are doing (Russian believers as well as foreign missionaries): teaching people how to better care for handicapped children, leading seminars on HIV/AIDS, distributing Christian literature, delivering humanitarian aid, etc.

Afterwards we were talking about the current situation and general attitude toward foreigners, and what kind of needs exist. Even the orphanages that are “open” often seem to have a wall up, figuratively speaking. You’re welcome to spend time with the children’s, but good luck trying to change anyone’s way of thinking. When you can understand Russian…

English class

This is Misha, one of my beginner students of English. He’s 9. He’s still quite mild-mannered compared to the older boys, but I’ve seen him throw a punch or two. It’s hard to tell where to draw the line between typical boy behavior and the effects of living in an institution. Anyway, I like this picture of Misha because it’s what he looks like when he’s goofing off.

Today we practiced our letters and sang “Head and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Then I noticed that the kids weren’t matching the hand motions to the words at all, so we had to stop and do a little review. Then again, one of my college professors (Thanks, Bella!) tried to teach it to us in Russian one time, and we were probably just as clueless. :)

The older boys had fun today with prepositions of location. I need to remember to bring a treat for them next time. They’re a little old for stickers. Their counselor who works on Mondays is warming up a little. She sneaks into the lessons sometimes to try to learn a little English…

Getting Cozy on the Public Transportation

Today was a sleepy Monday. I didn’t even bother to bring a book with me on my 1 ½ hour commute…because the moment I sat down in the metro, I was asleep. I woke up periodically and vaguely realized that my head was resting on some woman’s arm. Then I would nod off again. It was kind of her not to get mad. Or maybe she did and I was too comatose to notice. Towards the end of the ride, I noticed that the person on my other side was leaning on me. Did I care? Not a bit! It was a very cozy ride.

At the end of the day, I was heading into the metro again. A little boy got confused going down the stairs and grabbed my leg for some extra balance. His mom scolded him, but I thought it was cute.

Sometimes I think I waste too much time on public transportation…but then I think, nah, it makes life more interesting.


I'm starting a blog...don't really know how this works and don't feel creative enough to think of a title. I guess I'll sleep on it.

Can't find a recent photo of myself that doesn't include an elbow or chin of one of my 3 giant brothers. I could always find one from high school or college and no one would know the difference...