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Showing posts from December, 2007

One fall day


We carried out the first of several holiday events in the orphanage last week. At first we wanted to put on a Christmas performance, with gifts and entertainment. But the orphanage said that they had their own plans and would be celebrating the Russian Orthodox Christmas in January. They did agree to letting us organize a craft and decorating session.

We planned many crafts and brought all the materials. It didn't go exactly as planned, but we managed to decorate some of the main rooms...

...and ourselves.

Even some of the older kids got involved.
We hope that the kids will get used to having us around and that long-term relationships will be formed between adults and kids. Update: We've been given permission to put on a Christmas program in the orphanage next Sunday, December 23rd. This is wonderful! Our project team as well as church members are busy preparing some music, skits, and games, as well as gifts for the kids and orphanage staff.


What is a dream? I don't mean the kind in your sleep, but that longing for something specific to happen.

There was a time when I didn’t believe in dreams. Someone asked me, “What do you dream about?” and I said “I don’t dream.” It seemed too fantastical to me, to spend time and energy indulging in thoughts about a plan that may never be realized.

I hated the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question. My life is not my own. What if I answer the question and then things happen differently? Why verbalize something uncertain? When I tried to picture myself in the future, I could see only a black nothingness. Was I going to die? I couldn’t imagine what career I would have. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Why should I answer if I don’t know? If God has not revealed it to me, why should I make a guess?

I also dislike the wishes that come from other people. “I wish you well.” What does that mean? Am I obligated to say thank you? If they simply desire for me to have a goo…


The other day I was in the orphanage helping kids with English, when suddenly a girl needed help with her Science homework. The teacher sent her over to read it aloud to me. I was like, ummm, did she forget I'm not a native speaker?

So Vika came over with her book about "The World Around Us" and started to read to me a text on mushrooms. Surprisingly, I understood every word! We memorized the names of six mushrooms in Russian, three edible and three non-edible. We also memorized guidelines on how to pick mushrooms and learned the three parts of the mushroom and the role of mushrooms in the environment. I'm pretty sure American school curricula don't go into this amount of detail on mushrooms, although there was a mycologist living down the street from the house where I grew up.

So my Russian has now passed third grade. Pretty exciting!

Hymn #4- Speak, Lord, in the Stillness (The Quiet Hour)

This hymn can be sung as a prayer.

I like the line "blissful, glad surrender." Sometimes it is such a struggle to surrender, and we battle with our own flash, but then we feel the sweetness of the fellowship with Jesus.

Speak, Lord, in the stillness
While I wait on Thee;
Hushed my heart to listen,
In expectancy.

Speak, O bless├Ęd Master,
In this quiet hour,
Let me see Thy face, Lord,
Feel Thy touch of power.

For the words Thou speakest,
“They are life” indeed;
Living Bread from Heaven,
Now my spirit feed!

All to Thee is yielded,
I am not my own;
Blissful, glad surrender,
I am Thine alone.

Fill me with the knowledge
Of Thy glorious will;
All Thine own good pleasure
In my life fulfill.

Like “a watered garden”
Full of fragrance rare,
Ling’ring in Thy presence
Let my life appear.

Looking for escape

This is Masha (middle), from one of the orphanages I visit. Today she was sitting by herself in the foyer as I was leaving.

"I haven't seen you around much," she said.

"I'm here every Wednesday," I replied. Masha said she has two brothers, who both got married recently. I asked her if she attended the weddings.

"No. The first one took place during the summer while I was at camp. And I had a fight with my other brother, so I didn't go to his wedding." I asked her if she had plans for New Year's vacation, and she said she was going "home."

"It's boring here in the orphanage!" she blurted out suddenly. She looks different now from the picture, which was taken three years ago. More make-up. More serious. Becoming aware of how dismal her life is.

As I left, I thought about the paperwork needed for adoption, and I wondered if Masha has a chance.

There is a group looking for ministry opportunities in orphanages, and this one is …

The revenge of the Giant Santa

...Father Frost, to be exact.


Last weekend, I went with my friends to the elections for State Duma (and to get a fresh-baked roll from the school cafeteria).

From most appearances, the elections didn't seem much different from those in the States. But appearances aren't everything. Who knows what was going on behind the scenes?Putin's party won by a landslide.

...crazy teacher

In the orphanage the other day, I was helping one of the kids with the alphabet. He was fairly confident that he didn't need any more practice, so I handed him the flashcards and asked him to put them in order. We ended up with something that didn't quite resemble the alphabet. The other kids then helped, though, and we got things in order.

Meanwhile, I had a nostalgia moment and suddenly burst into Big Bird's rendition of "ABC-DEF-GHI" when he thinks the Alphabet is one long word.

And thanks to the Internet, you can watch it on YouTube.

Here are the lyrics:

sung by Big Bird (Carroll Spinney)
Music and Lyrics by Joe Raposo & Jon Stone

It's the most remarkable word I've ever seen
I wish I knew exactly what I mean
It starts out like an "A" word as anyone can see
But somewhere in the middle it gets awful "QR" to me

Crazy kids

I got to the orphanage yesterday and the teenage boys approached me mumbling something in "English." Apparently they had heard it on the radio or something and wanted a translation, but I couldn't understand a word they were saying.

"But you supposedly know English!" they laughed.
"That's not English!" I said.

My hesitation led them to believe that I simply didn't want to reveal the true meaning of the words. I probably should have just made something up.

Lolita was alone today and we worked on her "passport." It's a little book with biographical information, which the kids can use to collect stickers. Lolita is getting adopted soon, though, by a Christian family from the U.S. The court date is supposedly in a few weeks. She went on our hosting program a year or two ago. Since then, her orphanage hasn't been very cooperative, especially as far as Americans are concerned. It's too bad because the kids there are fairly needy. P…


Despite looking for ideas months in advance, it's now Dec.5th and I still haven't finished making the Advent calendar.

We're pretty much on track with the Jesse Tree though. Our tree may be sparkly silver and the ornaments made of paper, but it's still the same idea. We are enjoying the daily readings. Oops, I haven't done today's ornament...


Reading the Bible and praying: obvious ways for a Christian to spend time with God, but there is so much variation in the way you could accomplish these two activities!

I have trouble reading the Bible and then praying as if they were two separate tasks. When I’m reading the Bible, my thoughts wander to the cares of life. I try to push those thoughts out, and then when it’s time to pray, I forget what concerns I have. And after praying, I forget what I’d read in the Bible just moments before.

While reading “Desiring God” by John Piper, I came across a quote by George Mueller about how his reading and prayer time went.

“The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God; searching, as it were, into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word; not for the sake or [sic] preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my …

Hymn #3- What I know

Today's hymn grabbed me with its title: "I Know Whom I Have Believed."

At Sunday school (Adult) we are learning about the attributes of God: His omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc. There are so many things that are too great for our human minds to conceive! And yet, there are some things that we can be certain of, despite our lack of understanding. In this lies our faith.

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

But I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.


I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing us of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.


I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.


I know not w…

Winter activities

December1 marked the first day of winter in Russia. Last week, we took a group of orphans to an ice skating rink. For many of them, it was their first time on ice skates.

We also took some families along who are interested in adoption, so they could get to know the kids a little.

A fun time was had by all.

Safety regulations

They say that Americans are obsessed with physical safety. I hadn't really thought about it before. I rather like our laws about safety(seatbelts, helmets, etc). It seems like common sense to me. But maybe that just proves the stereotypes to be true.

At any rate, here is a classic Russian example. The handpainted notice indicates that you can obtain the key to the basement by calling the listed telephone number. The door to the basement is padlocked. This raises all sorts of questions. Why is the basement locked? What is down there? What happens if there is an emergency? Whose number is listed, and is it possible to actually reach them? Yes, the great "key hunt" is a part of everyday life in Russia. Maybe it makes sense to them...

And here we have people playing with fire right near a crosswalk. The building burned down and the demolition guys decided to make some sparks fly with whatever that tool is called. Point, being, fire near people=dangerous. Or not? They did put a…