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There and back again

This morning I left at 6am for Estonia. The bus was nice and empty, so I slept most of the way there. I had no trouble getting across the border, although it took a while and I was cranky.


My ticket said that I would be in Estonia at 10am, and my clock said 11am Russian time, so I assumed that meant that Estonia was one hour behind. When we arrived, however, the clocks around town said 9:00. Hmmmm...Maybe they hadn't changed their clocks yet, which happened yesterday in Russia.


I got off the bus and it was a beautiful spring day, so I decided to go find the fortress that I had seen from the border and take some photos. Yes, this time I had a working camera!


I basically felt like I was in Russia, except that everything was really quiet and still and cars stopped for pedestrians.
There are a lot of WWII memorials around like this one:


I found a path down to the river on the border.


The fortress ended up being pretty boring close up.

I found the railroad trestle more interesting...



After I …

P.S.

Today is my father's 63rd birthday! (Oops, I spoiled the secret) Happy Birthday, Dad!

Here and there

No internet on Friday, gone for the weekend, and leaving for Estonia tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. (You can read about my first Estonia trip here).

Hopefully I'll be back tomorrow evening...

Russian literacy

Recently while riding in the metro I sat across from an elderly gentleman. He was not very well-dressed, with mismatched clothing and old sneakers. But then he reached into his bag and pulled out a book, and this book was carefully contained in a plastic book cover. The way he handled the book, you would have thought it was his most treasured possession (maybe it was a library book?). And then he began to read.

The Russian Federation actually has an almost 100% literacy rate, and is a few ranks higher than the U.S. (the country of Georgia has 100%! found on Wikipedia...).

At any given moment when I look around in the metro, probably 75% of the passengers are reading. Maybe it's not all classic literature-I see plenty of tabloids around. But, the people all pull out their reading glasses, produce some reading material, and dig in. Even if it's rush hour and we are all squished up against each other, you can feel a little shift in the crowd as someone reaches into his/her bag and …

Hymn #7

I was a little surprised that my recent hymn e-mail featured "God is so good." I thought of it as more of a praise chorus than a hymn. The hymn compiler wrote that he doesn't like the repetitive nature of the song, and suggested an alternate version with more text. I don't always like repetitive songs much either, but it is possible to get tired of proclaiming God's goodness?


God is so good,
God is so good,
God is so good,
He’s so good to me!

He cares for me,
He cares for me,
He cares for me,
He’s so good to me!

I love Him so,
I love Him so,
I love Him so,
He’s so good to me!

I praise His Name,
I praise His Name,
I praise His Name,
He’s so good to me!

-author unknown

God cares for orphans, Part 5

In our New Family program we have a few families who have been moving forward in their commitment to specific children.

Alina was one of our first participants and was quite committed from the start. It didn’t stop her that she’s 25, single, and shares an apartment with another family. Alina's faith is a great example. And it has confirmed part of the vision of this program-to help people who already have this calling to help orphans, but need someone to walk them through the process.

During our early group activities, Alina noticed two siblings, the younger of three total. As she attended our meetings and began to complete paperwork, she always had them on her heart.

Nastia, Danya, and Nikita’s mother suffers from schizophrenia. She visits them, but can’t care for them. She knows this and is contemplating giving up her parental rights permanently so that they can be adopted.

After taking the younger kids out individually for special outings, Alina then moved to involving all three. S…

Looking forward to looking back

I was reading through my old prayer journal again, seeing if there was anything relevant to my current situation in life. There were some situations that were just downright unpleasant, and I’m glad they’re over. There were other situations that God wonderfully redeemed, and I was pleased to see how He answered my prayers. But even the pleasant situations that I was reminiscing about are not very relevant to my life now. I’m content to be looking back on them, now in a different season and with different issues to focus on.

People sometimes pray, “God, thank you in advance for….” God does answer prayer. But we don’t know what the answer will be. I don’t know if it’s productive to thank Him “in advance” for a healing or a salvation. We don’t know that that will come to pass. What we have are the promises in His Word. We can thank Him in advance for listening and for correcting our desires.

I am looking forward to looking back on my current life in a few years. I am looking forward to see…

More photos

Here is a row of kiosk-style shops, a dying breed in St.Petersburg. A lot of shopping now is done in big supermarkets. I have to say that I like self-service, but on the other hand, where do you go if you need just one item and don't have time to stand in line for hours? It was kind of handy in the past, going up to the window and getting a loaf of bread while you were waiting at the bus stop.




I draw the line at meat. You can't see it very well, but the display cases in this kiosk are stacked with different kinds of meat, just sitting in the open air of the shop. You point to which specimen you want, and they hand it to you through the little window.


This week in amateur photos, #2

Housework, aka I paused while mopping the kitchen floor to admire the way the light was hitting the clean laundry.


I get it from my mom. :)


English for whom?

Recently I had a lesson with Galina, and she showed me some books that she had gotten for free from the library at the orphanage. I began looking through and noticed a few mistakes. When I looked at the publishing information, I saw that the books had been printed by Russian companies in the end of the Soviet Union. I was going to suggest she not use them, but then I noticed that the grammar presentation was decent.

There were also some texts that looked like they could be good for generating discussion. But the content of some of them was….interesting.


Example #1:

Red Square

"Moscow is the capital of the Soviet Union. The streets and squares of the city are wide and clean. Red Square is in the centre of the capital. The Moscow Kremlin is dear to the hearts of the Soviet people. It is well-known to all the people of the world. It is the seat of the Soviet government. You see the national flag of the Soviet Union on the Kremlin Palace. The Kremlin is a symbol of peace and democracy.&q…

Brotherly Advice

How did early missionaries accomplish so much? Here is one key: By abstaining from frivolous activities!

This is an excerpt of a letter from Hudson Taylor to his beloved sister, written while on the mission field in China.

"There is one thing I would specially warn you against....one of the greatest curses I believe of the present day-the practice of novel-reading. If you value your mind and soul, avoid it as you would a dangerous serpent. I cannot tell you what I would give to be able to forget certain novels I have read and to efface their influence from my memory. And I firmly believe, though some would deny it,....that no Christian ever did or ever will read them without injury,.....very serious injury too, if the habit is indulged in. It is like opium-smoking, and begets a craving for more that must be supplied. Better books are neglected, and no one can estimate the mischief that results. Few, I believe, could honestly ask God's blessing upon the reading of a novel, and f…

What's missing

I have a new teenage girl whom I tutor at the orphanage. After completing her English assignment together, she showed me a poem that she had written in Russian for a composition class. It said something to the effect of:

"Living in the orphanage,
there is no mother when you wake up.
There is no one you can ask,
'Can I stay in bed a little longer?
Or is it time to get up for school?' "

(Major paraphrasing, as I don't remember the exact words).

The kids know what they are missing, even if many years have passed since they've lived in a family. Their counselors feed and clothe them, help with homework, give them advice about difficult situations in life. But at night the counselors go home. No one tucks the children in individually and wakes them up with a motherly touch. This absence is felt even by a "grown-up" fourteen-year-old girl, who in a normal family might already be reaching for independence.

Hymn #6

Here I am, Lord


I, the Lord of sea and sky,

I have heard my people cry.

All who dwell in dark and sin,

My hand will save.


Chorus

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?

I have heard you calling in the night.

I will go, Lord, if you lead me.

I will hold your people in my heart.


I, who made the stars of night,

I will make their darkness bright.

Who will bear my light to them?

Whom shall I send?


Chorus

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?

I have heard you calling in the night.

I will go, Lord, if you lead me.

I will hold your people in my heart.


I, the Lord of snow and rain,

I have borne my people’s pain.

I have wept for love of them.

They turn away.


Chorus

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?

I have heard you calling in the night.

I will go, Lord, if you lead me.

I will hold your people in my heart.


I will break their hearts of stone,

Give them hearts for love alone.

I will speak my words to them.

Whom shall I send?


Chorus

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?

I have heard you calling in the night.

I will go, Lord, if you lead me.

I will hold yo…

Meditation, part 2

To continue an earlier post, I wanted to mention this quote from Charles Spurgeon.

"I like to open the Bible and pray, "Lord God, let the words leap off the page into my soul; make them vivid, powerful, and fresh to my heart."

"How are we to handle this sword of 'It is written'? First, with deepest reverence. Let every word that God has spoken be law and gospel to you. Never trifle with it; never try to evade its force or change its meaning. God speaks to you in this book as much as if he came to the top of Sinai and lifted up his voice with thunder.
I like to open the Bible and pray, 'Lord God, let the words leap off the page into my soul; make them vivid, powerful, and fresh to my heart.'"
Our Lord Himself felt the power of the Word. It was not so much the devil who felt the power of 'It is written" as Christ Himself. The manhood of Christ felt an awe of the Word of God, and so the Word became a power to Christ. To trifle with Scr…

Men, Part 2

This post is actually about Women's Day, but I like the "Men" title better.


International Women's Day was on March 8th. After my Saturday lessons, I celebrated Women's Day by going out and buying myself a skirt, so I could feel a little more like a lady. :)
In the evening I didn't feel like sitting at home, so I went to a free classical music concert featuring a piano/violin/cello trio playing Schubert and Tchaikovsky. It was very relaxing.I got home and fell asleep before midnight (although I kept being woken up by text messages which had been delayed by holiday traffic). On Sunday morning I didn't have to rush because the guys at church had taken responsibility for worship and childcare, so I didn't have any rehearsing or set-up to do. In the metro people were still laden with flowers and gift bags. Apparently the holiday was continuing.At church the men led worship and then we listened to a women-themed sermon which began with a poem about the ideal …

Enigmatic Russia

One of the things that is confusing to me about living in Russia is how people are not informed about the developments that happen in everyday life. Things have a way of appearing and disappearing out of thin air.

Maybe these are just experiences of life in a busy city? I'm used to a small city where everyone knows what's going on. Or, at least, they discuss events so earnestly that everyone finds out. But here...

1) I have left my building and am headed for the metro. Across the street, thick smoke pours out of a building. People walk right by, staring at their feet as always. There are no fire-fighters or police or anything. The building burns down.

2) I go to my favorite convenience store to pick up some lunch. 24 hours ago it was a fully-functioning mini-grocery store. Today, it is...closed? For good? A peek through the windows shows empty shelves. What happened?

3) I'm waiting for the tram (or the trolley/bus/you name it). It is nowhere in sight. Was there an accident? A …

Men, Part 1

I’ve been discovering how much I dislike non-religious holidays. I love Christmas and Easter, and I like Thanksgiving because I can at least direct my thanks to God. I dislike New Year’s. I can tolerate Valentine’s Day because it holds some fun traditions and it’s a good opportunity to show people that you care. When you live in your native country, you at least have the nostalgia and feelings of ritual to associate with the holidays. But when the holiday is new and you don’t have special traditions, it can seem meaningless, and celebrating can seem like a stressful obligation.

Last week a Russian holiday was observed. Officially it’s the day honoring defenders of the Motherland, a tribute to men who have served/are serving in the army. Unofficially, it’s “Men’s Day.” Being consistent with my dislike of ambiguous holidays, I was feeling irritated, for a few different reasons: 1) I wasn’t sure how recognizing men who have served in the Russian military is related to my faith. 2) I didn’…

This week in amateur photos

Spring? Or merely the absence of winter?