The ladies of our team decided to plan a weekend trip away to fellowship before teammates go on home service and to encourage one another through prayer and Bible study in a village near beautiful Lake Baikal. The two and a half hour journey provided an analogy of life’s journey—rocky, bumpy, up hill/ downhill, hair pin curves, switchbacks, long stretches of intensity trying to stay on the path and not to hit every pothole, construction, more bumps, and then patches of smooth sections where you realize how tightly your muscles are clenched—arriving to your destiny just beyond that point where you were beginning to think you were lost.
Although the city was experiencing “spring,” Lake Baikal and the village was still frozen and blanketed deeply with snow. The Lord gave us pleasant weather Saturday so that we could walk out to the lake and even on the lake in between our times of studying about spiritual warfare and practicing the power of prayer. The ornate woodwork decorating the houses added to the picturesque scenery. The inside of the house where we stayed was comfortable but did not include indoor plumbing. So, how do you wash? The banya, or sauna, is a wooden bathhouse where rocks are heated by a fire and water is poured on them to produce steam. After breaking into a good sweat, you are supposed to get a beating (massaging) with wet birch branches followed by steaming up then either being doused with cold water or running out into the snow. A small group of us who had done an exercise workout earlier in the evening participated in the tradition, thinking it would be a great way to boost our health. It was my first time to experience the Russian birch beating, and I didn’t quite carry out the running into the snow to cool off part. We returned to the city Sunday, physically and spiritually refreshed.
Art and I officially celebrated the end of the third school year on Friday, April 19, with all seven of our students and their families. Our oldest 3 students leave this week for the U.S.A. We will go part-time with the other four students another 2 weeks before they also fly to their home cultures. It has been a challenging last week of school as our students have been fighting a tough virus and out sick. We are praying for their physical health and for their emotional health as they process leaving what they consider home and familiar. I had the children write to themselves this week about going to their home countries. What are they looking forward to and why are those places special? These “home” cultures may not really be “home” for them especially since they may stay in several different places. Is it the fun activities they are looking forward to, the different foods, or seeing people like grandparents, hearing English, being able to talk in English and not being considered different? Is it the fancy houses, cars, toys? Yes, there was the excitement of adventuring to a “new” place, but often it was to be with people they knew and missed. Please pray for these kids and their parents as they journey to their home culture different from whom they were when they last left; especially since kids grow and change so much, but also pray for them as they, 5 months later, make a “switchback” to Russia, after their new experiences over the summer. When they return, we will reread those letters and answer the questions they wrote themselves and write again. Why was going there special? Why was returning to Russia special? Pray for Art and I to have the wisdom and understanding to help these unique third culture kids handle the numerous transitions they face.
We may never really know what affect we have on others’ lives. God created us as relational creatures especially with a void that only He could fill. Today, at church a lady reminded me of the impact that even just a brief encounter can have on the life of someone specifically a child. She is a nurse and was at one of the tuberculosis sanitariums where she ran into a young girl Nastia who had been at the children’s home we had helped with last year. When we returned last fall, we learned that the home had a new administrator and our church was not currently being allowed to continue doing Bible study programs on Sunday afternoons. The little girl specifically remembered the lady who “couldn’t speak very good Russian, but came to help do the Bible lessons.” She sent her greetings to me and asked when could our church come back to tell them more about the Bible; they missed us.
Thank you for the impact you have had on our lives and for allowing us to be an extension of you to reach into the lives of the dear people here in Russia.