The car was already full of adults when we pulled up to a big multicolored house. Two eager children squeezed into the back seat with us and we went on our way to the Yezidi day camp. I have been trying really hard all week to get everyone’s name but I could not think of the little girls name, so I asked. After she told me I got more brave and asked what she likes to do for fun. She said she likes to read. Then she surprised us all by saying her family reads the Bible together and today they read from Genesis about Adam and Eve! My friend and I kept looking at eachouther in surprise and delight.
The Yezidi people, if practicing their people’s religion, worship satan. They believe that God created the world but hasn’t paid attention to it since. After God created the world it began to shake, so the Peacock angel came to rule over the sky and settle it down. They worship this angel. The children in this area of Russia from what I can tell are not in families that practice this religion regularly. But satan is not happy that we are messing with what he thinks is his territory. My team is growing weary of haling water to wash dishes. We are tired and bodies growing weaker. But our joy is from The Lord and I see His strength stronger in us everyday. The children are seeing the love of God in my teammates and I am so blessed to be serving alongside them. The camp leaders are my team leaders, Send missionaries serving in Lipetsk. And the team is comprised of four Russian youth and two American missionaries. Our camp meets at a little house compound in the middle of a Yezidi community. The owners of this home are the only Yezidi believers that we know of in this area. Through camp God is giving us connections with the children’s parents, other pastors in the area, and broadening the Russians view of sharing the gospel with every tribe, tongue, and nation. Praise to God that we can all be a part of this huge blessing, spreading His love and truth among the Yezedi.
As Ken was teaching the Bible lesson today he told the story of the man born blind. Then people asked Jesus who sinned, the boy or his parents. Ken asked the children what they thought Jesus answered. Some shouted his parents, some shouted the boy. Then one little boy tapped Ken on the back and said, “No! Jesus told them,”it is me, don’t be afraid.”” He was quoting the memory verse from yesterday when we learned about Jesus walking on water and telling his disciples not to be afraid. I thought, he’s pretty much got it right. Ken went on to explain that Jesus did take all our sins and paid the penalty for them by dying for us. All we must do is believe! Ken told them if they believe and want to ask Jesus to save them and have a relationship with God they can talk to anyone of the helpers. He names some of them and right when he named Sash (the only other guy on our team) one of the boys said, “okay, I’ll talk to Sasha.”
Another quite car ride home after a busy day of loving on kids. Today we had a harder craft and the kids struggled a bit. But they didn’t mind and neither did we. I loved how the children swarmed around me asking for help. One boy, Artyom, leaned on my shoulder as I finished his little heart shaped basket. He would give me instruction how he wanted it and I thought, “yes sure, as long as you lean on my shoulder I will do whatever you want. The longer it takes the better.” As I sewed up the sides of his basket he found a pair of scissors. He was quietly experimenting with them when someone said, “he is cutting your shirt!” I am so glad I knew what they were saying. He had found my sleeve and was about to cut through when I quickly redirected his attention!
Thank you for being apart of Artyoms life and other children like Him. It is because of your financial gifts and prayers that brought me here. We are washing dishes in a basin of water because there is not running water here. We are playing very simple games because the children have a hard time understanding Russian in this Yezidi village in Russia. We are teaching the Bible through stories and having them memorize verses because their culture is a storytelling culture.
As I sat listening to the children recite yesterday’s verse about believing Jesus had the power to heal I knew it was all worth it. God’s name is being lifted high by these little children in this dark place.
We took a sharp left into what looked like the tall grassy field. To my surprise, behold a road, well, path stretched out before us. Ahead I could see a group of little white stucco houses with green roofs. We pulled up to the grouping and our small team pulled out. Tanya, the woman of the house came to greet us. She and her husband have offered their home for camp this week. They are Yezedi and live in a small community a few hours away from Lipetsk. This community does not have a church and only one family are believers in this unreached people group.
It is the end of the first day of camp and I am so blessed to be a part of this team! Our team, Lisa and Ken, our loving leaders, Marsha, Leanna, Natasha, Carrina, Sasha and I. We are all being stretched far beyond our comfort zones, and it is great to be doing it together. It is hard for everyone. Long full days with small and energetic children who don’t all understand Russian. It is so good for my Russian teammates to connect with children from a different culture and care for them. I just love watching the Jesus in shining out of my friends into the lives of these kids. This is what I love to do, empower, equip and encourage Russians in serving the Lord and sharing the gospel.
So I was quickly going up and down the grocery store isles with Rick (my team leader) and Misha, a guy who came along for the ride. I wanted shaving cream.
As a girl I think there is a stereotype that we take a long time shopping. Well I am the persona of this stereotype, but when I am with others I try and not take so long. Well that’s easy in America, but I can’t read the labels here and can’t easily compare prices or products.
So there I was standing in front of the shaving cream section wanting to quickly make my selection. I grabbed the smallest bottle of stuff that was clearly labeled for men, and asked if there was a difference. I realized right away that this was a foolish question to ask men. So I threw it in the cart and we went on our way.
When I got to the place I was staying that night, I unpacked my purchases from that day. As I pulled out the “shaving cream” I read the label, “after shave.” There it was, in English, right before the part that said for men in English… Umm, yah.
This week I frequented a tiny little convenience store right down the street from camp. I was there with my American friend Marsha, and she wanted to get a gift of lotion for the girl who washes dishes with us. So she picked out a bottle that looked like lotion to me. I clearly asked the woman there, is this for your hands? I didn’t know the word for lotion. And she said clear as day, yes. She continued to say other things and pat her face. So I told Marsha, yes, it’s for your face and hands. When we were in our meeting later that night Marsha’s friend opened the gift (we were all given a personae we secretly gave gifts to and prayed for). She looked very alarmed and confused and began laughing and talking loudly. Everyone else burst into laughter, except Marsha and I. The hand lotion looking bottle was really aftershave!
The next day Marsha and I went and bought some razors for her secret gift, just to make sure her friend had all she needed.
Marsha and I on 4th of July
I am spending this summer at a camp in the woods and am surrounded by wild berries. Raspberries, black raspberries, little berries that look like strawberries, sour cherries, and a few other wonderful, wild things. I try and go out every once in a while to get away from camp. It not only refreshes me but is a great way to build relationships. I took out an American girl who is serving here for a month and is planning to return full time to join our team. I also invited Irina, our roommate. It was a great time gathering berries, eating, talking, and I got to translate! It is so encouraging to see the difference between what I used to know and now.
Please pray for Masha as God prepares her to join our team as soon as she has all of her partners.
A few weeks ago while my train from Ukraine was rolling into Moscow, an American team was landing in Moscow airport with bags of gifts and supplies for a building project they would be working on. After Zhenya and I met up with some people from our russian team we went to the air port to pick up the American guys. Over the past 11 days the team has been living at Transformation Christian Center laying cement on the third floor, preparing it for tilling. I have been blessed to have some time to joke and converse in English with the team once in a while amidst washing dishes, pealing potatoes, and practicing Russian. And I have been so blessed that amidst almost missing their plane because of visas, lost luggage, sleeping in tents, and working around the family camp that was going on, they still have a servants heart and work hard till the end.
Tomorrow night they will be leaving having finished the cement work on the third floor for us, what a huge blessing!
Tonight was the start of children’s camp for the churches in Lipestk Oblast. I will be helping with crafts, English time, and dishes. I am looking forward to being out of the kitchen and having more time with the children and counselors. From what I have seen so far the program is going to be so great, I pray that God will be glorified in the hard work that has been and will be put into this ten day camp.
Marsha, she has come to serve in Russia for a month. Pray that God will give here strength and leading as she desires to come full time and serve with our team.
Seirge, I have asked prayer for him before. Please pray that he would have victory over his addictions and a life changing encounter with God.
Sasha, he is a LITTLE nine year old boy I met at dinner tonight. It was loud in the room and my Russian isn’t great but I think he said he doesn’t go to church and he came to camp alone, not really knowing anyone yet. Pray for friends and most of all a life changing friendship with our savior.