Archive for November, 2005

The big 2-9!

Today is Mark’s 29th birthday. His wife, Ayuna, threw him a surprise party. We sneaked over to his place during his Russian lesson. Mark caught a few clues that something was going on, and hey, we all suspect surprises on our birthday. He did well and acted a little startled, as this picture suggests.


In other news, this morning we had a good meeting with the MinZdrav, and set in motion a doctor “experience exchange” that should take place nextsummer. That is one of our community-development projects. We have several more to arrange during the Winter.

Finally, if anyone has game ideas or theme ideas for our coffee club, please email me. We are running a little dry on ideas. I ordered some game books, but they will not be here before mid-January.

We are holding the ropes for Katya and Masha (from the club) today, and for the coffee club in general. Feel free to join us!

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Come to the Table and Eat

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I read about historical famines and their causes and effects. Hunger is perhaps the worst calamity. My heart ached especially when I read about the great Soviet famine of 1932. This was a manufactured famine. How can anyone read dry-eyed about those desperate millions who needlessly perished for want of nourishment (7-10 million)? If only they had a morsel or so a day.

This evening, a friend and I chatted about the importance of healthy and regular personal time in the Word. Later, after the conversation was over, I mulled these thoughts around in my head and it clicked; we often needlessly live in spiritual famine when a feast awaits us, if only we will come to the table and eat. If only we will come. How desperate we are if we do not eat.

"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger…" (John 6:35 ESV)

That Crazy Coffee Club

The Coffee Club (i.e. college group) went great tonight. Our theme was thanksgiving, and we did a lot of games and activities connected with that theme. In place of coffee, we drank hot apple cider, and everyone shared what they are thankful for.

The final event of the evening departed from the theme of Thanksgiving.

I am not sure about the game’s origins, but it is a hoot to play. First, we put a ball in a stocking, and then the stockings on our heads and tried to get them swinging. The object is to pull your opponent’s stocking off using only your own stocking. The students loved it, and we had a blast.

Thank you for holding the ropes for this crazy club. We are thankful for the relationships that are growing through the club.

White Thanksgiving

We celebrated a White Thanksgiving yesterday. I have so many things for which to be thankful. As President Abraham Lincoln said, “Let us give thanks to our benevolent Father, who dwelleth in the heavens.”

Mostly, I am thankful for my relationship with God, and his daily working in my life. He is my joy and my strength, and my very life. He has also given me purpose in life: a reason for living.

And I can not imagine life without my lovely wife, Maya (nice photo, eh?)….

…and my two little children.


The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me… (Psalms 50:23 ESV)

Manual Labor

I spent the evening drilling holes in tough concrete ceilings. Our neighbor lives as a single parent with her three-year-old daughter. She called us and asked if we could help. She does not really have anyone who can help her with this sort of thing. My drill has a ‘hammer’ function (I am not sure what it is called) and, strangely enough, it is better suited for this than most Russian drills. Even so, it was tough going. Bits turned blue and then broke and my hands are still shaking.

We are so thankful that she asked us because we know that that minor work went a long way with her. Maya and her meet once or twice a week, and tonight, they chatted the whole time while I was burning bits up in the other room.

It reminded me again that building a relationship is, quite often, manual labor.

A Day of Thanksgiving and Praise


I snapped this photograph this morning, on a little family walk. We have had the sun now for several days, though it is sometimes cold. On Friday, the thermometer read -20C. I think that is the coldest so far.

Maya decided not to go just yet to Chita. Since family now surrounds her grandmother, Maya thought it best to wait a while and not add to the commotion. Additionally, her grandmother’s condition improved slightly through the weekend, though the prognosis is still grim.

In other news, our college group on Friday went great. The group is steadily growing and we are getting to know the students. We did not have a theme this week, though we had a few games with bananas and then introduced them to the American Banana Split. We had a great time, and I am encouraged with the group’s direction.

Saturday, the full fury of the flu struck and I had to stay home. I was still able to do a few things, and even baby sat while Maya went to the Altai lesson. Today, I am feeling better. Maya and David are both starting to cough and sniffle.

On Sunday morning, our friend, Nastya; who was a part of our home group in Ulan-Ude, called us to ask for directions to our house. She had made the 3 day train trip here to pay us (our team) a surprise visit. We are happy to have her, and we pr that this week will have a positive impact on her. She is staying at Tanya’s house.

Americans celebrate thanksgiving on Thursday. Have you ever read about how this became a holiday? Though its roots reach back to the Puritan settlers, Thanksgiving was not an official holiday until the 16th president of the United States made the famous ‘Thanksgiving Proclamation’. In Abraham Lincoln’s speech, in November 1863, he said,

“It has seemed to me fit and proper that the gifts of God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens . . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

Every president after Abraham Lincoln has proclaimed Thanksgiving a holiday, and in 1941, by an act of Congress, it officially became a national holiday.

Of Mice and… Tanya

While many serious things happened yesterday, a lighter, even humorous story unfolded. We thought it would be funny, especially to our friends in Ulan-Ude, to read about it. Tanya, our friend pictured here, called yesterday in near hysteria. She said, “Mike, I only have one question. Do cats eat the mice they kill, or not?”

I answered plainly enough, “Domestic cats usually don’t. They chase and kill mice for sport.” This was met with increased hysteria and even anguish. Tanya has few fears, but, strangely enough, she has a terrible phobia for mice, living or otherwise. Apparently, (and I had to deduce this from various clipped Russian/English phrases among her cries of anguish) her cat had murdered a little mouse right in her hallway and Tanya was left to dispose of the fallen furry creature’s corpse. Well, to shorten this diatribe, I had to try to calm her down, via a cell phone, and then walk her through the most acceptable method of disposal. It went like this, “Just take a paper towel and pick it up…. Oh, what? Calm down Tanya! Bad method, sorry, scratch that. Get a dustpan, put it on the floor in the vicinity of the deceased and then, with a long handled broom, sweep his little remains onto the pan, trying not to look. Take a deep breath, and, when you are ready, look away and, working only with your peripheral vision, grab the dustpan handle and make for the trash. Can you do that? Okay, great. We’ll pray.”

Anyway, it was funny to us, and later, even to Tanya. She gave me permission to blog it.