Archive for December, 2005

The first annual End of the Year Grind

The year that ends today began on the heels of the great unnamed tsunami that wiped away a quarter of a million people. We remember 2005 because this was the year when a Roman Pope died; when fanatics carried out attacks on London; a year when a massive earthquake devastated Pakistan and the so-called Orange Revolution shook up the Ukraine. The French will remember 2005 because of the riots. For thousands in America, 2005 is the year of Katrina. This year should have gotten everyone’s attention.


For Maya and me, 2005 was perhaps the most eventful year of our marriage. It began with a step of faith: starting a new work in a little, impoverished village near UU. The friends that arrived yesterday shared that that work is still going strong with an entirely local team. No news could have encouraged me more!


We traveled more in 2005 than in previous years. Some trips we planned – others we accepted as necessary (such as my last-minute trip to Finland for visa renewal). I counted that I spent over 30 days on trains this year; a whole month-worth of days rocking and rattling over the trans-Siberian railroad tracks. By fall, our family had so wearied of travel that God gave us rest from it for a while.


In the spring, to our great and continuing joy, our daughter, Hannah, was born. That March 21st morning is a smiling highlight of 2005 for us. Also, David’s personality emerged more than ever in 2005, and my love for him with it. Our early mornings together, when only he and I were awake and we roamed the house, making breakfast and telling stories, will form some of my most cherished memories of the year.


In the late summer of this year, we packed up everything we own and moved 2000km west. The countless small and big steps of faith involved in that remind us again of His faithfulness. This year we were also blessed when we joined this fantastic new team.



For us, a greater sense of seriousness and depth descended in 2005 on our family, our marriage, our personal relationship with God and the work that we are involved in. We were reminded of the brevity of life, the great call to radical and sacrificial living, and the need to sense the urgency. Above all in 2005, God reminded me of His never-ending grace.



With all of its tragedy, tears, joy, happiness, and despair, 2005 stands tall as a Year among years. May 2006, should the Lord tarry until next December 31st, do that again. Happy New Year's to all who read The Siberian Grinder!


But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14, ESV)


Off the beaten path

Yesterday, Mark, a local parliamentarian and I took a long road trip to the eastern region of the Republic to do an evaluation of the community development needs and possibilities. We sat in on a regional council meeting. While interesting, I hope that was the last time that I have to do that (attend one of those meetings). All together, we drove about 500km, some of it in very snowy conditions. Thankfully, all went well and we arrived home safely ten hours after our departure.

This morning, I had to run some errands. To give Maya a break, I took David along. He was a good sport about all the lines that I had to wait in, and each time we came across a slide he had to try it out. His favorite was a very high one (two-stories) that they built in the center for the New Year’s Celebration (New Year's is the biggest holiday of the year; they go all out). The photograph above was taken while David enjoyed a different slide, one that is right outside our apartment.


As I write this, four friends should be arriving from that other city in Siberia. They embarked on the three-day train trip to spend New Year’s with our team and us, and to help us in the work. I am sure that the six days that they are here will prove very encouraging.

Pozi and the New Year’s Tree

On Sunday night, we entertained a full house, as our married’s home group and our neighbor all came over for pozi, a traditional Buryat food that we introduced them to. We had a great evening together. It seems like some doors are opening.


Today, Maya’s friend – Alya – invited Maya and David to see the “New Year’s Tree” ceremony where her daughter would be performing. Maya had another engagement, but we both agreed that it would be better to accept the invitation somehow. I came home, got David and made my way to the ceremony. The kids all dressed up, performed, and played games. David was a little frightened by all the commotion and I only understood a few words of the Altaian ceremony. It was very interesting, all the same. The pictures came out a little rough because I only had the phone camera to work with. The second photo is Alya's daughter.

The Gift of God

Christmas celebrates the gift of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus once summed up the gift of God like this:

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.

Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family (and to other random readers who might have stumbled onto this page). May you savor ever more deeply the Christ of Christmas, and the gift of eternal life through faith in him alone.

A gift of cash?

Spouses often consider a gift of cash as something a little less than thoughtful. In our case, it was very practical. Maya is overdue for winter shoes and a coat and it is probably better to let her shop for those things. So as not to be totally classless, I wrote her this silly poem.

Merry Christmas my dear!
Great words you must love to hear,
That now that special time is here,
And all these silly gifts appear,

We set a limit and both agreed,
600 rubles – the max indeed,
You probably know where this will lead,
I failed I think, our limit to heed.

In just a moment, I’ll tell you why,
I broke our oath and went so high,
So hold your hums and stay your sigh,
I’ll explain, or, at least I’ll try.

The things is this, I’ll have you know,
That out the window there’s so much snow,
It makes me feel like such a schmo,
To watch you winter gear forgo,

Your shoes are fine for the spring,
Or even winter in Beijing,
But here frostbite is what they'll bring,
So in my mind came just the thing,

Take these rubles for this task,
And find some shoes, oh, find them fast,
While still cold weather here will last,
Then warmly will your cute toes bask.

That’s not all – it’s only half,
And this part might make you laugh,
The deal is this, oh, please don’t chaff,
Your winter coat is pure riffraff.

It’s time to toss it in the trash,
Or in your famous storage stash,
Here’s a sum of rubles cash,
Make sure your new coat doesn’t clash!

So now you know, oh don’t despise,
Why I your gift could not downsize,
I thought it all so very wise,
To help you finally winterize.

Бесструнная балалайка

Maya's back is still hurting. As you think of it, please pr for her.

You can see from Mark’s site that the coffee club went great tonight. The originals almost all showed and, as they were about to leave, four new people arrived. The atmosphere, games and fellowship were all perfect, and we are very thankful. Too bad, I did not get my camera out.


Tomorrow, besides my Altai lesson, I have to find Maya the perfect gift. I have to do that for David too, but buying for him does not leave me banging my head trying to be original (hmm…, a new fire truck, or one of those miniture motorized front-end loaders?). For Maya it is not so simple, but I will find something.



Folks from UU are on their way here to spend New Years with us and the team. We are looking forward to their visit. They will be here until next year sometime (until January 6, to be precise).




About the heading, ‘besstrunnaya balalaika’. In Russian it means, ‘string-less balalaika (a Russian ukulele-like instrument). It is supposed to be an idiom that means, ‘one who rambles’. The idea is like this: a person plays the balalaika and the strings all break. He has nothing really further to add, but he plays on without the strings for the sake of playing; he rambles on. I found it in a popular dictionary that has 501 Russian Idioms (but I will not name the dictionary here). I have yet to encounter a single Russian who has heard of this idiom. However, since this post is typical of my ramblings, the title fits.

Back pain

Maya hurt her back yesterday. Since any movement causes her discomfort, I postponed everything and stayed at home today to insist that she do nothing. Immobility is torture to her, so trying to make her rest all day is a titanic task.

It helped me to see how much she does from day to day. I can hardly keep up with the meals, diapers, dishes and all the other minor emergencies that I usually hardly notice (shameful). It is a joy to serve such a wonderful woman in this capacity, if even for a day.


Just for fun, I searched through my Libronix library for ‘back pain’ and its variants. I was hoping to find out if some great patriarch or prominent historical figure suffered from a painful back (some theological/historical tidbit that would encourage Maya). In hundreds of books, I found only eight articles, two of them by Warren Weirsbe in his N.T. Commentaries.


Here is a quote from one of Weirsbe’s articles, titled “You Don’t Have to Worry”:


What is worry? The Greek word translated “anxious” (careful) in Philippians 4:6 means “to be pulled in different directions.” Our hopes pull us in one direction; our fears pull us the opposite direction; and we are pulled apart! The Old English root from which we get our word “worry” means “to strangle.” If you have ever really worried, you know how it does strangle a person! In fact, worry has definite physical consequences: headaches, neck pains, ulcers, even back pains. Worry affects our thinking, our digestion, and even our coordination.

(Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989.)


Maya was not impressed. :-). She was also unimpressed with my discovery that Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, suffered from back pains. “What is your point?” was her response.

I need to put David down for his nap now.