Archive for the 'Community Work' Category

NGOs, Jeremiah and Starbucks Christmas Blend

Maya just left for the women’s home group, and I am supposed to be hanging out with the kids. David and Hannah are playing (together, unbelievably) so I seized the moment to blog a few lines and post a picture. Pirate’s Night begins when this post concludes.

I found out yesterday that the executive branch signed into law the bill restricting NGO’s here. There is a lot of uncertainty with how this will affect us, though we know that it will, and likely in a very negative way. On the heels of learning this little tidbit of potentially depressing news, I read this assuring passage in the World’s all-time best-selling Book.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. ( Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV)

The trip to the post office today also encouraged us, but in a different way. Our friends in Florida sent us a large bag of Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee (and other thoughtful gifts). If you have tasted this coffee, then you know what a caffeinated encouragement it is!


Finally, for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of Hannah that I took a week ago, but thought that I lost.


Village Aid Project

I spent the better part of the day driving from village to village, stopping at schools to distribute warm clothing and other gifts. Nearly 60 needy children (from one of the poorest regions) received help today. We also donated some sports equipment, as you can see from the third photograph.

In the evening, Maya met with Alya, and I worked on English with Elbek. Elbek will likely have surgery on his side tomorrow, and I assured him that I, and friends of mine, would be praying for him. Thank you for joining with me and lifting up Elbek tomorrow.

Always winter, but never Christmas

Maya, Mark and I packed (that is what we are doing in the picture above) up all the hats, scarves, gloves, notebooks, pens and candy into gift bags, but we had to postpone the trip to the village. The forecast calls for a cold front to push south bringing us -40s and -50s by tomorrow afternoon. The school that the children attend is poorly heated, so they will get a few more vacation days until this front passes and we have to wait until Monday or Tuesday to hand all these gifts out.

You might recognize the title from the Chronicles of Narnia. I did not watch the movie (this city lacks theaters) but I have read the books by C.S. Lewis. Siberia reminds me of that place that is always winter, but never Christmas.

Warm Hats for Children

Thanks to a kind sponsor in the West, we are able to organize, together with the local authorities, a project providing warmer clothing (hats and scarves) and school materials for 60 children in an impoverished village about 45 minutes from the city. Today, we did the shopping. Tanya and Maya did most the work since they are infinitely more talented at picking out clothing than we are. Mark and I just carried the boxes and paid the bills. We found everything we needed and tomorrow we will buy candy and arrange the gift bags.

On Friday, I will try to post some pictures of the kids when Mark, a local official and I will deliver the gifts. This particular village is extremely poor and the people there have many problems (unemployment, alcoholism, etc). These gifts will meet a need.

What a joy it will be to express a love that is out of this world.

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.

Baseball anyone?

We are looking for someone who has played, or currently plays, baseball at a serious level. This summer, we are planning a weeklong baseball camp for college students. We need one or two instructors to help train the students in this new (to them) sport. We will train for five days and form the students into two teams. On day six we will host a televised match in the city. It should be a great opportunity to meet new people and build relationships.


If you are interested, please write me and we can discuss the details. We are also hoping to outfit the team with uniforms and fairly-good equipment. So, if you know of anyone who would be interested in donating baseball equipment, send an email.

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!