Monday, July 26, 2010

Missionary Monday - VBS

As missionaries, our goal is to bring people to Christ. One of the easiest places to start is with children.

My camera was broken a couple of weeks ago, and I missed being able to take pictures of VBS and upload them daily like I did last year. However, I have rounded up pictures from others who were there (thank you, everyone!) to share with you.

Our theme this year was "Greatest Discoveries of the World" and we were at the "sea" seeking "treasures." Throughout the week we "discovered" the Bible, Jesus, great heroes of the Bible, and salvation.

We were able to meet each day, Monday through Friday, on the orphanage property. We were in the same neighborhood as last year, so it was a joy to see many of the kids return for another year of fun. We were thrilled when SIX children received Christ! That number may seem small, but considering that many of these were saved last year and that we have been able to see many from the orphanage saved already, we were excited about this number! We had an average of 35 kids attend each day (many of the orphans were gone to various camps).

One of the greatest blessings of VBS this year was the fact that it was run almost entirely by Ukrainians! The missionaries helped with crafts, games, and financing... but the rest... lessons, singing, Scripture memorization, etc... was done by our faithful young people for whom we are very grateful.

Enjoy the pictures!
Game time
Daily Bible verse memorization
Daily Bible lessons
Red team
Blue team Songs

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kaitlyn Jolene

Eric and Maran with Nathan and Annika

The day after my lovely friend Maran gave birth to her third treasure from heaven, I received this very touching, unforgettable e-mail:

Wanted to let you know that we were blessed to have our second daughter come into this world. She is a beautiful girl with a perfectly round head covered in black hair and the longest fingers--perhaps she will be a pianist or an artist one day. :) She is a sweet little one that thrills our souls and such a wonderful miracle. We have named her Kaitlyn Jolene. Kaitlyn means "pure" and we pray she will live a pure life for the Lord. Her middle name, Jolene, was chosen because we not only admire you and your missionary efforts, but we desire our daughters to live lives that mirror a Proverbs 31 woman and you are a great example of what that looks like in the world today. Thank you for your testimony and example; for being a Godly woman that we can point our daughters to for a real life example of what living for God looks like. We love you and your family and pray for you all often.
Kaitlyn Jolene - 7 days old

I am sincerely, humbly honored. I told my hubby, "This honor is very different from a trophy, certificate, or award because the splendor of those pass away over time. But to have a namesake is an honor that I will carry with me the rest of my life."

I am also greatly humbled. I certainly do not deserve this beautiful privilege. I pray that, for little Kaitlyn's sake, I will uphold the name of Christ to my dying day. Thank you, Eric and Maran, for inspiring me with yet another reason to please Christ with my life.

And, to see who my first, pretty little namesake is (whom I still have not met in person yet!), click here...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Missionary Monday - Alina

Every person needs to have an "Alina" in their life... a special person who comes along and causes us to keep our perspective right.... to keep our eyes focused on the Lord and how good He has been to us, no matter what our circumstances may be.

Alina was a normal, healthy child. At the age of 10, she started becoming unusually clumsy and it was soon revealed that her spine was deteriorating. She has been diagnosed with "a hemangioma involving the vertebral bodies of the thoracic region." In short, her spine is now a jelly-like substance and she constantly lays in a cast that has to be re-made from time to time for her growing body.
Alina and our son Nate share a birthday on the same day. She turned 18 today, and our Nate turned 6. We were blessed to begin our day of celebration by making a visit to her home.

Last year, my hubby David asked Alina to share her testimony with the teenagers who attended our annual Youth Camp/Conference. Her testimony was such a rich credit to the omnipotence of God and His working in her life, that I have decided to share that testimony here with you:
Hello! I am Alina. I have a great desire to share with you how God has changed my life. Nine years ago I became ill with a spinal disease. I cannot walk and after an operation, during which there were complications, I became paralyzed. Many doctors have tried to heal me, but no one knows how to help me. I live with my mother and my sister. My father left us, and he lives in Russia. During the beginning stages of my illness, my mother was unable to work because she had to be with me and my little sister. We lived with my grandmother and my grandfather and the three of us lived on their pension.

There were times when it was very difficult on us, and I asked myself, “What are we guilty of?” I thought that God was punishing us.

There were people who wanted to help, but when they came to understand that their efforts were in vain, they stopped coming. All of my friends, with time, also left and forgot me.

My life changed when God brought a Christian sister into our home - Natasha Nikitina. Natasha introduced us to Pastor Bob Van Sant, and he shared with me about the Savior. On the 31st of August, 2004, I was saved.

When I received the Lord as my Savior, my life changed. I finally understood that, even before salvation, God had not forsaken us. He had placed family members around me who were always willing to help. Everything that our family suffered was not punishment, but rather a test which was given to us so that we would draw nigh to the Lord and grow in our faith. Now I understand that the Lord is with me, and He protects me and my family.

I am thankful to God that He saved my family and that we are able to be involved in church. There are so many people there who pray for me, help me, and come to visit me in my home. I have received many letters through the church from many cities and countries. I am very happy that I now have friends who sincerely love me and fellowship with me.

Every day I praise God for the faith that He has given us. There are new medicines that may be able to help me. I believe that, with God’s help, I can one day stand and our lives will be easier, and I can begin attending church.

I want to say thank you for the opportunity to praise the name of the Lord. I hope that my testimony will help you realize that THE ALMIGHTY helps us in everything, and that “all things work together for good.” The most important thing is to pray and believe in Him.
[This testimony can also be found on the BIMI website, a missionary-sending agency with over 1,000 missionaries working in 82 countries.]

Alina's sister Tanya, aunt Irina, mother Luda, and cousin Luda

Alina rarely leaves her home. Since she cannot even sit up, it is difficult to transport her and she is also extremely susceptible to illnesses due to a low immune system. We are blessed with her presence in our church services two to three times a year (Easter, Youth Conference, and Christmas). Nelya, a young lady who works for us, goes to her home once a week and teaches her the Bible.

We have been praying for a miracle in Alina's life, and I want to ask you to join us in prayer for this miracle. We can see the hand of God already moving, and we are begging Him to do something amazing for this beautiful child of God.
A few months ago, we were able to get all of Alina's medical documents translated from Russian to English. This was no easy task because not even a highly qualified translator could do it. The translation had to be done by someone in the medical field who knew the proper terminology as well as both languages.
Now that we have these documents translated, we are seeking help for Alina abroad. Just this past month the Lord allowed us to cross paths with an American family that was here adopting a Ukrainian baby. Through this family, we have been put in contact with a world-renown doctor who has taken an interest in Alina's case. Alina knows nothing about this, and we do not want to say anything to her or her family for fear of disappointing them. However, this doctor knows what needs to be done to improve her situation, and he has the talent to perform the delicate surgery needed. Because her legs have been paralyzed, we do not think that she could ever walk again. However, maybe the Lord would allow her to be able to sit up once again. Imagine how much easier that would make her life... just eating and drinking would become drastically easier!
Please join us in prayer in asking the Great Physician to work in this doctor's heart... that he would agree to heal Alina to the best of his ability and that he would be able to find sponsors for this great undertaking. It is a huge request, but we are stepping out by faith and begging God for this miracle!
If YOU will begin praying with us, please print out her picture and leave a comment here to let us know you are joining our prayer team!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Missionary Monday - 35 years

I wanted to leave you with a thought today that I wrote in my Bible several years ago, as I was sitting in church listening to a preacher quote:

If we each led two people to the Lord, and trained them to witness to two others, and those two others each led two more to the Lord and trained them as well, and if this process continued (2+2=4, 4+4=8, 8+8=16, 16+16=32, 32+32=64, 64+64=128, etc.....), it would only take 35 years to reach the world for Christ.

35 years.

Of course we know that many reject Christ, so it is impossible to reach every person in the entire world. I also do not know the time frame that this preacher had in mind... two people saved (and multiplied) every day? However, despite all of that.... just 35 years.

So, even though there are 6 billion people in the world, reaching them is a feasible goal, if we all do our part!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Wonder of Poppies

Do you remember when I talked about my sweet 8-year old son Davey sliding poppies under the bathroom door for me to find after my shower? After kissing him and thanking him hundreds of times for being such a sweet angel, I scooped up my flowers and put them in a cup. Just a few days later, the petals had fallen off, and look what my observant hubby discovered...

Original picture

Closeup view
Now, I don't know about you, but I stand in awe at the perfect beauty. A poppy is just a weed. And inside this weed is a perfect little base... perfectly symmetrical, appealing in color, and just incredibly beautiful. I mean, how many of us wouldn't wish we could decorate little cookies, muffins, or even a cake... like God has decorated the inside of a poppy - something we just consider to be a weed.
And doesn't it look like it has sugar sprinkled on top for that last, perfect touch?!
Breathtaking... not just the poppy... but our amazing Creator!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Missionary Monday - Homeschooling

A very popular quote when you are in the ministry is "Family first," and we are 100% in agreement. Part of my job of putting my family first is making sure my children get the very best education possible. I graduated from college as an elementary education major, so teaching is one of my passions.

I never want my children to feel like they "missed out" by being missionary kids, so keeping school interesting is a fun challenge I face (which is why we were planting seeds in cups to place in the windowsill before bed tonight!). Of course, the biggie they miss out on is the classroom setting and being among others their age. This must be one of the reasons so many homeschooling missionary families choose to have large families {smile}!

Davey - 3rd grade

However, think of all of the benefits of being a homeschooling missionary family:

1. Learning more than one language and culture
2. Living in circumstances most people only get to read about
3. Geography, geography, geography... what a cinch it will be for my kids! I mean, can you point right at Ukraine on a world map?! Have you traveled through nearly half of the United States (like we have on deputation or furlough)?! And how about all of the European countries we have had layovers in or have been to because of document needs?

We are planning a furlough from October to March... 5 1/2 months... for the birth of our baby. So, guess what my kids are doing this summer? You got it... homeschooling! One of the advantages to homeschooling is flexibility, and we love being able to make it work for our family's needs. I do prefer to keep them ahead, though, and not behind, so they are already working on the 2010/2011 school year.

Nate - 1st grade

We use the A Beka DVD homeschooling program from Pensacola, Florida. This program is excellent, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. And, I cannot recommend the DVDs highly enough either. The advantage of the DVDs is that my children feel like they are in a classroom setting, and there is so much more that they are able to learn than if they used the books alone. I feel like they get twice as much of an education with the DVDs.

Homeschooling (with DVDs) takes us about 5 hours a day (more/less with each child). This does not include breaks. Our school day usually goes from about 7:30am-12:30pm.

A Beka is a relatively expensive program, but this Christian program gives missionaries a break. We are able to buy our DVDs and keep them for our other children. Everyone else is required to send the DVDs back. This has been an immense help in allowing us to use the program from year to year, and we are grateful.

Brianna - K-4

For this current school year, a supporting church sponsored our children by buying their school books and the set of DVDs we needed for our oldest. We have never had anyone do this for us before, and I literally cried over the telephone when hubby called to share the good news! Thank you, thank you, thank you! (You know who you are)!

For some missionaries, the option of a Christian school is available. We do not have this option. Some mission fields (like Germany) do not allow homeschooling. And, some missionaries choose to put their children in the public schools of their field. We actually did this when our boys were in preschool. While they were still small and their minds were able to clearly soak in a second language, we chose to send them to a public preschool for half a day (we picked them up after lunch time). I will never regret making that decision. It was a sweet time in our lives, and our boys have wonderful memories (and better Russian skills) because of that phase. We all learned invaluable lessons about the culture here, and our boys were able to be a part of a "real class."

Yes, homeschooling keeps me busy because I check every paper with an eagle eye and frequently walk from room to room to supervise (I prefer having the children in separate rooms)... but I would have it no other way! My kids are receiving an outstanding education, and I am thrilled about that!