A Wild Ride!

Is God Good or what!?!!


February 2007  -  Ann


God is good.  He is good ALL the time.  That?s one of my favorite sayings that a good friend has quoted for years and I now find myself meditating on when things are going smooth and with the waters are rough.  God does not change!


We do.  Our temperaments do, our circumstances do and sometimes how we respond to those circumstances do.  But God never changes.  He is always good.


A wonderful example for me, that hopefully I will never forget is the story of the ?very angry train lady? when we were moving from Krasnodar to Voronezh this month.


Now on every wagon of a Russian train there is a person in charge, usually a female.  And, from our experiences, they are not usually the warm and fuzzy type of personalities.  But that?s okay, if I had their job I don?t know that I would be that cheery myself.


However on this trip we met the ?test case? of all train ladies.  The train we were boarding from Krasnodar to Voronezh on the night of Feb 10th was a ?passing train? which meant we had 5 minutes to load and board.  Trains don?t wait.


Robert and I had just spent an entire week packing all of our worldly goods that we have accumulated in Russia over the past 18 months (and I am embarrassed to say that is a lot more than we wanted to accumulate) and shipped most of it off the day before by truck to arrive a few days later at our new home.


However, for safety reasons, Robert wanted to take our computer, printer and video equipment with us so it could be handled well and make it there in one piece.  Why is it, that no matter how organized you are or how hard you work for a move, that when it comes down to the time you need to leave for the plane, train, or whatever that you are rushing like mad and running late?  Ughhhh?..


Our dear friend, J.B., picked us up in his SUV and we crammed ourselves and our stuff into every space available and dashed to the train station.  As we unloaded, a policeman had to come and hassle J.B. for where he had parked.  But eventually, between the three of us, we managed to move several large duffle bags, rolling suitcases, a guitar, coats, backpacks, purses etc (all together 16 pieces) across two sets of tracks and down the platform to our wagon with maybe 2 minutes to spare.  In the process of the scurry the printer slipped off of the dolly twice and at one point rolled and bounced down onto the tracks!  Believe it or not, after a simple head re-alignment it still works perfectly.  (Yeah Epson!  Yeah God!!!)


As I arrived at our wagon, Robert is madly trying to get the train ladies attention and saying ?excuse me?  in Russian as politely as he can as she STANDS in the doorway with her back turned, chatting with someone on the train.  We?ve been in Russia long enough to know that in those kinds of situations you don?t wait to be polite you just move to where you need to be and Robert did.  J.B. is handing him bags and Robert is stacking them on the train.  Then she begins to scream at them both the often popular word in Russia (especially to older women) ?Nelzya!? = ?it is forbidden!?  Over and over she is yelling at them and they just keep on loading the train.  Robert knows that at any minute the train is taking off, with or without us.  We were not going to miss that train ? nelzya!


We had bought and paid for a full compartment so we would have room to store all this extra luggage.  We have brought in over 20 teams to Russia over the past 10 years with each person sometimes having 3 bags a piece bringing stuff for the kids.  So you couldn?t tell us that we needed to have a ?special baggage car? for the suitcases.  What did she think we were?  Stupid Americans?


So, J.B. continued to talk to her standing on the platform (basically keeping her distracted), with her screaming at him while Robert and I madly got all the luggage in our compartment and put away fairly well, so it wouldn?t look like a baggage car.   Adrenaline can come in real handy in times like this.


Once the train took off I was still concerned that she might make us get off at the next stop.  We realized later she probably didn?t have the authority to do that but the power of a babushka (woman over 50) in this country is a strong force here.  It?s kind of like the saying we have in America, ?if Mama ain?t happy, nobody?s happy.?


As someone who hates conflict and usually avoids it at all costs God puts me in a 5 ft x 10 ft train compartment with Robert?s blood pressure off the chart, partly because he?s mad at what she is trying to pull and partly because he is totally exhausted from the week and from the last 15 minutes of what he put his body through.  She is in our compartment immediately continuing the verbal deluge and demanding all kinds of things, most of which we didn?t understand.


She would turn to me occasionally when she would see she wasn?t getting anywhere with Robert.  (And I am saying to myself, ?Lady, his Russian?s a lot better than I mine.?)  But I was able to use some of my common language tools ? a sympathetic nod of the head, a small smile, lots of eye contact to show her I am really trying to understand and using my most often used Russian phrases:  ?Ezveeneetee?  (?excuse me?) and ?Ya nee pan-nee-ma-yoo? (I don?t understand).


I also kept thinking about Proverbs 16:24 ? ?Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones;? and Proverbs 15:1 ? ?A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.? 


When it was finally decided that we should pay a ?fine? we bristled but decided 500 rubles or $20 was worth not being booted off the train in a strange city with all this expensive computer equipment and not know what to do.  Again, it was another great culture lesson and continued motivation to learn this language so we can better communicate.


Ironically . . . after all of that, within 30 minutes of that episode, Natalya Mikhilevna was back in our compartment offering us her best Earl Grey tea (that is not the brand they normally serve on the train.  We each showed one another photos of our families and I even shared some of our homemade chocolate chip cookies with her (made with chunks of Russian candy bars!) and we even offered her some of our chips with cream cheese and our special raspberry chipotle sauce that our American friends had just brought us for Christmas.  (Thank you Vicki and Charlynn ? you helped us to facilitate world peace!)  Natalya thought all our American snacks were ?ochean vakoosnee? = very tasty.


So . . . God is good all the time.  He is good and still in control when the train lady is screaming at us and we are about to get arrested and He is good and in control when we share fellowship over Russian chai and American snacks.


Is God good of what!?!  It's a wild ride!  With many more kilometers ahead. Is God good of what!?! It's a wild ride! With many more kilometers ahead.

The next afternoon, when we got off the train in our new home town of Voronezh, we couldn?t resist getting our photo made with our new ?friend? Natalya, the train lady. What a wild ride! And, there are many more kilometers of track ahead of us.