Gathered At The River

Sunday, July 8,2007 ? what a special day here.  We got home to Voronezh in time to witness the baptism of 3 key kids from the post-orphanage ministry, the ?You Are Not Alone Club?.  In these three lives we?ve seen vividly the evidence of what this ministry is all about ? providing a safe place for transformation to take place.


We remember hearing stories of Natasha a few years ago when she first started visiting Club.  She would come all dressed in black with a forlorn, sullen countenance about her and she would sit and listen and observe all that was going on.  But she kept coming back.


She began to share some of her poetry.  Calling herself ?the dark angel? and writing of dark, sad things, she began a poetic dialog with another poet in the group, and a mature believer, Max O.  Max would answer Natasha?s dark poetry with his own verses that would speak of the light, love, and redemption of Christ, and his desire that Natasha would find the Light for herself. 


Natasha kept coming back to Club and the poetic dialog went on for weeks.  And then, last August, Natasha stepped out of darkness into the Light by receiving Christ as her personal savior.  A step of faith, a leap of joy!  And Natasha began to change.  Her countenance physically changed.  A beautiful young lady began to immerge from all of that darkness.  What a testimony!


Natasha had a boyfriend who she wished more than anything would meet her new found savior, Jesus.  She was encouraged to pray for him and trust that the Holy Spirit would do His work in Vitaly?s life.


And so Vitaly would come to Club, reluctantly at first.  He came because Natasha was there.  And he came because he was a little bit curious.  I remember watching him at some of the meetings and he didn?t smile much and would stay in the background, watching.  His exterior seemed pretty impermeable. 


But Vitaly kept coming back.  And then he began to question for himself who this Jesus was.  Vitaly is a deep thinker so he would listen intently during the Bible studies and he would go to people that were safe with questions, deep questions.  And then last October, Vitaly met Jesus for Himself and received Him as his savior.


Vitaly is still a very pensive, quiet young man, but the joy of the Lord is beginning to be evident.  He loves to study the Word and find out for himself what God has to say about things.  He?s a hard worker and applies that to his spiritual life as well.


And then there?s Max S who also began attending Club out of curiosity.  Max was out of the orphanage and living with his older brother who drinks and is abusive at times.  It was hard for Max to come sometimes because of the threats of his brother.  But he kept coming and the ?You Are Not Alone? club continued to reach out to him, and his brother, meeting real needs and demonstrating the love of Christ.  And then in January, Max received Jesus as His Savior and now he prays for his older brother.


These three Club kids grew in their faith this past year and began to consider seriously the desire to publicly proclaim their faith in Jesus by being baptized.  They went for instruction from a pastor of a small church.  This pastor understands grace and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in kid?s lives ? any kid ? kids like Natasha and Vitaly and Max.  And he teaches from the Scriptures and from life and they soak it up like sponges.


And so July 8, 2007 was a glorious day at the river outside Voronezh, when Natasha, Vitaly and Max were baptized along with 3 siblings from a family who have been deeply involved in the church for years.  In fact, their grandfather helped to start the church they now all attend.  The ?unchurched? kids and the ?churched? kids both proclaiming to the world that they love Jesus.


There was a big crowd of probably 70 or so people who came out to the river that day to witness and support them.  The bishop and several other pastors were there and gave their blessing and their charge to go and live in the world as lights exposing the darkness.


It was all glorious.  But the picture of Vitaly running into the water to join the pastor to be baptized will be one of those memories we will forever cherish. 


Stoic Vitaly, so quiet and always on the sidelines watching?,


 ?RAN into the river that day to be baptized. 

Oh what a glorious day!


Thank you for loving our Natasha?s, Vitaly?s and Max?s with your prayers and support.  A difference IS being made ? one life at a time.  What a privilege for us to be here to witness it up close and personal.  To God be the glory for the great things He has done and continues to do!