Robert's "Frat House" blog

The Transition Center house that Ann affectionately calls, The Transition Center house that Ann affectionately calls, "The Frat House", but only when she's not here.

I just now walked in after getting off the train from Moscow, having put Ann on the plane yesterday, and I think it hit me that I need to do some "blogging". So, here it is for what it's worth.


My blog is entitled, ?Life at the Frat House?.  That is what Ann affectionately calls it, especially in her absence.  My writing will likely include details about the events unfolding regarding Ann?s surgery, but will largely reflect on what is going on in the ministry here.  Though my writing may not normally be as touchy-feely as Ann?s, you may find it to be a bit more personal than normal, under the circumstances.


Since this is not really a blog-site, but rather a web-page, it will be difficult to have the entries update as the top story, because of how these pages are formatted.  Therefore, for the latest "blog" entries, you'll need to scroll to the bottom of the page.


After putting her on the plane...             September 3, 2007


As the train was pulling into Voronezh this morning, my phone rang, and it was Ann.  She had just gotten to her friend Becky?s house in Dallas where she is staying this week.  So we both got ?home? about the same time, though oceans apart.  It was hard walking into this house without her. 

Like the rest of us here, Roddy, our puppy is missing Ann already.  Like the rest of us here, Roddy, our puppy is missing Ann already. "Roddy" is a truncated affectionate form of the russian word "rodost", which means "joy".

Since it's Monday morning here, the boys were mostly either at school or work so it was relatively quiet except for the dogs that seemed overly glad to see me. The boys agreed to feed them while I was gone yesterday, but I think they (the dogs) already miss the loving attention Ann was giving them everyday. Of course, the boys and I do too. I just can?t imagine life around here the next couple months without her. Ugh! What a deep dull ache in the pit of my stomach, just thinking about it. It?s better I not think about it. I?ll join her in Dallas next week for the surgery and the first couple weeks of recovery, then I?ll return back here while she finishes her recovery in Dallas.

As hard as the seperation may be, I know that she is in the Mighty hands of the only One who can truly meet all her needs. Needs for healing, for protection, for comfort, you name it. He meets it. No matter how much we may try to meet our needs ourselves, or look to others to meet them, He is the ONLY ONE who can. One of my greatest struggles is with trying to be God. And, one of the ways I do that is to try to be everyone's savior, including Ann's. The best thing I can do for her, and anyone else I'm "trying" to save, is point them to the cross of Christ. He poured out His blood there for all of us. For Ann's healing as well as my sin of trying to play God.

Thank you God that You are God. Help me to live life in a way that truly reflects the Truth, that I am not.

So if this isn't really a "frat house", what is it...


Well, Ann and I call it ?home?.  That is what it is to us.  In general, our ministry term for it is ?the transition center?.  Most of the boys call it ?the club?, because that is what it has been to them for the past 15 months.  The third floor serves as the home of the ?You Are Not Alone Club?, the broader, Young Life style ministry that we launched here in 2004.  The club moved to this facility 15 months ago.  As always, there are plenty of archival links on this site for more about the developments in the ministry here through the years.  Now, the first floor is our home, since we moved here from Krasnodar last February.  Below the first floor (the garage) is the workshop that the Christmas team helped equip.  And the second floor is what we call the dormitory floor, but to the boys it is quickly becoming home. 


You can pray that we can add an additional bedroom on the fourth floor before winter.  We?ll need to winterize it (insulation, heat, and insulated windows) and put in some additional walls.  For now it is simply a large attic with a ping-pong table.  But it has great potential for allowing us to expand the reach of this work.  God seems to have already expanded it from 4 to 5 boys, but the potential exists to accommodate up to six pretty effectively.


The end of the first day without her here?


Well, here I am writing again and it?s still the first day without her here.  I?ve never been a ?blogger? and mainly because of how much time it takes, sitting in one place.  Not much on journaling either, but for some reason, it seems that I kind of find myself gravitating to it today.  Perhaps tomorrow will be different.  I?ve got to get back to the garage/workshop tomorrow and make some more progress on the boys? beds.  Most of the work I?ve done so far is in creating a prototype, that they in turn can work with me to sort of mass produce, if you call 6 a ?mass production?.  They want to help make their beds, and we definitely want them to take ownership of this project.  They?re pretty busy though between work and school already. 


We have a white board outside our door that helps us keep up with all of our comings and goings.  Today Sergei moved Ann's magnet to the center line between We have a white board outside our door that helps us keep up with all of our comings and goings. Today Sergei moved Ann's magnet to the center line between "home" and "away", saying that she is with us in our hearts.

The twins, Vova and Sergei, had their first real day of college classes today, and they both came home quite overwhelmed and exhausted.  It was late in the evening, and they hadn?t eaten anything either, which came as no surprise, but by the time I could get a pot of pelmini on the table, it was 9pm.  Kostia was just getting home from working with Gennadiy today on a church construction project, so we set a couple more places and heated the chai pot.  It was good to have Gennadiy join us.  I like having someone at the table on occasion who can take the conversation a bit deeper than I?m able to with my juvenile Russian language ability. 


I got out today and did some shopping.  I know that sounds like woman?s work, but I am the hunter and gatherer in our house, and today was one of those days.  I spent some time trying to find the right wash machine for installation on the third floor, for the use of the guys as well as girls who live in the dorms, but come here regularly for the ?You Are Not Alone? club meetings.  Currently we all use our machine on the first floor, and that?s just not a good long-term solution.


I also managed to find the warehouse where we ordered the mattresses for the beds we built for the orphanage at Christmas time, and I placed the order for mattresses for the six beds we?re building for the residential phase of the ministry here.  They needed to be a bit bigger and better than the beds for the orphanage, since these beds must accommodate man-sized ?boys?.  I was able to find good quality mattresses, right at $100 US each.  They have to come from Moscow, but they should be here before I leave for the States to join Ann.


I also paid a visit to our local supermarket, and I had no idea how much different that would feel without Ann, though it?s not uncommon for me to go alone, even when she?s in town.  However, to walk in without a list, just kind of threw me off guard from the beginning.  Then, as I rolled my cart (that?s right, we have carts here now) right past the vegetable bins without even a hesitation, I felt no remorse at all, until later, as I was serving the pelmini with nothing green to sit beside it on the plate, I knew how desperately we are missing Ann.  That was the verb of the night by-the-way, ?to miss? ? in Russian ? ?skuchat?.  The boys were talking about how they are missing her, and I don?t think it was the vegetables.  They taught me to say, ?Ya soskuchilcya Anichka.?  - ?I miss Ann!?  And, ?Mwee soskucilis onna.? ? ?We miss her.?  And we do!  If you?ve read this far, it?s obvious that?s an understatement.  Tomorrow will be better.


Oatmeal and fresh ground coffee?   Starbucks!?!?!    Not yet.                September 4, 2007


This morning started early.  A couple of the boys wanted me to rouse them at 6:30.  Kostia starts a new job ?experiment? today that Gennadiy lined up for him working in his business selling building materials.  Gennadiy asked that I try to help him get on his way to the bus stop by a little past 7.  The twins needed to try to catch the same bus to their college, so we decided last night we might try to put some oatmeal in our stomachs before heading our respective ways.  Well the oatmeal was a bit of a disaster, but they got something on their stomachs, and they enjoyed the fresh ground coffee.  We buy the beans at the local market, but we keep them in a Starbucks resealable foil bag.  I think it definitely changes the taste.

Photographic evidence.  It's coming soon to a Russian mall near you.  If you don't read Russian, the sign would read, Photographic evidence. It's coming soon to a Russian mall near you. If you don't read Russian, the sign would read, "Starbox".

Hey, if you don?t believe that?  Would you believe Starbucks is coming to Russia, FINALLY.  I couldn?t believe it either, until I saw it with my own eyes.  After putting Ann on the plane Sunday in Moscow, I was killing time at a Mega Mall in Moscow, waiting for my train.  (To be honest, the main reason I was there was because they have a European knock-off of Home Depot there.  And yes, I walked every isle.)  I saw a Starbucks coffee shop on the mall?s security monitor by the front desk, and in shock I asked if there was a Starbucks in the mall.  They said, ?Paka Nyet.?  Which translated means, ?Not yet.?  As I was walking around the mall later I found the actual coffee shop, almost ready to open.  I had to snap a picture on my cell phone.  For those who may disbelieve, I?ve posted the photographic evidence for all to see.


Please join me in prayer for Ann today as she visits her doctor in Dallas.          September 4, 2007


When I opened my Bible this morning, a note card fell out that Ann had snuck in there while we were on the train to Moscow.  On the back was a verse from Romans 6:4 that reminded me of the prayer I was praying for her yesterday as I walked up Kirova Street to the market.


Taking from the context of the verse from Paul, it has become my prayer for her today as she sees the doctor.  I would be deeply grateful if you?d join me in that prayer today for her.


Paul says, ?Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.?  Amen.


I pray that the resurrection of our Lord and Christ will be manifest in Ann today in all it?s fullness and newness of life, as God, the Great Physician works in her body through the medical staff she will visit today, to bring her the fullness of life that, through the glory of the Father, is His intention for her.  May she walk in it.


I?m quickly running out of week?            September 6, 2007


We?ll as I said earlier in this unbloggly ?blog?, ?I?ve never been much on blogging, largely because of how long you must sit in one spot.?  With all I?m trying to wrap up this week before catching the train Sunday night for Moscow, I can?t afford to sit long in one spot.  


Yesterday I think I was aided in not sitting too long at the computer by the sudden and mysterious disappearance of my DSL connection.  I was told that perhaps since the 5th is the day that payment is due, perhaps they cut it off for some reason.  I just paid for my first month one week ago, but who knows.  So I climbed the hill to the phone office yesterday and dropped some more rubles on my internet account.  So far the mystery remains unsolved and I remain virtually cut off from the world, with the exception of my poor dial-up connection that I will use to upload this update.  But, in the meantime, it?s kept me from sitting too long at the computer.  That?s not all bad.


Progress is being made on the beds, though I haven?t gotten much help from the boys yet, and as I said, I?m determined that they take ownership and help with their construction.  This being their first week of college, and Kostia?s first week in his new work experiment, they?ve had no time yet to take part, but it looks like the next couple days will provide us some time together in the workshop. 


I was able to get the washing machine purchased and it will be delivered Saturday, just in time for me to get the guys trained on it before I leave Sunday.  Still a lot to get done before I go.  Please pray that I can do the things that matter and let the other things go.  


Thanks for your prayers for Ann.  It means a great deal to us to know you?re praying.  Everytime the boys and I have prayed together this week, they have remembered Ann, and that?s really blessed me.  I didn?t update you on her doctor?s visit Tuesday, but she gives an update about it on the Prayer Flash Report.  


She goes back to the doctor this morning, Thursday, for a endometrial biopsy and to get the results of yesterday?s sonogram and mammograms.  Thanks for continuing to lift her up.


We surrender to His love?               September 6, 2007


I?ve been downstairs in the workshop working on the beds and I stopped for a lunch break.  I sat down at the computer with my lunch and saw a couple emails on Ann?s computer.  One from Meg in our Dallas office who is lining up food for us, for when Ann gets out of surgery, and the other from Liz in Moscow who lined up a place to stay during Ann?s recovery.  


Before clicking on the email I opened iTunes and started playing Mercy Me?s song, ?Here With Me?.  Reading the emails, while hearing the words of their song just really heightened my sense of His presence and His arms embracing us here in this place.  Me in Russia, and Ann half way around the world getting ready to go back to the doctors office in a few hours.


I sent an email back to Meg and Liz, and I?ll just share here with you, what I said to them, because it applies to so many people who have been used of God mightily during these past several days.  Thank you ALL so much for loving us so good.  It means so much to me sitting here in this hemisphere, not being able to get my arms around her, to know that she is in such Good Hands.  


I think this Mercy Me song is the same song Ann was listening to on the train to Moscow the other day, when she wrote a card to me that I later found in my Bible after she left.  The words of the song mean a great deal to Ann and I, particularly right now, as we are experiencing His embrace in the loving arms of so many of His dear servants.


I long for Your embrace, every single day

To meet You in this place, see You face to face

Will You show me, reveal Yourself to me

Because of Your mercy, I fall down on my knees


And I can feel Your presence here with me.

Suddenly I?m lost within Your beauty

Caught up in the wonder of Your touch

Here in this moment I surrender to Your love.


You?re everywhere I go.  I am not alone

You call me as your own, to know you and be known.

You are holy.  And I fall down on my knees.


And I can feel Your presence here with me.

Suddenly I?m lost within Your beauty

Caught up in the wonder of Your touch

Here in this moment I surrender to Your love.


I surrender to Your grace.

I surrender to the One who took my place.


And I can feel Your presence here with me.

Suddenly I?m lost within Your beauty

Caught up in the wonder of Your touch

Here in this moment I surrender to Your love.


Thanks for extending His arms to embrace us where we?re at.  We surrender to His love.


Monday Morning in Moscow                              September 10, 2007


I found myself this morning, racing across Moscow in the rain by Taxi from the train station to the airport.  No reason to be racing other than that?s the way taxis are driven.  I arrived in Moscow at 8am from Voronezh by overnight train and I had plenty of time to make my flight to join Ann in Dallas.  That?s one of the reasons we?ve been taking Delta lately.  First of all it is much cheaper than the alternatives.  Secondly, the main alternative is Lufthansa, via Frankfurt, but that flight leaves at 7am, so we would have to come up to Moscow the day before and incur the cost of a hotel night. 


As we sped through the wet Moscow streets this morning, I found myself a little amazed at my feelings.  Though I was intensely drawn westward, to be with Ann and the family, there was still something tugging at my gut as I considered the reality of my separation from the country and culture of Russia for three weeks.  It would be my shortest trip ?back home? to the States to date.  Without question, the right thing to do.  Yet not as easy as I thought it might be.


And so concluded the "Frat House Blog", as it were.


I did make it to Dallas.  Spent a very fast and furious 3 weeks there, standing with Ann through the surgery and intial critical period of the recovery.  And, had some precious time with our sons and new daughter-in-law.  Enough to just be reminded once again what an incredibly blessed man I am. 


I am now back in Voronezh, tending to the day to day responsibilities of the work here, and trying to chissel away at the massive list I have of projects I'm hoping to complete before she comes home.