What Happened to Our Holidays?

Ann - Feb 2008


What happened to our holidays, specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years???



?Life in the fast lane? has a little different connotation when you are a missionary in  Voronezh, Russia.  Oh, there are lots of fast lanes in Russian driving ? all of them are fast but usually the ?lanes? aren?t very well defined, if defined at all! 


Our lives the past couple of months kind of remind me of the way I feel when I am in Russian traffic = crazy!


Robert is working on an article giving some details from his perspective.  And I thought I would add mine.  ?Brief? is not usually in my vocabulary so bear with me.  Here?s a capsule of the last 4 months:


       Early September discovered I needed to return to Dallas to have an ?emergency? hysterectomy.  All you ever want to know about my ?plumbing? are shared on previous stories.  Bottom line: the surgery went well.  No cancer was found but lots was brewing.  We made the right decision to come home and get it done.

      Thank you for praying!


       After my surgery on September 13, 2007 I had 8 weeks of recovery ordered by my doctor.  Right before I discovered I would be making this ?extra? trip back to the States I was asking God what I should do to help fill my need for American women fellowship.


God has given me some really dear Russian women friends, some of which speak English really well.  But there is something important about being able to share in your ?heart language?, especially as a woman.  And if you don?t have it, you really begin to miss it.  I was really beginning to miss it . . . then,


Pow!  I am ?stuck? in Dallas for 8 weeks, most of the time staying with a dear friend, a couple of blocks from the East-West office and having an onslaught of girlfriends coming by to fill my cup.  Also got to stay in a new friend?s house for part of that time so my cup ranneth over with fellowship.  Thank you Lord!


Still trying to figure out how to effectively meet this need with out having to make trips back to the States.  I have some ideas and they don?t include surgery...


       After a 6 week separation during my recovery in Dallas, Robert and I were reunited the middle of November.  I think the longest we have ever been separated in 33 years of marriage is a week so it was a real stretch for both of us.


I hadn?t been home a week when I got an excruciating toothache.  Now, I had been diligent to get all the check-ups while I was home in September for the surgery -  eyes, teeth etc.


But somehow, just underneath the surface some really bad stuff was brewing and I got to go to the Russian dentist ? not once but 5 different times which resulted in a root canal and a new crown for my molar.  Now, at the time I wasn?t sure if that would qualify me for sainthood or martyrdom but the pain was so bad I didn?t care.  Just do something!  And the Russian dentists did, and they did a mighty fine job as far as I can tell.


It was quite humorous the day I had to have the old crown removed.  I walked into the dentist office and it wasn?t just one dentist working with a patient, but 5 different dentists with 5 different patients all in one room!  When the guy finally was able to remove my crown all the dentists and assistants came scurrying over to take a look at the American crown!  You would have thought I was the Queen or something!  I gave it to the guy as a gift.  He was quite thrilled.


       Then some serious problems began to come to the surface with our ministry staff.  Things went from bad to worse.  Without going into much detail, it was probably the hardest time of our lives to date.


I have a new appreciation of what the psalmist means when he tells us to ?cry out to God?.  There were so many days and nights that, that is all we could do.  It wasn?t a cry of fear, or of anger but a cry for GOD.


And God was there.  God was so present during these difficult days that turned into weeks and months as we dealt with hard issues, sought Him and stayed close to His heart.


I have lots more to write on what God taught us and continues to teach us during this time of brokenness.  Yes, it has been painful but in a glorious kind of way.  But for the sake of this staying as a ?summary? I will share more of the lessons later.  I should have a new ?Blog-A-Dot? entry posted soon with more insights.


       Thanksgiving was kind of a blur.  They don?t celebrate Thanksgiving in Russia, obviously ? they don?t have pilgrims in their country!  But because we were in the midst of our crisis, we were just putting one foot in from of the other and mainly we were on our knees.


       Then December arrives and things are even worse.  About the middle of the month we realize that we still need to have Christmas for the ?You Are Not Alone Club? kids and we begin to come up for air.  God did some amazing things in the midst of some awful circumstances that, again, I?ll give more details in a later writing.


But we did celebrate the birth of our Savior.  And because of what we had been going through, John 4:14 became an even greater reality for us . . . ?The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.?  Never more have I realized how much we all need a Savior than I have this Christmas season.  Thank you God for your incredible gifts!


       Since you host your own birthday party in Russia I decided to throw a dinner party for Robert?s birthday on the 26th.  It was just a small gathering of some of our closest Russian friends, but including our guys who live upstairs, there were 12 of us all together and I think Robert was duly honored. 


       Since we had big plans for the night of New Years Eve, we had our own little private household Christmas celebration with our guys from upstairs on the evening of the 30th.  Robert made his self-proclaimed ?World Famous Robert?s Russian Red Texas Borsch?, which is really just a very long name for ?chili?.  After our first annual traditional Christmas Chili dinner, the boys took turns reading the Christmas story in Russian from Luke 2, and we had fun opening gifts and celebrating the Lord?s birth ?family style?.


       New Year?s Eve is the Big Event in Russia!  That?s when they give gifts to each other and have parties and stay up all night to bring in the new year.  The You Are Not Alone Club hosted a party and at 10 minutes before midnight the new, young leadership of this ministry had us all on our knees praying in the New Year.  What an awesome privilege to see God working in the lives of these kids!  Thank you Lord!


We also did the traditional fireworks and ate lots of good food and these old folks went down to their apartment on the first floor while the ?young ones? played on the 3rd floor ? pretty much all night.


       January 10th we left for Cyprus to attend the East-West conference/retreat for field staff.  Missionaries from all over the world were gathered in this beautiful hotel during off season, so we pretty much had the Mediterranean to ourselves!


It was just what the Great Physician ordered for us!  And I think for the rest of our brothers and sisters who are serving in Albania, Kazakstan, Spain, Moscow, Kenya and . . . .   Several of the Dallas staff were there and we were loved on and blessed in so many ways.


We laughed, we cried (I more than others, but that?s just me!), we worshipped in our native language, we studied, we played, we watched a live football game (ok, a few of us did in the middle of the night!), we rested, we toured, we encouraged one another and we received so much!  Thank you East-West!  Thank you God!


       We retuned to Moscow after the conference just in time to go ?car shopping?.  By the grace of God and the generosity of some supporters we are now the proud owners of a 2001 Honda Stream!  Robert?s first time to drive in Russia and it?s Moscow!  And of course, to make the story really good, his first day out, he makes a wrong turn and gets pulled over and receives a ticket.  It seems that little yellow ?T? above the green light means that only taxi?s and buses can turn there, not regular cars.  Oops!


But praise God the fine was minimum and we were able to drive home safely ? 8 hours to Voronezh.  It is such a blessing to have a car after being in this country for 2 years.  In Krasnodar the need was not that great because we lived close to public transportation and shopping was very close.


But here in Voronezh it?s quite different, especially in the winter with the ice and the steep hills that we have to traverse to and from our house just to get to a bus stop.


I help with the shopping a lot more now that I have a chauffer.  Before, Robert was pretty much the ?hunter and gatherer? for our household.  I think he?s glad to have the help and the company.


       With the new structuring of the Club ministry I have a new, added responsibility which is really kind of neat.  Robert calls me the ?food lady?.  Basically I plan the menus for Club meetings, do the shopping (with Robert?s help of course) and most of the cooking.  Our average attendance has been around 20 ? 25 so we are talking a lot of cooking.


You know the neat thing?  I love it!  I never enjoyed cooking that much but now in my ?golden years? I am really getting into it.  I remember when I first learned to make Russian borsh while I was in language school the first year.  I was so frustrated with the language, thinking I would never get it.  I remember saying, ?maybe God just brought me to this country to make borsh and never say a word!?


Well, I think He is using my borsh but I am happy to share that I am talking a little Russian, at least, and my confidence continues to grow and make this language mine ? one mistake at a time!


Friends from the Dallas office brought a huge supply of dry onion soup mix and you put that on anything in a crock pot and the Russians think you are a gourmet cook!  So between my borsh and the soup mix, I?ve got quite a ministry cooking.


       Well, that?s about as ?brief? as this woman can get on answering the question, ?what happened to our holidays??  In a little over a week another holiday will be upon us ? Valentine?s Day.  Hopefully we will be a little better in keeping people up to date on our life in Voronezh.


We are so grateful to all of you who have prayed, written, and called.  You are such a blessing to us and we continue to pray that God will allow you to know how much you are loved by Him ? in ways that you cannot deny.