Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Power of Voice

"So what would you think if we started talking every week on Skype and invited some of the other girls to join us?  So we could have a time to share and pray for each other."  When one of my Russian friends asked me this a few weeks ago, my response was a no-brainer and a very hearty "yes!"

The next week 7 of us got on Skype together to share what was happening in our lives and to pray for each other.  It was a huge blessing for me and something came over me as I heard voices I hadn't heard in over a year.  I have emailed and facebooked the girls over the past year since I've been gone, but it's just not quite the same.  I realized email and the like are great for conveying information, but hearing another person's voice conveys so much more.  It almost felt like we were all sitting around the same table in my kitchen- chatting, laughing and sharing life together over a cup of tea and some little sweet things. When we finished our call, the girls in Moscow were all ending their day...mine was just half-way through, and I found myself immensely thankful for the blessing of having gotten to hear their voices.  There wasn't one piece of information we shared that couldn't have been communicated over email....but then again our call wasn't about communicating information.

Each week I wait excitedly by my computer on the set day and time, to once again here the voices of those I love and to join with them in prayer.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Red Button

This past Sunday I cooked dinner at my friends' place as a thank you for letting me store Big Bird in their freezer. Cooking at someone else's place is always an adventure- especially when they aren't there to give you insights in where things are at and how they work. I searched and found something to marinade the chicken in, I searched and found something to cook the chicken in...and now came that fateful moment- time to pre-heat the oven.
In Russia, there are a handful of things of the mechanical/appliance nature that are notoriously temperamental...they work in various stages of efficiency- ranging from fairly efficient to not working at all...these include elevators, cars of the older Lada persuasion, and ovens- I was tempted to add on metro station doors and hot water- but I felt those may push the mechanical/technical classification. Besides- the oven is the star of this post. Approaching an unfamiliar gas oven in Russia has to be done with great caution and care- as though approaching a tiger that you aren't sure whether is asleep or dead. My friends' have a wonderfully retro Soviet gas oven...i.e. a piece of antiquity that operates on a system of logic unknown to this generation. I'll explain- to light the oven you must not only turn the gas knob to the desired temperature, but you must also hold a red button for 5 minutes...and not a second less. If you hold the button for 4 minutes and 53 seconds, you will be sorely disappointed to realize that upon releasing the button, your flame has gone out- and thus you must hold the button again for an additional 5 minutes. TRUST me- 5 minutes, no less. It took me about 23 minutes (yes, you can do the math to estimate how many times I went through this ritual) before I realized the magic 5 minute mark. This was definitely a moment when it would have been good to have the homeowners..well, home.

Actual Oven and Actual Red Button

Holding a red button for 5 minutes is an interesting situation as you can really do little else at the same time. I was greatly relieved when the oven was good and lit and the chicken cooking. After we ate dinner, we had some late comers arrive. I realized that while I had enough pasta and chicken, I needed more garlic toast. A thought that didn't cause me the slightest concern until I reached the kitchen and saw it- the Red Button. I momentarily stood there in disbelief- what? seriously? would I have to stand and hold the red button for another 5 minutes? Really? I mean I held it for a solid 5 minutes earlier when I finally got the oven lit for the chicken...the oven should like me by now, right? We should be old friends by now, right? Aren't we past the whole "hold for 5 minutes" thing?
The Red Button mockingly glared at my naivete. Of course, I would have to hold the button again- for there was no other way to keep flame going long enough for the oven to be actually "lit."

As I stood there- I was amused at myself and began to think of how often in life- I've felt that same exasperated feeling of having to do something once "again." We have this tendency to feel that if we just put enough time into something- then we'll be done with it once and for all. If we held the Red Button for 5 minutes the first time...we shouldn't have to hold it for another 5 minutes the next time we want to use it. "If I just get into shape once- I'll never have to worry about my health again"...."If I just work the 18 hour days for the first two years- I'll not have to worry about my job performance and security again"....the list goes on and on...It's as though we think if we put the time in and check it off our list, we can move on and never look back except to note that we've been there, done that and got the shirt. It is easier to go through difficult and unpleasant experiences when we think once it's over, we'll never have to do it again.

Later in the week, God brought the Red Button to mind again during the meeting for all the ministry directors in Moscow. Yuri shared his thoughts on how we are called to "present our bodies a living sacrifice" and how that correlates with Leviticus 6:12, where instruction was given concerning the altar on which sacrifices were to be offered in the temple "The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood.."
Maintaining the fire that was required for sacrifices was a continual and ongoing process. If we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice- it requires continual attention. We must not let the fire go out. As Yuri shared, I found my thoughts once again going back to the Red Button. While what God gave me Sunday night was insight in to my own reluctance to revisit something I thought I was finished with, on Tuesday it was a reminder of the importance of not letting the fire go out. For once the fire goes out, you will have to press "the Red Button" once again for 5 minutes...for there is no other way to get the flame lit again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's a Great Turkey, Charlie Brown...

Okay, I know...technically "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving", but when you lug home a 27lb turkey...well..."It's a Great Turkey" seems just more appropriate.

In Moscow, getting a whole turkey is not an easy feat. You either pay tons of money for a frozen turkey from on import grocery store or you are blessed by being not only able to get a fresh turkey, but also support the senior fundraiser at the Christian academy by ordering one from them. It's great to get a fresh turkey...even if you have to pluck a few quills...and it's great to support the kids...the guys who sold me the turkey were listening to Billie Holiday- got to love that! The only problem with well..the turkeys are gargantuan...I mean at 27lbs.- I got the smallest one there!

I arranged for one of my friends, who has a car, to help me get the big baby home. I was greatly relieved to see that she does fit in my one piece even! Unfortunately, my freezer...well, that's another story.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Searching for an apartment...

There are things I love about Moscow and there are things I love about the US- one of which is the ease with which one can find an apartment. Yes, ease. In the US- finding an apartment is a matter of determining your price range and finding something with the right number of rooms, in the area you like and the standard you hope for (often this is pre-determined by your price range)

In Moscow, it is much, much harder. Apartments here are individually owned, which means each apartment is unique to the furnishings, to the condition and to the landlord. Moscow being the most expensive city in Europe doesn't help either. So as my roommate and I scan the most reliable real estate site for apartments, we put in the desired number of rooms, select about 7 metro stations near which we would like to live, and put in our upper limit for price. That is the easy part. Next we go through the listings to try and figure out what fits our overall needs..being 10 minutes or less from the metro...having a washing machine...not being on the first floor (unless it has bars on the windows)....not being wall to wall of the landlord's old ratty furniture that they refuse to part with...that there are no pianos taking up empty space...that the cabinets aren't serving as the landlords storage space.- once we establish those things within our price range, we then start calling. Surprisingly enough, we've already been shot down on two apartments for the mere fact that we are two single girls...just wait til they find out I'm an American! So after we see which apartments from the short list of what we liked are open to singles and foreigners- we get to a much shorter list. This usually has you asking big quesetions about what you want... is it worth walking 15 minutes to the metro, if the place has two bedrooms? Is it worth sacrificing a bedroom, getting a one bedroom- which would have the living room doubling as my bedroom, to be closer to the metro? Is it worth trying to stretch the budget to try and find something that is close and has two bedrooms? Is it worth getting a place that doesn't have an oven...oh, wait, no- that's not an option..that's an immediate disqualifying factor. The trade-offs can seem unending. A big factor here is not just my personal preferences, but ministry aspects. A small group meets at my place, leadership meetings happen at my place, I love having people over to help faciliate relationships outside of structured "ministry time"- those are all things that are a part of why I am here. Living more than 10 minutes doesn't just mean a longer walk for me to and from work- it means that people who travel about an hour each Friday night for small group, will then have to travel even further- it means girls can't stay as late as they would like. Having small rooms will lots of "landlord" furniture makes it real hard to comfortably fit 16-20 people for meetings and small group. It can be hard to balance all the factors...

So if you think about it..pray for me and my roommate this week as we have to move by Friday...that God will make it overwhelming evident which apartment is right for us- that can be used for His purposes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Easter 2009!

We celebrated Easter this past weekend in Russia. Easter is more often than not on a different weekend in Russia than in the west because they use Julian calendar to determine the holiday. In any case it was a wonderful Easter despite the cold and slightly snowy weather.

Moscow Bible Church meets in the basement of a Christian Office Center. We rent the space, as several other churches at different times throughout the weekend. We have one service at 10am and a second at 12pm. The space does not allow us to all meet at one time.

In Russian it is tradition to greet every with "Christ is Risen" to which you will respond "He is risen indeed!" The hall was decorated with bright letters declaring Christ has risen behind the pulpit. We celebrated Easter by having the Lord's Supper as well.

Easter is an amazing time to not only remember the sacrifice Christ paid for our sins, but to remember that He is alive, risen and wanting to do great things in and through our lives. John 21:25 states that after Christ's resurrection many other things which Jesus did, which were too many to be written in detail and if written would be too many for the world to contain. In the sermon we were challenged to examine our lives and how open we were to letting our lives be among "the many things" that Jesus does to fill these countless books. God wants to work in our lives and use our lives to bless others- all to share His glory and love. It was a great reminder and challenge!
I wanted to just share some pictures from church that Sunday. I hope that joy and reality of the
resurrection is ever present in every day of our lives!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Christmas Cafe

This year we held a Christmas Cafe. We wanted to be able to celebrate the greatest gift anyone has ever given or received and to share the truth of that gift with others. We baked and decorated cookies, prepared the shorts talks and the worship group planned out their songs. The Cafe went well and was a good start to the Russian holiday season (Russians get 10 days off of work starting January 1- and some a few days before that.) So before everyone left town- we had one final event to end the year focused on an event that changed the world.

I enjoyed sharing the tradition of
decorating Christmas cookies with
some of my good Russian friends.

Sharing about the true meaning of Christmas

3rd Annual Krysha Chili Cook-off!!

This November, Krysha had it's 3rd Annual Chili Cook-off! The cook-off provides a great opportunity to introduce new people to the ministry- and it's a lot of fun...and work! I participated last year in the cook-off and came in 2nd place. I had high hopes of beating last year's champion and coming home with the 1st place prize! Having established my recipe while back in the great state of Texas early- I was able to turn my full attention to the acutal work of putting on a ministry event that involves so much food, a full program and a wonderful team of volunteers ready to jump and well, dish out the chili! From burning the edges of our invitations, to tracking down 6 crock pots in Moscow (no easy feat- I tell ya') to making sure we had all the rooms we needed rented for the time we needed them- oh, and let's not forget making my chili- it was quite the busy week. The day had finally arrived and we weren't quite sure exactly how many people to expect...which when dealing with food- is a scary thing. I finally gave the signal that the kitchen was ready, my team rolled up there sleeves, donned on our hats and start dishin' out the chili. By the time it was all said and done- we had moved 90 people through our serving line, with only a little bit of chili left. Again, it was great to see a lot of new people! I didn't see much that took place outside of the kitchen- but seeing as we were serving the food- I think it is safe to say I saw every person that came. It was really a great opportunity to serve others and to introduce people to the ministry. A good number of people who were at the Chili Cook-off have begun attending our monthly meetings and even our small groups. As we build relationships with new people- God is providng more opportunities to encourage them in their relationship with Him.
One last thing- I came in 2nd place this year..again! But only by one point :)
The first and second place winners of the Chili Cook-off
just wait until next year.....