June 19, 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Spring is passed and the hot, hot days of summer have arrived. How hot could it be in snow bound Siberia you might ask? Well the other day it was 98 degrees F, in the shade! So Siberia is a land of contrasts and contradictions, as our lives often are.
The last couple of weeks have been full of the Spring time work on the farm. I use my little farm tractor and a rotor tiller attachment to plow a lot of peoples gardens in both the towns of Takuchet and Oseenavy Mees. I usually plow for the church folk as well as for a lot of people in the communities. It's a nice way to interact with people, share the gospel and invite people to trust in Jesus. Can't say that there were any tractor side conversions this year but, a lot of seed was sown. One of the reasons I like plowing is that I can be a blessing to people in these two towns in need. Plowing the garden spot for a widow or for an abandoned single mother with two children, is a small way I can give a real helping hand.
Jordan and Janahlee are back in Russia for the summer, and have already headed up north to the Evenki people. They are planning on sending a few months in the Evenki territory before heading back to the US for the birth of their first child. Right now they are in a season of decision, praying and searching for what God has in store for them as a family, whether to continue the work with the Evenki as a family and in what capacity. Please pray for these two brave pioneers of the Kingdom, that the Lord would give them a real vision and a peace for what their next steps should be.
For the last several Sundays we've had a newcomer attending Church, reading, praying and asking questions in Takuchet. She makes a welcome addition to our little band of faithful believers. Takuchet has been an uphill fight, but maybe we will soon find that "man of peace" who will be a turning point in ministering to this town. Pray that the Lord would put a passion and an urgency in the hearts of the believers to share the Gospel with their friends and neighbors.
A couple of churches from the city have talked about sending outreach teams to us this summer to do youth and children's outreach. We would be so blessed by this so please pray that these events would really come about.
Last week I got news from our church in Idaho that the last of the money needed to finish the orphanage had come in!!! Praise the Lord! This building project will be 8 years old this August, and I personally am ready for it to be completed and launched. Last november a contractor friend of ours had pointed out some issues that needed to be addressed so that set the work back some. Right now we are pulling together a small work crew and hopefully will be able to start work in the first part of July and be done, finished, completely finalized by mid August. Praise the Lord.
We started the orphanage project in response to the Russian laws concerning foreign adoptions becoming ever more stringent between 2004 to 2008. I felt that we needed to continue to do something to aid the orphans and building an orphanage seemed like the best, long term investment we could make. We designed the orphanage to house 20 children, the maximum size of an "orphanage family" allowed for by Russian law in 2007. Back then the largest barrier for families wanting to start a "family orphanage" (much like a US foster home but more long term, more like adoption but with more than just a few children) was the rigorous home inspection and housing requirements.
We hoped to provide a facility that would fulfill those requirements and allow a Christian family to pursue their goal of helping children. Frankly I underestimated the enormity of the project, and if I had it to do over again I would have built using a different method on a smaller scale. But what we have ended up with is a 3000 sqr foot facility that is nicer than any home I've ever lived in! Now that the finish line is in sight, we need to be in serious prayer that God would send us the right family that can adopt the vision as their own, not just my idea, and really run with it. We have already had two families commit and then back out of the project, but I believe that this has been, although painful at the time, in the long run for the better. But as I said we are nearing the finish line as far as the construction phase goes and I want to see this building, so long in coming, to be put to good use immediately.
So please be in prayer that there would be no more construction set backs or surprises as we wrap up and that a family would step up in the near future to utilize the facility. And thank you, all of you, for supporting a project so long in maturing.
We have been studying the Gospel of John in the Takuchet Church and just went through Chapter 12, the anointing of Christ by Mary at Bethany. Two contrasts jumped out at me.
The first, the contrast between Mary and Judas. She is willing to sacrifice, even to the point of waste, to pour out her precious oils and spices and lavish it on Christ. She doesn't care for the scene she's making, she doesn't care for the gossip she's generating, she cares only to give her utmost for Him, because she knows that He is the real pearl of great price. Christ is not an end to a means with her, He is the final goal of all searches, the destination of all roads, the hero of every tale. He is the Beginning and the End, so in Him, she finds her end by giving all and receives a new beginning.
Judas, on the other hand is a thief and sees Christ as means to an end, a resource generating, revenue collecting mechanism for personal progress. But I have to not write Judas off so easily, because Judas is among the disciples, and Mary is not. Judas is an important ministry partner, the accountant, a trusted friend, a confidant, a team member, a chosen herald of the Kingdom. But Judas missed Christ. He proclaimed the Kingdom as Christ's emissary but never realized that the Kingdom of God begins and ends in Christ. Judas had confused the goals, not doing ministry but truly knowing Christ.
The other contrast (or even contradiction) that struck me was the nature of Mary's gift. It is spices and oils, worth a great sum of money, but it's a shroud, a burial poultice, a mixture for mummification, a choice collection of fragrances reeking of death and the grave. In the previous chapter Jesus had just raised Lazarus, Mary's brother, from the dead. Why did she still have these oils, these spices? Had she not been able to use them on her brother? Had she kept them in hope that Jesus would raise him? I can't answer that but I can say what leapt out at me.
Here is Mary, so lately bereaved and then relieved, so lately brought down to the depths of sorrow and raised to the ecstasy of faith. And what is her response? She gives her greatest treasure to Christ. But what is that treasure? Her treasure is the precious, priceless treasure of the grave, the mummification of death in overpowering dead aroma's.
Isn't it true with us all, though? Don't we collect our treasures of death and hide them away in our heart's most dear treasure trove, our offenses that our useful only to petrify the corpse of a relationship but which are so fragrant to our lacerated memory. Our secret sins and our not so secret bitterness. What to do with all this blessed death? We can take the road of Judas and mask our thievery with piety. Or we can pour it out on Jesus, lavish it on Him, empty the well of our sorrows and our delights on Him. What does he do with all our fragrant sin? He thanks us, blesses us, and takes it to the cross, dies with it on His shoulders, carries it to hell, and leaves it there.
What can we do for Him? What can we give Him? We can lay on him our burdens, our precious and costly graveyard burdens, and be free. And that too is a contradiction. God give us grace to lay all at Jesus' feet.
Justus D. Walker