August 10, 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters In Christ,
It's been far too long since I wrote last. Funny how things like that work out. First you don't write because things are going along without much change, and you feel like there is no reason to write. Then things pick up and you don't write because your busy. Then tragedy hits and you don't write because you don't feel like bleeding all over everyone. But then you need to write, because you need people to know what is going on, because we need your prayers and because we are sent by you and do really want you all to be involved. So, please forgive me for not writing for so long. I hope than I can be as brief as possible and yet bring everyone up to date.
This whole winter was pretty busy. I think the best way to give you an idea of what we've been up to is to give an overview of our weekly routine, which held pretty strong and fast from the time that we got back from our trip to the hospital in January till the end of April
Up at six with the guys who live next door (my two bible college students) to milk, water and feed the goats. Our goats started having kids in January and have been kidding ever since, no laughing matter! Every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday I would do a two hour in depth course of study for the guys in the bible college program. It's an open classroom so we had people from the church in Oseenavy Mees attending as well. For this course of in depth topical Bible studies I had 9 students pretty consistently. We covered Exegesis and most of the foundational doctrines this year. We'll pick it up next fall.
I also started doing Youth meetings last September and have kept them up every Saturday. I do not have many kids in the youth group (5-6) but the ones who come keep coming back. We talk about their questions, rehash last Sunday's sermon or watch a movie (the last two have been Fireproof and The End of The Spear). I hope to, in the future, take them to some of the bigger churches down south like Kansk and Aban to meet other Christian youth. These kids go through a lot to have any faith at all, so pray for them, that they would continue on the path of faith.
I also did two sunday services every week all winter (and continue to). One in Oseenavy Mees and the other here in Takuchet. Please continue to pray for God to raise up Pastors and send help. I also have been leading a sort of inductive method bible study and prayer meetings twice a week (one in Oseenavy and one in Takuchet) every week over the winter. These are always a blessing because the people get involved and get excited about seeing the word come alive for them.
We did a big outreach on Easter and some people came to hear the word. Unfortunately no new commitments but then the Word does not go out in vain. I was proud of every one pulling together in the church to do the outreach concert (with an Easter play).
As a result this winter several people in both churches who had stopped coming to church meetings started coming again. I also started visiting a few believers who are house bound who had been discovered by our Oseenavy Mees evangelist, Olga Alexeyevna. It is always a happy thing to find believers who have found faith, more or less independent of your work, and who are ready to learn and grow, are hungry for fellowship. Please pray for Andulina and Tamara, that they would come to a deeper knowledge of Christ even in their isolation, and that I would be diligent in visiting them in their need.
I also did English lessons four nights a week pretty much all winter long. I like teaching English in a voluntary environment where the kids who are there come because they want to learn. With some of the older students I've had lengthy discussions about the Lord, faith and Salvation. Again, no solid commitments from this work but the seed is being sown. Please pray that Sasha passes his 11th grade English exams and that the talks I've had with him about the Lord will bear fruit.
My mom, June, visited us in the end of March beginning of April for about three weeks. It was a blast having her. Rebecca and I and the girls drove our Honda station wagon down to the city (8-10 hour drive) to pick her up and then the same drive to take her back to the airport and both occasions were kind of like mini vacations. And as I said, we had a blast while mom was here. It was nice to haver sit in on my bible lessons and "audit" them! And the girls had so much fun with her as well. I taught mom a few things about playing chess while she was here and that was fun. Mom went to visit a lot of people she had known when they lived here back in the 1990's and that gave us an opportunity to witness again to people who needed reminding that the only hope is in Christ.
So praise the Lord. He does His Work. We preach the Word, we pray and hope and believe that He will bring in the harvest.
On the down side one of my two bible college students went on a drinking binge about a week before Easter. I found the hell hole he was drinking in with some other guys and literally carried him out of there, The next day he went back to it. In the course of a few days of drinking he lost all his documents and had spread rumors that I was using him as slave labor/ Without documents in Russia you could very well keep someone as virtually a slave, so I told him that I had to send him to a rehab center that specialized in helping restore peoples documents (a common problem among the down and outers of this society). It was so sad, because he had been doing so well and it seemed he had made some good decisions in his life. I've been in touch with Denis since he went to the rehab center and he seems to understand that we only wish him well. Please pray that God would continue to work with Denis, to mature him and grow him into the full measure of Christ.
Right after Easter Rebecca and I lost our baby. It happened so fast that even as I write there is a sense of unreality to the event. One moment everything is fine and you're planning to give birth. The next moment, like lightning out of a clear sky, panic, pain, fear, terror, and loss. No warning signs, everything was fine and then it wasn't.
When Rebecca went into labor we called the local hospital for assistance but the doctors were not available, the doctor in the next town over was not qualified to assist and so they called in a medical flight from Boguchany, our regional center. In the mean time Rebecca gave birth. Christina Hope Walker was born to us alive and we held her and spent several precious hours with her, as we waited for the medical flight to arrive. As it turned out I would have done better (time wise) to have driven Rebecca to the regional hospital (where the flight was supposed to come from) because it took them almost three hours to make the 30 min flight.
When they finally arrived they did do everything they could for our baby. The medical team administered a D and C to Rebecca in our living room on the couch, hooked Christina up to oxygen and hot water bottles and took them in the helicopter back to Boguchany. I was told I'd only be in the way and was not allowed to fly with Rebecca and the baby. I've never been so furious, frustrated, crushed and distraught in my life. I felt so inadequate, like I'd totally failed as that helicopter took off.
I immediately got the girls things around and took them to one of the ladies in the church and went myself to Boguchany to be with Rebecca. I got to the hospital about 3 hours after they had taken off from our village. Rebecca was doing fine but was in the intensive care unit on an IV and Christina was in the incubator. She lived till 7:20 that evening. In total she lived for ten hours.
I checked rebecca out of the hospital the next day. They wanted to keep her for no less than five days but we were adamant that she would recover better at home, and since everything was apparently in order with her health, emotionally we knew it would be best for her to be home. It all started happening on Friday the 25th of April and we were home again on Saturday the 26th. Andrey, my other bible college student, made a small pine box for us and a cross and the next day on Sunday we told the churches to hold their services without us, and we had a private family funeral.
It's odd how ego centrical we are. How we can, with calm equanimity, look on at the suffering of millions in history, of the distant struggles and pain of those in our own time, and talk about fallen nature, and sin causing death in the world and free will. Even last summer when Natasha from the church in Oseenavy Mees, lost her nine year old son Stas to a swimming accident in the river, even then I spoke words, what now seem to me to be cardboard platitudes, about the sovereignty of God, about not knowing his mysterious ways.
But then pain, sorrow grief, of which I have really known very little in my life, strikes home. It comes in great wrenching sobs. It comes at the check out counter for no apparent reason, it comes at night. Whoever has lost a child knows, I think, what I'm speaking of. And with the sorrow comes rage. Rage at a God who would allow such needless suffering. Rage at a God who says the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few but who does not give the harvest and the laborers feel abandoned. Rage and a raised fist at heaven, and an echoing scream at an ashen sky, a single question, why?
But back to egocentrism. The question isn't really why, the question is why me. Because when it is the lady in the other town whose son drowns, or old granny Paulina who lost a son, a granddaughter and great granddaughter in a house fire several years ago, when it's them, there is no question. It's just the way of the world. When it's missionaries of the past or martyrs of old who died in droves and in terrible circumstances the comfort is good enough that God is good and that He knows best. But when its you, when it's you and your own pain, then its suddenly skin for skin.
God didn't answer my demands for an answer. God didn't come to me in the whirlwind. He never obligated Himself to us, to give an account to us for why things happen.
So here is my take away. In the sorrow there can be honesty. Rage, if not very holy, is honest. I can not imagine God wanting us to lie about how we feel. after the rage there is submission. He is God. I am not. How can the pot condemn the potter. In worship of Him there is peace. In blessing Him, even in the pain, there is peace, a peace that passes understanding. From peace we gain strength to lay down our claims and our rights and our shattered expectations, we crawl back out onto the altar and we take up our cross.
I don't mean to make more of this than is warranted. This is our pain, though, and even though I know there are many out there who have suffered losses far more than mine, this loss was our loss and the pain was the only pain of it's kind we've ever known.
The only way to not be bitter, to not blame the Creator, to not demand answers until facts shatter your faith, the only way to move forward is to say to yourself that you know that God is good, that you have tasted and seen in years past his faithfulness and power and that even though these experiences and knowledge of him as good can not explain this pain, it can carry you through, it can bring your fist down, it can cause you to know that the Lord, He is God.
I'm trying to say that this is how we get through anything he leads us threw that we don't understand. It doesn't have to be pain, it could be a matter of obedience or submission to His will, to His Word. Whatever it is, the only way to get through it is to say, sometimes with clenched teeth that I will praise Him still. Praise has the power to liberate, that I know now better than before.
Here is a verse Rebecca ran across which ministered to us.
My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.
Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me?
For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.
So I still don't know why a loving God allows for pain, death and sorrow. I know the doctrinally correct answers but on the skin for skin level I can't grasp it quite yet. But I know that if I praise Him in the storm there is rest for my coal, and peace and a haven for my soul. So He is my soul's Anchor after all.
And life goes on, and God brings joy to us after sorrow. Sasha from Oseenavy Mees, we affectionately call him "little" Sasha (he is somewhat vertically challenged) got married to Natasha, the lady who lost her son to the river and her husband to abandonment last year. The first wedding in our church in Oseenavy Mees in it's 20 year history. God is good. And another couple has announced their intentions for getting married some time in early July. God is good.
We are in the middle of late sprain early summer work. Planting the garden, putting up firewood for the winter, preparing hay fields and trying to clear new territory to expand the hay fields we have. Preaching the gospel to any one who will listen and sowing seed both spiritual and physical. In all this, God is good.
One last piece of news. Our Honda station wagon has served us so well, but it has run so many miles over such bad roads that it is time to turn the poor thing in and get an upgrade. We'd like to get a van for church work so I am planning on trying to sell the station wagon and an old farm truck we have and get a van. I hope to start preaching in Oktobersky this fall, finally, and a van would be a great aid in this, in transporting teams and equipment for outreach, etc. Please pray for this enterprise.
Please pray for us. Pray that God would give an increase in the harvest of souls, that people would be convicted and understand their need for Christ, for His peace and rest. Pray that God would encourage and inspire the believers who are following Christ to be bold to speak the truth of the Gospel. Please pray.
Thank you all for your prayers and support. Please again, forgive me for not keeping you more informed. God Bless.
Justus Rebecca Tirzah and Adara