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Dear Friends and Families,
obstacle is always the luggage being overweight for the flight. Once
again, everything got on with a few minor changes. We had a
ventilator for Voronezh Children’s Hospital, a huge electronic
keyboard for the music department at the boys’ prison, “tons” of
medical supplies, diapers for the babies like you could not believe,
and it goes on and on. Did you know gifts from God must weigh
less than would be expected? Again, all our supporters opened the supply
rooms of Heaven and filled us to the max. The last few days before we
left, we had to turn gifts away because of the lack of space.
First, let me begin by apologizing for the lack of emails while we
were gone. I don’t know where the time went; it just flew by without
the opportunity to email home. Our days were filled with ministry and
our nights were filled with meetings and after hour hospital visits.
God has given us a support group of young Russian Christians we could
never have put together on our own. We spent our evenings helping them
grow in the Lord and planning for the next day. Like we always say,
“No news is good news!”
Arriving in London on September 13, the team had rest and sightseeing
on their minds. It was “free time” to enjoy before the mission. Dr.
Joe and I went to Scotland to investigate a side trip on an upcoming
trip, while Donna and Stephanie made final purchases for the mission.
They found the English trains less reliable than Russian trains, as
they traveled to a nearby village to find 50 cycle equipment for the
trip. On the return train ride, the engineer stopped the train and
announced, “This trip is cancelled!” Because they could not climb
stairs, the tube (subway, for you Americans) was out of the question.
Oh well, they were grateful to find a taxi that would make the long
trek into Central London. Did you know angels could drive an English
arrival of the second team and the return of the Scotland team, we
faced the second obstacle, the European leg of the trip. Flights from
the US to UK have a 70 lb limit per piece of luggage. If you make a
same-day continuation of the trip from the US to Russia, the limits
remain intact. However, since the flight out was not same-day, the
European weight limits fall into place. The bag weight allowance
Donna and I went first because we had the business visas into Russia.
The first piece of luggage failed the test (big surprise, NOT!) and we
had 31 more to go. Now what? The team gathered and prayed, as again
we saw the attitude of the counter person begin to soften. Everything
was taken and we were not charged for overweight. Did you know angels
could work counters at airlines?
We arrived in Moscow at the new airport, Domodedevo (much easier to
pronounce than Sheremetevo). What an improvement from the old one.
It looks like this one was built after the flight of the Wright
brothers. Sheremetevo was built in da Vinci’s dreams, I think. There
were lights on and everything.
The third obstacle
is customs. The team split into two groups as to what needed to
be declared. There have been recent reports of Christians being
arrested because of the fact they did not follow Russian rules of
declarations. We try our very best to follow Russian laws.
“Render unto Caesar…Czars…whomever,” and God will honor our luggage. Ten
went through “Green Light”, or nothing to declare; seven went through
“Red Light” to declare what we were bringing with us.
We had asked our
Russian organization, Mercy Missions, for written requests for the
things that may draw attention to our luggage. Oleg had emailed
the requests with his stamp, they love stamps, and we were as prepared
as we could be. Now it was up to God to blind seeing eyes.
My carts had
eleven pieces of luggage on them. Before I even entered the
gate, this drew customs agents from several different locations to
investigate. One agent, pointing from across the barricade,
asked, “All your luggage?” as he pointed at my carts. “Yes,” I
replied. He stared for a minute and shook his head. He reached for my
declaration. Seeing I had listed $11,000 on it he again asked, “Cash?”
“Yes.” Handing back the paper, he shook his head again as
he walked away.
Two others were
looking at Billy and the Ponds. They would not allow Vitaly, our
Russian representative, to enter customs to translate for us…this is a
good thing sometimes. I figured out something a few trips back… It is not
easy to fool the agents, but it IS easy to confuse them. When they are
sufficiently confused, they give up in a disgusted manner and wave us
through, as if we are an interruption of their work. Works for me.
several inexpensive crosses seen by the x-ray machines, bothered
them. They worry about people bring in merchandise to sell on the
black market. Donna was able to convince them they were gifts for our
friends. Next, all the packaged new diapers were a problem. Donna
was whipping out our paperwork asking for the diapers for the
orphanages. Having passed through the x-ray, and stacking up on the end of the conveyor, I started reloading on
the carts. I was getting ready to make like a tree and leave!
The x-ray operator was keeping more of an eye on what the others were
looking at with Josh, than watching the screen. I had “stuff”, lots
of “stuff”. After all, it was a shell game and they were
watching the wrong shell. Father, blind seeing eyes.
through except Donna and me, thank the Lord. The only thing they saw
was the Rubbermaid container with the ventilator. By now, Vitaly had
“wandered” past the guards into our area. He explained what it was,
as Donna showed the request and explained it was to help the hospital
save lives of those who could not breath on their own. After several
long moments, never actually opening the container, the guard stamped
our visas and said, “Good luck”. All the medications were not even
seen! Did you know angels wear Russian Customs uniforms?
Now, let the
mission begin! We loaded the bus and got the team out of Dodge…or we
headed for McDonalds, then to Vladimir.
The team shopped
for goodies at the market, while Jessica headed for Barskoe Gorodische
to set up for VBS. We had so much fruit and food, Andre the driver
went and got a trailer to hook behind our van!
their part with puppet shows, teaching, crafts, and Bible games. The
interaction with the kids is the most appreciated part of the day.
Just a hug speaks volumes to these kids who are never touched. We had
tried to hire two Russian hairstylists to come and cut the girls’
hair, but when they heard our plan, they volunteered. This has been
one of the most rewarding parts of our mission, showing Russians the
needs of these kids. Then they get involved and continue the
relationship. While the boys played games, the girls had their hair
cut and nails painted. Our team was full of daddies of little girls,
these men knew about painting nails! How special these girls
Each boy was given a new Yo-Yo and the guys taught them how to "Yo".
To the casual observer it would look like a lesson in Yo-Yoing.
But as in one of my favorite Howardisms, "What you are looking at is
probably not what is happening." If only for the moment,
this was paw paws, daddies, and sons having a large time, under the
The day was spent
just showing Jesus to our BG kids. We left as dark was settling in.
After supper, all our big kids, Vitaly, Alyonia, Max and his new wife,
Tanya, Losha, Katya, Ilya, and Oksana came to share with the team.
These are precious young people on fire for God. They vie for the
chance to minister to whomever God brings in their path. Our greatest
joy is enabling them to reach fellow Russians for Jesus.
The plan always
looks good on paper, but… the potatoes had to be picked before the
rain, so VBS was delayed for the morning. Ten of the team went to the
potato patch and seven went shopping! One of the team member’s
children had purchased garden gloves for all the BG kids. The kids
had been using old socks for their hands when digging up the potatoes.
after the morning “dig”. The boys were helped to make toolboxes
for woodworking. We are saving our pennies to purchase a
teaching workshop for BG.
We are blessed to deliver the fruits of your
labor to the kids. Astonished with
the 40 liter pot of
honey already being produced by Treasures’ new beehives, we purchased
storage jars for the honey. Already delivered was the
steel kitchen tables
We brought with us
4 huge commercial rolling pins, tea towels, and dish
Who said men are
not shoppers? They never met our fundraising, power-shopping “men”.
Despite Russian paperwork, our “men” purchased:
delivered the bounty to BG and joined the afternoon games. We said
our goodbyes and departed. Taking the team to the beautiful village of
Suzdahl is always a highlight. There are onion domes (cathedrals) in
every direction you look.
Vitaly, our hands and feet in Russia.
What a joy, now he does not have to keep his family up while
we email at all hours of the night.
commercial food processor for the BG kitchen.
which can play Russian, and USA tapes.
tapes for the BG kids to watch.
stainless steel tables.
saw for the BG workshop.
After supper, we visited the neo-natal unit at
the children’s hospital in Vladimir. We were allowed to anoint and
pray for the sick infants. Because of all the donations by area
doctors, hospitals, and medical suppliers, we were able to give “tons”
of sutures, medications, suction machine,
addition pulse Oximeters and supplies to
Dr. Sergey. What an eye opener as he
gathered them up to take home so they are used where needed and not
left to disappear.
joined with the Vine Church to shop and visit homes of single moms and
widows. The teams go two by two with a translator to share with these
families. The homes are selected randomly for the teams. We do not
know the story in the homes and the church does not know the story of
the team. The random selection never fails to amaze us, each team
always returns with the most touching stories of how they connected
with the homes.
After lunch, we
visited the Vladimir Baby House. There we delivered over 60 dozen
cloth diapers, plastic pants, and pins. The babies have problems with
ear infections for which we were able to supply antibiotics, Otoscopes,
nebulizers, and the medications. Plus, we got to love and
Later that day we
visited the Train Station home, where we partner with the Vine Church
to provide a home for 3 children. We
gave them new bed linens, towels, winter coats, boots, hats, gloves,
and socks. These children were found under the train station, keeping
warm next to the hot water pipes on a bitter cold winter night.
supper, we loaded up for the drive to Moscow. We arrived to a
beautiful night at Red Square.
The team shopped,
visited Red Square, and rested.
Team two left
us and returned to the USA on Sunday morning. The rest of us boarded
the train for our twelve-hour
trip to Voronezh.
We arrived tired
but ready. What a group God put together. We went shopping
one more time; there were babies to feed. Formula and cereal for
everyone! We looked up and our men shoppers had found a toy
department! Tricycles for everyone! We moved on to clothes, tights,
The group divided
into shopping machines, we cleaned out the baby department. We
had bags and bags of clothes for the babies. As the team
continued, a small group rushed to a computer store and purchased:
Computer and printer for Oleg, our prison minister in
Voronezh. He gets all our official paperwork for the invitation from
the government. Now, he can do it from his home.
Computer and printer for Dr. Elena, our neurologist in
Voronezh. She can access the Internet from home. Her
daughter, after arriving home and seeing the computer boxes on the
floor, called her mom and said she was dancing around the boxes!
It will help her in her studies in school.
We arrived at Dubovka
Baby House with a vanload of food, clothes, and medications. The new
playground equipment we purchased last visit greeted us as we drove
through the gate. We delivered all the bounty, filling the director’s
office. As we unloaded a suitcase, the staff would scoop it up and
disappear to a safe place.
Dr. Joe and KoKo
went through the medical supplies, explaining nebulizers, Otoscopes,
and medications. We asked the director if she had any needs, “Yes, I
would like a rubber hammer.” Can you guess? Someone in Dr. Joe’s
office had added that to a pile of stuff, he did not even know he had
given it to us. Donna said, “We have one with us! Dr. Joe you gave
it to us.” “No, I don’t think so.” “Yes, I packed it thinking WHO
will need this?” Sure enough, it was in the suitcase going to the
hospital the next day. NEVER, never question God’s planning.
The babies were
asleep. We would return later to play with them babies.
We boarded the bus
for the two and a half hour drive to the boys’ prison in Anna. Boys
from 8 to 14 are sentenced for a maximum of three years. They are
rewarded instead of punished, taught instead of warehoused, and
nurtured, many for the first time in their lives. The director is so
sweet of spirit and loves her job. At the end of their court-mandated
sentence, many ask to stay. What a testimony to this fine arts
program. They had a grant from an American group, which paid for 5 of
the 22 boys who asked to stay last year. They selected 5 orphans to
receive the grant.
We were given a
tour of the campus. They provide wonderful bedrooms, classrooms, and
playground for the boys to learn and find their way. You come away
uplifted and filled with hope that these boys have a better chance
than the kids in the orphanages. They now have a psychologist to help
Oleg makes regular
visits to the prison, giving them the gospel and witness of God’s
provision when we surrender our lives to Him. The boys performed a few
musical selections for us. Our two boys, Vitaly and Ilya, sang praise
songs. Josh Pond, who is studying in seminary in California, told his
story. Our newest interpreter, Ilya, volunteered to give his
testimony. Several boys stood when Ilya asked if they wanted to give
their lives to Jesus. Bud and Barbara prayed for the boys.
Paul asked if any
were sick and needed prayer. Two tiny boys raised their hands to
say they were “homesick” and wanted to go home. Paul and Lila
anointed and prayed for these two boys. Then the gates opened
and each boy came forward to be prayed for. Homesickness can be
worse than an illness. Continue to pray for these children as
Oleg feeds them the Word.
We presented them with a trumpet, a super
keyboard, recorders, guitar,
and a CD player. The music director ran up and
played some of the instruments. She was thrilled beyond words, but she
managed to sing a prayer to us. We were excited to give them new
socks, notebooks, colors, and candy. They normally get one pair of
socks a month.
We jumped on the
bus where we had a wonderful Lila Pond lunch! Our drive back was
delightful as the leaves were beginning their colorful Fall change.
The rolling countryside was beautiful in the late afternoon.
We got an early
start so we could see the babies. The team played outdoors with the
toddlers as they enjoyed the new playground equipment. The director
asked, “Where is my hammer?” She clapped for joy when Dr. Joe pulled
it from his shirt pocket. We are praying for this director as she is
coming closer and closer to knowing our Lord. What a “tiny” thing…a
little silver, rubber-tipped hammer, but it was important to her.
Pray that each time she tests a baby’s reflexes, God will whisper in
her hear, “I love you so much, I brought this little rubber hammer
across the ocean to you.”
We were allowed to
go inside and dress the babies in their new clothes. What a blessing
it is to pray for sick babies. Again, Oleg visits this baby house to
keep us up to date on the needs.
We traveled onto
the Voronezh Children’s Hospital where Dr. Natalia and Dr. Elena
anxiously awaited our visit. The team visited with the children and
their parents, sharing testimonies and the
“good news” of the Gospel. This resulted in over 10 adults and most
of the older children tearfully asking Jesus into their lives.
the Gospel service was in process,
the medical gifts were given out. We
had the same medications, vacuum machine, and supplies we had
delivered to the other hospital with two additions, a ventilator and
bone marrow needles. The bone marrow needles are tools woefully
missing from their supplies. Dr. Natalia, an oncologist, uses these
needles to diagnose cancer in children. After an exhausting search,
Dr. Joe found ten the week we left.
God has given us a
ministry in providing ventilators to hospitals. This is the sixth one
with one more in our warehouse awaiting a home. This vent was
provided to Treasures after the death of Ronnie Hampton, KoKo’s
husband. How bitter sweet it must have been for KoKo as she gave the
ER doctor instructions on the use of this tool. Her loss will now
surely save lives in this hospital, just as it had saved Ronnie’s life
all the days, months, and years it helped him.
One of the
delightful things we get to see on these trips is the “small” miracle
you could easily over look if we are not aware. Of course, in Europe
and Asia, they operate on 220v instead of 110v. That’s not a problem.
The problem is we run 60 cycles, while they run 50 cycles…apples and
oranges. It’s not an easy conversion. The good news is, this vent is
a 50/60 cycle machine. Each electrical gift, nebulizers, vacuum
machines, and ventilator would need a voltage converter. We found them
in Voronezh, a rare find, but only 6 were found…we needed 7.
Surprise, this vent was both 110/220, not problem. But wait, the plug
was a USA grounded plug, Russia uses two round pegs. The plug would
not fit into the wall socket.
About a week
earlier, when I pulled a power cord from the wall at some point in our
travel, the little adapter our plug fits into to make our appliances
fit into a Russian outlet, had come off. In a hurry, I pulled it from
the outlet and stuck it in my pocket. Thank God, He is always in
charge…I had it when and where we needed it. Otherwise, the lesson on
the vent would not have happened! What a God we serve!
Our mission was
complete with the final touch, a 50 cent adapter. Then, the
biggest surprise of all, the new airport had no exit customs. We
didn't have to 'splain nuthin' to leave the country.
Stephanie, Donna, and our Super Star 2003 Team!
|We have photos
galore...when they are on the website, we will let you know.