We always start each team
preparations with the statement, "It may look good on paper, but God
carries an eraser." As long as God can trust us to be obedient
and joyful, we are able to function in His will.
The kids at Barskoe had a Christmas
only dreamed of, but never believed in. We presented an
animated PowerPoint presentation of the Christmas story. Our
friend, Max, our hard-core, no holds barred, serious as a heart
attack soul winner, gave the presentation in a manner that kept the
Every child had a stocking
filled with apple, orange, banana, a toy, candy, tape player,
Christian tape, their first bottle of Coke,
cap, scarf, and gloves!! Then, because of your overwhelming
generosity, their wish list was realized. One of the older
girls stood at the end of the celebration and said, "Thank you for
remembering us and coming back to see us. The best surprise of
all was that we were able to ask for a present and we all got what
we asked for." Ain't God good!
Something the casual
observer would not have seen... When we first arrived,
the children were eating lunch. Though some gave part of their
food to other kids, we noticed all the kids returned their plates to
the kitchen with some food remaining on them. Some would look
at that and think the kids left food on their plate, but we saw
something different. On our first visit to BG, the kids
attacked the food with a vengeance. They jostled each other
for food that fell on the floor. That was then, this is now.
The children no longer fight for food, they are well fed on a daily
In the inserted photo on the left,
from Christmas 2000, you can compare the
looks of uncertainty on the kids' faces with the expressions around
the page. When we first encountered them in 1999, their
demeanor and countenance was that of hopelessness. But, just
look at them now. Their excitement and happy faces tell the
story. They know they are important to us and that they are
We showed the staff and acting
director pictures from the PowerPoint presentation we use at
speaking engagements. They stood in silence as they looked at
the "before" pictures. The director said, "I had forgotten
how bad it was because of how good it is now." Don't ever
think your prayers and contributions, though half a world away, are
ineffective or lightly taken. One plants, another waters, God
gives the increase. To God be the Glory, great things He has
BUT, the biggest praise report
is BG director on sick leave (because we know
he will return), Alex, is doing well and giving the Glory to God.
He is recovering from last year's
heart attack and more recent stroke. We were not allowed
to visit in September for fear it would be too
much excitement. But,
he and Tatyana set a banquet before the team. From severe
paralysis, and loss of speech, he now walks without difficulty, has
full use of his left arm and hand, speech about 80%, and regaining
strength in his right hand. He and we are praying for and
expecting a full recovery.
Train station kids got a fully
decorated Christmas tree, stocking with goodies, cassette player,
Christian tape, and money to purchase their hearts'
desire (with house moms'
More additions to the kitchen,
we added more stainless steel work tables and a commercial food
processor. We are in the process of purchasing a 25 lb
capacity commercial washing machine.
With all of that, we can
only say, "Mission accomplished!"
Donna arrived from our England
Christmas with a sore throat. By Monday night, she awoke with
chills, fever, headache, muscles aching, cough, and runny nose
After 3 days of bed rest, she was still very ill. For wont of a
diagnosis, we called it the good old flu. Vladimir, as is each
winter, was socked in with
the flu. BUT, praise God, the remaining team members were
healthy!!!! Like the Boy Scouts,
we are always prepared and had every medication needed for Donna.
Dr Joe cared for Donna by email...it's a small world when your
doctor is just a key stroke away!
The dilemma...how do you ride in a
van for 3 hours then take a 12 hour overnight train? We just
felt it was too big a challenge to continue on to Voronezh. We
do not know what God protected us from or what opportunity He had
waiting for us, but we
knew His plan was in action.
stayed in Vladimir doing home visits, banana splits with the train
kids, and visited with Pastor Victor's family. We traveled
on to Moscow and waited for our flight home. Red Square,
breathtaking as usual, was even more so under the light sprinkle of
falling snow. From our hotel window, it sparkled like a
sugar-coated Christmas ornament. We photographed it in the
morning, noon, night, sun, snowing, and even when I awoke at 3 in
the morning to a full moon over St Basil. Stephanie awoke in
her room to see the same shot and, with her night vision camera, took
this beautiful photograph.
We were able to complete the
mission with help from Russian trains. I know this sounds
strange, but Vitaly met the passenger train to Voronezh and gave the
conductor all our gifts for Anna prison, the doctors, and Oleg.
We were excited, if not surprised, when Oleg called to say
everything arrived in Voronezh intact. We were able to
give the babies a digital scale for Dubovka Baby House. We are happy to report
our mission was completed without us.
Happy New Year!!!
Howard, Stephanie, Donna,
Harold, and Taylor