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Balloonatic in Russia - A Week to Remember
|I am sorry to everyone I have not been able to send an update sooner, but they
have had me busy. I have been so tired that I have been in my room almost all day. So here is a day by day look at what has been going
I woke up to a telephone call. My appointment for the day had been rescheduled until later in the month. I was kind of relieved. I am not feeling good partly because of jet lag (the slayer of giants) and because of the beginning stages of a cold. I stayed in bed all day just taking it easy. The Russians here have me on a real busy schedule so I don’t know the next time I will have a whole day off.
Wow what a busy and exciting day. I went with my three interpreters to a public school. I did a message on morals and a little bit on the Gospel. In Russia the teachers decide what the class does on certain days. They may bring in a story teller or, if they want to, someone to teach the gospel. The teacher that I visited is also a teacher at the Christian school here in town. Every one had fun including the teacher and parents who were helping. I also think my interpreters are starting to get the idea why I am here.
The time had finally come for me to see the new building that the Christian cultural center was in. The last time I was here they were in a building that looked like an apartment complex. There was a lot of security to get to the center, so it was not that accessible. Well, when I got to the new building, it was great. The center is in the basement in a good part of town. It is a great location. It had a good size activity room, a kitchen, a library, offices, and several class rooms. It seems that the building fits the needs of the center quiet well. The reason I was there is because it was Sergie’s birthday. Sergie is ahead of the Christian version of Alcoholics Anonymous and those struggling with drugs. He has quite the ministry here. Attending some meetings and getting to know him three years ago as quite the experience. I was happy to fine out that I was going to be there to help him celebrate his 50th birthday. Birthdays in Russia--especially the big ones are a lot of fun. The guests make up little songs with the persons name and tell about things they do. They also just have fun with each other while eating good food. I really enjoyed being able to see people I had not seen in three years. It’s a great opportunity you get to see how they changed and if they have the same joys in there life as they did a couple years before. I spent time talking with one of the people who played a large role in the camp I worked at last time. I was there when she helped pick out the interpreters for the camp. She was not a Christian and was skeptical of the things that we were saying and doing. But because she wanted to make sure her interpreters did a good job, she was always there. I enjoyed talking with her then--and I really wanted to talk with her sometime while I was here this time just to see how she was doing. Well I got quite the surprise; She now works at the cultural center helping in the library. She was at Sergie’s party and she wanted to talk. She speaks really good English so I did not need an interpreter. We just talked about what has changed--then she just threw out: “Do you remember the last thing you said to me before you left the camp last time you were here?” I tried to think but when I left the camp it was 4 in the morning. I had not slept at all because I wanted to spend time with people that night instead of sleeping, so I was tired and did not remember much. She told me that the last thing I told her was “Read the Bible and you will find the truth.” She told me that this started her on a spiritual journey and, Praise to God alone, she had became a Believer. The Bible is very powerful. She had read the Bible before, but just as literature. Now she reads the Bible as a guide--looking for the truth. When you read the Bible in that way, God can do many great things. Needless to say, after this conversation I was on a spiritual high! To see how God can use you--even when you are not worthy--and to see how God can take the littlest thing you say and start a process that will change lives. WOW! All I can say now is I can’t wait to get to heaven and see who else the Lord has put across my path that he drew to himself later. I think of the Bible verse that says that some plant the seed some one else waters it but only God makes to grow.
One last thing for today: I was talking with a bunch of teenagers who are going to be helpers at the Christian camp this summer. It was a good time talking with them. The main part of the night included thinking of different ideas to get kids involved and how do you handle a trouble maker. After this was all over I went to bed and slept very well.
Today was an easy day I took it easy spent some time thinking about the changes in who I am since my last trip. I have grown up not just physically, but now I can better handle disappointment. The girls I am staying with say I am much more serious. That might be true. I think I am seeing life for more of what it is and that there are the good times, but there also the bad times. I think I was more of an optimist. I wanted to see things as being good or working to be better. Now I think I am more of a realist. I don’t see that cup as being half empty or full, I see it as being half occupied. Well, after time of just relaxing, I went back to the cultural center to talk with some of the counselors. Again the discussion was to how to punish those who don’t obey the rules. The conversation went well. I was thankful for a slow day.
All plans fell through so I just took it easy.
The hard thing with what I am doing here is it forces you to open your eyes and admit that the world is a very bad place sometimes. Today I went to what in America we would call a foster care system. This one place has about 30 or more kids from the ages of 4-16 whose parents have been found unfit to raise their kids. The kids are being punished for there parents mistakes.
I will be honest with you right now. Today’s part will be the hardest for me to write out of any day so far. Hopefully I will never have to write this again. I was told very little about this group when I came. I had no idea what these kids had gone through until I was middle of one of the stories. I was telling the story of Lazarus and Jesus raising him from the grave when I called a girl between the ages of 13-15 to help me out. I had her hold the balloons and I do have them hold the balloons in a funny way--one in each hand, one under each arm and one under the chin. While I was giving her the balloons I noticed some bruises and scars on both arms. If you know any thing about suicide attempts -- you can imagine what they looked like--she had about eight scars of cuts on each arm they looked about 3-5 weeks old. This girl she was so young--and she was so nice to me and the others around her--to see those scars tore my heart out. I so badly just wanted to stop and talk to this girl, but I realized that all of these kids had scars either physical or emotional. I felt I had to change my program at that point and I started to talk about Gods overwhelming love.
I shared my testimony for the first time since being here, and told them about how Jesus showed his love for them. I gave the kids an opportunity to except Christ--the first time I had done that since being here I did not ask for hands, but the smiles in the kids’ faces told me some had made the choice. When I was done they invited me for tea and I accepted. I think the girl that I had seen her scars noticed that I saw her arms because she went and put on a long sleeve shirt. Before I left, this child--who has almost nothing--gave me two little things to remember her: a little bear a couple of inches tall and a little handmade heart bookmark. If there has ever been a child that has changed my whole world so quickly, this is the child. It has been a problem I have tried to hide from, and she made the problem of parents not accepting their responsibilities and child suicide very real and personalized.
I am going to end today’s note with just a thought. Maybe the children we work with on a regular basis do not wear physical scars. Maybe they do--but what kind of emotional scars are they wearing. How can we help in the healing process? I don’t have the answers. I want to know the answer. I also want to know how a parent could turn their back on their child when they have the resource to take care of them.
My 22nd birthday It has happened. I had my twenty-second birthday in the country I have spent more time visiting than any other.
My alarm clock woke me up at nine in the morning. As soon the bell started, I heard voices outside my door. The voices were coming from the girls I am staying with. They were “trying” to sing happy birthday but it was great. They presented me with a few little gifts, and the day was starting off good. The morning went nice and smoothly. The first thing I had to do was not until two, so I just chilled.
Well, I have heard about this event for many years because of the missionaries who work here, but the time had come for me to see one. It was a Russian wedding. I should point out that I did not have an interpreter today, so these are just observations, and I could be completely wrong. I got to the church at about 2pm to start working on the decorations. I told them that is what I would do instead of a gift. I made several nice things and got ready for the fun to begin. In Russia they have two weddings. One is with the government (legal) and one is at their church. That is there Christian wedding. By the time the couple came to the wedding, they were already married by the government. The bride was in a beautiful white wedding dress and the guy was in a real nice black suit.
The Christian wedding took about an hour and seemed to be similar as our Christian weddings. The difference was with the meal. They do not have to different places for the wedding and the reception. In Russia the people eat while watching the ceremony from their dinner place. The food is already right in front of you. As soon as the couple kisses the meal starts. The meal consisted of different lunch meats, bread and lots of fruit. It was very nice. In America when the food is done, some guest leave. Others might dance or talk with the couple or each other. In Russia, it is time to perform. I like this part. You see the guests put on different funny skits and silly songs. They seem to capture that this is a celebration and it is a time to have fun. I performed in a skit as the stupid American who did not know any Russian. People said I did quite well with it. I then helped out with a puppet skit. Every one gives wishes to the married couple. This is kind of like a toast but much shorter and with out the glasses.
I have put this next thing in here for all of the balloon people that are reading this. I got to participate in a Russian balloon drop. I am told this happens this way very often. This is how the Russians do a balloon drop: The teens go up on the balcony and when the married couple walks underneath, they kick and throw balloons down, trying to hit them. Then the guest take the balloons and try to hit the couple also.
Now the real fun begins. I have decided since I am not with my friends in Michigan, I would do something fun with my interpreters. Well we decided to go to a movie. When they came to pick me up, Alexy was also there with his fiancé and they all sang happy birthday to me and gave me this cool angel they had all signed. The movie was fun. Let me tell you something--it did not have a single English word, but it was great. We saw Xmen 2 in Russian. Seeing Hale Berry speaking in Russian was quite amusing. I had a great time just hanging with the interpreters and seeing a good movie.
Yesterday was fun. Today is work. My interpreter Anna and I visited three different churches--each one doing an hour and a half program for the kids. The day went great until I had the smart idea of moving the fan. I was afraid that one of the kids might get hurt on it, so trying not to miss a beat, I reached behind me and tried to move the fan. I misjudged how big the grating was and my thumb hit the fan. There is a good side and a bad side. First the good: I did not damage my thumb or break my hand. Those who know me know I am kind of injury prone. Some examples: getting my foot ran over by a nun in Chicago who was driving a mini van--or me falling down a flight of stairs this last spring break and having to walk with crutches and a cane. The bad news: I broke part of my thumb nail on my balloon twisting hand which makes harder and more painful. Fortunately it does not look like the nail will fall off. The day was long but it was a way to talk about a couple of conferences I will be having at the end of the month and the beginning of June.
The morning was me spending time on e-mail and looking at news sites so I know what is going on in the world. Today is the day I’ll start working with a drama group who will decide almost every thing I do this next week. I went to a kindergarten and things were a lot of fun I am starting to get better at juggling and have been having fun working on that in my free time.
I worked with the Christian drama group again. I have my worries about it, but I am letting God work his plan so I will not complain or worry. The group is small but they are passionate about what they do. If you know me you know I can get pretty passionate so I think we will work well together. None of them speak English so we have that barrier. Today we visited a group of preteens in a family center. It went well and I got a pleasant surprise. The leader of the drama group asked me why I am not speaking more on the Gospel. This surprised me because I thought they just wanted me to speak indirectly about the Gospel and they did not want me talking about Jesus. But he wants that to be most of every program. Here comes the great news: They been working very hard to get me opportunities to speak. So far on Wednesday I have 3 and Friday at least three and one group has over 200 teens and another is a group of teens who are in jail. Well Gods plan is perfect, so now I wait to see what happens next.
Well, that’s the up to date journal. I will try to write this coming weekend. I want to say a couple things: First, thanks for reading this page and lifting me up in prayer--but as I put in the intro, I wanted to do this for another reason. Maybe God will choose to use this information to get some one to move and act. I feel the Lord had all given us opportunities near where we live and the special talent combination to be able to do that task. Pray about it and see what God wants you to do.
The prayers are pretty much the same as last week but there is one more. I will not do an “altar” call unless I feel the Lord is telling me to do one. So please pray that I am listening for when Jesus wants me to bring it up, and also when to talk to those around me about it.
There is song playing in the back ground right now by Newsong that says “When you believe he is all you need. That is your defining moment, when you live your live walking in his light trusting him completely. That is your defining moment and how an instant can make a life complete that is when you know that is you defining moment.” I think this last week has been a defining moment in my life and I can’t wait to see what happens the next four weeks.
As always, please write. I enjoy the e-mail.
The mere servant of the Lord in Russia.
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