(I decided to send Report 7 and 8 together; this largely is due to the difficulties that arise at the internet club. It's a small office, and only one computer in it has the net. They also frequently interrupt the internet user to check lottery winnings when people bring their tickets to check if they've 'hit it big' yet or not. A further complication is that their working hours aren't exactly set in stone; they recently decided to be closed on Mondays, but had no sign posted, nor did I hear any mention about it. All this means that when I am able to use the net there, it's quite difficult to send reports, read and answer incoming email, and research more about what happened here, all in an hour. Some days it can be pretty frustrating, but that's just life here in Bsln... I sort of feel guilty, in a sense, because so much doesn't make it into these reports, but there's just not adequate time to do everything that could be done in this hurting community. I trust that you understand all this pray for more laborers!)
On Monday the 16 th, I went and taught Ruslan he's the boy that was shot in his elbow during the Bsln school massacre and still has problems to this day. Two of his friends were there, one of whom was also in the terrorist attack. I said to him, 'You know, you're a miracle.' He seemed to almost scoff, and he chuckled. I asked, 'You don't believe that?' And he replied, 'Yes, I do.' I taught Ruslan for a while, and he told me how during the siege, his older brother managed to run to safety early on, but Ruslan and his sister Madina were in the gym for the 3 days. Praise God, they both survived.
The following day, I went and visited a brother and sister who lived through the terrorist attack I met them last year when they were in Israel. Oganes and his sister, Maryam, remembered me from Jerusalem and they seemed very happy to see me. Their family is Armenian. Their older sister, Siranush, also survived the massacre, and is now studying in St. Petersburg. The Lord blessed me to have a really nice visit with Oganes and Maryam, and they too have wounds from what they lived through. Maryam still has metal lodged in her chest, and said another operation is necessary she still has pain from it at times. Oganes also still has metal in him, but the doctors said he doesn't need an operation; he also sometimes experiences pain. We chatted, had tea and candy, and watched some TV. Oganes said that Math is his favorite subject, while Maryam told me that she doesn't like school. He enjoys sports, and she likes to dance and is in a break dance class here. They both had a lot of friends that were killed in the school massacre.
On Wednesday (1/18) after service, Sasha (who's an assistant to Jambul, the pastor) and I went and visited a family and I learned quite a bit from them. The father wasn't home, but we visited with the mother, the daughter (Irina, maybe 15 years old), and the son (Khetag, 8). The children go to a different school, and therefore weren't in the terrorist attack, but their family also lost many friends from that nightmare. The mother told me about her husband's friend, Alan. Alan's wife, son, and daughter were all in the terrorist attack, but only the wife survived. The wife now (obviously) has mental problems, and if I understood everything correctly, lost an eye and has bad hearing in one ear. The mother that we were visiting said that they had Alan over for New Year's. When Khetag (her son) sang karaoke, she said that Alan just sat there and cried. The mother also told me that Khetag himself lost so many friends that he doesn't go out and play. Though he wasn't in that school, he saw what happened over those 3 days. Right after the terrorist attack, he only stayed at home, and also put on weight. And remember, Khetag is just 8 years old. Even in light of what happened at school number 1 (the school the terrorists attacked), he still loves school. He's a very energetic kid, fun-loving, and I joked around with him some. He especially seemed to enjoy beating up on Sasha that evening, despite repeated 'Stop It!' phrases from his mom. The mother also told us how one of the teenage girls that lives in their apartment building and died in the school massacre said, the day before school began and the terrorists attacked, that she was afraid to go to school. (This is not the only story of this kind... I've heard other accounts of 'odd' things said, written, felt, and dreamed before the massacre.)
The next day I stopped by The Bsln Mother's Committee's Office, bringing some Turkish Delight with me. There were about 6 ladies there eating a late lunch some (or all) of them had been in Vladikavkaz at the Kulayev trial (one of the terrorists, last name Kulayev, was captured and is currently on trial). They insisted that I eat with them, and one of the mother's told me that her daughter in high school, Madina, really wanted to improve her English. I wrote down their phone number and all, and said I'd call later after I checked my schedule to see when I could help teach her daughter. I also heard that my landlord's mother was in the hospital she (Zina) was apparently hit by a bus, and my landlord's girlfriend said that Zina's spine was broken. This is tragedy upon tragedy... Zina lost one of her boys in the school massacre, and now this. (You may recall that I wrote about my visit to their house in the last report.) Please pray for her and her family. I later visited one of my students/friends here, Zaur (his 14 year old brother, Khasan, was killed in the terrorist attack). I gave him Cross Movement's Higher Definition CD and a Pittsburgh souvenir. We spent some time talking and watching TV, and had tea together.
On Saturday, the 21 st, I went to teach Madina, and it went really well. Her family is very kind and generous, and her mother (Zalina) served a meal before I taught Madina. Zalina and her husband, Alan, would now have four children, but their 10 year old son, Marat, was killed in the terrorist attack. For some reason, Madina (who I'm pretty sure is in the 8 th grad, and about 14) wasn't at the school when the crisis began. Madina has a younger sister who looks about 6, and a baby brother who's 5 months old. Zalina showed me Marat's photo, as well as a cabinet which appeared to hold his school papers, etc. Zalina told me that Marat did really well in school. I explained that I can't understand why the massacre happened here, but that people are praying and haven't forgotten what took place. I asked Madina how they were doing after the terrorist attack, and she said, we miss him (Marat).' She also explained that families know one another when they're visiting the graves of their dead loved ones... that's how small Bsln is. Madina did quite well in her lesson, and she has a very strong desire to learn English; she told me that she wants to do language study after high school. She likes listening to 50 Cent, Black Eyed Peas, and watching MTV. (This is how powerful American culture is to change America would be to change the world, for the world imports and often embraces what we as a nation put forth. Let this be an encouragement.. as I've said before, please don't think that 'missionaries' only travel overseas! The more the saints rise up and stand for Jesus in the U.S., the more the world will also share in that blessing. Having been to several different countries, I'm totally convinced of this. To change America is to change the world.) When I was leaving, Zalina told me, 'Whenever you're bored, stop by.' Glory to The Lord for the favor He's given! As I came outside, Alan (the father) was there and asked me where I was headed. I told him that where I was going was really close, but he insisted on driving me. Alan told me that he'd move his family to America if he had enough money.
Thank you for sharing in bringing hope to the people of Bsln. Please continue praying that in all things, people will most clearly see and recognize that it is Jesus Who is working through us. And that each wounded heart will come to understand that the joy of The Lord that is their strength. There can be no other joy for mothers who lost children to exploding bombs... there can be no other joy for fathers who were so close to their children those three days but unable to do a thing to save them no other joy can heal that feeling of failure and weakness to not have been able to protect their children. The joy of The Lord both their strength and ours.
The LORD's compassions they never fail (Lamentations 3:22)
Thanks be to God for His faithfulness and grace! And thanks to so many of you for sharing in His work. Check out what's The Lord's doing here!
On Tuesday (1/24), I went to teach Khetag, and also spent a good bit of time listening to and talking with his mother, Alla. (Khetag's younger brother, Timur, was killed in the school massacre.) God opened the door to again testify to Alla that He Is Faithful; God will judge, and His Word is correct. And yet, how awkward it is to sit with her and hear her say that she can't live without Timur. She talked a good bit about the guy in Moscow who can supposedly raise the dead children, and she asked what I thought. I told her that I needed to read more about the guy, for he's either the best man, or the worst man. Having since researched him more, I will have to talk with Alla and tell her the truth about that guy pray for God's favor, and that I'll know how to speak the truth in love. (She so has her heart set on her son being back in the family.) What can I say? The guy is an antichrist, and has said some of the most crazy things I've ever heard. He has claimed to be both Jesus and The Father, and he said when he becomes president of Russia in 2008, he will ban death. Wow! He is so clearly antichrist, and yet - so sadly - some of the mothers here have put their hope in him. That's how much they want their children back. Pray that God helps me speak the truth with an abundance of love, and that people here will be willing to listen. After teaching Khetag, I visited the family that's basically adopted me here. God, once again, showed me His amazing provision. That morning, I had gone to the nearby store, trying to buy some jam specifically wanting to find homemade jam. They didn't have any, and therefore obviously didn't buy any. When I visited my friends/family that very same night, the babushka (grandma) gave me a big ol' jar of homemade apple jam! What a reminder, even in such a 'small' thing, that God knows what's on our hearts and provides for us so why do we so often fret? He is always in control.
The next day I went and taught Madina (who lost her younger brother, Marat, in the terror attack). Her mom again served me a meal, and also gave me a new pair of warm socks as a gift; I tried to refuse them, saying that I didn't need them, but she insisted on my taking them. She (Zalina) was talking about how America is better than Russia and, glory to Jesus, He provided a good opportunity to speak with her about what my dear Russian brother had told me before going to Russia 'Let the people know that America is great because of what Jesus had done for it.' I explained that we've obviously had bad history, but the beginning of our country/law was centered on The Bible... and that if America is good, it's because of how Jesus has helped us. Zalina agreed. She told me about her son, Marat how he was a really smart kid. I told her that even being here, I wish there was more I could do. But what can I do to change what happened? Obviously nothing. But Zalina shared with me how excited Madina was when she heard about me and the opportunity to study English. (Thank You, Father, for allowing us to touch lives that have been so hurt. Glory be to You!) The last time I had taught Madina, I gave her a writing topic for homework; I asked her to write about her dream/s. She wrote one sentence: My dream, that my little brother Marat come back home and stay here with us forever.
January 27 th Friday... I went to Vladikavkaz, trying to complete my registration; was frustrated to find out that I'd have to come back on Monday. But, I know the real reason that God had me there that day they had questions about me, so I sat down with some higher-up guy as he fired them away at me. Glory to Yah, He gave me some awesome opportunities to testify of what He's done in my life! We talked for about a half an hour, and he seemed very surprised about why I would come to help in Bsln. I told him I'd come to help his people (he also is Ossetian, as most of the people in Bsln are). The topic of religion came up, and I shared some about how I was raised Catholic, but started to read The Bible for myself. Seeing differences between what Jesus taught and what the Catholic church teaches, I left Catholicism. I talked about how God has changed me, and he wanted to know what I was like before I was a believer. 'I was a thief, I didn't like people from other countries, I had a lot of pride and hatred... before I believed in Jesus, the idea of me sitting here talking with you would have been like a joke.' The official asked how I changed, and I told him it was God's miracle. He said, 'You just sat there?, and he then laid back in his chair like someone that was dead or like a mannequin. I replied, 'No, I had to try... but after I read how much God loves us, I wanted to be different.' (I'm obviously not intimating works-salvation or anything foolish like that... just with my Russian language limitations, I couldn't quickly go into deeper theological explanations!) He said to me, 'Other people are scared to come here. Aren't you scared?' I replied, 'I believe in God. I know it might be dangerous for me.' I told him that I loved his people (the Ossetians). Throughout our talk, he just couldn't seem to understand why I would have come here. I'm not taking credit in this, or trying to say 'Look at what I'm doing.' On the contrary, I fully give Jesus Christ all the glory for what He's done, is doing, and will do in and through me/us. I know what I was like before He saved me, and I know what an idiot I can still be. But praise and thanks be to our Great God Who uses the foolish to do His will, and glory be to Him for His grace! If there is anything good being done by me/us here, it's only because of Jesus living in and working through us. Period.
The next day, little Mairbek stopped by my apartment. (He survived the Bsln school massacre, but saw his mother killed in front of him; he lives a few doors below me.) He asked why I hadn't visited them for a while, and I told him that I'd try to stop by this evening. He's so funny a typical 9 year old, greatly loved by God. He asked me if I had anything to eat, and so I showed him what there was cheese, ham/balogna, bread, etc.; he opted just to have milk. So, very representative of the culture here, he takes the carton and just starts drinking from it! I said, 'Don't you want a cup?,' and pour him some milk. He drinks it quickly, and shows visible signs of an ice-cream headache. Saying the milk is cold, he asks me to heat it up for him on the stove. No problem, I start to heat it up in a pot. He continues to drink from the carton as he waits. 'What's this?,' he asks. 'Myod' (honey), I respond seeing he may want to have some, I slice some bread and pour honey on top. He agrees delicious. We make an agreement... if I can, I'll visit his family this evening. We exchange our goodbyes, and he returns to his friend's apartment which he had left to see if I was home. Mission having been accomplished, he returns to his friend's. I was blessed to be able to visit them later at night, and Mairbek and his friend laughed immensely, having asked what 'zoob' was in English and hearing the 'th' sound in our word, 'tooth.' (Neither the Russian Language nor Ossetian has that sound.) They enjoyed saying 'THHHHHHH' back and forth as they laughed. After his friend had gone home, Mairbek and I played some tic-tac-toe. When I left later, he once again reminded me 'Don't open the door at night.'
On Sunday the 29 th, I dropped by The Bsln Mother's Committee, and one mother that I had talked with before told me again that her daughter and another teenage girl want to study English, and so I jotted down my phone numbers (apt. and cell phone) for her. I then went to our Sunday service Jambul taught on John 3:16 and other verses, and we also had some guests/friends from the city of Armavir (also in Russia). Two teenage boys that drop by the building every now and then told me that they really want to learn how to play the guitar, and I agreed to help teach them. Both Azam (10 th grade) and Atsa (9 th grade) were in the gym for the three days during the school massacre; Atsa's 12 year old sister was killed in the tragedy, and 8 people from Azam's class also died there.
Monday afternoon I taught Ruslan English, and he helped me wih some Ossetian. Here, most people speak Ossetian as well as Russian, and often mix the 2 languages together. This can be both amusing and frustrating! Ossetian is much more difficult to pronounce... they have several guttural sounds which we don't have in English. I can't say I know a lot in the Ossetian language yet, but I've seen that mixing in a word every now and then goes a long way. If you know any foreign people, take some time to try to learn a few words in their language. You'll be surprised at how pleased they'll be. Most libraries have tons of language resources, and all it takes is some time. Pray, and try it. Sure, you'll make lots of mistakes... just like I do. One of the funnier ones I made here was when I confused two Russian words which sound very similar, but have quite different meanings 'monkey,' and 'circumcision!' Go on try to learn a few words. You'll be happy that you did.
Glory be to our Wonderful Savior,