February 11, 2006, Saturday Glory to our Great God was a very good day. Went and visited the Satsayev family, and brought a box of candy. The mother, Natasha (born in '75), was in the gym with all three of her children (Tamerlin, '98; Diana,'00; Adelina, '01) during the school massacre. By the grace of God, they all survived. It was Tamik's (Tamerlin's) first day of school... the worst first impression a child could have. Natasha was in a coma for a month after the terrorist attack. She was shielding her children and a grenade's shrapnel hit her in the head, the neck, and the torso. Natasha, a 30-year-old mother of three, now cannot walk. When I went there, somehow Tamik knew me and called me Jason, though I don't recall where or if I met him before; I simply acted like I knew him, thankful to God for the contact within the family. I told Natasha that I had read about them, and that it was a miracle that they all lived. She replied, 'I thank God everyday... I thank God,' and then did a sort of sign-of-the-cross thing. (They are Russian Orthodox.) She added, 'Glory to God.' She told me she had two operations, though still has pain. There's a scar above her left eye. She said, 'I never thought I'd be unable to walk when I was 30. Never.' She did tell me, though, that the doctor/s said she'll recover and be able to walk one day. She told me that she needs rehabilitative therapy... but there's a problem. No one comes to help her in that area. She said that many people/groups came right after the massacre, but now, just about no one comes. She said Radio MCC (a Christian radio station in Vladikavkaz) had visited, and someone from the Russian Red Cross often stops by. I was very surpised about the rehabilitation issue, and asked a few times to make sure I had really understood. 'No,' she said... no one comes. She told me, 'I don't know any of my children's teachers,' due to the fact that she's not able to get around. I told her I'd ask one of my friends here who is a doctor if they knew anyone. And I also said to Natasha that many people in Pittsburgh have not forgotten about them, and that they pray for them, and she replied, 'Thank you.' I asked her if she or the children have nightmares 'They happen to me,' she answered; her kids are doing better in that area. Tamik knows some English, and said that's his favorite class in school, and so I tested him with words like apple, lion, and so on. He did well! Much of the time, he was holding a toy hand gun, periodically aiming it at things and people. I told Natasha that she was a hero for protecting her kids in the gym as she did. She said that she had tried to drop Diana and Adelina off at kindergarten/pre-school that September 1st, but it was closed. Therefore, they all went to School No. 1 together. Tamik showed me a drawing he did today, and he also showed me their computer games. (I got some of their info from the Russian Red Cross' website, and from the Washington Post's School Is Symbol of Death for Haunted Children of Beslan, 5/28/05 article, by Peter Finn.)
February 13, 2006, Monday Went to Vladikavkaz to withdraw money for some reason, there was a problem (now resolved) with the ATM card/machine, and I couldn't w/draw $. Rather frustrating since going and returning takes about 2 hours out of the day... oh well. God is still Good. Taught English to 14-year-old Zalina Nogayeva today. (Zalina '91, her mom Taiciya '59, and her sisters - Marina '92, Elyena '95, and Alla '97 were all in the terrorist attack. All lived but Marina.) Zalina's pretty quiet, but I think she enjoyed our time studying together. She's been to England (1 month of touring) and Germany (for a week), and wants to return to Germany to visit. She also wants to see New York. She likes borscht and pizza, and really likes to read. After I taught Zalina, she made me tea and set some snacks out... one of her sisters, Alla, came home. Alla is 7 years old, smiles a lot, and seems very happy. She told me some of the things she knows in English. Also while I was there, one of the Bsln Mother's women, Zalina Dzaparova, stopped by with her daughter, 13-year-old Madina (who survived the tragedy). She told me that Madina had been out of school for a year ('cos of the terror attack). Zalina really wanted me to teach Madina more than one English lesson per week... she also wants me to stay in Bsln longer. She asked if I could consult the embassy in Moscow to extend my visa; maybe she's just over-zealous, but it's like I saw in her this real desire for help... Zalina showed me a photo of her brother, Akhtyemir Badoyev he was one of the men killed in the terrorist attack. She told me that he had lived in Germany, and had planned to return there on September 2 nd. The terrorist attack started on the 1 st. Zalina's family drove me home. When the 4 of us were in the car, I said, 'I don't speak Ossetian,' in Ossetian. They laughed, and were really happy. I added, in Ossetian, 'It's difficult for me.' I saw that using their language, and also talking about it in Russian, appeared to have a big effect on Madina, too... that doing so seemed to 'break a lot of ice,' so to speak. When we reached my apartment, and I said goodbye, she seemed much more personal and friendly. May The Lord, through His Son living in me, touch this girl's and her family's heart. I also visited Mairbek and his family tonight. Murat (his younger brother) was sick, but later seemed to enjoy spitting on me! Mairbek and I played tic-tac-toe, and tossed a stuffed animal around. When I left I told him, 'God loves you.' Mairbek added, 'And you.'
February 14, 2006, Tuesday Went and taught Alina Tsurayeva. Her mom, Roza, first set out a meal, and I chatted with her and her son, Zaur. Both Zaur and Alina were in the school massacre. Alina had 2 operations, and I think her mom was saying Alina had four bullets in her (though it was possibly shrapnel). Roza and Alina were in Chicago and New York, and Alina was also in England and Germany. I taught her, and she's also pretty quiet/shy, though she seemed to open up a bit more towards the end. She likes to listen to music (especially rap), and wants to go to America again.
February 15, 2006, Wednesday On my way out to teach Atsa and Azam guitar, I checked my mail praise Yah... I got my first mail ever here! Carl (from PA) sent me a bunch of drawings his sunday school class made for me, and it was really heart-warming to receive them. They were all nice to see, but one in particular really struck me deeply. The paper was folded like a card (tall, not fat-style), and the front said, Life is in your hands for these people. Below it was also written (on a cross), Help these people. The inside read, Dear Jason, I am praying for you. I thank you for helping those people in Russia. I hope you keep doing this for living. from, Anthony. Wow how rad! At Dom Dva (where the church meets), neither Atsa nor Azam showed up; but, The LORD enable me to work on a new Ossetian song (based on Psalm 136). I went and taught Madina (Tsabolova, who lost her younger brother Marat in the terrorist attack), and Oleg (her dad) once again gave me a warm welcome/half-hug that people here do at times. Madina did well as usual, and had written that she wished the kids in her school were nicer. When I was leaving, Zalina (her mom) offered to write a letter to help me get a new visa. Sasha (who helps Pastor Jambul) and I visited with Rozita, a dear lady that lost her teenage daughter, Dzerassa, in the massacre. Rozita served us food and we watched some TV and chatted. I asked Rozita how they were doing in general, and she answered by saying that there's no joy. Their living room is decorated with beautiful paintings that her daughter Dzerassa made Dzerassa, a young teenage girl who lost her life in the Bsln massacre.
February 16, 2006, Thursday I went and taught Madina (Dzaparova, 13 and in 7 th grade), and her cousin, Liza (Badoyev,10, and in 4 th grade). Madina's dad drove us to the babushka's (grandma's) house, and I taught them there. On the way, seeing the still-unfinished Mosque ahead of us, I asked him (Taimuraz) if there were many Muslims here. He told me that the mosque wasn't finished, after the terrorist attack and all. He didn't want it there, and I agreed. Taimuraz said, 'They need to put a church there,' to which I also agreed. Zalina ( Mad.'s mom) was at the house, and showed me a photo of another daughter of hers, who also survived the massacre. The bomb really messed her up, and she had 5 surgeries I couldn't quite make out what Zalina was telling me, but I think she was saying that her daughter lost one leg below the knee, and therefore had a prosthetic bottom half. Her daughter is now studying in Vladikavkaz to work in the medical field... an interest/desire she gained after the terrorist attack. Madina and Liza (who also both survived the massacre) like computer games. Madina enjoys comedy movies, and she spent 10 days in Germany, and 10 in the U.A.E. She wants to work in the militsiya (which is like the police). Liza spent 3 months in Switzerland (with a host family that spoke French), 1 month in Poland, and 1 in the Ukraine. She wants to study Biology, because she loves animals... well, she clarified - all animals except big dogs! Praise and glory to Yah, they both seemed to enjoy the lesson. Zalina (Madina's mom) told me that they didn't tell her mother that her son (Zalina's brother, Akhtyemir, who was killed in the school massacre) had died they said he went to Germany (as he had planned to leave on September 2 nd). Her mother has a heart condition, and something like a respirator, and therefore they feared telling her. Zalina also said how she (Zalina) had been at court today, hearing Kulayev's final words. (Kulayev is the terrorist they caught.) I shared with her that God is Faithful, and judges rightly. I later visited with Mairbek and family. (He is the 9 year old boy who saw his mother killed in front of him during the massacre... he offered a terrorist the 5 ruble coin he found in his pocket if they would only let his mother live.) He spent a lot of time telling me of the parts he loves in Home Alone 2 - this kid has lots of energy! When I was leaving their apartment, he said to me, Khraneet tyebya Bog, meaning, 'May God guard you.' I was stunned to hear him say that since it was seemingly 'out of the blue,' but also so happy as well! I replied with the same, and added, God loves you. He said, 'And you,' and I asked him, 'You know that God loves you, right?' Mairbek answered, 'Yes.' I told him that's the most important thing. He again told me not to open the door (at night), and we exchanged goodbyes back and forth as I made my way up to my apartment. Thank You, Father, for sparing Mairbek. Let him see Jesus in me, and touch his heart with Your unfathomable love. Amen!
February 17, 2006, Friday My shabbat day. Went through some materials I brought here with me, and I again felt stirred for Bible translation, though I'd like to spend my 29 th year in more devoted seeking of His face. Lord, what do you want? Talked with Minta, a babushka that lives upstairs. She was telling me how things were so much better during the Soviet days. She was a teacher in another school here in Bsln; after the massacre happened here, her son told her to stop working, saying, 'Sit at home... you have a pension. Stop working.' I was able to share with her that God really loves her people, and also the part in Proverbs 30 about asking The Lord just for our daily bread. Sasha phoned some of the believers from Armavir came, and we're also celebrating Roma's (a boy that sometimes comes by the church) b-day tonight. For whatever reason, Roma didn't show up. I felt pretty out of place; the youth were talking, but my Russian still isn't exceptional, and I didn't say much.
February 18, 2006, Saturday All glory to God today was a good day. The Lord enabled me to visit Zina (my landlord's mom), and she's doing better than I thought, praise The Lord. I had heard she broke her spine in a bus accident... I don't know exactly how badly her spine was damaged, but she can use her arms and her legs, too. I feared finding out she was paralyzed, especially after having lost one of her 12-year-old twins (Erik) in the terrorist attack. (A sniper shot Erik in the heart.) Her attitude is very positive, and I didn't sense any bitterness or anything. The doctor/s said she'll be able to start sitting up in a month, and then will have to wear some sort of back brace/waist wrap for 3 months. Thank You, Yah, for Your mercy! I visited with her for a while with David, one of her sons now studying ecology in a university in Vladikavkaz. Zina said that Kazik (her son, and my landlord) had just left to go to the cemetery. She told me how when Erik was alive, he and his twin, Edik, had an English book they would read, and quiz each other. Elbrus (the father) prepared some food and so he, David, and I ate together and talked. We went back and visited a bit more with Zina, and they showed me their photos of Elbrus and Edik in Italy; I'm assuming they went after the school massacre as a sort of 'get away' therapy trip, as many here have taken. The Lord enabled me to help translate a letter they received from the family that hosted them, and I offered to reply to them if they wanted me to help. Kazik (my landlord) returned home, and when I later went to leave, Zina offered to give me some of her homemade jam. I tried to refuse, but of course that's nearly impossible to do here. She told me that she used to make a lot, because Erik (who died) used to eat a lot now, they don't need as much. They gave me 3 big jars of homemade jam (3 different kinds of jam, I think), and Kazik drove me to my next lesson in his newly purchased car. His family is very nice and generous, and Zina is a lady I highly respect... she's been through so much, and yet often has a smile on her face. They were very grateful that I went to visit them, and I told Zina that God loved her as I was going. At the next lesson, Madina (Tsabolova) told me that she used to dance, but doesn't have any interest without Marat (her younger brother who was killed in the terrorist attack). Oleg (her dad) greeted me in English by saying, 'Hello, my friend.' Madina's little sister, Alana (Alanka), is really cute!
In other news, for some reason Bsln is out of salt; I heard that it's impossible to buy it now. How strange! But praise God, I already had a big box of it. Also, one of the moms I've inherited (hi Ruth!) suggested that I put some personal info in my reports. So, here goes (addressing some of the commonly asked questions by family and friends)...
- Yes, I'm taking care of myself, and I don't have my cold anymore. We're way south of Moscow, so the weather is much better here; please don't envision me as treading through 3 feet of snow while wearing one of those big, furry Russian hats! The weather here is very similar to Pittsburgh's.
- No, I still haven't found a girl yet.
- No, I don't need anything... in all honesty, The LORD is supplying in abundance and I lack nothing.
Lord willing, I arrive back in Pittsburgh in the second half of May. I may be there for about three months, to work on some ministry projects and take care of a bunch of stuff. I'm not certain where The Lord would have me next, so pray for His guidance and wisdom. The thing I've seen in serving Him is that every place needs Him, and 99% of all ministries could use more laborers (ask God to send them, and pray about going yourself!). There are many opportunities The Lord had set before me; I just want to pick His choice.
Thanks once again for all your prayers, love, and support - I don't know that I could be part of a more faithful team in reaching out to Bsln!
In God, our Shield and Refuge,