Perhaps November could be designated as the Wednesday of the year. It seems to be a time during which life continues as normal, only a little more somber, pressing on to the "weekend" of the holiday season. It has seemed that way for me this month, as the newness has worn off the projects and the hard work of seeing them through to completion has begun. The students, too, are pushing through to finals, but we're all seeing the positive results of our work.
As I write, I am enjoying the sounds of Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Mozart, and hammering. The music is from a CD given to me by one of my readers who also enjoys classical music. The hammering is going on in the apartment above me, where the people have been doing repairs every Saturday and some mornings during the week for the six months that I have lived here. At least they are not using the drill for the floor today.
Both LST follow-up programs-the Mere Christianity discussion group and the grammar class-will be over in two weeks, and Chris and I have been brainstorming about how to continue to serve those interested in Christianity. We hope that around 10 people, some of whom are already members of Nivki Church, will agree to form a group similar to the cells that are functioning a growing now. My only concern about this group is for its leadership; I fear that my inability to speak and even understand Russian would keep me from being an effective group leader. Though the readers I would like to be involved are interested in English, they are not yet comfortable enough with it to be truly served by a multi-lingual meeting, so I pray that God will raise up someone else who is able to perform this task. However, for those who are interested in learning more about faith but are not yet ready to make a commitment, I hope to lead/teach a group that will study further some of the ideas from Mere Christianity, specifically as they relate to the Gospel of John. This group will be more like a class or Bible study, so I plan to teach with translation. Please pray for strong leadership in the groups, for wisdom as Chris and I decide how to organize them, and for each reader who is not already a believer to be called into relationship with Jesus.
One real blessing in the Mere Christianity groups over the last month has been that we were able to introduce a worship time. The discussion group leaders and I chose three simple songs that are similar in meaning in Russian and English, and we have been singing those at the last few meetings. We chose "Our God is an Awesome God," "We Bow Down," and "Father I Adore You." "Father I Adore You" is sung in two rounds with two sets of voices, and last week we sang the first round in English and the second in Russian. This was such an amazing experience for me personally because, instead of our different languages creating a conflict of understanding, they were united through this song in a single expression of praise to God. I really like what Christian writer Leanne Payne, musing on Psalm 22:3, writes about the act of worship:
"We enthrone God in our praises and He condescends to inhabit them. His presence in our praises reflects the pattern of the incarnation-the way God comes to us, drawing us ever more into Himself."
It is my prayer that God will be present during this time in the praises of believers and those who are yet unbelievers. Believers and non-believers alike seem to enjoy singing; they have asked to learn two new songs this week instead of one.
Some groups have even been closing their discussion times with prayer, but a few readers seem a little more uncomfortable with this display of faith commitment.
In other exciting news, the cell of which I am a part will undergo an "emergency multiplication" this week to accommodate a growing number of members. As I wrote in the last newsletter, the group has been meeting at Ira's and my place, and last week space was tight in our modest Soviet-style apartment when 19 people came. So, the multiplication that was planned for January will occur in November, and I am grateful that God has blessed us with the internal growth that makes this event necessary. For the past month or so we have been worshipping together and then breaking into two groups for sharing and discussion time, so the multiplication process will not logistically involve anything more than having the two smaller groups just meet in separate locations from the beginning. Emotionally, of course, the multiplication may be a little more difficult, because the number of leaders will be reduced by half, but I am confident that both leadership teams will make a successful transition. I will be with the group that includes Ira, my roommate, Lena Zh., and Anya Z. as leaders, and six other participants. Two of the newest members of the group are students from my University Study Skills section and help with the LST grammar class, so it has been a blessing to have them with us. And already there are plans to invite two more people. Please pray for any "growing pains" we may experience during this process, and pray that God will bless the leaders of each new cell.
I do have one rather unpleasant piece of news to report. Yesterday as I was on the metro going to my Russian lesson, someone stole my cell phone from my backpack. I think it happened just as I was getting off at my stop, but I can't be sure, and I did not clearly see the person who I suspect did it. Fortunately, a friend talked to the company for me to cancel my calling plan, so the person who took the phone will not be able to use it. This incident was frustrating, but I am very thankful that my passport or something else of greater importance than a luxury item was not taken.
Zhanna, my Russian tutor, was actually instrumental in helping me to recover from the disappointment of having something stolen. She noticed that I was upset about something the moment I walked into her apartment, and she asked me what it was. I told her (as best I could in broken Russian) that I thought someone had stolen my "mobilka," or cell phone. She had seen me upset before, on September 12, for example, but this time she would have none of it. "Who died?" she asked. "Nobody. Is your mother healthy? Is your father healthy? Then everything is good." She then told me several stories about a time when someone had stolen money from her purse when she was in a department store and when she had given two of the four hrevna (Ukrainian currency) she had for the family of a woman who had allegedly died. Though I regret that I can't really impress her with my knowledge of Russian, I am thankful to Zhanna for all of her wisdom.
Also, after months of things not coming together, I am glad to announce that my little section of the UEC website is up and running. Chris has named it "Katie's Corner," and you'll find it on the internship page of the site at www.uecenter.org. There are several caption-laden photo galleries chronicling my adventures, as well as old newsletters. Thank you very much to Bogdan Andriychenko, the website manager, for putting it all together for me.
May God bless you and those you love durin
g this Thanksgiving season!