Thanksgiving in Russia

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Sunday. Since thanksgiving is not a Russian holiday, it’s a bit easier to have the meal on Sunday.

In addition to several friends, Olga’s mother and grandparents joined us. Olga’s grandfather, Orest Maxmilianovich Grotten is 92 years old, and we were very glad he could be with us. Above is Olga with her mom and grandparents. Valerie is not in the picture because she was busy having her face painted by Natasha Pavlova.

We had turkey and dressing (my mom’s recipe), gravy, mashed potatoes, and a variety of non-American dishes including Korean carrot salad and Russian mushrooms with onions. At times like this, I look back in wonder at the life God has given me. We are so very thankful for His love and guidance.

News about Valerie: we’ve submitted documents to the court regarding the removal of parental rights from Valerie’s birth mother, Oksana. We were expecting a court date this month, but the judge is on holiday and won’t set a date until she’s back on late January. So, we wait. We continue to be in touch with Oksana, helping her and encouraging her. Olga has visited her in prison several times, and we stay in touch by mail. Olga is homeschooling Valerie using some basic kindergarten material, and that’s yielding good results; Valerie is speaking better and learning her numbers pretty well. It’s fun to watch her learn and improve.

I go to the US this week; I will attend a Stoneworks board meeting in Chattanooga on December 7. Olga and Valerie will join me a little later. We plan to spend Christmas with my family in Georgia and Tennessee and then make a trip to Texas in January.

Ministry continues. We’re planning several mission trips to Russia, Estonia and Montenegro next summer. One team will be 40 teenagers! That should be fun. I’ll be in Montenegro in May with a team, in Russia with a team in June and in Estonia with a team in early July, then back to Montenegro with a team in late July (if all goes as planned). I’ve recently made several trips to Estonia and things there are going very well. I’ll have news about that soon.

I recently wrote a friend in the US something that’s been on my mind for a while: More and more, I’m feeling grounded in the knowledge that the flow of love is God’s most important action among men. The greatest commandment is to love God; the second greatest commandment is to love others; people will know we are followers of Jesus by our love for one another; God is love; He loved us enough to save us. All of these scriptures prove the primacy of real, heart-felt, selfless love.


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