A Postcard from America

 

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Now THAT is a birthday picture. Valerie has just about the most birthday parties of any person I’ve ever seen. Even though her birthday is in July, we decided to throw a party now so she could share it with her friends here in Athens, GA. We met at my dad’s farm, and part of the festivities included a ride in the dump truck. This summer I’m sure we’ll have parties at dacha, at Camp Elama and perhaps even in Estonia.

Our time in the States is coming to an end. Though we’ve been here for quite a while, the time has flown by. It’s been great to be here, and now we look forward to going home and experiencing new adventures on the other side of the ocean. We leave a week from today. Our apologies to all our friends near and far who we hoped to visit but did not. My mom’s health has kept us close to home for the most part, and homeschooling has also kept us grounded.

Much has been accomplished while here. I’ve helped several mission teams and interns prepare for summer ministry. I’ve also had many meetings with friends as we’ve encouraged each other in the faith. I’ve also spoken/taught quite a bit. If you’re interested, you can click on the link on our homepage and listen some of my teachings.

My mother’s health continues as it has. Several weeks ago she broke a hip, and interestingly in some ways she’s doing better now than before she broke the hip. God has provided a great team of care-givers to help mom and dad while we’re gone.

We will go to St. Petersburg and then quickly go to dacha to open it up for the summer. I will go to Estonia in early May while Olga and Valerie remain in Russia. I will drive to Montenegro with my friend Heikki. In Montenegro I’ll meet two of our interns and one board member; we’ll meet with ministry leaders and potential new partners in Montenegro, Serbia and Romania before arriving in Estonia where the interns will serve with Sunbeam, the center for disabled children.

As we go, we are quite aware of the increased tensions in that part of the world. Please keep us in prayer, that we’ll love God more than anything else, that we’ll have wisdom about where we are to be, that we’ll be a blessing to our friends in those many countries, and that we’ll have discernment about His will for our family.

Happy Birthday to Valerie

Valerie had her 5th birthday a few weeks ago, and I’m just now getting around to posting this video. One gift was a singing card from Grandmother Nancy in the States:

We’ve also started a tradition. Each year we take a picture of Valerie in the same dress, one of Olga’s. It will be fun to watch Valerie grow into it as the years pass.

Here are the first two photos in the series:

       

4th Birthday                                                        5th Birthday

Valerie’s Birthday

Tomorrow (the 14th) is Valerie’s fourth birthday. We celebrated early because Olga’s mother left for Montenegro this morning, and I came to Estonia today. Our friend Olga Ryazhskikh also joined us.

Here’s a little ‘familiana’, when we ate the birthday cake:

A Grand Birthday

Yesterday was my 50th birthday. I give a big “Thank You!” to all who sent birthday greetings recently. I have been really touched by all the kind words.

Ten years ago, on my 40th, I was alone in a flat in St. Petersburg. I had moved to Russia a couple of weeks before and no one was there to celebrate with me.

I remember thinking that my 40th birthday should have been somehow more ‘eventful’, but looking back I see that it was an appropriate way to start my life in Russia — alone, with an unknown future ahead.

Ten years later, I celebrated my birthday surrounded by new family and friends in my new home. Several generations were in attendance, from Olga’s grandparents to the twin daughters of our good friends Sergei and Christina.

Olga cooked GREAT Mexican food (home-made tortillas, fajitas, refried beans, rice, guacamole), and Olga’s grand father played the piano; the very piano he started playing more than 80 years ago.

I am very thankful for this life. God is very good.

And I look forward to the next chapter —

click on thumbnails to see full-sized pictures