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March-April 2000

Springtime in Kiev

We had a fairly mild winter this year - less than 2 feet of snow, and the cold was not severe. Our kids were able to go sledding several times. According to the Russian way of thinking, spring began on March 1st. (Americans consider March 21st to be the first day of spring.) Even though there was still a layer of snow on the ground, the people were celebrating - “Spring is here!” But, very soon, the snow melted and the trees began to bud. Now, at the end of April, the weather is already warm and the city has become green and beautiful. Kiev is famous for its chestnut trees that are in full blossom this time of year.

The Easter holiday is popular over here. Ukrainians have many traditions related to the celebration of Easter. Wooden eggs are hand-painted with complex geometric patterns that are unique to the various regions of the country. A special round sweet cake, topped with powdered sugar, is baked for Easter. An embroidered tablecloth is prepared with the message “KRISTOS VOSKRESS!” (Christ is risen!) The eggs and cakes are placed in a basket, covered with the cloth, and brought down to the orthodox cathedral so the priest can ‘bless’ them. What a heartbreaking sight to see thousands of people standing in line to have this empty ritual performed. They carry in their baskets the message: “Christ is risen!”, but their spiritual leaders fail to point them to the risen Christ as their Hope and Salvation.

At Trinity Baptist Church, the scene was quite different. Our service began with a children’s program of songs and poems. (Each of my kids learned to recite a verse of poetry in Russian so that they could participate in the program.) This was followed by the preaching of God’s Word. Some of the children’s parents heard the Gospel for the first time.

Brother C.W. Fisk from Oklahoma City was with us for two weeks in April. He conducted a Bible conference at the church on the topic of Christian growth for believers. Evangelist Jim Belisle and Brother Cliff Herron came with him, and all three men preached in the Bible conference. They were a great blessing to us. Pastor Fisk also went out to many rural villages and conducted evangelistic meetings. The response was good – over 300 people came forward to trust Christ as Savior! I was glad that my son David was able to go with these men and serve as their helper.

It’s hard to believe that I have already been studying Russian for 8 months! I now understand about 90% of what I hear, and maybe 80% of what I read. The difficult part comes when I try to speak! I have learned the complicated Russian system of grammar, but it still takes me a long time to figure out the proper form for each word I want to say. Therefore, I speak v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, almost too slowly to carry on a conversation. This will improve with time and practice. Pastor Hudson sometimes lets me lead the singing in the church services, and that is good practice for me.

I am so thankful for all your faithful prayers and support. God is taking good care of our family. We are happy to be serving God here in the former Soviet Union.

In the service of the King,
Don Ossewaarde