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November 2003 - January 2004

A lady who is processing our residency applications called me to say that investigators had come to our house and we had refused to talk to them. I was not aware of any such visit, so I asked the family if anybody knew about it. They told me that two ladies came when I was not home and wanted to ask questions, but it seemed like a survey, so they just said that dad was not home. The lady who called said that she was all set to deny our applications for residency based on the investigators' report. She decided to double check, since it didn't make sense that I would go to all the trouble to apply and then not talk to the investigators. Thank the Lord she was willing to let me come down to the office and answer her questions. She was very nice about it.

It's amazing that we came that close to losing our chance for residency. Most bureaucrats here would not be conscientious enough to double-check something like this. I give God the credit - He continues to watch out for us. Maybe this was His way of reminding us that everything is under His control. Please continue to pray about our residency. If it is granted, we will get to stay in Russia for three years without having to leave the country to apply for visas every three months. We submitted the applications in October, and the authorities review them for up to six months before giving us a yes or no answer.

We found a storefront for rent, and I wanted so much to rent it, so we could start having meetings somewhere. It was not in a very good location, the interior was not laid out in a way that would lend itself well to meetings, it needed lots of repair work, and they wanted $500 a month for it. The whole family looked at it and we talked it over a lot. We all want to find a place, but we had to agree that this was not it. Continue to pray about this important need.

The kids stopped taking Russian lessons at the university. I realized that the teachers didn't have enough of a plan to their program. I decided to start teaching Russian to the family by myself every day, and we are making good progress. Ruth studies with us, too.

During 2003 we gave out about 10,000 Gospel tracts in the city and in several villages. Each tract has my name and address, and I offer to visit, answer questions, and give a Bible. We have received a few responses. A recent one was from a 14 year old girl named Yana who lives in a village. She is interested in religious things and attends some kind of church, probably Orthodox. She asked a lot of questions, so I sent her a Bible and some answers to her questions. Please pray that she will be saved!

An English professor at the University asked us to come as special guests for an evening get-together of the English class. There was some food, music, and games, then the class asked me questions about myself and my work here. I was allowed to tell them about the Gospel and give each of them a Bible.

One day when we planned to go out to a village to distribute tracts, the bus station was so busy that the tickets were all sold out! We decided to stay at the bus station and give tracts to the people who were getting on the buses going to the different villages.

With my encouragement, two of my kids recently started to study accordion. Church music here in Russia is very sad and mournful, but the accordion is a popular secular instrument here. I want to use the joyful evangelistic sound of the accordion in our ministry.

We received 10,000 New Testaments in December from BIMI's Bible distribution project. We gave away hundreds of them in front of a university campus, some by a student dormitory, and some at different bus stops in the area. Once every few months there is a "yarmarok", which is an outdoor free market where anyone can set up a stand and sell things without having to pay taxes. We set up shop and spent a good part of the day handing out Bibles. With the Lord's help, we passed out over 1000 Bibles that day! Each one has a Gospel presentation, my mailing address, and an invitation to write for more information.

Pavel, who built our stairs, came over again for tea. He is a very busy man. He runs a business and his mobile phone rings every few minutes. He has a lot of questions, and we are hoping and praying that he will get saved.

Our holidays were wonderful this year! We had friends over for Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings. We talked about the Thanksgiving story after dinner, and the Russian lady asked us if it was true that we eat turkey because the pilgrims were met by a large flock of turkeys when they landed in America . We thought that was funny! The Russian words for "turkey and "indian" sound similar, so maybe that's where she got the idea. Christmas was extra special. We went to a church program on Christmas Eve, and had a great family time together on Christmas day. On New Year's Eve, we brought a few treats to our neighbors, and they invited us in for tea and cake. Then we went to a Russian friend's house to greet the New Year. He has 9 children, so it was a houseful of fun!

It's been a mild winter this year, but there is snow on the ground all winter long, so we took up cross-country skiing as a hobby. That should help us take off some of those extra holiday pounds.

In January we went up to Moscow to get our passports renewed at the American embassy. It was good to have a McDonald's hamburger while we were in "the big city". They taste pretty good when you haven't had one in a long time.

In the service of the King,

Don Ossewaarde