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February - April 2004
3 year residency!
In April, we finally received our long-awaited 3-year residence permits. This is a wonderful answer to prayer that we have been working on for over a year. We now have permission to live in Russia for three years, then we can renew our residency indefinitely for five years at a time. We are registered as Baptist missionaries, and we have almost all the rights of Russian citizens. We can even vote in local elections. (But we can't run for office!)
Ruth prepared a Valentine's Day surprise for some of the ladies who work at the stores where she shops. She went to the stores just before their lunch break and brought them special cakes, cookies, and soft drinks so they could have a little party. They were so pleased and surprised! Then she gave each of them a New Testament. We pray that this expression of love will lead to the salvation of some of these sweet people.
We have had a good time distributing New Testaments around town. We received 10,000 more from BIMI's "Bibles for Russia" project, and we are so grateful to all who gave to make this possible. We went to the "yarmarka" again. That's an outdoor market they have every few months where anyone can sell anything they want. We set up a free New Testament stand and gave away almost 2000 New Testaments.
Our friend Pavel came over again and brought his wife, daughters, and a friend of the family, Irina. This was the first time we met Pavel's wife. She is a very nice lady who loves to talk. Irina speaks English quite well. They stayed for five hours and the conversation was lively and friendly. We gave them the Gospel and we pray that God will convict them of their need for salvation.
Our kids were coming home on a bus, speaking English to one another. A lady asked them, "Where are you from?" This lady, Nina, is the director of a private English school. We invited her to our house for tea and showed her the plan of salvation. She is not sure there is a God, but she sometimes wonders if there really is something "up there". She asked us to come to her school and meet with a class of about 20 college age students. They asked a lot of questions about politics, religion, and economics. I was able to speak for about an hour and a half, and gave a very complete presentation of the plan of salvation. I also had a chance to explain the American point of view on the Iraq war. The news media over here is tightly controlled, and they don't have any idea why we are in Iraq. I gave them some points to think about. We have been back to this school several times to help them with English competitions and exams. They have students of all ages, and we are making many friends among the students and teachers. We give everyone a New Testament whenever we go there.
David and I were giving out New Testaments at a bus stop in front of a factory. We met Vladimir, who works at the factory, and he invited us to visit him. We went to Vladimir's house and showed him and his wife my Gospel presentation book (like I have on my website). The presentation took about an hour, and he asked questions for quite awhile after that. He claims to be 58 years old, but he looks about 45, and he is powerfully built. He was a sailor in the Soviet Navy. He's lived a very wild life to say the least. Like a male version of the woman at the well, he says he has a Russian wife, a Russian ex-wife, and three other wives around the world, in Singapore and other places. He has two Russian kids and three other kids around the world. He still keeps in touch with all of them. He claims to be an atheist, so I told him I would pray that God bothers his heart about salvation, and if there is no God, then no harm done. Pray for this man, he was very kind to us, but he is very lost and needs to be saved.
A few of the girls who were coming to our Sunday school class decided to come back. For a while, nobody would come, but now we have a few who come to hear the Bible stories. We love these kids and want them to be saved.
We have enjoyed the winter weather. Often we start the day early with cross-country skiing in the wooded trails near our home. We were able to go downhill skiing once this winter. There is only one place in this flat region that has a hill for skiing with some primitive lifts. They shut the lifts off for an hour at lunch time, so while we were waiting I was able to talk to a man who was a ski instructor there since Soviet times. I witnessed to him, but he is a die-hard communist and was not interested.
I put together the first of a series of Bible correspondence lessons and mailed one to each of the people who have written me in response to the tracts and Bibles we distribute. So far only one man has completed his lesson and returned it to me. Now I need to get the second lesson ready to send to him!
Does anybody know where we can get good lively Gospel music written for accordion? Alan and Cindy are learning to play polkas, classics, and sad Russian folk songs, but they want to play like Jack Van Impe used to play for the glory of God. Maybe you know how to adapt the Gospel songs in the songbook. Please contact us if you can help.
In the service of the King,