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August 28, 2016 - A quiet Sunday in Oryol.
Nikolai and Natasha invited me over for Sunday lunch. They are an older married couple who have been with us since 2007. He was saved in the 1990s when people first started coming over here with the Gospel. I led her to Christ and baptised her in 2008. He is about 74 now.
Then they told me they were planning to invite a bunch of other church people and we could sing and read the Bible together. I told them, whoa, slow down. The police might very well be following me around. If they catch me with a group, we will get busted big time. They didn't like it, but I told them I would only come if it was just the two of them. So I went and we had a good time.
Started with mushroom soup, then bread and tomatoes, then some kind of fish cakes - very tasty, but they had a thick layer of batter and fried - kinda greasy. Then watermelon, then we had tea, cookies and ice cream.
We talked a lot about what they were going to do without us. I stayed three hours. We ended up singing a few songs at the end. I brought a Bible lesson with me, but we never got around to it. I left it for them to read by themselves.
Natasha has two bad hips, and can hardly walk, so she can barely get to the kitchen. They live on the 4th floor with no elevator, so I can't imagine how she managed to get to church every Sunday all these years in all seasons, rain, shine, ice, or snow. Nikolai is losing his memory and his vision, so when he gets to the kitchen to get something for her he can't figure it out. She wanted him to cut a tomato, but he couldn't manage it. I went in with him and cut it for them. He couldn't figure out how to turn the teapot on, so I did that too.
It was sad and sweet. He figures he will die after I leave, but he was not talking suicide. About six months ago, he started having all kinds of health problems. He has always been very healthy and intelligent. He was one of our best volleyball players, even after he was 70. He used to teach high school history. When he got sick, he got real depressed and started talking suicide. He told me about it, and I gave him a lot of time, love, and counsel. I had to admit that he would not go to hell if he committed suicide, but I finally convinced him that it was shameful and very sinful for a saved person to take his life. At the same time, his wife brought him to the doctor and got some of his issues stabilized. I told her to be sure to tell the doctor that he was suicidal. She made sure he took his medicine, and I told him to take his pills or I would come over and bust on him. After he was more stable, he hugged me and wept, and said, "You saved my life."
They asked me some questions about burial, cremation, etc., but that was at the end of the visit and it wasn't all like that. Most of it was just sweet fellowship with a brother and sister in Christ. It has been worthwhile being here, and part of my heart will always be left behind.
If you would like to see what our ministry here looks like, take a look at this report Ruth put together as a Christmas greeting in 2014. It reviews a typical year of ministry and has a little video at the end.
To see more, look at the videos that I put together as furlough reports in 2008, 2012, and 2015. In the 2012 video, Natasha gives a testimony, starting at 6:20. Nikolai gives a testimony right after she does.
--Nikolai and Natasha--