davidWe have a 9-month old! After a summer in the U.S., we arrived back in St. Petersburg in the end of August. David was almost 8 weeks old upon our arrival, but a month later we had to go to Estonia to get him a new visa. So we had sort of a parenting trial by fire as we were adjusting not only to being parents but to navigating our way in a strange country. In the end we emerged triumphant with a 3-yr visa, Praise the Lord!

Home, sweet home: In the spring of 2012 we purchased a spacious (by Russian standards) apartment in a residential area of St. Petersburg. Our Bible study meets here every week. We even had our first house guest (my mother!) recently.

usshrinkLast year, I taught Business English for several months. The Lord really softened my heart towards the students as He often does when I teach. But as usual there were restrictions on sharing my faith. Even though I had email addresses, I decided it wouldn’t really be appropriate to contact the students after my departure. However, I did leave some doors open for them to contact ME. One student eventually found me on Facebook, and out of the blue asked me, “I’ve read your blog and I want to know…do you have some sort of mission here in Russia?” I shared the Gospel with him and some of the story of how I came to be in Russia. He is not a Christian currently, but said he is sort of searching. I still think of those students often, but I leave it up to God as to whether or not we will ever meet again.

There are more interesting connections that have developed recently due to my blog. One was a missionary in Ukraine wanting to connect us with a new believer who lives here. There are kids in the U.S. that have been adopted from orphanages here and ask me to help them reconnect with their roots. Another was a Chinese woman who lives here and is trying to apply for residency. She was excited to find a foreigner who had experience with Russian bureaucracy. And, speaking of bureaucracy…

I passed my second yearly inspection at Immigration in November. The next step was to apply for permanent residency, as I only had until March. They have an appointment system now, which is an answer to prayer…but they didn’t have an appointment open for almost 2 months. To make a long story short, it came down to the wire once again, and once again the Lord was faithful and provided all the right open doors and wisdom and people to help. My application was accepted on Feb.28th, just a few days before my medical forms expired, and a few weeks before my overall eligibility would have expired.

In some ways I long to be just an ordinary U.S. citizen here on a visa…rather than a foreign resident who has to show up at Immigration and pay taxes on an improvised income, just to stay in the country. I’m trusting that God will show us what to do in the future. But at any rate, bureaucracy here is a constant struggle and one of the main avenues through which God refines my faith. It’s also something that Russians deal with from the moment they are born here, so it gives us a sort of common ground.

People often ask us, “Why don’t you just leave and go live in America where the conditions are better?” This question is especially asked of Andrei, now that he has “connections” via his American wife. And it is also asked more now that we have a child and it is assumed that we aim to find the safest, most nurturing environment in which to raise a family. We then are able to share our faith and desire to seek God’s will as to where we will live.

Andrei is teaching in two universities and holds extra-curricular round table discussions on various topics. They generally try to get Christian speakers who are experts in certain fields and can give a talk that inspires people to think about faith. Most of the meetings have been literary and have included the works of C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R.Tolkien, etc. One of the latest potential speakers was a local “Tolkienist,” involved with an Elvish translation of the New Testament! Sounds unusual, but it could reach a certain demographic. ☺ They also recently held a meeting centered around the book/film “Life of Pi,” which touches on interesting spiritual questions.

In addition to preaching in our church, Andrei sometimes accepts invitations to teach or preach in other local congregations. He recently taught a seminar on church history at another local church, where they have an outreach to immigrants from other former Soviet countries. The attendees at this particular seminar were from Tajikistan and needed a translator to listen to the lectures in Russian. These are people who live and work here full time, though obviously still struggle with things like language, so it’s great that churches like the one who invited Andrei seek to serve their spiritual needs.

I attend a Women’s Ministry event about once a month. Right now we are working through a book about Christian marriage together. I always feel refreshed after getting out of the house and spending a little time in the Word with my sisters. Recently, I’ve invited a non-believer whom I’ve known for years (perhaps 15). We have done book studies in the past, but she remains somewhat nominally tuned in to Christianity. She loves coming and getting some questions addressed. We didn’t even get through our agenda the first time she attended, but my friend was able to see that women can have good conversation and encourage each other without gossip or slander. For many people it may be hard to imagine that women can sit around thinking of ways to honor their husbands, instead of complaining about how they fall short.

You may remember my mentioning Andrei’s mother, Nina, in previous newsletters. This may have been before Andrei and I were married, or even dating! ☺ In the past I was able to invite kids at summer camp to sign up for Nina’s correspondence Bible school. In addition to faithfully sending out lessons, reviewing the work, and sending it back, she keeps up personal correspondence with the participants, even after they’ve “graduated” and become adults. She sends out holiday newsletters, recognizes kids’ birthdays and mails them Bibles or other presents, as funds allow.

Andrei and I pray regularly about our current and future ministry as a family. Right now I spend my days at home with David. Will Andrei and I have a home-based mission together? Will he maintain his current teaching posts, or look for something else? Will I resume visiting orphanages? How will David fit into all of this? And how will the Russian government play a role?

What’s clear is that we are committed to serving the Lord, through the church where we are currently members. We might be a little “out of the loop” at times when family responsibilities come up. But in general we support our church and approve of what the different members are doing. Though we can’t always participate physically, we are participants in the Spirit, and wait for wisdom as to which opportunities are appropriate and pleasing to God for us, as a family.

I’ll leave you with some prayer requests:

-for orphanage #8 (which I had visited for many years), recovering from a terrible traffic accident in which staff members were killed and children were injured

-for my family as we grieve the loss of my grandfather

-for my non-believing friend, Vika, attending women’s ministry meetings with me

-for Andrei’s students

-for David’s health and our growth as parents

-for God to reveal His general will for us as a family

-for our local church and the Body of Christ in St. Petersburg

-for ministries in St. Petersburg that have foreign connections, as the government is performing inspections

Thanks for tuning in,

Elizabeth (for Andrei)