Saturday, August 8, 2009

In the airport....tired....but thrilled

I think I truly fell in love with Israel this time. We have seen more than I ever imagined and had time to linger and experience some things I never thought I would. Last night we watched as thousands came together at the Western Wall and danced and sang as Sabbath began. The sun set and all went quiet. Family and friends walked home together laughing.

The memories of this trip are crystal clear. The Bible once again has opened itself up here with a richness that is irresistable. When Cathi and I commited in prayer that Israel would be my PhD, we couldn't have know what a wonderful adventure it would be.

Now we head home and I am looking forward to everyone being together again. Praying for worship and my great friend Bryan Dunham's return.

Shema and Shalom

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Slowly Making Our Way Back to the States!

In an hour Dasha is taking me to the train station to meet up with the rest of the team and head back to Moscow. We should arrive around 6am. Check into hotel, visit monestary, shower at hotel, dinner, and then the ballet! Saturday we will be heading home. Again, bittersweet. :)

I still have 2 days to post and I'm sure more from our time in Moscow coming up. However, I will not be able to blog again until I'm home in Texas. Please check the blog in a few days and we should be all caught up. Thank you so much for your support, comments, and prayers.

Pray for safe travels. We love you all!

Last Day in Uganda

It's our last day in Uganda and it's amazing to look back on all that has happened. I have really noticed how much everyone has grown in this experience including myself.

We left Phil's house yesterday morning and I have to say that was the hardest part for me. As we were packing and getting ready to leave all of the girls of the orphanage were doing their chores. I walked into the kitchen and saw Ruth, I had gotten so attached to her throughout the week. I went up to her and said goodbye and told that I would write her all the time. It broke my heart when she started to cry and told me that she was going to miss us and that she didn't want me to leave. I just sat there and hugged her for a few minutes and thought about how much all of the kids loved us and how much they were so happy that we came. I knew that nothing could ever replace the feeling they get when we are there in person spending time with them. We could have sent thousands of dollars and they could have gotten so many things that are temporary, but being there in person and spending time with them is long term and it will always stay in their hearts.

Back on Saturday, New Grace had a celebration for us because Riverside funded the money for the fence that was built. It was very big and it look like they put allot of work into it. After all of the staff from the school had a chance to speak they brought out food and cake to serve to us and everyone else. The looks on the kids faces as they were looking at the food just tore me in half. When they passed out pieces of cake to the kids all chaos let loose. Kids were pushing and hitting, they had the look of hunger in their faces. As I looked to the back of all the kids fighting I saw a group of kids just standing in the back not even fight to get the food. The kids in the back were Phil's kids. The pain I felt from seeing those kids fight was lessened because I was so amazed at how well behaved those kids were. It showed me that everything Phil was doing was working... Big Time. Things happened at the celebration that shocked me and it is to much to explain correctly. The big culture difference is hard to take in, but all of had to push through it and just take in our surroundings.

Now I know I just talked about something negative. But trust me there was so much that happened that changed my heart and the way I think of things.....

Well its time to go, and I am super sorry that we have only blogged a few time.

Yesu Akwagla!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Children's Hospital and Meetings

Welcome to the Children's Hospital! This trip is the first year The Russia Initiative was invited into the hospital after coming on 5 previous trips.

We were instructed to not say anything about God, Jesus, Methodist... So, the team got creative and decided to do a puppet show talking about the Good Shepard. The kids loved it.

The people with the name tags are our team members. From left to right is Christine, our translator ( I feel terrible but I can't remember her name.) and Holly. Holly is presenting "LiveStrong" bracelets to the nurse for the children. She explained all about Lance Armstrong and how he has pushed through, survived, and fulfilled his dream. This was very cool to all the children and I know the were deeply encouraged.

Just a little close up of their sweet faces. If only you could hear their voices!

After the Good Shepard play, one of the 5 crafts Holly and Nicole set up were sheep from a cut out of their hands. Everywhere we have gone the children LOVE THE CRAFTS!!! It is also sweet for us because we can sit close to them, use hand motions and broken Russian to communicate "how to", take pictures together and then look at them, pray over them while the concentrate so hard. Honestly, my favorite, is just laughing and smiling back and forth together. (This sheep was made to go back to some of the children that could not come out of their rooms. On the back reads..."I came all the way from Texas to tell you, I love you!")

Just another precious face we were able to love on all day!

The Pink Ladies. This sweet girl was so much fun to talk to in my very broken Russian, while we were making God's eyes. Later some of the kids had a little presentation prepared for us. She sang a beautiful song in Russian and had an outstanding voice!

The children waiting patiently for Bri and Janet to make animal balloons! BIG HIT!

I just went back through and read the post...I feel I haven't even come close to capturing all that is taking place here. I don't quiet know what to say to convey how beautifully the Lord is moving here. The comments that we receive from everywhere we have been are things like, "your smiles change the room, I've caught myself smiling watching you, you all are a ray of light to us, why would you come all the way from Texas to Vologda just to see us?, Do you have to go?, Do you remember me from last time? I remember you, when will you be back?, thank you for what you are doing for our children...and me." I could go on and on. IT'S ALL HIM. Seeds are being planted everywhere. I know that Christine, Holly, Beth, and Mark are also seeing fruit from previous years.

After meeting with the children we were invited back by the nurses for tea and conversation. I was so encourage by these beautiful ladies. The LOVE the children and love what they are doing. (For some reason I can not download the pictures of our tea. When I return home I will go back through the entire trip and drop in more pictures!)

Mom, Jessica, and Stacy, this one is for you. Bananagrams and chocolate chip cookies in Russia! Dasha, I have loved my time with you!

Quick One (Updated with Pictures)

Sorry, I just can't seem to get the Russian commands down! Some of these pictures will be random...I just can't seem to get them to go where I want them! Anyway, this is just another sweet moment with Dasha and her mother Natalia over tea! Yes, tea is everyday...a few times a day...and it's always this cute!


After our 4 1/2 hour bus ride we finally made it! This is the orphanage's bus we took up to the camp. Here we are unloading more supplies and food for the children.

When we arrived they had sweetly set our table for tea and lunch. Notice the flowers the girls picked.

Watermelon for snack time!

This boy is using a coal to help burn out the center of the spoon he is making. I was way impressed!

You guessed it...craft time! God's eyes once again were a huge hit.

I'm not sure how well you can tell, but there were a ton of campers! I think I heard about 150 out there. It was quiet the set up.

A few English speaking Russians. Phew! Nice break every once in awhile.

As we were meeting with the kids from the orphanage at their camp, other counselors came up and asked if the "Americans" could come down to their camp. This is a picture with some of the other children. Precious.
(This picture makes me laugh. Just before it was taken, all the girls headed down to the...hole in the ground, to use the restroom. You would have thought none of us had ever been outside. We we all so exhausted by this point that we were slap happy and could NOT STOP LAUGHING. All I (and Christina later confessed as well) kept thinking was that we must look like the biggest bunch of obnoxious idiots! There was a big volleyball game going on right next to us and all of the sudden we heard, "Americans" and they all stopped and looked at us. I didn't want to ask the translator what they said, but I did anyway. She said, "I'm distracted by all of the Americans smiles.")

Last gift before we got back on the bus...TEXAS baseball hats! One of the ladies said that the children love that they have friends in Texas that they know are praying for them.

This was the wonderful bus

This was taken this morning (Tuesday) when Dasha dropped me off at the church.

...and this is the church!

I'm so sorry this is going to be so short. It was such a long, BUT WONDERFUL day!!! I can hardly keep my eyes open so here are just a few things for everyone back home...

David, I saw your comment on the blog and, yes, I will tell Christine she is missed! You are as well. I know she has tried to send you a few texts messages (because others are able from their iphones here) but it says she has no service. She sent a text and waited for a day and then realized it never sent. She was wondering if she needed to have international service set up before hand. She is doing great. We have become very close and have laughed a ton!

Stacy, yes, I will bring Katia back with me and send her to Cali...along with Rita, sasha, tanya, kolya, denise, ana, ... Yes, mom, it was a struggle to leave. More so today than yesterday!

Today we were scheduled to go to an inter-city orphanage to spend the day with the children. Turns out they are all sent away to "sports camp" during a part of the summer for annual maintenance on the buildings. Holly and Christine decided we would just go to the camp to see them. Let me tell you, these two ladies have the biggest hearts I've ever known. We took a 4 1/2 hour bus ride to the camp, could only stay for 2 hours and drove 4 1/2 hours back, yes, all today. Honestly, it was worth every second of it. I will post pictures tomorrow. The team knew the kids were wanting/expecting to see them (they have meet from previous visits) and the team wanted to see them just as well. After we reached the camp and all settled for tea, Holly said to all the children (with our fabulous translators) that while they have been away, they have continued to pray for the children by name and have missed them very much (as Holly held her heart.) One of the older boys very sincerely said back, "we feel just the same." I know with all of the seed planting from previous years, this had to be a pretty profound moment for some of the past team members.

Mark is hilarious with all of the boys. Running around playing tag, wrestling, and chopping wood, they love him. He is sooo in his element.

The team as a whole has united and meshed together beautifully. It is obvious the Lord hand picked each member of this team to work together. I loved our time on the bus getting to know each other even better as we shared personal stories about some God moments in our life, family and friends, work, and a whole lot of yadda yadda yadda.

If anyone else would like to leave a message I will be sure to pass it on. Over all, everyone is doing great. Nobody is sick. Host families are wonderful. The Lord has being blessing our socks off by the minute!

Once again, PLEASE excuse the post. I'm too tired to go back and re-read and correct all my errors!

One last thing...we would not be doing as good as we are without all of your prayers and support. We feel it here in Russia, appreciate it, and love it. Please don't stop!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hello Everyone!

Goodness, where in the world do I start. First of all, today was my second shower in a week and first glass of wine! I guess I would call today "bittersweet" because we also said good-bye to all the kids we spent all week with and FELL IN LOVE WITH at camp. Here are a few pictures of our time...I'm sorry today is going to be eyes are getting heavy.

I've never had more hugs in my life than I've had from Tanya. She was my buddy all week. Every time I turned around I would hear, "shenny!" (Family: Just like baby katie and mary used to say!" I had forgotten that I gave her my cross I had around my neck the first day she asked about it. So today when we were leaving camp she kept tugging at my same but new necklace (that were made for the trip.) Honestly, I was thinking..."I have given her so much and she only wants more "things." Did I make any impact on her at all?" Well, Tanya quickly grew very frustrated as I continued to say, "nee penyee mayoo" (I don't understand) as she kept pulling at my necklace. She called over Masha to translate and this is what Masha translated, "Jenny, I remember the necklace just like this one that you gave me the first day. I will never forget it. Every time I see it I will pray for you. Will you please pray for me when you see yours?"

After my first shower after 2 days of traveling, I came out to find sweet Dasha in her kitchen. Her mother made some wonderful crepes with some sweet cream to pour over them, topped with homemade jam by her grandmother! Heaven on earth!

We took an hour bus ride outside of Vologda to get to camp. Then we stopped at the bridge and walked another 30 minutes to camp. When we approached the camp all the kids ran outside and met us at the gate yelling, "Привет!" Which is pronounced Pree-veet and means Hello! I fell in love immediately.

This is the first thing I saw as I walked in the doors...a banner that read, "Welcome to our camp!" in English and 33 precious children waving us in to sit at their table for tea!

Sasha, Katia, Nicole (on team), and Jenny during our fist day of crafts. If I could get ALL of you reading this to pray for Katia, as she is not going back to her foster family after camp, but back to the orphanage. :(

Pin the tail on the Donkey at the Hoedown! Katia, Rita, Sasha, Tanya, ( and Illiad? who ran in the picture last minute holding HIS end where he thought the tail should go!)

Talent show night!

Hoedown night! Enjoying the campfire just after teaching all the kids (expect the older "cool" kids!) the Cotton Eyed Joe!!! Anxiously awaiting...yes of course...S'MORES!!! I think they had about 5 each!

This picture was taken this morning right before we started worship. People are starting to get teary-eyed because we know it's our last day together.

This was placed in the middle of our table this afternoon before we left camp. It is sweet bread made with fresh picked berries from the lady who lives behind the camp! So sweet and very yummy!!!

I just re-read my first post...please excuse all the grammatical errors!!! In all my future posts in Russia as well!
I love and miss you all terribly!

I can see Lebanon

Things are moving fast and furious here. We have study toured En Gedi (twice), Arad, Wadi Zohar, Masada, Avdat, En Avdat, Qumran, Bet She'an, and Bethsaida. That's two days.

It is interesting to begin to listen for how G-d wants to lead this tour. Some of the places I have been many times have new meanings while others are refreshed and so clear.

Wadi Arugot in En Gedi is unbelievable. So beautiful. So powerful. Arad has an entirely new faith lesson. Bethsaida may as well.

While the study is intense the company is great as well. Tim is a scholar (in fact he just helped me spell scholar) and a great friend. We laugh often and have a similar passion for G-d's story. Our guide Boaz has been excellent as always and in this smaller company has opened up at length about present day Israel. It has been facinating and challenging.

Tomorrow is Arbel and the Orthodox Triangle, Tiberius, and probably some stuff we have never seen. Boaz likes to suprise us.

Miss everyone. Praying that church was great. I know Meg was Awesome.

Shema and Shalom

Yesu akwagala!


We are sorry for not being able to blog more. We are taking advantage of the chance we have had. So much has happened that is close to our hearts. For now all three of us (Megan, Tori, and Emily) wanted to share a story with you all.

One of the first days we were in Iganga we were helping in the kitchen at the boys house. Basically we filled up gasoline containers with water from a glorified puddle. This is a tedious process and would have taken about 20 minutes. However it took longer because we wanted to help fill up the other kids containers. We were able to serve the surrounding community by helping them with their day to day chore. The experience was irreplaceable. The coolest part was after we left one of the men continued to help people fill their containers. This sounds so shallow because there have been so many little pieces that make up every picture and we are pressed for time. So that's something to chew on, until we find another stable internet connection.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hoedowns, Horseshoes and Hats!

“Hoedown & cowboy hats were a hit. Horseshoes & washers. Banya too! Campfire & s'mores tonight. We are all happy & healthy. Please send notes to families too! XOXOXO”

Dobriy dyen', ya’ll! (or Howdy, as we would say!)

That’s probably what they’re saying over there after last night! The latest text from Holly and Jenny was brief (see above), but the western hoedown last night was undoubtedly a hit! They introduced the Russian kids to horseshoes, washers, cowboy hats, and square dancing. Then, in a purely Russian tradition, they hit the banya! Tonight, they’ll sit around a campfire, toast marshmallows, and make S’mores, a real crowd pleaser last time I was over there! Holly says everyone is happy and healthy and they send their love to all their friends and family!

Tomorrow, it’s back to Vologda after sharing a church service and one last day at camp. I know there will be tears, from kids and adults alike! But I know that these kids will leave more blessed than they came, and may just end up beginning a new relationship with Christ because of this experience! I can say with absolute certainty, the team has been touched in a way they will never forget!

Keep the prayers coming!

Till the next update (maybe it will be Jenny posting!),


Russia Update #3

Hi, Everyone! It's Carey again.

Not much to report, but the team did say that they had a great day of fun at the camp this morning, making dream catchers and stick horses, and sharing bible stories and oil lamp prayers! They’re doing a western theme for all the activities at camp, so there’s lots of cowboys and Indians in Russia! This evening (it’s 9:15PM in Vologda right now) they’re having a hoedown, complete with C&W music and square dancing! That should be lots of fun for the girls in particular – they all seem to be dancers from what I remember!

That’s it for now. I’ll send more when I get it!

Carey(For Jenny)