I am finally back home with many memories and lots of news to share about God's amazing guidance during our trip to Seattle and back. I wrote from Silver Springs, Colorado in September from the home of Steve and Marjorie Koval. Our stay with them was special as we shared our combined interest in Pastor Ura's vision. Steve has been working with Pastor Ura and his congregation from the very beginning of Ura's ministry. He is a missionary with the Navigators and he continues to travel to Khabarovsk several times each year with prayers and support for Ura's vision. Steve was planning a visit to Khabarovsk soon after we left his home with funds for a truck and a van for Ura's church. These precious gifts will provide Ura with the means to deliver needed supplies to the Ninian people as well as carry equipment needed to set up temporary Bible Schools in remote areas. This is an answer to prayer from Ura's congregation as the Lord continues to draw their church to "go and teach all Jesus has taught them". It is exciting to watch God raise up missionaries from the Russian congregations who will go to the people of their own country. We toured the Silver Springs area including a spectacular cog-railway climb up Pike's Peak. The climb and the view from the top gave us all cause to wonder at the marvelous world our Lord has made.
From Silver Springs we traveled southwest through New Mexico to Sedona, Arizona and the Grand Canyon. We marveled at the beauty of the deserts and mountains of the southwest and enjoyed the time spent with our Russian friends. We arrived in the Flagstaff/Sedona area after dark and traveled down deep in the canyons of Sedona to a beautiful resort called Enchantment. This luxurious canyon resort was affordable to us through my daughter-in-law's niece who is employed there. We enjoyed spectacular scenery as the rock formations rose above the heated outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi. We toured the Grand Canyon during the day and swam under the beautiful starry sky at night. The two night stay was too short, but it was fun sharing this beautiful piece of our country with Helen and family.
Our next stop was Los Angeles with Joyce's daughter and her family. On our way there we planned to stop in Canyon Lake, CA to meet with Carol Mardock who is the executive director of International Family Services/Friends Adoptions International. We had learned of Carol and the work of her agency from our Russian friend, Natalie while we were in Upland, Indiana.
Friends Adoptions International is a Christian adoption agency with connections in many parts of the world including Russia. Carol was interested in establishing a relationship with the authorities in Khabarovsk in order to include the orphans of this city as she helps Americans adopt foreign children. Our short visit with Carol was amazing. We learned Carol and her pastor husband would be traveling to Vladivostok, Russia (not far from Khabarovsk) in December to finalize the adoption process of a beautiful little girl they had brought to America for open heart surgery. The adoption was to be theirs as they added this child to their family of five children (two biological, three adopted). We were able to give her information concerning the mission team there and hopefully help to open the door to another source to help the children in the orphanages in Khabarovsk. The agency which Carol heads not only arranges adoptions, but also provides needed medicines and other aid to the orphans who continue to live in Russia.
As we talked, Carol expressed a need for volunteers to travel to countries where children are adopted and accompany the children home for those parents who cannot for one reason or another make all the trips necessary for the adoption process. She wondered if Joyce or I might be interested in doing such work. This is an exciting thought and I am in the process of praying about this work. Please pray for me that I will follow the will of God in this matter.
Our stay in Los Angeles with Pam and her family was relaxing and fulfilling. Instead of the warm sunny weather we were expecting, southern California was having a cool, cloudy period. But, the fellowship was warm and sunny and the time went too quickly. While we were there we traveled to San Juan Capistrano and spent a wonderful day there at the Mission. Again, we found a Russian connection as we read about the history of the old Spanish missions of California. During the time of Spanish occupation, Russian settlers were moving south into the California territory and Spain began to be concerned that the Russian population would claim its land. Missions were established as Spain began to send citizens to form colonies. There are many Russian citizens of California whose ancestors have been living there for centuries. We visited a gallery where Russian art was displayed and we learned a special Russian celebration was being planned for the mission which would honor the Russian culture of the area. Of course, Joyce, Helen, Guenna, Veronica, and I were excited to see how God continually connected our countries as we traveled on.
We worshiped in the Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles and it was a moving experience. The music was especially inspiring and again we were aware of God's special blessings for our group as the choir director announced the composer of the anthem was Russian. The anthem was the last piece he had written. He watched the church in which he worshiped be demolished during the terrible times of religious persecution under Stalin. The anthem was "Come Holy Spirit" and the sanctuary of the Crystal Cathedral was filled with the power of the Spirit as the choir sang. We all were moved to tears as the words became our prayer. "Come Holy Spirit" filled our hearts as we listened to the beautiful voices. Later, we all agreed God had directed our paths that day as we chose to worship in that special cathedral that particular day.
We didn't go to Disney as we thought we might, but we took a trip to Hollywood's Universal Studio before leaving Los Angeles to visit friends in Santa Rosa, CA. Santa Rosa is north of San Francisco and we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge at night, but several days later, Helen, Guenna, Veronica and I traveled back to San Francisco with our friends. The day was beautiful and we were able to take pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and spend the day at Fisherman's Wharf and the surrounding area. We rode the trolley's and drove the most crooked road in the city. Helen and her family especially liked being in our cities. They live in a city and they enjoyed walking the streets and comparing our cities with the cities of Russia.
Our hosts in Santa Rosa were life-long friends of Joyce's and their reunion was very touching. Joyce and I stayed with Della, who was a spry 89 year-old. We spent an evening with her children and grandchildren and also visited a nearby redwood forest where we were dwarfed by the glorious giant trees. The area was cool and beautiful and again we witnessed the awesome creation of our Lord.
From San Francisco we traveled north to Portland Oregon and visited Joyce's cousin and toured the beautiful Portland area. Donna's home and gardens were a quiet oasis for us and we enjoyed the rest before traveling on to Seattle.
We arrived in Seattle in late afternoon and made ourselves at home although my friend, Carol was in Pennsylvania. We shared the evenings with Carol's daughters and grandchildren and felt quite at home. There was only one day for Helen and family to re-pack their luggage to conform with size and weight regulations of Aeroflot. All was ready in good time and we enjoyed a good night's sleep before leaving for the airport. The day was foggy and rainy and the weather reflected our mood as we knew the time was slipping away and we would have to say good-bye to our friends. Again we were surprised to find an American/Russian connection at the airport. Our missionary friends, Mark and Patty were traveling the same flight to Khabarovsk. We hadn't talked with them since they had left for home in 1997. They had planned to return to Khabarovsk to continue the mission work but their plans had changed and they were going back to gather their possessions and visit friends. We introduced Helen and her family to Mark and Patty and were happy to be able to encourage another Russian/American Christian connection.
Joyce and I traveled home more directly and quickly than we had traveled to Seattle. We had a good trip home and we stopped at Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, Walls Drug Store and the Corn Palace along the way. We arrived at Joyce's home exhausted and I spent the night there before driving home the next day.
We heard by e-mail that Helen and her family were home safe and sound. Please pray for them as they adjust to their lives in Russia. The economy there isn't getting better, and the contrast between our excesses and their poverty will be even greater since they have spent these months with us. I praise God that Helen's faith increased as we experienced God's love and protection in our travels. I know Guenna marveled at the way God seemed to lead us in so many ways during our time together. Most of the time we were with Christian friends and the joy they expressed was contagious. Please pray he will come to know our Lord as he reflects on his experiences here. The challenges of life in Khabarovsk will require great faith and trust in God. I know God blessed our time together and He will be with our friends as they return to their beloved homeland.
It was good to be home for a few days before leaving again for a Mission Conference in Georgia. Joyce, Jack Stevenson and I spent a week learning about the work of the Mission Society for United Methodists. We had the opportunity to meet several missionaries and were inspired by the work God is directing around the world.
From Georgia, Joyce and Jack drove me to Middlesboro, Kentucky where I met friends from home traveling to the Red Bird Mission of the United Methodist Church in Beverly, Kentucky. We spent a week at the work camp there and met many wonderful Christians from the Beverly area and from several other states. This was my first work camp experience and I was blessed. The week went quickly and soon I was home again. It really is good to be home and I look forward to catching up with work here and in Delaware before winter comes.
Even at home I am pleased to find God providing the opportunity to meet and share with Russian Christians. This week our church will host a St. Petersburg choral group of five. They each sing professionally in their Russian Orthodox Churches in the St. Petersburg area. I am looking forward to spending two days with them and learning about their walk with God.
The needs of Khabarovsk continue as before and I will write again soon to tell the story of God's work there. I continue to hear from Russian friends and American missionaries about the amazing power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our Christian friends. I didn't plan to spend so much of this letter telling you about our trip, but as I wrote, it seemed important that I tell you about it all. Thank you for your prayers as we traveled. God's hand was surely holding us all the way.
It is my pleasure to continue to tell the story of God's work in Khabarovsk. I am happy to visit you and/or speak with any church or group.
Please continue to keep God's people in your prayers as they live and work in Khabarovsk. Some of you may be moved to send a gift to be used in the orphanages or for Ura's vision to the homeless and the orphans of the city. If so, please make your checks payable to Fishburn UMC and tell us how God is directing the gift to be used.
Fishburn United Methodist Church
1215 Fishburn Road
Hershey, PA 17033
In His Love,