Asya is starting to talk more and more. I still don't think she's reached that "linguistic explosion" stage, but she's close. Yes, I was just looking at the last time I wrote about her speech, and she's come a long way since then. We have conversations now. At least, it's getting close to conversations.
The funniest thing is her foreign language words. As far as I know, she's never heard German, but when she's mad, instead of yelling, "no" or "нет," it's a very clear "nein." And hedgehog is "їжа," like їжак in Ukrainian. The way I figured that one out is funny. I should have understood it, but I didn't. She was carrying a pine cone around, petting it, babying it, putting it to bed, feeding it, and calling it ляля їжа (baby yizha). I asked her why she was doing that, what kind of baby it was, and she just repeated "їжа, їжа." When dense Mama didn't understand that, she gently put down her pine cone, let out a deep sigh, and signed "hedgehog." Ah!
We've joked for a while about her speaking Chinese, too. She has several words that are very dependent on tone and sound nothing like Russian or English. Дай comes out like dau with a funny, drawn out intonation. Отдай and чай have the same intonation, but they are pronounced dap-DAU and tau.
Like I said, we have conversations. Recently Asya, Raia and I were sitting outside together. Raia happened to touch Asya's beloved hat. Asya crossed her arms and firmly said, "Nein! Wawa, 'ельзя пляпля." And then she turned to me and tattled: "Wawa пляпля!" Translation: "No! Raia, шляпа/hat is forbidden. Raia touched my hat!" (Yaya has evolved into Wawa.)
Пляпля is probably my favorite word that Asya says. It just sounds so funny and cute! Every morning and after naps at the dacha, she gets up, usually stark naked. She says, "пляпля" (hat) and "то," (which means shoes. I have no idea why.) Once she has those on, she waves, says "дап-дап," (which being interpreted is пока/bye, again with no apparent reason why), and heads for the door. It's like she's saying, "I have my hat and shoes. I'm ready to go!"
Another really funny one that she's been saying for a long time is попа. She uses it appropriately when she goes potty and needs to be wiped. But more often than that, she uses it to mean coffee. You can sit with her and discuss this for quite a while. Point to coffee, and ask her what it is: "Попа."
"Coffee, Asya, coffee."
Another Asya word that took us a while to figure out is "bebe." At first we thought she was trying to say "baby," but "bebe" actually means sleep/lie down/put to bed. It has to be accompanied by a sign that she made up. Maybe it's more related to бай-бай than baby?
Last week she started calling herself Syasya and saying "все" ("tsyoh"), too. That's probably enough about Asya speech, though. It's much funnier and cuter to hear it than read it. I did want to write about all her different babies, but that will have to wait for another time.
(By the way, last time I wrote about this, I also wrote about Raia "speaking Ukrainian." I actually did hear her use нема for the first time back at Easter.)
Part of life here in the Dneprorudnoe church is the fact of a church building that has never been finished. There seems to be an endless list of tasks that need doing just to maintain the building in the shape it is in, not to mention finishing the originally planned construction. The main building project was done about 10-15 years ago!
A good deal of what I have been able to help with here has been in this area of 'finishing' work. That is, everything from cosmetic touch-ups of different varieties; taking apart the double-paned windows to caulk them in an effort to save on heating; digging ditches, building fences, mixing and pouring concrete, trimming trees, etc., etc., e..t..c. =)
One of the fellowship times that I am able to have a part in is the Tuesday evening "Mens' Meeting." This isn't what I grew up with in Charlotte, NC (I miss those!), not a time of informal catching up over a simple meal, followed with a devotional time led by the pastor. These meetings are often a walk-through of what needs to be done around the church, followed with an hour or two of actually making some progress on one project or another. Other times they are a 'talk-through' of spiritual/practical questions or problems that have come up in the church. We've also been going through a "Doctrine of Independent Baptist Churches of Ukraine,' in installments. This was something that was provided for the local churches to go through, critique, adjust and tweak as they see fit. Then they can discuss their additions/corrections with the national leadership, or they can just make it their own church's statement of faith. It's a bit drawn out, but is basically a conglomeration of the most widely known statements of faith, tweaked here and there to reflect their own history. (By the way, just FYI, this church is NOT affiliated with the American Independent Baptist churches. The Russian/Ukrainian Baptist church is NOT an American-planted entity, but entirely... homegrown, I guess you'd say.)
So, at our "Men's Meetings" in March/April, we decided to try and make a concerted effort toward progress on outside jobs that needed doing. One of those was getting a good layer of primer paint on a metal fence we had put up in the fall. I volunteered to work on that, since painting is one of my self-proclaimed 'specialties.' (Along with Omelettes, Procrastinating, and Scrubbing.) I ended up being at the church for at least all day once a week, every week in April, I think, just working on that fence! Not having the luxury of galvanized, ready made, chain-link fencing, we had welded together a 'net' fence. Good, strong steel, but definitely not rust proof. And Definitely a bit of a pain to paint. =) Still, there weren't many others who had the time or patience to tackle it, so I was glad to jump in. Unfortunately, with dacha preparations, I never did finish that project. So one more 'finishing job' that's still on the list at the church...
Again, this was working at the church in addition to choir practices, and extra choir practices getting ready for Easter; Wednesday Bible study (and preparation), Saturday youth meeting (and preparation); preaching on Sundays (yes, I prepared for that as well, I am semi-responsible at times), taking an Active part in two funerals; helping move a babushka here from another city, etc. Oh, and trying to spend most of at the very least ONE day a week with my family. (o'
Thank you all again so much for your prayers, your concern, your love. We are enjoying life and ministry here. It is still very hard at times, because, even with challenging ministry, three children demanding all we can give, and the blessing of a place that is very much like our beloved Russia - it's still not quite 'home.' I guess that's just part of living as the citizens of a Heavenly Kingdom, but it really does make a difference knowing how many people we love and care for are praying for us and bringing us before the Throne of Grace. Thank you.
We went out to our dacha on Monday and just came back yesterday. It was wonderful to have so much time outside! We hope this can pretty much be our summer schedule: weekdays at the dacha, weekends at home. That's what we did in Russia, too. Here it's even more convenient, because our dacha is right near the church. In the evenings, Will can just run across the road and be there. Well, kind of across the road; it's really through the "woods,"* over the railroad tracks, down and up the valley, then across the road. But it's still closer than coming from our apartment.
We're probably headed back to our dacha tomorrow, and we have friends coming on Thursday, so we'll be both away from the computer and busy. (They'll be staying at our apartment, while we're at the dacha. We can spend days together, and then go to our separate "homes" for the nights.) Still, I'll try to have at least one post scheduled to show up here during the week. Watch for that.
*Once again, I will mention that there are no woods here. However, there are nice "plantings." (I can't think of a better way to translate that.) Once Jaan was telling someone from church something about a forest in Russia. Her response--with big eyes--was, "I was in a forest once. It was scary!" Recently, in Sunday school the teacher asked who had ever been in a real forest. Our children were the only ones who raised their hands.
Spring is rapidly advancing, everything has beautifully come to life, and for now at least, Dneprorudnoe is bursting with green. We are planning to spend more time at our dacha, or it would be better to say, most of our time. We won't be at the computer as much, so I thought this would be a good time to give a long overdue update on the ins and outs of ministry with the church here.
I'll like to give y'all a little overview of April. (See, I haven't forgotten how to 'speak Southern'!) Maybe better to say the end of March through the beginning of May... more or less in order. Since this time period was so full for us, maybe we'll do this in installments. =) So here's one event from that time period:
Part of being in a small town church is taking part in everything that happens, and with a church with half or more of the members well over 60, funerals are common occurrence. Since Soviet times and before, in Russian Evangelical Churches funerals have been seen as unusual opportunities to openly and publicly proclaim the Gospel, to reach out to unsaved relatives, friends, acquaintances who on their own might never choose to have any contact with any church whatsoever.
My assistance in this process began the day before the funeral when I ended up helping dig the grave. This babushka had no relatives left in town, so church members did everything that the relatives would usually have arranged for. I did think to myself that the extent of the church's involvement was truly remarkable. On one hand, yes, you can say that this was just a reflection of the Slavic-Soviet communal mindset... but what I saw even more was the purpose of the body of Christ being lived out in real life. This lady had only one distant relative who lived too far away to even make it for the funeral. From preparing her body for burial, ordering the coffin, arranging the church service, transportation to the cemetery, digging the grave, placing the grave marker, gathering and feeding all the old friends and acquaintances who attended the funeral, etc, on and on... it was all completely and spontaneously done by the church members. I just thought how truly shocking it would be to the average American christian. I mean, if someone just and up and died, no arrangements made... would there be such an outpouring of love? Or would it be a few people taking 'this unforeseen burden' upon themselves, while the majority would be taken aback that this babushka could have been so uncaring as to not set everything up ahead of time? Surely she should have thought, as a Christian, what an imposition this would be on others? I didn't hear even a hint of that, and what I thought repeatedly, was 'they will know that you are My disciples by the love you have for one another." This was just how things struck meat the time, I don't mean at all to imply that many American churches might not have responded in the same manner. It was a powerful testimony of the love of God being displayed through His children, and I was humbled to be there in the midst of it.
Back to my part. =) We gathered in the morning in front of the babushka's apartment building, carried out the coffin, and had us a church service. That is, we sang hymns, spoke of the sincere, simple belief and love this sister in Christ had displayed in here life. However, we spoke even more about the God she had gone to meet, and the Saviour whom she had believed in, lived with, loved and served for so many years. There were probably three 'sermonettes' in all, including mine. I shared about what the Bible says to be true of us without God: our nature, our life, and eternal destiny, if we turn away from God... and all of the wonderful, amazing changes that God works in us when we come to know Christ. Naturally, people are more willing to think about eternity when confronted by death, but still, I am always amazed at how open and receptive the eyes and hearts of many are. Especially since they might not attend any church at all, with the possible exception of Christmas and Easter. Be praying with us for those who heard the Gospel clearly presented, who were challenged to think about their own lives, their eternal souls and their choice to acknowledge God, to choose to come to Him in faith and find salvation, purpose in this life, and the joy of living with God in this life and the next.
After the outdoor service, which attracted friends, neighbors and acquaintances, as well as our church members, we loaded up all who wanted to 'see her off on her last journey,' and drove out to the cemetery. Once there, we had a brief time of singing hymns and letting people 'say their last goodbyes' before we lowered the coffin into the grave. The majority then were taken to the church for a lunch 'in honor of the departed.' This is an obligatory traditional meal, usually supplied by the family, but again, the church members did all the preparation and serving for at least 60 people. I has stayed at the cemetery with some of the men to fill in the grave, and set things in order at the grave site. We rejoined the rest when we were finally done, thanked the Lord for the grace and strength He gave to serve His children in this way... and called it a day.
And there you have it. One Day in the Life of Vilborn Vilbornovich. =)
Thank you for your constant prayers for us, as well as notes, letters, encouragement. We appreciate each and every one of you, and thank God for your love, for your interest in our life and ministry.
The horse chestnuts are in full bloom here. The main street and many other areas are planted with them. Jaan and Raia say that the individual flower spikes look like Christmas trees, but we decided that the overall effect of the trees in bloom is like birthday cakes, with the flowers as candles.
We have had a great time observing the flowers, drawing them, and even conducting a little experiment with them. Actually, we've been watching them since the very beginning of spring. Their early buds are some of the most interesting around here: huge and sticky. And in the fall we had a wonderful time collecting and playing with huge seeds from the same trees. Here are some photos of what they look like now:
(See the beetle?)
Our notebook pages: You can see them separately here.
And our experiment: The flowers change colors! We had noticed that some have yellow dots on the petals, and some have a bright pink-red. We took a photo of a yellow one and tied a string around it to mark it. The next day it was red! (I know it doesn't show well in the photo; our particular flowers was folded down a little. The colors shows on the others near it, though.)
And see the bright orange pollen on our fingers in the close-up photos? That has sparked an interest in pollination and flower parts. Jaan especially has been going around, inspecting the different kinds of pollen in various flowers and looking for their stamens and pistils. On my part, I've been trying to learn the names of all those parts in Russian. Sigh. My brain moves slowly these days!
I'm way behind. This was over a week ago, but I still wanted to share it with you all. I had asked for prayer for a youth picnic at our dacha. In the midst of very rainy weather, we had a little break. It was still a very wet picnic, but the heavy rain held off. Everyone was brave enough to try a picnic, even with a drizzle coming off and on.
Flowers from Asya
(He was happier than he looks; just concentrating hard.)
Kostya catches Jaan
Some of our dacha guests
Bible study time
We had a great time, and I think everyone else did, too! Yes, there was a lot of sitting inside, near the stove, but that was just fun and cozy. Thank you for praying!
This time I'm writing for my memory and for the Rigels.
I asked the babushka who gave us those beautiful eggs how she did them. She said that she just took some random leaves, put them up against the eggs, and tied them up tightly in stockings. (I wonder if she used leaves from a flower arrangement, because I recognize fern and rose leaves?) Then she boiled them with onion skins. That's the standard way to get the reddish colored eggs that are so common for Easter in this part of the world. She didn't say that she added vinegar, but most people do. Apparently they turned out so dark because she started with brown eggs instead of white. It sounds so simple that maybe we'll try it this week.
I do have vague memories of doing something similar with Mom when I was little.