Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Finger painting

Yesterday was rainy, so we had a wild time of finger painting indoors. How on earth do they do that with big groups of children in preschools? Two was enough for me! We had a wonderful time, though.

Her first art project
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Jaan expresses his opinion
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

I guess Will's genes have taken over in this boy. How could any child of mine be opposed to getting his hands dirty?

Once Raia was done painting, I carried them and the paint straight to the bathtub. Raia needed to be cleaned up anyway, and I thought Jaan might enjoy the paint there. Sure enough! The fun continued:

Artists at work
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

She's a masterpiece!
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

(Yes, she was drinking the water and blowing bubbles in it.)

A butterfly!
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

So, he is my son after all? He pointed this painting out to me and said that it was a butterfly.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Still more from the garden

A very happy Phyllis
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Everyone is teasing Will that he made our section look like a Russian cemetery.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Thursday, May 25, 2006

"She went out into eternity"

That's how we say it here. The oldest member of our church died yesterday. Olga Grigorevna may even have been one of the oldest Protestant believers in Russia. Her grandfather was the founder of the Russian Baptist Union. She was such a sweet, joyful believer! I love to imagine her smiling in heaven now. She was always smiling here, even when she talked about the times she was imprisoned for her faith. Oh, how I wish I had been able to hear more of her stories and learn more from her! Katya and Alyona always said that she was their favorite babysitter, because she would actually run around and play with them, not just watch them. And that was when she was already more than ninety years old! She loved children as much as they loved her. When the Korneichuks moved here, the church was just a few babushki, meeting in Olga Grigorevna's apartment. Even though she wasn't present at most church services over the past few years, she was a backbone of the church. (Once the church started to meet in the cultural center she was afraid to come, because of her memories of all the believers being taken there before sending them off to the prisons and camps. Her father was sent off from there, and I don't think he ever came back.) Her ministry in the time that we knew her was based from her home: she had letters and tapes coming and going from all over the world, visitors were always welcome, and she had weekly prayer meetings with the older women from the church. Christian fellowship and encouragement were some of her greatest joys. Her face would just light up when we would come to visit her, especially with our children. Her dream was to see a church building built, and she left her worldly possessions to be used towards that. Maybe her dream will be realized sometime soon; she firmly believed that it would. Please pray for that. I'm sure the funeral today will be a joyful celebration, since we "sorrow not, as others which have no hope." Thank you, Lord, for letting us be blessed by Olga Grigorevna's life on earth!

At her birthday party, 2005
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More from the garden and a language question

Our Rototillers
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

I'll just keep posting gardening photos as I can.

Recently I read on the back of a seed packet that пикировка should be done after 20 days. I went and looked пикировка up in the dictionary and found "(coll.) slanging-match." Huh? There was no other definition. I called the Korneichuks, and Pavel explained that it meant to divide the plants out into separate containers. So, I learned a new word.

Since then I've been asking around: why on earth does the dictionary say "slanging-match"? No one can think of any other definition for пикировка. Some of our non-gardening friends didn't know what it meant, but they all agreed that it had something to do with gardens. And what would a "slanging-match" be? Maybe I'm explaining it wrong in Russian? As far as I can tell, it would be insulting one another. We've all been laughing about needing to trade insults with plants, 20 days after they sprout.

Katya, Alyona, and the BIG grub
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


The sandbox
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

I don't have time to post all the gardening pictures from yesterday, so I'll try to choose out the best and send them one at a time. We had a wonderful day yesterday! While Will and Pavel 'tilled', the rest of us collected bugs and played. Katya wants to open an insect zoo with me. All of us were learning new things. The girls would come running to me with questions like, "Aunt Phyllis, do you know what ladybugs eat?" And I would have to reply, "Yes, but I don't know what they're called in Russian." So, we would go off for me to find an aphid and show it to everyone, until we found someone who knew what it was called. We continued like that for the whole morning. Then, we had lunch together outside, and I put our little ones down for their naps. While they slept, I got to plant. Oh, happy day!

Also, Raia started signing yesterday! I've been signing to her off and on, not as faithfully as I would like to, but she still picked up something. I was just getting ready to nurse her, and she looked up at me, smiled, and very clearly signed "milk"!

Monday, May 22, 2006

On the balcony

No high speed internet for us. Contrary to rumors, it's still not available in our region. It took Will almost a whole day of running around to find that out. Oh, well! We have a new internet card, so here are the balcony pictures I promised. They're from the last month or so.

Neighbors, gossiping over the fence
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

(Actually, he was feeding her.)

Checking the frog eggs
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Washing the truck
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Snack time
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Yum! Concrete!
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Soaking up the sunshine
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

We've had a few days warm enough for this, or for "swimming." I put two washtubs out with warm water in them, and one child in each tub. They splash and play and have a great time!

Can you see that we love our balcony? One of my big requests when we were searching for an apartment here was that it would have a balcony. Thank you, Lord, for giving it to us!

We've been busy the past few days. Saturday, we (the younger three of us ) spent the whole day with Nastya and Ilya. The boys had a great time playing together, and Raia loved following them around with a toy car in each of her hands, too. Yesterday we went to church, of course, and afterwards we stayed at the Korneichuk's until late for a birthday celebration. We roasted hot dogs, sang, and enjoyed the beautiful weather and the apple blossoms, while Raia wallowed in the dirt. (Too bad we didn't have the camera along!) Today we were planning to go over and work in their garden first thing, but it looked like rain, so we waited. Now the sun has come out, but Raia is napping. Will and Jaan are over there getting started, and we girls will join them soon.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Russian Orthodoxy

A note to our friends who are Russian/Eastern Orthodox believers:
Please, please, please.......... do not be offended!

We think very highly of the Russian Orthodox church. Other Christians are our brothers and sisters, no matter what church they belong to. The Russian Orthodox church is an essential part of "our" beloved culture here, after all. It just makes us very sad to see Russian Orthodoxy used by some people as an excuse for intolerance and extreme nationalism.

The comments I made concerning The Russian Orthodox Church as a political force to be reckoned with here were largely based on what representatives the ROC have themselves said during recent regional religious forums. I very much do not believe in calling people to a church, but in calling people to a living God, who wants for us to have a living relationship with Him. I have known some sincere Russian Orthodox believers here and had great respect for them.

However, I also interact with everyday people, see everyday life, follow the news, and hear reports from 24 or so other Russian protestant churches in our two regions. In a nation where 57% of the population call themselves Russian Orthodox, and only something like 5-7% of that number even attend a church service once or twice a year, the ideals of the church and daily life often greatly differ. When the majority of those who call themselves 'Orthodox believers' are more than likely to refuse the gift of a Bible, saying they have no time for it, you have to wonder how different is that from the average 'Christian' you might find in a US census?

Please understand that we love and respect the beauty and history of the Russian Church. . . but the church of Christ is neither Protestant, nor Catholic, nor Orthodox. The Church of Christ is made of people who have come to Christ for salvation, not to a church, not to tradition, not to self or national identity found in religion.

". . . and the ringing of the bells speak of unearthly beauty,
But the crowds here below seek only their golden calf.
Does anyone hear? Is anyone touched?
I cry out to those still living: seek Him simply, with the faith of a child,
Turn to Him with the faith of a child,
Oh, listen and hear the Father's voice."
Иеромонах Роман, 1994
(excerpt of a poem by a Russian monk, my translation)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

New accomplishments

Yesterday Raia took her first step! Well, that's a slight exaggeration. She's just getting to where she can stand on her own for a second or two, and she has a long way to go before she learns to walk, but she did try. She was standing up, holding on to something, so I called her. She turned and did a little jump-dive-step right into my arms!

Just recently I heard Jaan counting: "Час," (раз?) "ва, три," (four is too hard to say) "пять, шесть, семь, шесть, семь, шесть, семь. . . ." I had no idea that he could go beyond two! I also heard him say seven, when I said six in another conversation. Of course, he won't count at all, when I ask him to. He only does it when he thinks no one is listening.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Thoughts from Will

The Thinker
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Things are always interesting living here in Russia. We tell people back in the States that people here live and struggle with the many of the same problems as those anywhere else in the world. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that this IS indeed a different country, and in many ways, from an American viewpoint, a different world in and of itself!

Religion here isn’t just one of the basic rights of a citizen, a ‘private matter,’ a good or bad influence on society. In the history of Russia, as in many other European countries, organized religion has gone hand in hand with the government in ruling the land. The fact that modern day Russia coming out of the fall of Communism was officially atheistic doesn’t change that in the slightest. After all, in many ways, humanistic atheism is just as much of a religion as any other!

All this to say that what we experience personally as well as see and hear of here in the former USSR, is a far cry from the religious freedom that is proclaimed publicly. Christians under the communist regime were used to their rights being trampled on, and even if they did protest from time to time, it was usually fairly pointless. Today Russian Christians have the law on their side as well as the ear of the international community... only at times I wonder if they’re not too used to just enduring injustice.

We are told that we aren’t to be surprised when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake. However, we do have the example of the apostle Paul standing up for his legal rights; at the same time he was witnessing of Christ in the highest courts of the land and in Caesar’s own household!

Ok, enough already, right? What brings this up? Simply the fact that we’ve been able to observe some very interesting shenanigans on the part of the police, FSB, etc., taking place in our neighboring Ivanovo region over the past 6-12 months. The churches and pastors or missionaries affected are people that we know. We’ve heard first hand accounts, prayed for them, and been kept up to date as things develop.
1-A group of Russian/Americans were detained on trumped up charges late last summer, and the leader of the group was kept under house arrest for a month or so while the case against him was being processed.
2-This winter, another group of Americans was detained briefly, and the Russian church that hosted them was repeatedly brought to court, again, with trumped up charges... better to say ridiculous charges, even.
3- This past Sunday, members of the same church were detained and questioned for ‘illegally’ distributing New Testaments after the showing of a Christian film, and others were forbidden to continue doing so. (Again, the actual specifics of the charges were almost ludicrous.)
There have also been other related instances, but these have been the most obvious cases where believers have been falsely incriminated.

So, what’s going on? Well, as everyone knows, each government has an ideology by which they rule and direct their country. In our case here, the ideology of modern Russia has been shaped to include a strong central government and a strong national identity. (Russia suffered something of an identity crisis between the mid 80’s and mid 90’s.)

The government turned to the Russian Orthodox Church for a very large part of the strong national identity they desired to form. The Russian Orthodox Church was at one point in history the state church of Russia, and has always worked closely with the government in ruling and guiding the nation. That hasn’t changed today, and therefore any non-Russian Orthodox religious influence in Russia is immediately suspect.

In recent talks with government leaders in a local religious forum, protestant church representatives were directly told that they are innately suspect in the eyes of the government. Since many protestant churches have some ties, direct or indirect with Western churches, there is the assumption that they are being used to influence Russian culture and politics. That is, western governments are using protestant churches as the means to achieve their own goals in Russia, even to the point of encouraging some kind of popular uprising such as those which have recently taken place in former Soviet bloc countries.

None of this is officially declared, but that doesn’t matter much, as long as ‘unofficial instructions’ are being circulated that originate in the highest spheres of the Russian government.

It sounds like something out of a Michael Crichton thriller? Nah, just politics at work here! And you thought that religion as a political force went out of style in Europe sometime during the 19th century...

The point of this little essay/commentary is simply to ask you all to keep the true Russian church in your prayers. Protestant, Russian Orthodox, no matter... wherever there are born again Christians, they are almost guaranteed to be meeting opposition at some level.

Our friends have had a Christian lawyer to represent them in these different cases, and the law IS on their side! However, as different judges have admitted: ‘This is ridiculous, the law is on your side... but we have our instructions, sorry.’ There are also Christian legal defense organizations here that have been alerted. (Well, there’s at least one.)

Pray that these kind of difficulties would be opportunities to witness and be a witness. There are many misunderstandings of who Protestants are, and these trials give wonderful opportunities to represent evangelical Christianity in many different arenas we would not usually have access to.

So PRAY with us, and let’s see what God does in our churches and government here for His glory!

(P.S. from Phyllis for concerned relatives: This is NOT persecution like in the old USSR. No one is in any personal danger. We are completely safe.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Out of the mouth of Jaan

This morning I woke up a little stiff. Jaan watched me doing stretches, and as I bent over and stood up, he said, "Ooo, the crane is working!" (I told you that anything could be a crane to him!)

Last night we had pelmeni and peas for supper. According to Jaan, we ate малини и грех. Those who understand Russian should be laughing at that one!

Jaan has made up a new word: holdиться. When he wants me to pick him up, that's what he says. I guess it makes some kind of sense, when you combine Russian and English grammar.

(About the disappearing photo: You all are just too fast! I was in the middle of posting a bunch of photos. That was the only one that made it through, so I deleted it. I'll get them all up sometime, when we have everything in working order again.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Don't worry

We're having some internet problems, but we're still here and all is well. We might be getting set up with a HIGH SPEED internet connection soon!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I forgot

I meant to post this yesterday to show that Raia isn't holding any grudges against bugs:

Raia and the May beetle
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

It was taken soon after her bad adventure. I know you can't see the beetle too well; it's under her hand. It was really big, and she was fascinated!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

День Победы

We had a wonderful Victory Day with friends from the Viazniki and Kovrov churches yesterday.

Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Jaan's favorite book right now is one that starts with a poem about a samovar. He was thrilled to arrive at the camp and see a real samovar! The Petrash's samovar is a real, real one, too. Not one of these modern ones that plugs in. Jaan got to help with building the fire in it, and then he served tea to everyone once it was hot.

Happy baby
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Raia loved crawling around the old camp, just like her brother did two summers ago, when we were working with the children there. She did have a terrible adventure, but it didn't seem to bother her one bit. A tick bit the inside of her eyelid! She just held on to her flowers and waited for us to take care of it. I think it was the first bug encounter that has upset me for twenty years or so! (Mom, how old was I when I ran into that bombardier beetle?)

Tallest to smallest
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Ivan had all the kids, big and little, lined up to explain the rules for Capture the Flag.

Deaf friends
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Recently several deaf people have started attending the church in Viazniki. Quite a few of them came and brought their families to the picnic. It took a little bit of writing in the dirt and lots of guessing, but then we got to communicating, and had a great time together.

We missed our train back, because the schedule changed for the holiday, so Ivan brought our group all the way home. It was great to hear all his stories and impressions from his visit to America. I thought the funniest thing that he said was that the public restrooms in America are like something out of a fairy tale. Maybe that was so funny to me, because not too long ago I said the best word to describe beautiful, old Riga under a fresh snowfall was сказочый, and we couldn't come up with a perfect translation. And then Ivan used it to describe bathrooms?!?

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Our frog eggs are starting to hatch. We've been able to see the tadpoles curled up and squirming around inside the eggs for a few days. Now they're actually coming out!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Three questions

This is a little different from what I usually write, but I'm curious about a few things.

What are these flowers? I know the fourth one is a Raia flower. (Yes, she was eating dirt.) What are the others? Unfortunately, none of them are clear. Sorry! I think the first two are the same, just different colors.

Does anyone know what happened to my snapdragon seeds? They came up really well and then "melted."

What language is this? Our neighbor gave us some old clothes for Raia, and one shirt was covered in these little conversations. We can understand some of the words, because they're close to Russian, but we can't figure out what language it is.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Daily news

The play
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

Last night was the Easter program at the orphanage. We had a great time visiting with the children! Ira, Yulia and Will put on a short play. Somehow Jaan found his way into every scene.

Tooth update: Raia's fourth tooth on the top came through yesterday. The middle ones are still barely visible, so she continues to smile her funny smile.

Garden news: We have flowers! The first of the early spring perennials are starting in our flower bed outside. I don't know what they're called. Maybe if I post photos, someone will be able to tell me?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cow? Horse?

Cow? Horse?
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

For a while I could not figure out why Jaan always talked about cows and horses every time we passed a certain place in our walks. He finally explained. This old smashed sign (or whatever it is?) looks like a cow or a horse to him. See it? Four legs and a head. . . . (His hands are on the head in the picture.) We did not pose him; he just instinctively knew how an old farmer should stand for a portrait with his livestock.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The nature preserve

I'm afraid I'm never going to catch up on photos! Yesterday we took the camera to the woods again, and you wouldn't believe how many pictures we took. This one is from last week:
Frog eggs
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

I had mentioned the Hunsucker Balcony Nature Preserve. So far we have these frog eggs, which will soon be tadpoles, along with a family of snails, various seedlings, and a few nettles in pots for when the butterflies start laying eggs. We're having so much fun out there!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Monday, May 01, 2006

Enjoying God's creation

Quite a few of the cute photos I mentioned are of us enjoying the great outdoors. Between playing outside right around our home, building the Hunsucker Balcony Nature Preserve, and walks to the woods, we've been busy. Here's Raia, discoursing on the way a pine cone feels, looks, smells and, of course, tastes:

The young scientist
Originally uploaded by fylliska.

I wish you could have heard her!