Left to right: Me (Zoya...my Russian name)
On to our first area of ministry: prep work at Emmanuel Church. GAiN comes alongside local churches to deliver aid for physical needs and Bibles and Christian literature for spiritual needs. These are things that local churches can barely afford, but Americans have the financial means to help them. In so doing, long after the American missioniaries have left, the Russians are more receptive to spiritual help once they've received things like pencils, hankies, and toothbrushes.
Okay, so we'd each been prepping for weeks, months, or years for this mission, but still there's more to do.
In this case, we had to assemble 350 (400?) care packs for the week of ministry. Why weren't they assembled already, you ask? Why hadn't GAiN sent them ready-to-go from the PA Warehouse? Well, as we learned, some countries won't allow prepackaged things like this into the country based on customs restrictions. They have to determine what might be merchandise (and therefore taxable) what is aid (they'll take that free) and what would be called gifts (free, but one must pray that corruption in the customs dept doesn't mean your gifts get confiscated and never delivered as planned). Thank the Lord, all our goods, including the Christian literature got thru customs a short time before our trip, and was ready and waiting to be packaged in Ziploc bags when we got to Emmanuel Church.
Pictured on the left: Timor ("tea more"), assistant pastor of Emmanuel Church. His looks, mannerisms, and personality reminded me of someone from TV Land. I said to Sacha, "Is he a Russian Ricky Ricardo or what? I'm just waiting for him to say, "LUCEEEE! You got some 'splainin to do!!!!!"
On the right is Sergei, founder of Mercy Ministries and faithful member of Emmanuel Church. He and his wife have two darling boys, Phillipe and Sasha, with a little girl named Katya due in August. I am most fond of the name Katya because my Grandma Dauber's name was Kathryn and her family called her Katch. (The second baby I miscarried was named Hope Kathryn.) Sergei reminds me of a 32 year old Opie Taylor. Always a goofball, he liked to give us surprises. We soon learned to question his definition of "surprise." (He has shifty eyes and a mischievous grin at all times. Something funny always ready to come out of his mouth.)
Okay, so is today's surprise ice cream or hard labor?
Not real hard, just time-consuming. Megan was a likeable take-charge sort who set up an assembly line and told who what to pack where. Journal, pen, toothbrush, paint set, hankie, teddy bear w/ gospel bead bracelet, pencil, and the like. Those of us who couldn't be on on our feet long got to sit and squeeze all the air out of the bags, count the bags per site request, and recount them because numbers were always flying around. For example, V- 3 was the third orphanage in Vladimir we'd visit, which needed 45 care packs. V-5 would need 80, and V-8 only 33. You know you're punchy when your whole group blurts out simultaneously , "Wish I coulda had a V-8!" Poor Linda was on the box that needed 80, and I can't tell you how many times she had to pack and repack that thing. She was getting flustered, which only made me want to laugh more, but seeing's as we were just getting to know each other, I tried to stifle myself. Really, I did. See, we weren't all working on one box quota at a time. Some of us were on V-5, some on V-3, and some got their V-8. Linda on V-5 would reach 44 and then hear a giddy girl call out, "We're done! Got 45 !" and of course that makes a packer of 80 wonder if she's off by one at midcount! So unpack, recount, tell the group to shush, repack, tell the group to shush-I'm not mad-I'm just concentrating---!"
Forefront in white shirt: Faith H. Darling sweet girl. Second of seven kids, only she and her older brother are biological sibs. The rest were adopted and have special needs from autism to cerebral palsy.
Linda (in red) going crazy counting to 80 about 30 times. Lena (seated to Linda's right) squeezing the daylights out of the 300th bag. A former competitive figure skater, Lena has a killer figure. Not skinny, but not an inch of fat on her. Her secret? She never eats dinner. She never eats butter. She never eats...well, you get the picture. She was the one who kept us informed about what not to say. (Unfortunately, she didnt' always tell the whole group. I was walking along with her one day and she informed that "Who's" is a vulgarism in Russia. Our contraction for "who is" (hoos) is a bad, bad word over there. The other interpreter, Natasha, recalled the day her translation instructor punished the whole class one for the mistake of one who said "Who's.' She made them write out "Who is on duty?" 50 times. These are grown adults being made to write sentences like 3rd graders. (Who's on 3rd? :):):)) So ever after I tried really hard not to ask, "Who's Bible is this?" Hardly the combo of words a Christian missionary wants to fling about Russia.
God blessed our work with super speed. What the leaders expected to take 2 nights only took us one. I think it was because of the delicious chocolate and hot tea that the young boys delivered to us midway through. Chocolate in Russia is v'kuska! (Good tasting; yummy! Make that V'kuska balshoy! (VERY yummy!) Tea...oh, the tea. How I miss it. We bought only one box for home. What a mistake. There's nothing like their tea at 4:00. I really want to incorporate tea time into my daily routine. Invite a friend over to put her feet up with me and be refreshed before the Arsenic Hour of 5:00. Who wants to be my first tea time guest?