Saturday, January 5, 2007
Technical difficulties prevented us from sending this out from our website so Tom wanted to post our December newsletter here.
DECEMBER 2007 Christmas greetings!
Dear family & friends,
We wish to extend to you the warmest & richest greetings during this Christmas holiday! We pray that you are warm & healthy & can count many intangible gifts from God as among your Christmas presents. We thank you for your prayers, packages & financial support this past year. Together, with your partnership, we are making a difference in people’s lives & strengthening the people in Russia. Thanx!
Looking back at 2007: We passed a few milestones this past year…mainly a change to East-West Ministries International as our sending agency; getting Nathan situated in America with his Grandparents; & successful gall-bladder surgery for Tom. Alida, Spencer & Tom have all progressed in their Russian language abilities & comprehension, & Alida & Spencer are on target to complete Language School in late spring 2008. Tom, well, he considers it a miracle he can speak ANY Russian!
Visa challenge possibly resolved: Every year we’ve been in Russia has seen some kind of change in the law & Visa requirements for foreigners. This year was no exception. However we are in the process of changing to a Work Visa which would eliminate the previous law requiring us to leave Russia every 6 months for registration, plus it would enable us to bypass the new law that only allows foreigners to live in Russia for 180 days of the year. All of the necessary government medical testing has been completed for Tom to apply for a Work Visa in 2008. (There are quotas in each region regarding the number of foreigners who can receive Work Visas.) Under the new Work Visa, we should be allowed to stay in Russia for up to 3 years before we need to leave for visa renewal. We think we have successfully maneuvered every hurdle at this point, however this is Russia & things can & do change quickly. We will keep you posted.
More about Spencer’s plans: At press time, this is Spencer’s plan: finishing the Russian Language course in June 2008, then starting a 6 month Discipleship Training Course at Youth With A Mission’s Kiev, Ukraine school next September. His plan after YWAM’s DTS is to return to Krasnodar & start classes at Kuban State University, focusing on Russian language studies in order to become a translator.
Tom’s teaching series winding down: Tom will complete his 8 week teaching series at ‘Church of the Open Door’ in Krasnodar on Sat, Dec 29. He has been teaching on consecutive Saturdays with themes along the lines of ‘Shame,’ ‘Forgiveness,’ & ‘Character Development.’ The teachings have been well received & very beneficial for the people who have attended. (It’s been great to teach again – as we are ‘living the dream’ that we moved to Russia to fulfill!) The attendees have been a combination of Russians & Americans, people from the local community & from the church, & area professionals like social workers & psychologists. It has been a huge job translating the weekly PowerPoint presentations into Russian, & ‘Russify-ing’ examples so they make sense culturally, but we’ve had good translators for the PowerPoint & for the teaching sessions. We will be planning Tom’s 2008 teaching schedule after Christmas, & are considering the needs of the community & church. It’s possible that Tom will provide parenting classes, marriage & relationship workshops, and communication sessions at ‘Church of the Open Door’ & also the Biblical Leadership Training Coalition. The BLTC is changing from being a seminary to being a resource center for Russian churches & pastors.
East-West Conference in Cyprus: January 2008 brings a conference on the Greek island of Cyprus for all personnel. We will miss the Russian Orthodox Christmas celebration which is Jan 7th, but will be landing during the Greek Orthodox Christmas. We look forward to visiting this historic place & enjoying some time of relaxation. This trip will also serve as our 6 month registration trip as we are still under the old Visa law.
1st Anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at Krasnodar’s ‘Church of the Open Door!’ It was this time last year that our ministry partner Alexei P pioneered a new A.A. meeting at our church. There is a strong core group at this meeting with lots of long-term sobriety. Among three principle group members, there are 20, 15 & 9 years of sobriety, a combined 44 years! This is very rare in Russia. The meeting continues today with plans of starting an Al-Anon meeting soon. (Al-Anon is for family & friends of alcoholics.)
Russian New Years is a big holiday… Since Christmas in Russia is traditionally celebrated in January, the biggest bashes are New Years celebrations. This holiday combines the gift-giving of western Christmas, the costumes & masks of Halloween & Mardi Gras, plus the fireworks of the 4th of July! What a celebration!! Most Russians gather with family or friends late in the evening on New Years Eve to eat together, donning costumes & fantasy masks. Then, there is a traditional Russian comedy film that many people watch. President Vladimir Putin is on national tv at midnight, & once his annual address is completed - the fireworks begin! We typically have fireworks in our courtyard, on the soccer field, even out of apartment windows & balconies & off the top of buildings! It’s very wild! The fireworks will continue for several hours. Russian tradition also calls for family or friends to stroll the streets outside, taking in the fresh, brisk air & chatting - with many people arrive back home around 5 or 6 am!
Many businesses & organizations are closed from New Years until after Russian Orthodox Christmas in early January. Some will remain closed for up to 2 weeks as ‘Old’ New Years (following another calendar) is celebrated the week after Russian Orthodox Christmas! Some use this time as a reason to excessively drink & party the entire two week period. As the years go by, more & more businesses are remaining open during this two week stretch.
Thanx for your support: In spite of a weak US dollar combined with the annual inflation rate in Russia we are holding on financially. A weak dollar means a lower amount of support once the exchange rate has been factored into the equation. We thank you who have provided one-time monetary gifts & extra support. And we also thank our regular donor partners as well. We couldn’t be here without you!
If you who would like to send a care package, here’s our Christmas wish list & address:
Spices: Cream of Tartar, Fennel Seeds, Anise, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Sage, Taco Bell Taco Seasoning, etc.
Thank you notes, note cards, stationary (anything like this)
Gift bags or wrapping paper
Assorted color copy paper or card stock
Computer software with PowerPoint templates
Reality TV like The Amazing Race!
Women’s socks white
Men’s socks black
English language magazines (sports, politics, current events…most anything English!)
HP black inkjets #131
Laker or NBA pro basketball games on dvd
Popcorn (not for microwave)
We are also needing to replace our desktop computer soon. It’s a dinasoar at 4+ years old already!
Care packages take 2 to 6 weeks via mail (depending on size & weight) & can be sent to:
Kraznix Partizan D.75, kb. 8
We wish you a great, peaceful & wonderful holiday season! May you experience God’s Christmas presence all year round!
Tom, Alida & Spencer Sharp