In the Land of Russia with Jason – April 18, 2006

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NASB)

Grace and peace to all of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Our Lord is Risen He is Risen, indeed! God willing, I’ll be leaving Russia on May 19 th, and have decided to make this report the last one for the time being. With only about a month left, I want to try and do all I can here and wrap up things before returning to Pittsburgh. Thank you all once again for all of the prayers, financial support, and love you’ve shown time and time again. By the grace of God, you have helped touch the hurting lives of so many here in Bsln; and for that, they and I truly say thank you. Please continue to pray for the broken hearts, and that The Lord will help me to finish everything I can before leaving. Please also ask The Lord to guide me concerning where He’d have me in the future; God willing, this will not be my last time here in Bsln.

March 27, 2006, Monday Had a great opportunity, praise Yah, to talk with and encourage Vova in the faith. (Vova is a newer believer, and is 24.) We talked about fasting (some people’s obsession with long fasts, etc.), seeing dreams/visions (those who flippantly say, ‘God said this‘ and ‘that‘) and also about speaking in tongues (how some incorrectly teach that the ‘evidence’ of having The Holy Spirit is to speak in tongues). So no one misunderstands me, I’m not ‘against’ fasting, dreams/visions, or speaking in tongues. Just that it troubles me to no end when people focus on those things instead of being centered on The Word of God. I encouraged Vova that I think God has given him a gift indeed, for he is hungry to know more of The Scriptures. Passed on some advice to him seek God daily; read The Bible and pray; be faithful…. if you say something, do it; don’t be proud; be the last, and serve. Told him that God wants people He can believe/trust, and told him the story of Gideon. LORD, bless your son, Vova, raise him in the faith, and do great things in and through Him for the glory of Your Name. Amen. Dropped by and visited Madina and her family. (Madina’s 10 year old brother, Marat, was killed in the terrorist attack.) The Lord gave an awesome, awesome time of talking with Zalina, Madina’s mom glory be to Him! I had earlier prayed and asked God for opportunities to proclaim Jesus today, and He sure answered! He gave such a great time to speak with Zalina, and witness for Him and His Word. Please keep Pastor Jambul’s mom in your prayers she has been really sick lately. Also pray for his dad around 3 years ago, one of Jambul’s brothers was murdered, and Jambul says his father carries that pain heavily.

March 29, 2006, Wednesday Went to our church’s building. A lady later came to collect for the gas bill; she wanted to know more about our church, and also poured out her heart about how she feels almost worthless here in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. She said how all the attention is placed on those who were there and lived or died, but what about the rest of the community? She said how the attack has given all the people fear, but if you’re not one of the ones that were in the school or lost a loved one, that people look at you like, ‘Who are you?’ (insinuating ‘nobody,’ since they weren’t directly affected by the massacre). Jambul came, and we had a chance to share with her about The Lord and His Word. Jambul did most of the witnessing, and he shared his testimony, also pointing out to her that the icon she had in her purse was an idol that couldn’t do anything since it was only a picture. Jambul made several good points, but she (Toma) wasn’t willing to part with icons. I was blessed to have her read the last few verses of Matthew 11, since she had talked about all the stress she had from her job. We sat with her for a few hours, and then I left to go teach Madina (who lost her brother Marat in the attack). I watched some TV with Oleg (her dad), and then talked with Zalina (her mom) and Madina. Madina said she had been at the cemetery earlier today, and then went to her grandma’s. I gave her a small writing assignment, to write about what she’s thankful for, and Madina told me, ‘I am thankful for my friend Jason he helps me.’

March 30, 2006, Thursday My apartment’s hot water pipes are leaking again. Stopped by the Bsln Mother’s Committee and met Murat, who is ‘their journalist’ and writes for the paper in Bsln. He’s writing a book about those who died, and many other aspects of Bsln hurt by the tragedy sounds like it will be very interesting to read. Some of the ladies there asked me to help translate a letter they had received. The Lord helped me to do so, and I purposely mixed both Ossetian and Russian (like many of the people here do when they speak; Ossetian is their ethnic language). They laughed, and seemed touched by/happy with it. God also blessed me to help fill out some forms for a group of School No. 1’s survivors who are going to travel to Italy in May (the 6 th through the 16 th)… one of the mothers said, ‘God sent you.’ They later showed me several photos from the school massacre that I hadn’t seen before big prints, in color, some of them very graphic. Zalina (who lost her brother, Akhtyemir in the tragedy) asked if I’d teach there at the office, whoever wanted to study English said I’d let her know when.

April 1, 2006, Saturday We had our fellowship, and it was really good… glory to God! We prayed for about 10 or 15 minutes, and then read through all of Philippians. People could ask questions, and Jambul taught. It was great!

April 2, 2006, Sunday Slept really strangely last night. I again thought I’d lay down for ‘a little bit,’ which is so stupid of an idea… woke up around 3 AM with my light still on; had to throw out the deliciously salty string cheese I bought last night ‘cos I hadn’t refrigerated it – i.e., put it out on the balcony. (I add these sort of things to show that – yes indeed, missionaries are regular people.) At night went to visit Marina Tsoi and her mother took me awhile to find their house. Marina lost her daughter (and only child), Svyetlana (Svyetka), in the school massacre; Svyetka was only 12 years old. This was, by the Lord’s grace, perhaps the best visit I have ever had here in Bsln. Marina had recently returned from work, and so her mother and I talked for a bit in the kitchen. She ( Marina’s mom) told me that since the terrorist attack, her hearing is really poor in one ear. She explained how her grandparents came from North Korea, though she and Marina were both born in Russia. Marina took me to their living room, and showed me several pictures of Svyetka. A school picture… a photo of her in traditional Korean clothing… photos of her with her friends, and so on. Svyetka was so pretty, and as I heard from several different people, was also a very smart girl. Marina said that Svyetka sang constantly. Marina told me about Svyetka’s 2 best friends, Emma Khayeva, and Aza Gymyetzova they were always together in life… and the three best friends died together in the school massacre as well. (From what I previously heard, they were sitting together beneath one of the basketball hoops, were no one who had been sitting in that area survived.) Marina showed me a folder filled with letters and poems Svyetka had written letters and poems overtop beautiful backgrounds and mixed with different photos of Svyetka (Marina obviously had these all put together after the tragedy). Marina told me about the poems and letters, when they were written, why, and so forth; she often wiped tears from her eyes. Though I couldn’t understand many things she shared with me – she told me so much – I felt like this was something she needed to do… something that was helping her as well. I feel so terrible for Marina; she is one of the kindest ladies you could ever meet. I heard her husband lives in Moscow, though I’m not sure how/why they seperated. And now, Marina is alone. Sure, she lives with her mother, but she herself told me this: ‘When Svyetka was alive, I worked late, and would come home after she was already asleep. But I looked forward to coming home because I would lay down next to her, my cheek next to hers, and sleep. I was tired, but being next to her gave me strength to rise the next morning and work again. Now, I come home to nothing. Strength leaves me (but doesn’t return).’ She told me that Svyetka dreamed of going to the US – to New York and that her daughter would have loved to study with me. Marina and I sat together for quite some time, and at one point in the evening she said something like, ‘It’s terrible to only have one child. Now, I have none.’ Babushka (her mom) invited us to have tea. We went to the kitchen, and visited with a relative of theirs who had stopped by with his recently-wedded wife. They had brought some cheese pirog, and babushka also served fish, some sort of spicy vegetable dish, and other food. We ate and talked together. After awhile, her relative and his wife went to leave, and he offered to drive me home. I, at first, accepted, but Marina said she could call a taxi later; I sensed she wanted to visit more, though it was already probably 9 PM or so. I said I knew it was late for them, but Marina said it was no problem, and we went back to the living room to talk. She is Russian Orthodox, and has very strong faith in God. She had told Syvetka, ‘You can deceive me and you can deceive people, but you can’t deceive God.’ Marina told me that she doesn’t know how she would have gone through everything if she hadn’t had her faith. It was wonderful to sit and talk with her… it was like I was sitting with Soo Youn, one of the Korean students I taught in Pittsburgh (their appearance and character/gestures are quite similar). The Lord gave a great opportunity to share with Marina about Him. I read Psalm 62:8 in Russian, and shared how I love The Psalms because they’re so real… David, for example, told God what was on his heart, and wasn’t afraid to be real with God. I told about Jeremy Camp’s story. She told me that she thinks God had punished her/Bsln. I told her that I don’t believe that, and shared the story about the Jews who’s blood was mixed with their sacrifices… Jesus Himself said they weren’t worse than the rest, and that He said change/repentance was necessary or all would die. She told me how Zalina (Tsabolova) was angry at God for what happened here, but Marina told her, ‘God didn’t do this people did.’ God blessed me to share some of my testimony with her, and she just sat and listened… it was one of the most special and meaningful nights I’ve ever had. I was able to share the difference between ‘doing good works to receive the love of God’ and ‘receiving the loving of God and therefore wanting to do good works.’ Before I left, I asked Marina if I could pray for her, and The Lord blessed me to be able to do so. After, I asked if she needed anything. She got up, and got a book of poems written in remembrance of those who died in the school massacre. The first few poems were about Svyetka and her two friends. Marina wrote at the beginning of the book something like, ‘In memory from Bsln, in gratitude for your compassion and love towards people,’ and then gave me the book! A taxi was called for me – Marina walked out with me to the taxi, and she then paid the driver, though I tried to refuse her. The kindness of these peope never ceases to amaze me. Lord willing, I must visit her again before I leave. All in all, The Lord blessed me to spend almost 5 hours with Marina perhaps the most special visit I’ve ever had here. Please pray for her often.

April 3, 2006, Monday Went to teach Aslan and Soslan (teenage brothers who survived the massacre)… Toma (their mom) was making homemade fittjin (kind of like scaled-down pizza, stuffed with meat), and so Aslan, Soslan, and I hung out in their room as we waited. Talked, and played a racing game on their computer. The fittjin was sooo delicious, and we ate and talked with Toma. She has headaches, which she said began after the terrorist attack; she also has some kind of heart problem (which I think also may have started after the tragedy). We talked about different things, and Aslan himself told me he saw an Arab terrorist there, and that they had received directions by cell phone from Iraq; Aslan said they were speaking Arabic. Soslan showed me out the window that it was raining in Ingush, and pointed out the dark mountains far off and the darkened sky above them. I later dropped by Madina’s (who lost her younger brother, Marat, in the terrorist attack) and visited their family. Zalina (Madina’s mom) wanted to serve me something to eat, but I was able to convince her that I was full, and so we sat and had tea and talked. Zalina told me a story of when Marat was still alive… she would always put all the candy she bought out on the table, and everything would be eaten. She said sometimes she would really want to have some, but none would be around. So, she thought to hide some in the freezer behind frozen meat but they discovered it! I told about the time my older brother, Chris, found where my parents had hidden our Christmas presents. The Lord once again opened a great door to talk with Zalina. She told of a time they were in the cemetery, and Byella Totieva (a Baptist pastor’s wife, who lost two daughters in the massacre) was there, though they didn’t yet know who she was (apparently their children’s graves are close). Zalina and/or her husband were crying, and Byella said, ‘You don’t have to cry like that God gave, and He took away.’ Oleg (Zalina’s husband) told her, ‘Don’t talk like that. You didn’t lose anyone in the attack.’ She said, ‘How didn’t I lose anyone?’, and pointed out her two children’s graves. Oleg asked, ‘They’re yours?’ Byella responded, ‘Yes.’ I wanted to reinforce to Zalina that God gave us emotions for a reason, and He understands those times when she weeps like that. We talked for a while, and she wanted to know what difference there was in believing in God, since the Totiev’s children died just like nonbelievers’ children did. I said, ‘If there is no eternity, you’re correct there’s no difference. But if there is eternity, there’s a very big difference.’ Zalina asked if I believed in eternity, even without using The Bible as a Defense. I said ‘Yes,’ and replied by saying, ‘Every person, in every nation, throughout history has the belief/hope of eternity. If there is no eternity, and nothing after death, then there’s no reason to live right on Earth. In America, teachers tell students to live morally, but they can’t say why. They’re afraid to say ‘God,’ because some people don’t believe in Him. So they teach, ‘Be a good person,’ but offer no reason other than, ‘just be a good person.’ If there’s no eternity, there’s no difference between living like Hitler or living like a person who helped poor people. (I also talked about something C.S. Lewis wrote about.) If I am hungry, there’s a reason there’s such a thing as food. People have a desire for sex, and there’s a reason. But every person has a desire that is never satisfied… so that means there’s something more. A person might have money, a family, a house, a good job, but that’s not enough they have a desire for something more.’ God has definitely provided lots of opportunities to speak with Zalina about The Lord and so forth, and I know He’s making a difference. By God’s grace she has heard defenses I know she understands, but she told me today, ‘Just the same, I still haven’t received an answer.’ Pray that God continues to work on mending her broken and devastated heart. She said that Oleg started smoking after the school massacre, and that everyone in Bsln has problems now. Madina and I talked some and watched some TV, and Zalina took a few pictures of us. I wasn’t able to stay very long, and Madina seemed disappointed, but understood. When I went to leave, she gave me an apple, and told me in English, ‘Thank you for visiting us’ you could tell by her face that she really meant it. I said that I’m happy to do so, and Zalina said they’re happy when I do so as well. Glory be to You, O Yah, for the favor You have granted! Went to teach Alina (my neighbor who survived the massacre) as I came closer to her family’s building entrance, little Murat was outside and came running over to me. (Murat, Mairbek’s little brother, lost his mother in the terrorist attack.) Finding the apple in my pocket, he took it out. ‘Do you want it?’, I asked him. He did, and started to eat. Taught Alina; we joked some during the lesson. She told me, ‘I hate school.’ I later asked if she’s always hated it, and she clarified my question for me. After the terrorist attack, she began hating school (an obvious and normal reaction to the torture she lived through).

April 5, 2006, Wednesday The LORD blessed me to safely travel to Vldkvkz and withdraw money. Dropped off film to be developed (here in Bsln), and later picked up the prints. I went and taught Madina (Tsabolova); when she saw the envelope the photos were in, and my name at the top, she said I should have written ‘Jason Tsabolov.’ I told Madina that people were praying for her and she told me that she’ll be able to meet them when she visits the States. I asked her, ‘Where do you want to go in the US?’ She said, ‘Anywhere.’ I asked when she’ll go; Madina told me, ‘Maybe Marat (her ten year old brother who was killed in the massacre) will be back, and we’ll go together.’ (Here sits a pretty, young teenage girl who lost her little brother in that wretched nightmare. A friendly and very respectful young lady, who holds onto a hope that her dead brother might come back to life. You can read the news stories about what happened here over a year ago… but to know the faces of the families that still mourn, to sit with young girls like Madina who cling onto a hope that maybe just maybe their loved ones will return… I can’t put such things into words.) She thought I was leaving at the end of May, but I told her I had to leave Moscow on the 19 th, and Bsln on the 18 th or earlier. Madina was very disappointed. During the lesson, I had her use the word ‘pleased‘ in a sentence. She said, ‘I’m pleased when you come to (visit) me.’

April 7, 2006, Friday My shabbat. Walked through School No. 1’s gym. For some reason, the door by the entrance to the school (from inside the gym) was off it’s hinges, and you could see a bit behind it… cords/wires ascending upwards. I’d never seen that door opened before.

April 8, 2006, Saturday Used the net at the internet club this morning; was about 40 minutes into my hour, when bam ! The electricity went out. (Arrrrrggggghhhhhhh!) Oh well nothing to do about that. Went and taught a new student named Teya; Byella who died in the school massacre – was her little sister (born in ’92). I told Teya something in Russian like, ‘I want to say that we mourn with you, but I don’t even know what to say in English… but you understand’ and she acknowledged that she did. Teya works in the city during the week, and spends Saturday and Sunday in Bsln. We sat and studied at a desk with a big photo of Byella on it she was a very pretty girl. Teya did well, and is also one of the ones that will be traveling to Italy in May. She and her mom had been at the beach with Jambul and Paula (a sister serving in Armavir, a city in Russia) and the Salvation Army before. Went and taught Madina. Madina and I chatted some, and talked about cartoons. She told me that she and Marat used to watch ‘Droopy’ together.

April 9, 2006, Sunday Went to the store before visiting the Tebiyev family. Saw a guy named Igor that I’d met before and we talked some, and Igor started saying how there are many names for God, but ‘ Krishna’ is the highest name. Igor also believes that there are different paths to get to God, and that Jesus was God’s Son and a Prophet, but not God. I said that The Bible clearly says Jesus is God, but Igor believes there are false things in the Bible. I told how Jesus Himself said He was The Only Way to God; Igor doesn’t believe that. It was just going in circles, and I was already late to visit the Tebiyevs, so I left. Visited Alan (Tebiyev), and his daughter (Arina) and son (Tokh). (Tokh had been friends with Marat Tsabolov, who died in the tragedy.) Alan’s sister-in-law, Albina, was killed in the school massacre, as was her older son, Zaur (born in 1995). Albina taught Ossetian at School No. 1, and Alan said she was killed right away. Her younger son, Zelim, was also in the school, but he survived. Alan told me that Zelim’s in Italy now some believers’ group invited a group from Bsln to travel there. I think Alan said Zelim will be back around the 21 st. I asked how Zelim was, thinking maybe he doesn’t yet understand that his mom and brother are really dead; Alan said he understands everything. I asked about his brother, Oleg Alan said he still works. The four of us (Alan, his kids, and I) talked and watched some TV. When I was leaving later, he told me he’ll help me if I need help or have any problems or anything here. He really wants me to visit more, and said he wants to be a friend. He explained that he knew it would be hard for a person to live in another country without their friends and so forth. (One mother had previously told me that Alan’s family is great.) Glory to God for the favor in Alan’s eyes, and in his kids’!

April 10, 2006, Monday German (who lost his wife, Fatima, in the school massacre) called me early in the morning, wanting to know if I could visit Sasha’s English class. (German has a young son named Sasha, and a little girl named Lira.) Father, use this great opportunity to glorify Your Son, Jesus! Comfort the mourning in and through me, and give me the opportunity and boldness to speak confidently of Jesus. Amen. Went to teach Aslan and Soslan (teenage brothers who survived the massacre); as I entered their building, I saw a woman who I thought was cleaning the steps inside. I apologized since I’d have to get by her, and she spoke… I figured she was just saying ‘No problem’ or the like, and thus I didn’t focus too much on her words. I should have! As I went on up the stairs, I wondered why they seemed so sticky. And quickly I realized that she wasn’t simply cleaning the steps she had been painting the middle section of them! I obviously realized that what she must have told me was where to step and where not to step! I went to Aslan’s and Soslan’s… Soslan made tea for himself and me and set out some cookies, and we watched some TV. There was some show on where men in black ski masks came into a room to kill somebody or something, and I felt really uncomfortable within for here I was sitting and watching masked men, very similar in appearance to the terrorists who attacked School No. 1, with a boy who survived that dreadful nightmare. I feared that program would trigger something in his mind. But, at least visibly, he didn’t appear to be shaken up or anything. I talked about the paint incident, and as I left their apartment, Toma (the mom), Aslan, and Soslan followed me out… how we all laughed and laughed (especially Aslan!) as my shoes made quich, quoit, quich, quoit sounds as I walked! Stopped by and visited with Zalina (who lost her son, Marat, in the school massacre). Madina and I watched some music videos together, and I also colored with little Alana some. Went back to my apartment later, and Mairbek called to ask if I was going to visit them tonight (it was already about 9:15). I said I’d try to do so tomorrow, and he said, ‘I’ll come to you.’ In a short time, he knocked on my door; we played cards some (‘War’), and looked at a world map together for awhile he told me that looking at maps is interesting for him. When he later left, I reminded him that God loves him.

April 11, 2006, Tuesday Went and helped teach Looda (an English teacher here); on wanting to enter the Cultural Center’s building, the guard asked me where I was heading I told him, ‘The cafe.’ He asked if I had my documents, and I showed him my passport and registration. Finding out I’m from the US, he became quite interested (with almost a childlike curiosity) and asked me, ‘So, how is America, in general?’ We talked for a few minutes, and he said it was nice to meet me. He was surprised to hear me speak a little Ossetian, and he told me he knows Georgian, too. I later went and taught a new student named Alina; she survived the terrorist attack, but lost her older brother, Oleg, there. I sat with her and her mom, also named Looda, and had tea and talked some. They (praise The Living God) don’t believe in the antichrist guy in Moscow who says he can raise the dead children. I shared a little of my testimony; they’re Russian Orthodox. I conveyed Americans’ sharing in their sorrow, and that we haven’t forgot about them. I also told them I mourn with them, as I know Oleg was in the school (and died there). I feel especially bad, because I think Looda only had two children. Looda and Alina seem like really nice people, and I taught Alina. She did well, and I think enjoyed the lesson. Praise God! Alina wants to be a dentist when she gets older, and she likes to listen to Christina Aguilerra (sp?) and Shakira. Looda really wanted to pay me, but I refused, and said ‘I didn’t come here to receive money. After the terrorist attack, I know people came (to Bsln) to sell insurance, or vitamins, or like Grabovoi (the antichrist guy). But I didn’t come to receive money.’

You who have shared in this ministry time and time again, rejoice once more to see how God has used us in the lives of these broken hearts. Thank you for not forgetting these dear people who daily live with sorrow. There’s a plentiful harvest, but so few workers. Ask The Lord of the harvest to send forth more workers into His harvest!

To ƒ © ƒ ¤ (Yah) be all the glory,

[email protected]

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