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An Update on The Persecuted Church

Persecuted Church:

Can I just say I am honored to be a part of these people’s lives?
I mean out of all the people in the world, why us?
I’m amazed God allowed our paths to cross.
And our lives to intertwine.
I am awestruck.
Last night, two dozen people I love, joined with me in blessing this family. We ate and laughed and offered gifts of love (bed sheets, a trash can, stockings for their mantle…just to name a few) to these refugees from The Persecuted Church. 

Our friends.

Igor shared about his recent trip to the Russian block of countries. The Sport’s Conferences he held were very successful. He traveled to Khazakstan which borders his home country and he met with people from the Underground Church. They were so thankful to receive the duffle bags we sent.
 
I wanted to weep when he told about their two brief days together. They all had to sneak across dangerous borders to meet him. He saw his parents for the first time in two years! He said they were all so eager to fellowship together and pray for one another, they didn’t  even take the time to sleep during the 48 hours.
Amazing, huh?
I thought my heart would explode when he told of the 100,000 orphans in The Ukraine alone that they held outreaches for and then introduced us to a Ukraine Pastor who traveled back with him. This Pastor has seven children, three who were orphans. 
His name is Serge and he handed me a picture of his beautiful family. He asked us to put the picture on our fridge and pray for them.

The holidays are coming and our economy is unstable.  These are difficult times for so many. And yet, I was reminded again today how much I have and how much I can still give.  
If you would like to help, please click below. (So, many have you already donated and sent gift cards and gifts. Thank you).

Please keep us in your thoughts on December 1st.  Our local Chick Fil A is hosting a Benefit Day and 20% of their proceeds will go towards this family and their ministry.  
I’m praying a lot of people will get The Chicken Craving that day.
I plan to consume a lot of sweet tea.
It’s the least I can d
o.

Getting to Know The Persecuted Church Part 3

Once again, the blog community has surprised me. Blessed me. Left me feeling overwhelmed, but not alone.

Never alone.

I didn’t know I would meet a family of refugees (Part I) from The Persecuted Church at the local swimming pool. I never planned to eat dinner with them and listen to their amazing story of survival (Part 2). Part 4 is here.

Thank you. Thank you for your comments, your emails, your suggestions, your invitations to have this family come speak at your church and mostly, your prayers for them. They are not in vain.

A few days ago, Igor and Katerina called and invited us to their home. They wanted to serve us Russian food and fellowship more.

You cannot imagine my excitement as I put away the spaghetti noodles.

I told my kids what we were going to do and explained that they had to like the food, or at least pretend to like it. I knew this couple would give us their best and I wanted our response to be great.

Only one word describes the look on their faces as they greeted us at the door of their modest, rented home: pride.

“Look what God has given us. He has blessed us with this and this…” Igor said as he pointed out the sofa, dining table in their simple, beautiful home.

We arranged ourselves around the table and joined hands to pray. The food on the table was colorful and it smelled wonderful. Igor explained that the main dish, called Plov, was a meal only served for celebrations. Tradition states that only the men of Uzbekistan are allowed to prepare the delicious meal of rice and meat. (I knew Katerina had been cooking all day, but so had Igor. They were giving us their best and I felt very unworthy).
It was delicious and my kids ate every bite! There was also a cucumber-tomato salad that was incredible and it was accompanied by an eggplant appetizer. Just between us, I could have seriously devoured the whole eggplant dish, because yummy doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Katerina was kind enough to translate and share these recipes:

Appetizer:
1 eggplant
2-3 tomato
1-2 pieces of garlic
>2-3 tbl. spoon of mayonnaise
some green onion
loaf of french bread

Slice eggplant like a wheel. Sprinkle salt and fry in oil in frying pan. Lay eggplant out on paper towel.
Sauce:
In small bowl put mayonnaise, add pressed garlic, add some black pepper. Mix everything.
Put sauce on eggplant, then put tomatoes on top of eggplants. Sprinkle salt and green onion. And place on piece of bread.

Salad:

3 tomatoes
1 cucumber
green onion
green cilantro
<
span class="Apple-style-span" style="color: rgb(102, 51, 0);">olive oil
black pepper,salt
lotus flower (asian section of grocery store) I think this is the secret that makes it taste so good!

Cut tomatoes and cucumber in salad bowl. Then small chop green onion and cilantr o. Add olive oil, black pepper, salt and lotus flower. Mix all ingredients.

The Strawberry Shortcake I brought paled in comparison to the ‘Nest of Birds’ cookies Katerina brought to the table, served with Russian hot tea. And my kids, yeah, it was embarrassing how many cookies they ate. In her broken English, she explained how to make these incredible cookies, but she lost me after the 14th step which involved thinly rolling the dough. Ya’ll know cooking is not my gift. an>

After dinner, we sat around and talked. We learned more of their story and about their current ministry to the former Soviet Union and how they use the avenue of sports to reach people for Christ. If you can read Russian, you will enjoy their website, if not, you will think that it is pretty, like me.

I’m still very deep.

Before we left, my hubby asked if they had any immediate needs. I know this was hard for them to answer. They feel so blessed by what God has done for them. “We have everything we need,” they replied.

My hubby pressed further.
“Well. We could use another pair of shoes. We have only sports shoes,” Igor said as he pointed to his tennis shoes.

And Katerina, hesitated and said something to her husband in Russian, “Katerina, would love to have curtains some day, but it is not a priority,” he said has he pointed to the uncovered window.

I looked around at their modest dwelling. I couldn’t help but notice a 5 gallon bucket serving as their trash can and that they shared one English Bible between them. Their 4 and 2 year olds were happy with their small collection of toys and they considered one pair of shoes, enough.

And they felt rich, like kings.

And thinking of the hours I had spent decorating my own home and my closet full of shoes, I felt like a pauper.
n>


So, yes they have needs, but I don’t think they are huge priorities for them. They have raised 17% of their budget for next year. And while I would be freaking out with worry, Igor shook his head and said, “We don’t worry about that. We just do exactly what God wants us to do. Look at the miracles He has provided all ready.”

I asked Igor to prepare a list of needs that we as a blogging community could meet and I hope to share them with you soon.


In the meantime, I opened a Paypal account for them. If you would like to donate $1 or $100, please let God lead you. If you or your church would like to support this beautiful family every month, please email me directly and I will give you more information.

100% of the donations will go directly to this family!

I found out that today is Katerina’s birthday. I can’t wait to take her shopping for new curtains!
*Update* Thank you for the donations today: $117.00!  The amount you donated will appear to be ‘unclaimed’ until the account is verified which I’m told takes about a week.



Our Family Advent

Advent is a time of waiting for the arrival of Christmas.  


And even though we are still more than a week away from Thanksgiving, the holiday spirit is in the air.  Or maybe it’s just weather below 70 degrees (which puts Texans in a festive mood).

This year, I really want to slow down the faced-paced hustle that is the American Christmas and capture each day with my family. And so I’ve purposed in my heart and my calendar to do so.

I’ve been working on creating a special Advent calendar and I wanted to share it with you. 

Our plan is to ‘open’ each day in the early evening hours after dinner, so we will have time to focus on the activity for each day. For this coming Saturday’s Do-It-Yourself Project (DIYP), I will show you exactly how I made mine look fun and festive. If some of my ideas won’t work for your family, use what you can and come up with creative ideas to fit your family.

I planned our days with my calendar in my lap. Some activities are time consuming and perfect for the weekends, while others can be done during the school week.

Many activities are just plain old fashioned fun that will help us spend quality time together. I hope some of the other events will remind my children the true meaning of Christmas. I also think it’s important this time of year to focus on others: those we love and those less fortunate.

At the end of this post, I’ve included a pdf of the advent calendar. Please feel free to print it out and enjoy it!
Sshhhh! It’s a secret from my kids…each day will reveal the following:

{December 1} Send a letter to our Compassion Child (Don’t have one? Talk about getting one in the New Year. I highly recommend sponsoring a child. It’s such a great way to teach your kids about others). Read I John 4:10 

{December 2} Visit Santa at the mall or make a list.

{December 3} Let your light shine!  ask: How can we do this? Read John 1:5

{December 4} Build a fort from blankets & sheets/ Read a Christmas book in the fort!

{December 5} Lay on the trampoline and stargaze, talk about your dreams for the future.

{December 6} Fill a shoebox for a needy child (Samaritan’s Purse).

{December 7} Go ice skating!

{December 8} Make paper snowflakes (here’s some great patterns) Read Ecc. 3:13

{December 9} Play a board game.

{December 10} Pray for poor people.

{December 11} Work on  teacher’s gifts (we’re making these).

{December 12} Leave little notes of encouragement all over (i.e. the mailbox, grocery story, park, etc)

{December 13} Make hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows! 

{December 14} Watch a Christmas Movie

{December 15} Give $5 to someone (find a needy person) Read Rom. 5:8 

{December 16} yle="font-size:medium;"> Make cookies

{December 17} Pray for The Persecuted Church and Uzbekistan (You can join us in this one. Our Russian friends would appreciate it!)

{December 18} Make a birthday card for Jesus. Put it under the tree.

{December 19}  Fix Mom’s hair/give her a massage (my 36th birthday!)

{December 20} Go look at Christmas lights.

{December 21} Christmas Carol at someone’s house.

{December 22} Make a spinner  www.thetoymaker.com

{December 23} Take bubble baths with Christmas confetti (recipe).

{December 24} Read Christmas story from the Bible (children’s version).

Open Christmas Eve gift from Mom and Dad (snowman pajamas)

{December 25} Go visit NICU (Every year we visit the Neonatal Intensive Care and drop off cookies to the nurses and doctors who watched over our third child on Christmas a couple of years ago).


Click this link to print out a copy: December 1pdf

Here’s how I’m displaying my advent ‘tree’.  It’s a fun, easy DIY project!


One Month to Live

I’ve thought a lot about life lately.

And death.
Yeah, I know. Probably not the way you wanted to start your day.
It seems like there has been a wave of sickness and danger circling around some of the people I know and love the last couple of weeks. In one day, I heard the word cancer 6 times.
And although I’m not really a ‘sky is falling’ kind of person, I seriously believe that our world is headed for some hard times.
What if you had one month to live?  What would you do? Would you change things? Or would you live exactly as your living today?
Genny at My Cup 2 Yours is asking this question based on the same titled book by Kerry and Chris Shook.
Over the past two months, my life has taken a strange turn. I feel an urgency I can’t describe. I want to play a vital role in The Persecuted Church. I’ve been challenged slow down our lives and to turn off the TV.I desire to parent intentionally. And I want to give more than I ever have.
And before you vote for me to be Sainted, know that I’m just a Mom. Remember? And a major member of THAT family? 
But I’ve been turned inside out. I saw the reflection of my heart and intent in the pure hearts of my Russian friends and I didn’t like what I saw.  
If I had one month to live, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Because God is changing me.
How about you? Would you change anything?

One Day To Give Celebration

Persecuted Church:

Thank you for taking the time and energy to do something good.

In a world, where bad often gets the attention, I find it exhilarating to be a part of a community where good prevails.
Our family brainstormed ideas for our One Day to Give project. We wanted our kids to help us decide.  And we came up with so many great ideas, we decided to set aside a day every month to give. I can’t wait!
But for this first one, we unanimously decided that since our hearts and attention have been so stirred by The Persecuted Church, that would be our focus.
Our sweet Russian friends are doing amazing things for God.  Our families sat down a couple of weeks ago and they shared the dream God had given them. 
And it included us.
My hubby and I were honored and overwhelmed with their vision. There are many details and exciting things I hope to share in the future.  But during the conversation, we talked about Igor’s next trip to the The Ukraine, which coincidentally is happening right now.  
He is teaching to more than 400 Christians many of whom are Pastors, and many who are risking their lives to attend such a conference. Igor teaches how to use sports to witness about Christ. Using sports as an avenue to lead people to Christ and ultimately into the underground church, is highly effective in these Muslim countries. Many of these people are traveling great distances through dangerous borders with very little money, to learn. About God.
After the conference, Igor is traveling to one of the countries (which borders his home country of Uzbekistan)  to meet with disciples he left behind from the persecuted, underground church in Uzbekistan (the country he was deported from and threatened with death, if he should return). I decided to be vague about details for his protection.
They are meeting together to pray, fellowship, and receive training. It is very dangerous and complicated for these Christians.  And for Igor. He has been arrested for teaching the Book of James by the KGB and was followed the last time he was there.
Please pray for him and these amazing Christians today. There are new laws going into effect right now that make it even more dangerous for Christians in these two countries. You can read about it here and here.
As Katerina was explaining the details of this trip to me, she mentioned that they were collecting items to take to their 40+ disciples that Igor is meeting. Supplies that are hard to come by and personal items that are very costly are at the top of the list: prenatal vitamins, dry erase markers, instant coffee, gum, socks, deodorant and clothes.
And that’s where our One Day to Give comes in. Immediately, I knew what our family could do. We made a list and sent it to some friends and family and our Pastor, and asked them to join with us.  Our church offered to pay for the baggage costs among other things, and we started filling duffle bags. (Sunday, our church took up an offering for supplies for the underground church and to help some pastors travel to Igor’s conference. $5,000 came in!)

As we stuffed the boxes of crayons we purchased and toys from my kid’s room into the bags, we prayed.  We each took a turn and prayed that the simple hygiene items we we tucked into the corner of the bag, would be a blessing. We prayed for the believers who would sip the treasured cups of coffee. And for the children who’s future is uncertain, we prayed safety and peace and joy, as we packed up small toys.
And we asked God to bless them, to protect them and to let them  know that they are heroes to this little family in America.
And Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)
Please pray for them today. And for Igor who is somehow managing to carry six stuffed bags across many borders!