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Moscow update

March 08, 2003

Dear Family and Friends,

We are now in a new "season" here in Moscow. The official beginning of spring is March 1st here. It is now 15 degrees,and there is still a couple of feet of snow on the ground,but all the Russians say-"Spring is Here!" Actually the sun has been shining the last few days, which has not happened since October. So we are very grateful for that.

Actually the highlight of our month is that we now have our first grandson. His name is Aiden Butler,born February 16th to our wonderful son Eric, and his joyful wife Jodi. They now have 2 daughters and one son. We are so blessed by their family, and are looking forward to returning home to be reunited with them.

Two weeks ago was a Russian holiday called "Defender"s Day", celebrating the men who served the Country. The holiday was celebrated on a Friday. The usual way for the celebrations involves fireworks all through the city, schools, banks, many business closed, and much drinking.The Russian government then wanted to extend the celebration and so suddenly declared the following Monday part of the holiday, which meant the school would be closed. We all left for the day for some sleigh riding. We did our usual 2 hour trip via Metro (subway) and arrived at a beautiful park on the Moscow River. A 2 mile walk then led us to a very steep and very fun hill. We only had a few sleds, so many of us brought huge garbage bags, which worked wonderfully. At the bottom of the hill a couple of drunk men arrrived with a dog. The dog was enjoying jumping at the children as they slid down the hill,which we had cautions about. We asked the men to take the dog away so he would not get hurt by the fast moving children, but they refused. As Anton(13) arrived at the bottom and stood up, the dog put his paws on Anton's shoulders and,to us it looked like he kissed him. But actually he took a big bite out of his upper and bottom lips. The dog quickly proceeded to the next 2 children, and bit them,one on the ear, and the other on the leg. A trip to the clinic for stitches and rabies shots was called for.

Some sad news: on Wednesday, Ministry Day, Valya (13) went on a home visit with an apprenticeship student,Vanessa . On the return bus ride, when Vanessa got off the bus at the Training Center, Valya stayed on. Valya was a "street child"-basically lived underground in the metros for many years. She has great difficulty being under authority and is drawn to her previous life. We have made some searches and the militia are on the lookout for her since it is now 3 days that she is missing. There was also a cell phone and money stolen here from a family the day she left, and she gave someone a sort of "farewell note" before she left, so it seems that this was well planned. We do hope and pray that she returns soon as there are many dangers in the city.

One of the "babushkas"(grandmothers) that our family visits was taken to the hospital last week(very jaundiced) by ambulance. Babushka Izza has no legs, is blind, and can hear from only one ear.She is now in the hospital, but the care here is very, very poor, and we are still waiting to hear results from tests taken a week ago. We will probably go to her apartment on Saturday to clean before she gets discharged.

One of the interpreters here, Natasha (23) has been hospitalized since Christmas with what appears to be a brain tumor, but the same thing: between very poor care, doctors not giving reports to family, the situation looks very grave. We all take turns visiting her and providing for her needs in the hospital.

Last night, eight moms and dads went out to a pizza place for a date night. We were in a little room in the back of the restaurant when two men came in arguing over a cell phone. It seemed that one man was accusing the other of stealing his cell phone, while the "accusing man" ordered the restaurant owner to summon the militia. As they waited, the "accused man" kept pulling more and more money to bribe, as he did not have the proper "papers" for the militia, and was quite fearful. The militia then arrived (about 6 of them, armed with machine guns), while we dined on our pizza at the next table. When we left the restaurant, Ted (a dad) used the ATM machine and got a $100 bill. We then went to the "money exchange" (for rubles) and the people refused this bill, as it was a counterfeit:( The banks here are not known to take responsibility:( Also, you do not want to get stopped by militia (police). Police in the USA are seen as helpful. Here in Moscow, you do not want to get stopped by militia, because they will bribe you for money, and then you will bargain with them about how much money you need to give them.

Tol and Luke have been busy in the afternoons doing construction work in the school building as major changes are taking place for next year. They both really enjoy spending this kind of time together. Lisa and Kathryn do much of the school work with Kristina (6) as they can read and speak in Russian, and I cannot. That helps them learn more Russian, and Kristina is picking up some English also. It is very encouraging to see Kristina blossom since she has been here. Lisa and Kathryn also do some cooking in the kitchen and have other duties around the training center. We are so thankful for so many opportunities to serve here. There is never a dull moment, never a time when we do not need to seek the Lord for His grace to sustain us,use us, and grow us this year.

Today was another Russian holiday, called "Women's Day". After lunch, a celebration began in the dining room. The Russian staff called all the American moms onto the stage for some gift presentations and kind words, and then the American staff did the same for the Russian women, who are mostly teachers and interpreters. I received flowers, a box of chocolates and a painting done by a local artist. A fun time was had by all:)

This week-end, we plan on cleaning Izza's apartment, maybe a visit to the hospital. Some of you might remember Pasha Palura who is an orphan who stayed with us in the states. He is now living with a relative here in Moscow, and it is his birthday this week-end,we may also get together with him.

Now is the time when there is much talk and planning for the summer and the upcoming year. Most of the families have visas that will expire in May, and will return to the states for the summer. Some will return again to serve for another year . At this time we believe that the Lord is not calling us back to Moscow. But at this point we have no direction for the summer or the next year. We do know that our visa expires in the end of May, so we will be on a plane to BWI then,the Lord willing.

As far as "the war" goes, several apprenticeship students were called home by their parents. We have received a letter from the Russian consul to be on "alert" . We are surrounded by Chechen's, and there are concerns for Americans, schools, religious organization in Moscow-all of which we are. In the beginning of this ministry, the country/government welcomed us with "open arms", but in the last couple of years, the doors have begun to close. There are increasing tensions coming in through the Russian staff here, as well.

Prayer Requests:

Serving Christ,
The Butler Family in Moscow

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