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Moscow update

April 17, 2003

Dear Family and Friends:

We have been in touch with some of you individually but have been remiss in sending out an update lately. We love you all and are so grateful for your notes and prayer, please forgive our tardiness.

Two weeks ago was spring break and just the 7 of us went on a working vacation to Yaroslavl, a small city about 180 miles north of Moscow, on the Volga river. We helped Jason and Angela Beverly, missionaries there, move several hundred cases of Christian literature, we stamped 1200 Bibles and passed out literature at a local market twice. We worked in an orphanage, doing repairs and playing with the children. We went to a Bible study at their house church and spent time with two other missionary families learning of missionary life in Yaroslavl. Kathryn got very sick and at one point fainted, falling and hitting her head, Isaiah was the only one with her in the apartment, at the time, she awoke to a concerned Isaiah shaking her. We have all struggled with sickness this year, Kathryn has been hardest hit. The train trip up and back was enjoyable and fun, being out of the city and seeing snow covered countryside, (the seats were "aircraft" style, not the standard wooden benches) and the cost was just a few dollars a piece. (Public transportation here is very efficient, reliable and affordable, we've actually enjoyed not having to care for vehicles and look for parking spaces.) I, Tol, celebrated my 55 birthday there, my request was to be taken to McDonalds ( the only evident of western culture in Yaroslavl) and it was the first time in about 48 years that I have had snow fall on my birthday, we had a great time.

My brother, Nathan, a Christian missionary and professional cartoonist, has a ministry, training nationals around the world to use their artistic abilities for the production of Christian literature and tracts. He spent 4 unscheduled days in Germany waiting for a visa mix up to be fixed, leaving him 2 days for a visit and 3 presentations. The delay in Germany did give him opportunity spend an extended period of time with a family friend there who was very interested in learning about the Christian faith. The children here at the orphanage were thrilled to have him here and enjoyed seeing him draw so many characters and pictures, for them, so quickly. It sparked interest in many of the children to start drawing.

In recap, since the January downsizing, our "family", beyond the Butlers7, consists of Anya (16), Nastya (15), Katya (14), Masha (14) & Kristina (6). We also have 4 other girls that still "drop in" regularly but are living under other arrangements here. Kristina, who knew no English, is begining to speak and understand a fair amount and will probably be fluent within a year. Our own children all understand and speak Russian fairly well now. The other 4 girls are all born again believers but they are struggling with "standing alone" against many negative influences. Please continue to pray for them.

Many of you may remember Pasha Palura, he stayed with us in 1999. Pasha has graduated and attends technical school for accounting. We took Pasha out cross country skiing recently, for his 16th birthday. It was inexpensive and fun, the biggest challenge was figuring our weight in kilograms, european shoe sizes and heights in centimeters in order to get the proper equipment.

The Lord has been very merciful to us this year, we have traveled by train, outside Moscow, three times and we always forget, or were unaware, that it is necessary to have our actual passports, we carry photocopies. There are frequent ID checks on the trains and the photocopies always create a stir as I kick myself for once again forgetting. The last trip we did not have any identification for Rachel and made it through 3 ID checks without it being detected, they would stop checking when they came to her and/or misscount us each time. We felt like Corrie ten Boom getting her Bible into the German prison past blinded guards.

On Wednesdays is ministry day, with spring here some of us have resumed "neighborhood ministry" playing games with and evangelizing neighborhood children and parents. Our families focus has been to visit grandmothers, the one "babushka" we have visited the most regularly all year is "my" Babushka Iza. She turned 78 last month, is diabetic and has no legs, we clean her apartment and have chai (tea) with her each week. We pray, talk about family, her health and life in Russia. I'll miss her very much when we leave.

We are leaving Moscow on May 21st, we have a mandatory 18 hour stopover in England, which we may extend a day or two, if the inexpensive missionary hotel we've heard about is really inexpensive (we understand nothing is inexpensive in London). We should arrive in Baltimore (BWI) around the 24th. We will be going to our annual homeschool conference in Knoxville the first week of June and will meet our son, Eric, his wfe Jodi and our three grandchildren in Alabama the second week of June. We are looking forward to seeing you soon.

With Christs Love
The Butler Family
Serving Him in Moscow

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