Bugs in the Chandelier

          “If you need to talk business in your hotel room, be sure that there are no ‘bugs’ in the walls, or in the telephone, or in the lights, or in the electric switches!  Just be very careful and quiet in your conversations in your room!”  

Sounds like a dialogue from a grade “b” spy movie filmed in the 1950’s during the height of the cold war.  We tend to forget that the surveillance business has been part of every government since ancient times.  In fact, in the biblical Book of Numbers, “…Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain …” (Number 13:17). The art and science of surveillance has come a long way since the days of Moses, and some countries just happen to be more adept at it than others.

However, bugs in the chandelier was a very serious game of political intrigue.

The United States Embassy in Moscow was bugged during its construction in the 1970s by Soviet agents posing as laborers. When discovered in the early 1980s, it was found that even the concrete columns were so riddled with bugs that the building eventually had to be torn down and replaced with a new one, built with U.S. materials and labor. For a time, until the new building was completed, embassy workers had to communicate in conference rooms in writing, using children’s “Mystic Writing Tablets”. (“Covert Listening Device”, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

Warnings about active “bugs’ were conveyed to any number of bright, young business executives travelling into Moscow for the first time.  The stories of intrigue and humor, spread throughout Russia, are many. They are still being passed on today.   Many of them are funny but perhaps stretched a bit to render them believable; yes and even unbelievable.

We were told, and read about, spy stories before our move to Russia. At times we would laugh with the person relating the story and wondered about its authenticity since it seemed quite bizarre.  However, since living in Russia, we no longer simply dismiss the stories.  Some have verification behind them, and some do not.

Eavesdropping on the populace was an ever-present reality

Foreign executives conducting business in Russia were made aware that  “electronic snooping” device, planted carefully and sometimes “sloppily”, could be  in the room in which the business executive was spending his evening. Listening

In the middle nineties, the Berlin wall had been down for just a short time, Romania had “taken down” their dictator, Lithuanian’s were learning about their “new freedoms”, and some people in Russia were dreaming about Russia becoming a capitalist haven.   The KGB had not yet moved into oblivion, the Mafia was still operating openly and violently, and apartments, hotels, schools, businesses and homes still contained “Big Brothers Listening Devices”.  Eavesdropping on the populace was not an element of the past, but an ever-present and sometimes humorous reality.

In the days of the cold war, the normally quiet Russian civilian, if desiring a private conversation, would often leave the “privacy” of the home, office or schoolroom and walk into the local park to carry on a business transaction. One never knew if filming or recording by agents of the KGB was taking place.   There may have been nothing in the conversation that contained “vital political information”, however, the KGB was well-known for having recorded a conversation and turning it into a prison sentence by claiming the citizen was discussing vital information.  Privacy was not private in the turmoil-filled world of Russian politics!  Many private or family talks, were used as evidence against the person, because recorded words were twisted, re-recorded and inserted into parts of another conversation.  No one trusted any one!

the-dea-is-monitoring-americas-phone-calls-1413294257868

Citizens, not being cautious in their conversations, never got home from work or school.  Some did not get back to work the next day or see their families again because the information that was heard or reported was deemed “anti-government”.

In the 1980’s, only major political players were allowed to travel into the Soviet Union. Usually that ‘trip” was punctuated with endless hours of flying time, red tape, cautionary warnings and strange experiences.  These travelers were not just everyday common folks who decided to take a trip into the heart of the darkness of the Soviet regime.  The roster included people like Mr. Bill Henkel, special assistant to the president and director of the Presidential Advance office.  Mr. Joseph Petro, Secret Service Agent in charge of the White House Corps.  Mr. Mark Weinberg, Assistant Press Secretary. Major Casey Bower, Military aid to the President. Ms. Jeannie Bull from the State Department.  The list often included a national Security advisor, and the Air Force One pilot, some White House staff members and chefs for preparing meals for the President for a total of 42 people. That number was the amount of individuals who could actually be seated in Air Force One #26000, the official plane of the President of the United States.

The trips, always planned with many things to accomplish when they touched down in some obscure place in the Soviet Union, did not give the team much “down-time”.  The relief from take-off from Andrews Air Force Base until they landed, came from some of the “war stories” those travelers would spin to each other, stories filled with humor and laughter and just plain silly talk.

A Secret Serviceman’s Tale

Joseph Petro, one of President Ronald Reagan’s close and intimate secret service agents, related the following story out of one of his excursions into Moscow in the 1980’s.

He stated that the trip out of Andrew’s Air Force Base was uneventful, arriving at the Sherevemonov Airport in Moscow.  The nip in the air, accompanied by the cold stares of the young military guards with their AK47’s, brought a slight shudder to his spine.  It was usually very quiet, and the only smiles were on the faces of the few, select Westerners who had made that long trip across the pond. The people who made Russia their home had not yet learned that smiling was OK.

Once the team worked their way through the lines, the paperwork, the red tape, the expressionless faces and the suspicion of the people at “Passport Control”, they traveled through downtown Moscow.  Shortly, the Kremlin came into view, then the “White House” and the Bogdan Khmeinitsky Bridge crossing the Moskva River which snaked its way past the Kremlin. They were able to view the Borodinsky Bridge and the beautiful St. Basil’s Orthodox Cathedral off Red Square, near Lenin’s Tomb.

Once they were in the Kremlin, agent Petro continued, Mr. Bill Henkel  told the team about his trip into Moscow with President Richard Nixon.  They were staying in the guest quarters at the Kremlin.  Jeannie Bull was on that trip and she confirmed Bill’s story. They all agreed that those were not the “good old days” in Moscow!

One night after work, a small group of them got together in one of the Kremlin’s rooms for a “nightcap” accompanied by discussion and laughter.  Their conversation soon ventured into the “supposed privacy” of the Kremlin.   Perhaps, they reasoned, there may be “electronic devices” planted in the rooms in which they were staying. It did not take long before this group of the President’s adventurous White House staff members actually started to look around the room.  Would it not be exciting if they could find the “sinister device”, which had gotten so many people into trouble with the Russian KGB authorities, the very authorities who had invariably planted the devices somewhere nearby? Shoe bug

They looked under the lamps and under the tables, all the while excited at the thought and remembering the warning of “Be careful of listening devices” flooding back into their minds.

As one of this group walked across the rug, having relaxed enough to remove his shoes, he stepped on something hard, under the rug.  It was not just the hard floor.  This had a different feel to it. The team went to the edge of the rug, moved the chair, rolled back the rug and there was a brass plate, held in place by nuts and bolts.

Could this metal plate contain the bug for which  they were searching? It would not take long as they started the process of removing the nuts from the bolts that held the plate.   What was under the lid of this electronic box?  Was it still operating?  Were people recording the noise as they were removing the nuts with the small pair of pliers? Would they soon hear knocking on the door by a sinister looking KGB agent questioning what they were doing?    It was too late to stop their evening adventure into the Russian underworld of electronic snooping, so with a quick twist of the pliars, the lid gave way.

The next sounds they heard startled them.  It was the sound of something being pulled through the floor, followed by an enormous crash.   The noise stopped.  They took a deep breath, which seemed to help in slowing their pounding hearts.  They looked at each other then turned their gaze toward the ceiling where they saw a large, antique chandelier, hanging from the ceiling.

Unfortunately for all of us, the story ends right there.

I have no idea if Mr. Petro, or Ms. Bull or Mr. Henkel were questioned by the KGB and charged with the destruction of Russian property.

I do not know if the Kremlin guestroom housekeepers made comments to the austere leader of this presidential staff regarding their needless horseplay and childishness.

To my knowledge, there was no “tax-bill” presented to the taxpayers of America to replace a very expensive, antique chandelier.

Mr. Petro did not clarify this information in his comments.

I am certain, though, that this was one quiet, nervous group of Americans, who were in a big hurry to finish their work in the Kremlin in Moscow and get back to the good old United States of America!

 

 

 

 

 

Note:

This story was related to the Emert’s before their trip to Russia by a gentleman who had taken a “secret trip”, sponsored by the U.S. Government to check out some “necessary” information regarding the world of electronics in Russia during the era of the “cold war”.  The name of the person who told the original story and took the trip is purposely omitted for privacy. Chuck could not verify the story for writing until the book by Joseph Petro came out.

The names of the people in this recorded story, were taken from chapter two “On the Road” as recorded in “Standing Next to History”. An agent’s life inside the secret service, by Joseph Petro, (Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2005) page 33.  Adapted and expanded by Chuck.

 

 

 

 

Are You Safe? Resting on His Faithfulness Alone!

The mural on the wall painted in the front of the large auditorium,  was of Mr. Lenin, arm raised as if leading a charge of the workers who were painted with determination on their faces as they marched to victory through the land of Russia.  We all stood gazing at the mural and sang with purpose with our voices raised in worship and praise…

Our God is an awesome God, LeninHe reigns from heaven above,With wisdom power and love, Our God is an awesome God!

Those words, powerfully and joyfully sung, sounded forth for the first time in the history of that building. A worship service happening under the mural depicting the now fading, disappearing philosophy that brought such crushing damage to Russia and the world. We were in the auditorium to hear “The Director of Special Education for Russia”.  He would be telling us why we had been invited to Russia and how it was that he was able to bring about this once in a lifetime opportunity.  We sang some more worship songs, followed by some great hymns of our faith and then prayed.  What a awesome feeling surged through those 200 believers, meeting in the capital of Russia, praying for the blessing of God to pave the way for our year of ministry in that dark land.   We then read the 52 verses of Psalm 89, the last psalm in book three of the Psalms.

Brudenoff’s safety rested on the tender mercies of God

Our guest speaker gave us some background information and challenged us regarding our work for the next year.  He was not a big man, but he was bold.  His name, Alexei Brudenoff, the Director for Special Education for Russia.  At the conclusion of his lecture, they opened the floor to ask questions of Mr. Brudenoff.  The very first question was “Mr. Brudenoff, are you safe in Russia?”

The Russian translator stopped, looked at his Russian friend for whom he translated the question, and then looked directly at the English audience to whom he was translating. His eyes filled with tears, his lined face softened into a look of awesome kindness, his head nodded understandingly at the question and he waited for the answer from Mr. Brudenoff.

They both stood before us, holding deep within themselves, the conviction that they were resting on the absolute faithfulness of their Holy God of mercy. This conviction grew powerfully during the seven years that they had known Jesus Christ as their Savior. The circumstances, in which they had been living, required them to rely on the faithfulness and sovereignty of their great God alone.

What must it be like to stand before the Duma, in the House of Parliament, looking into the eyes of dozens of the leaders of Russia, knowing that God, in whom you trust, is totally unknown to them? Not just unknown, but vehemently rejected and opposed. The men of the Parliament, trained thoroughly with the conviction that there is no God, were hearing from their Russian colleague that God did indeed exist, and was sending His workers into Russia at the invitation of Mr. Brudenoff.  He, as the Director of Special Education for Russia, invited God’s workers back into the classrooms of Russia.

It was the same kind of bravery that was resident in…

Moses and Aaron standing before Pharaoh and his magicians, or

Joshua and Caleb before the unruly desert mob of Israelites, or

Elijah as the Ambassador of God before King Ahab of Israel, or

Daniel when he prayed to his God, knowing he was being watched, or

Peter and the apostles standing before religious leaders of their day, or

Paul and Silas being dragged through the streets toward prison, or

Jesus facing His cross at Calvary.

I stood directly in front of Alexei Brudenoff, looking into his eyes as the question “are you safe in Russia?” was translated.  A peculiar twinkle came into his eyes, and a confident smile appeared on his face before the translation was finished. He had heard the question in English, and his answer did not need time to be brought out of the deep recesses of his mind.  It was a ready answer, one that sparkled in his eyes. He knew that his safety was not dependent on the Russian Parliament or the military. It was not in his power upon which he was trusting but his confidence in a powerful, loving, saving, awesome God and he answered the question in clearly understandable English;

“Yes, we are safe!”

That was all there was too it. No debate, no hesitation.  He was simply trusting in His God of the Bible, whose faithfulness and presence were all and more that he needed.

A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite

This is what the writer of Psalm 89 expressed. The realization of the Psalmist was that the LORD (Yahweh) was the ruling power over all things. He was Yahweh, who had made a covenant with David. It was a covenant guaranteed by Yahweh Himself (Psalm 89:1-4). Yahweh’s Loyal Love is extolled repeatedly (89:2, 14, 24, 28, 33, and 49). Not only is Yahweh’s Loyal Love referred to in relation to the covenant, His faithfulness to fulfill His promise is entwined in His Loyal Love in verses 2, 5, 8, and 33.

O LORD, l know Your loyal love (vs. 1),

The Duma

And Your faithfulness (vs. l),

Your covenant (vs. 3),

Your wonders (vs. 5),

Your mighty arm (vs. l0),

Your heavens (vs. 11),

Your world (vs. 11),

Your creation (vs. l2),

Your name (vss. 12 & 16),

Your strong arm (vs. l3),

Your right hand (vs. 13),

Your throne (vs. l4),

Your countenance (vs. l5),

Your righteousness (vs. l6),

Your glory (vs. 17),

Your favor (vs|. 17),

Your godly ones (vs. 19),

Your anointed (vs. 51)

Therefore, with the psalmist we say,      

Yahweh, You are praised (vs. 5),

You are incomparable (vs. 6),

You are greatly feared (vs. 7),

You are awesome (vs. 7),

You are mighty (vs. 8),

You are the ruler (vs. 9),

You are powerful (vs. l0),

You are strong (vs. 12).

 

So, Alexei, are you safe?

Yes, quite safe, thank you! And

“Blessed be the LORD forevermore!

       Amen and Amen.” (vs. 52)

Are You Safe? Resting on His Faithfulness Alone!

The mural on the wall painted in the front of the large auditorium,  was of Mr. Lenin, arm raised as if leading a charge of the workers who were painted with determination on their faces as they marched to victory through the land of Russia.  We all stood gazing at the mural and sang with purpose with our voices raised in worship and praise…

Our God is an awesome God, LeninHe reigns from heaven above,With wisdom power and love, Our God is an awesome God!

Those words, powerfully and joyfully sung, sounded forth for the first time in the history of that building. A worship service happening under the mural depicting the now fading, disappearing philosophy that brought such crushing damage to Russia and the world. We were in the auditorium to hear “The Director of Special Education for Russia”.  He would be telling us why we had been invited to Russia and how it was that he was able to bring about this once in a lifetime opportunity.  We sang some more worship songs, followed by some great hymns of our faith and then prayed.  What a awesome feeling surged through those 200 believers, meeting in the capital of Russia, praying for the blessing of God to pave the way for our year of ministry in that dark land.   We then read the 52 verses of Psalm 89, the last psalm in book three of the Psalms.

Brudenoff’s safety rested on the tender mercies of God

Our guest speaker gave us some background information and challenged us regarding our work for the next year.  He was not a big man, but he was bold.  His name, Alexei Brudenoff, the Director for Special Education for Russia.  At the conclusion of his lecture, they opened the floor to ask questions of Mr. Brudenoff.  The very first question was “Mr. Brudenoff, are you safe in Russia?”

The Russian translator stopped, looked at his Russian friend for whom he translated the question, and then looked directly at the English audience to whom he was translating. His eyes filled with tears, his lined face softened into a look of awesome kindness, his head nodded understandingly at the question and he waited for the answer from Mr. Brudenoff.

They both stood before us, holding deep within themselves, the conviction that they were resting on the absolute faithfulness of their Holy God of mercy. This conviction grew powerfully during the seven years that they had known Jesus Christ as their Savior. The circumstances, in which they had been living, required them to rely on the faithfulness and sovereignty of their great God alone.

What must it be like to stand before the Duma, in the House of Parliament, looking into the eyes of dozens of the leaders of Russia, knowing that God, in whom you trust, is totally unknown to them? Not just unknown, but vehemently rejected and opposed. The men of the Parliament, trained thoroughly with the conviction that there is no God, were hearing from their Russian colleague that God did indeed exist, and was sending His workers into Russia at the invitation of Mr. Brudenoff.  He, as the Director of Special Education for Russia, invited God’s workers back into the classrooms of Russia.

It was the same kind of bravery that was resident in…

Moses and Aaron standing before Pharaoh and his magicians, or

Joshua and Caleb before the unruly desert mob of Israelites, or

Elijah as the Ambassador of God before King Ahab of Israel, or

Daniel when he prayed to his God, knowing he was being watched, or

Peter and the apostles standing before religious leaders of their day, or

Paul and Silas being dragged through the streets toward prison, or

Jesus facing His cross at Calvary.

I stood directly in front of Alexei Brudenoff, looking into his eyes as the question “are you safe in Russia?” was translated.  A peculiar twinkle came into his eyes, and a confident smile appeared on his face before the translation was finished. He had heard the question in English, and his answer did not need time to be brought out of the deep recesses of his mind.  It was a ready answer, one that sparkled in his eyes. He knew that his safety was not dependent on the Russian Parliament or the military. It was not in his power upon which he was trusting but his confidence in a powerful, loving, saving, awesome God and he answered the question in clearly understandable English;

“Yes, we are safe!”

That was all there was too it. No debate, no hesitation.  He was simply trusting in His God of the Bible, whose faithfulness and presence were all and more that he needed.

A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite

This is what the writer of Psalm 89 expressed. The realization of the Psalmist was that the LORD (Yahweh) was the ruling power over all things. He was Yahweh, who had made a covenant with David. It was a covenant guaranteed by Yahweh Himself (Psalm 89:1-4). Yahweh’s Loyal Love is extolled repeatedly (89:2, 14, 24, 28, 33, and 49). Not only is Yahweh’s Loyal Love referred to in relation to the covenant, His faithfulness to fulfill His promise is entwined in His Loyal Love in verses 2, 5, 8, and 33.

O LORD, l know Your loyal love (vs. 1),

The Duma

The Duma, Russia’s Lower House of Parliament, attended by a session of Deputies in Moscow.

And Your faithfulness (vs. l),

Your covenant (vs. 3),

Your wonders (vs. 5),

Your mighty arm (vs. l0),

Your heavens (vs. 11),

Your world (vs. 11),

Your creation (vs. l2),

Your name (vss. 12 & 16),

Your strong arm (vs. l3),

Your right hand (vs. 13),

Your throne (vs. l4),

Your countenance (vs. l5),

Your righteousness (vs. l6),

Your glory (vs. 17),

Your favor (vs|. 17),

Your godly ones (vs. 19),

Your anointed (vs. 51)

Therefore, with the psalmist we say,      

Yahweh, You are praised (vs. 5),

You are incomparable (vs. 6),

You are greatly feared (vs. 7),

You are awesome (vs. 7),

You are mighty (vs. 8),

You are the ruler (vs. 9),

You are powerful (vs. l0),

You are strong (vs. 12).

 

So, Alexei, are you safe?

Yes, quite safe, thank you! And

“Blessed be the LORD forevermore!

       Amen and Amen.” (vs. 52)

The Black Raven

They were the judge, jury, executioners and morticians

“Charles, come to the front door; quickly” were the words that I heard and, when Grandma said it that way, I came to the front door quickly!  The excitement in her voice was precipitated by the arrival of her son, one of my favorite uncles, in his shiny, new, four door, black Buick Special.

The fact that he had his wife with him seemed not to be the issue.  It was the shiny, new, 1950, four door, black Buick Special. That car, for a time, would be the topic of discussion around the dinner table, with a number of punctuated and colorful comments by the Ford and Chevy owners. Raven 1

Politics would take a back seat as the details of this new black marvel of a machine were carefully, fully, and boastfully laid-out before the family.  These discussions very seldom ended amicably! Now fast-forward your mind fifty years to the future. The reaction of those living in Krasnodar, Russia, brought out a far different set of emotions to the surface when the black car pulled up to their home, business or place of employment.  It would not be a shiny, new black Buick Special, but usually a sinister looking Black Russian Volga, the trademark vehicle of the K.G.B. To some people living in the United States, the KGB. is simply a sister organization to the FBI, a government office of specially trained security people designed to fight crime.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The KGB was an umbrella organization of the U.S.S.R.  It served as Russia’s main intelligence agency along with its security agency and the secret police, all serving under its direction.

The acronym KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti) translated into English simply means “State Security Committee”.   That sounds simple and non-threatening but the power behind and through this organization left all the living ones caught in its tentacles, gasping for breath and stability.   They were the judge, jury, executioners and morticians of the Government of Russia. The ones killed by this security agency have yet to be totally accounted for or numbered, but you can start your counting in the millions.

Raven 2The black car became the calling card of the K.G.B; the method used to raise the blood pressure of the populace; the fear producer of the normal Russian person. When the black car was in the neighborhood, it meant you stayed behind your closed doors, peeking through the windows, hoping it was not stopping at your house or business.

Some of the Russians called the secret police vehicle, “The Black Raven”.

The Reverend Vladimir Okhotin, writing in Let the Waters Roar; Evangelists in the Gulag (Georgi Vins, Compiler; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, page 138) tells the story about the beginning of his vacation.

         Hey, Okhotin, we just got a call for you from the personnel office.  You have to go by and sign your vacation forms,” I was told.  Actually, I was already on vacation and had only stopped by work with my wife to pick up my pay.  “All right, I’ll go”, I said.  “You’ll go right over? You’ll be sure to stop by the office?”   “Yes, yes, I’m going.”

When we reached the building with the personnel office, I noticed a black Volga parked on the corner.  Right away, I knew something was wrong.  “I don’t like that black car,” I said to my wife.

We entered the building, and the woman at the desk said, “O good. We were hoping you would come.  Take this form for your head engineer to sign, then bring it back here.”  To my wife she said, “You can wait here for your husband.”

I took the form and left.  As I stepped out the front door, I saw that the black Volga was now parked in front of the building.  Two men standing beside the door grabbed me as I came out. 

          “Quick, get in the car!” one of them said.

          “What’s going on?  Where are you taking me?”

          “Don’t talk.  Just get in the car!”

With nothing else said, Vladimir’s ride to somewhere began and he did not even get to say goodbye to his wife Nadia or explain why he was not finishing his vacation. A small team of agents took him to a pre-determined location. They were probably armed with enough weapons to protect the leader of a small country. They could pick up an enemy of the government with enough luggage space to extract the evidence they needed and eliminate the enemy as well.  They liked the larger GAZ-13 Chaika (Seagull) with its powerful 6.0 litre V8, pushbutton-controlled automatic transmission and enough luggage space to accommodate the remains of two or three ex-enemy agents.  This large vehicle could also transport criminals to close or far locations.  It was the KGB, one-way Taxi.

Vladimir was found guilty for being a Christian and sentenced to prison.

Raven 3The Volga was the vehicle of preference for the office of Security. It may have looked like a commie copy of a ’53 Ford Custom sedan, as one car magazine’s test in 1960 reported, but its reputation was far more than an executive transport vehicle. Sleek, low-slung and preferably black, it was once an object of desire for every Soviet bureaucrat. However, in a country where for most citizens the alternative was riding an old, decrepit bus, the Volga was hugely desirable. However, the sleek look of the Volga was not what one observed when being taken for a “secure ride’ by the KGB.

Raven 4This was the car driven by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man to rocket into space. It was the car the Soviets were proud to export to the British, describing its cabin as making “lengthy out-of-town voyages joyous”.

Dissident Soviets, Pastors, or businessmen of the time who found themselves bundled between a pair of KGB agents on the big back seat might not have noticed its comfortable ride and powerful motor.

As Vladimir was driven off in the “Black Raven”, it would be years before he would be returned to his family.  He was taken to trial in the court system and before the Russian judges because he was the Music Director of Children and Adults, leading them in Christian Music and singing hymns that were determined to be dangerous and against the laws of Russia.  Vladimir Okhotin, found guilty as a criminal for being a Christian, was sentenced to prison.Raven 6

Lorretta and I walked the streets where Vladimir and his wife Nadia walked.  Larissa, his daughter, told us about the places she loved and where she and the family played.  We ministered with Vladimir’s brother-in-law in the city of Krasnodar.  We were in the Lampados College office when the phones went silent, turned off by the Krasnodar officials of the so-called “former” KGB.

We stood in the train station where Vladimir was returned to his family following the years of wrongful imprisonment.  We talked with, had dealings with and ate in the home of the woman KGB agent who was responsible for turning many believers over to the KGB.  We witnessed what kind of illegal activities the “former” KGB agents were involved in throughout the city.  We talked to the business owners who paid the exorbitant bribes necessary to keep their businesses from being destroyed. We saw the burned out metal kiosk, the one with no water, or electricity or gas which strangely “caught on fire” in the middle of the night.

The wretched deeds and life altering treatment of the K.G.B. brought us to the realization that fear was not just a word found in the dictionary, but was part of the life style of the everyday Russian.

One needs only to read about the atrocities of the K.G.B. or look into the eyes of those who experienced the “black car” at the door to come to some understanding as to why the people lived secretly and felt absolutely crushed down.  The wretched deeds and life altering treatment of the K.G.B. brought us to the realization that fear was not just a word found in the dictionary, but was part of the life style of the everyday Russian.   When that kind of fear lives with you, one becomes absolutely convinced that your next step may lead to your trail of blood and mayhem and betrayal.

Russia did not identify their enemy or know where he was going or what he was trying to accomplish at the turn of the twentieth century. They closed their eyes and waited for the catastrophe to strike!  And strike it did!  The scary part, as we look at the situation before us in America, is that it seems some do know what they want and are determined to take the path that leads to the same road that Russia took in the world-changing 1917 revolution.

When they get what they say they want, they will not like it!

We are not personally interested in going that direction.  We have lived with those who have both “hit the wall” and were “hit by the wall”, simply because they were Christians.  Because they did not pay attention to what was happening, they let themselves be lead down a path that reached a political dead end where their leaders had purposely lead them!

It is strange to think that that may be ahead for America if we do not stand and make America great again now!

We do not think that Americans will enjoy the ride or the destination when they are placed in the back seat of that sleek, powerful black car!

<<<<<>>>>> 

If you have the opportunity to visit the city of  San Diego, California, spend some time with Vladimir, he can tell you about “the comfort” of the Black Raven!

<<<<<>>>>> 

“My Country ‘Tis Of Thee”

My country ’tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing
Land where my fathers died
Land of the pilgrims’ pride
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring,
Let freedom ring
Let it ring

<<<<<>>>>>

My Country, ‘Tis of Thee“, also known as “America“, is an American patriotic songwhose lyrics were written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831  while he was a student at the Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Massachusetts and first performed in public on July 4, 1831 at a children’s Independence Day celebration at Park Street Church in Boston.

(Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia “My Country Tis Of Thee”.)

Psalm 50 and a Memoir

There are times when the “details of life” overtake us and we find ourselves “under the circumstances” and quite uncomfortable.  Today I am in the “uncomfortable” stage. Some events regarding the team ministry and the pressure faced by the administrators of the Lampados Bible College from the “former KGB” officials, have pressed down hard on us.

In Psalm 50, this prophetic psalm, the nation of Israel was facing some severe circumstances and a future judgment was pending.  God gave to Israel every spiritual blessing, privilege and advantage, more than any nation onsisyphus  His earth. Unfortunately, they persisted in turning aside from His pathway and now He is ready to  take action. The title a “Psalm of Asaph” may indicate the writing to be in the days of David.

Asaph was a writer of twelve psalms with eleven of them occurring in book three (see the title in 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83). Psalm 50 is the only psalm of Asaph found in book two of the psalter.  

Dr. John Phillips, writing in Exploring the Psalms, Volume 1, Psalms 1-88 states

“Asaph was one of David’s three chief musicians.  He was selected by the Levites to lead the music when David brought the ark to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:16, 17).  We know that David composed a hymn of praise for the occasion.  Asaph, too, was a writer of sacred songs, so this psalm might have been composed by Asaph as a warning to Israel not to substitute formality and hypocrisy for true spirituality.”  (Pg. 395)  

Psalm 50 – A Psalm of Asaph.

1 The Mighty One, God, the LORD, has spoken,

And summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,

God has shone forth.

3 May our God come and not keep silence;

Fire devours before Him,

And it is very tempestuous around Him.

4 He summons the heavens above,

And the earth, to judge His people:

5 “Gather My godly ones to Me,

Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.”

6And the heavens declare His righteousness,

For God Himself is judge.

Selah.

7 “Hear, O My people, and I will speak;

O Israel, I will testify against you;

I am God, your God.

8 “I do not reprove you for your sacrifices,

And your burnt offerings are continually before Me.

9 “I shall take no young bull out of your house

Nor male goats out of your folds.

 10 “For every beast of the forest is Mine,wildebeest-migration1

              The cattle on a thousand hills.

   11 “I know every bird of the mountains,

and everything that moves in the field is Mine.

12 “If I were hungry I would not tell you,

for the world is Mine, and all it contains.

13 “Shall I eat the flesh of bulls

or drink the blood of male goats?

Domestic_goat_kid_in_capeweed

14  “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and pay your vows to the Most High;

15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble;

I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”

16 But to the wicked God says,

“What right have you to tell of My statutes

and to take My covenant in your mouth?

17 “For you hate discipline,

and you cast My words behind you.

18“When you see a thief, you are pleased with him,

and you associate with adulterers.

19 “You let your mouth loose in evil

and your tongue frames deceit.

21 “These things you have done and I kept silence;

You thought that I was just like you;

I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.

22 “Now consider this, you who forget God,

or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.

23 “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;

and to him who orders his way aright

I shall show the salvation of God.” (Copied from NASB)

Watch the Birds, Settle down, He’s Lord of All

Cardinal

Psalm 50

[C&L-Krasnodar]

    Psalm 50 is where I was reading,

    Its message was easy to see.

   God was upset with Israel for sinning,

   It was as if He was speaking to me!

   “Every beast of the forest is mine,

   The cattle on a thousand hills;

   The birds in the mountains singing,

  The mountain goats eating by the mill.

I know where they are at this moment,

I see where they eat and dwell.

I feed them their food to meet their needs,

I make sure that for them all is well.

0116am

I wonder, Chuck, why you are so fretful,

Is it because things are not going your way?

The birds in the air trust me, their Master,

I work on their behalf every day.

The beasts in the field are not worried

where their next meal may be found.

But you are so burdened with hurry,

your forehead is lined with a frown.

Please trust in My loyal loving kindness,

I love you unconditionally each day,

your needs are before Me this moment,

the answers to your prayers are on the way.

You are fretting, anxious and worried,

you have piled all your cares in a stack.

there is nothing you can do for these problems.

So trust Me, your life by Me has been backed”.

So I took all the burdens I had been carrying,

I had been walking on a very rocky road.

I cast them right then on my Savior,

He thanked me for rolling on Him my load.

Thank you, my Lord, for this reminder,

You have held me that I might not fall.

May my mind grasp the message of the psalmist,

Watch the birds, settle down,

He’s Lord of all.

                  Birds

 

Mushrooms at Maykop

The students stood prayerfully at the breakfast table as they were listening to First Chronicles 16:28-34, the Scripture for the morning, being reads by Sergei, the director of the College:

Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Give to the Lord glory and strength.
29 Give to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him.
Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
30 Tremble before Him, all the earth.
The world also is firmly established,
It shall not be moved.

31 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
And let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
32 Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field rejoice, and all that is in it.
33 Then the trees of the woods shall rejoice before the Lord,
For He is coming to judge the earth.

34 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

          Anticipation filled their hearts.  They awaited their physical food for breakfast and their spiritual food in their study of the Scriptures.  They stood at the table, they folded their hands, they bowed their heads, they prayed and then they sat and ate.

Bread, salami, jam, chai, cucumbers.

  A breakfast received with gratitude to the Lord.

Lorretta and I joined the first group of sixteen for breakfast that morning so that we could get into the classroom and prepare it for the “Life of Christ” class that would be taught from 9:00 A. M. until 12:00 noon   I would try to clean the “Green Board” with soap and water before the session began.  The “green board” was actually two 12 inch wide by 3 feet long pieces of wood, nailed together, painted green and hanging by a string against the wall.  There was no chalk available so the decorations glued to the walls became the chalk.  I would ask the taller student to reach up and get a piece of “chalk” when we ran out.  It worked just fine.

As we sat at breakfast, Sergei, the 26 year old director of the college, announced to the students that they would be going into the forest that afternoon to find their supper.The college had run out of money and had no funds to purchase food supplies or in fact, anything.

Searching for Food

Foraging for Food

The city of Maykop was beautifully located at the base of the Caucus Mountains, with wild berries and mushrooms growing in abundance in that area.  “Maykop, also spelled Maikop, city and capital of the republic of Adygea, Krasnodar kray (territory), Russia, on the right bank of the Belaya River. Maykop (from the Adyghian myequape meaning “valley of apple trees”) was founded in 1857 as a Russian fortress”. (Encyclopædia Britannica 156,768).

Following classes, the students would take whatever containers available to them to carry the food they would collect, walk into the hills, find their evening meal and return to the school to prepare their feast.

I have never been enthralled about simply opening and eating a can of Campbell’s mushroom soup.  I could handle it if it was combined with rice and chicken in a wonderful casserole, prepared by Lorretta, but to just open a can and heat it and eat it for dinner was not my idea of a manly meal for a college professor! Lorretta always decorated the soup so that I could handle the meal.

Following the class session, the students prayerfully and eagerly went into the forest to find their dinner, and find it they did. However, to hear that these students were going to gather “wild mushrooms”, found at the base of the mountains, not having been medically cleared for edibility, caused me to look carefully for a “McDonald’s”.  Alas, that was not going to happen in Maykop, Russia!  This is when my prayer life took on an amazing new dimension.  I found that I could steadfastly, earnestly, without ceasing, watch and pray.

Following the first shift of breakfast eaters, the tables cleared, the dishes collected and placed in the small kitchen.  Two students dipped the plates into cold water (water from a well outside), no soap, and wiped clean and placed back on the tables. The eating utensils cleaned in a similar manner and returned to the tables. There were no water pipes going into the home, no stove, no water heater, and no inside toilets.

The Father gives good gifts to those who ask

What remained of the bread, sliced cucumbers, and jam, with the spoon placed back in the jar, was returned to the brushed and wiped-off tables. Breakfast was now ready for the entrance of the second shift.

There was no lunch scheduled that day for the students because the food had been consumed at breakfast.  Following the class session, the students prayerfully and eagerly went into the forest to find their dinner, and find it they did.  They returned with bags and boxes of mushrooms and wild berries.  A fire was “stoked up” in the courtyard.  A large iron pot connected to a metal tripod, filled with well water, and brought to a boil over the fire.  Then mushrooms galore dropped into the boiling water.

That afternoon, some parents and friends of the students brought loaves of freshly baked bread to the school.  Breads cooked in brick ovens in their backyard kitchens.

Water, mushrooms, wild berries, brick-oven baked bread was the meal for the evening.   It was a feast for a king and his court.    Great rejoicing taking place as the students looked back on the words that they had read that morning in 1st Chronicles 16:32

Let the sea roar, and the fullness [they had water];

Let the fields rejoice [they had mushrooms]

                   And all that is therein [they had bread, jam and berries]

Forest Shrooms

 You know what?

Water and mushrooms is not that bad! 

And Campbell’s Mushroom Soup?

A delicacy beyond description.

As beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,

 So, taste is in the mouth of the hungry eater,

God brings joyful satisfaction to the hearts

of His faithful servants,

and multiple lessons on faith

for the teacher

by the students!

mushroom

Clubbed by a Clothespin!

Pigeons choose how many times you wash clothes!

Some ideas never catch the public’s eye and they die an agonizing death due to lack of interest, poor advertising, improper merchandising or faulty sales. However, the clothespin, whether the one piece wooden style, the colorful plastic variety or the wooden one piece metal spring classic, will never die. This is a worldwide opinion shared by many in America, and everyone in Russia. The automatic dryer in Russia is the wire or rope out the window and the clothespin.

Our seven wire drying rack was located just outside the storage area, immediately off the front room of our third floor flat. It was ugly but it was unpainted. It was versatile and it was a pain. However, it was the automatic solar dryer. It served many purposes and it was our responsibility to discover the other “purposes” besides hanging clothes.

  1. We became aware of the need for the pigeons to have a location to rest their weary feet, and that certainly seemed like one of the “purposes” for our lines.
  2. This also brought into play the babushka’s lines directly above our lines.

The pigeons also rested on her lines, which enabled us to experience some slight difficulties on washday because sometimes we had to wash our garments a second time if our feathered friends found their resting place above our clean wash before we were able to retrieve it off the lines.

  1. On days that were hot, our up-stairs neighbor often provided us with ample shade since her sheets, blankets, curtains and other long, flowing items would hang down onto our apartment line. This kept the hot sun from burning into our apartment in the late afternoons as well as blocking our view out the windows.

With the above picture firmly in your mind, one can now bring you quickly to the significant part. To hang clothes, you need clothespins. We had ten. It quickly became apparent to us that that was not quite enough. So we set about to hunt for clothespins.   I need to be up-front and state that one month late we were still looking for clothespins. I am not saying that we became paranoid about the matter, but our friends were considering not inviting us over until we could solve the “wash-the clothes-hang-the-clothes-with-clothespins” problem.

Then it happened. We were walking down the sidewalk, trying to avoid the cars on Artebekeva Blvd.  It was a beautifully clear day, the people were shopping and right before my eyes, I saw them. “Lorretta, Clothes Pins” I shouted. They were the classic, the wooden ones with springs. They were neatly attached five per side, to a six inch square of cardboard.

We stepped up the rug where the babushka was standing and asked, SKOLKA. (How Much?) She smiled and said some words, which turned out to be 200 rubles Wow, which was twenty cents in American funds! We struck pay dirt! One penny apiece for the genuine, center spring, wooden, classic clothespins. I gave the woman one United States dollar bill and she was thrilled. We placed them in our opportunity bag and hurried home with our treasure, almost forgetting to hunt for other foods.

“we would not give these pieces of wood away unless our friendship with the team was absolutely at risk. Our course of direction could determine our friendship.”

However, this wonderful find of clothespins now produced another far more perplexing problem! We would have to call our Commission friends and let them know of our good fortune. Perhaps they would want us to share this gift with them and how could that be possible?   There were no other clothespins in Krasnodar, this great city of 800,000 people.  If we began showing up with clean clothes, they would know. We would eventually have to tell.

The decision to call about the clothespins was a very difficult one. We had found the treasure, and we had to be firm enough in our resolve, that we would not give these pieces of wood away unless our friendship with the team was absolutely at risk. Our course of direction could determine our friendship. We decided to call after supper, when it would be too dark for them to walk over and pick up the clothespins.

We pulled them out one more time just to gaze at them. Our joy of discovery went into fits of hilarious laughter. Each of the clothespins were carefully taken apart, washed and sanded. They almost looked new. Even the slots where the spring ran across the back of the pin had been cleaned and sanded.

Whoever had done the work was obviously a gifted crafts-man. There were no splinters, the pins were smooth as glass and yet they worked beautifully. My thoughts were “We cannot give these away. They must remain in our possession. They are special and they are ours!” Our deliberations were interrupted by a call from Kristi. She was on the way over to our apartment. This was the decisive moment. We may be forced to tell her. She would be here in half an hour.

He taught us again!

We re-attached the pins to the card, thought about how we would try to look if she forced the issue taking the pins. Then we sat and waited. Soon the doorbell sounded.  She was here, but it was Kristi and Emma. She brought reinforcements! We invited them in with mixed emotions.

They said they could not stay long; they were just bringing us forty clothespins that they had discovered at the Festivalia Market that day and purchased them for us. They reported that Jim had also found some and was bringing them over tonight as well.  “How nice” we said in unison. Theirs were new and they were giving them to us.

We told them, sheepishly, about our find and we all began to laugh together.  Misery certainly loves company and so does laughter. It is amazing to us that our materialistic philosophy was willing to “hide” our horde from others when it was only twenty clothespins worth twenty cents. When one has great wealth, perhaps it is not difficult to share with others “out of the riches”, not giving everything away, but at least sharing. However, how do you willingly share when you believe you have the only clothespins in Russia!

That night, the smallest item in our possession, brought about a major catastrophe regarding sharing. Materialism is not only grasping for the big things in life, it affects even the smallest, most insignificant thing we possessed; a wooden, classic clothespin!

Thank you, God, for using that small piece of funny shaped wood as a big club to teach me another unforgettable lesson on hoarding, materialism and stinginess. The rest of the story is the next days on our food hunts, we found hundreds of clothes pins.

Clothespins seemed to be in every kiosk and magazine (market) where we normally shopped.  However, God made sure this lesson got to me before the glut of clothespins flooded the markets!

Hum!

Have I yet learned it?

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