A Crisis Solver from Canada

“Dr. Emert, can you meet with us for Prayer?”  Not an unusual request from the leadership of the small Bible College in Maykop, Russia, but for some reason, that morning, there seemed to be a call of urgency interweaving and flowing though the words.

Sergei and Elia and their wives spent the weekend in fasting and prayer.

It was 7:30 A. M. classes were to start at nine and the students were expecting this to be a normal Monday of classes; breakfast, Chai break, lunch, dinner and study. The dining was always in two shifts to accommodate the size of the room.  Sixteen could eat at one sitting and the first group had already entered the dining room. When they were through, unlike the normal meals in Russia, the students would quickly vacate the dining room to make ready for the next shift of eaters. The mealtime was spent eating. Talking took place afterwards. But when you only have one small room for the feeding of thirty students, you had to readjust, and these Russians knew how to readjust!

While the students were eating, Elia, Sergei, and I stepped into the small room serving as an office. Sergei, the school’s director and Elia, the associate, quietly explained to me that we needed to pray because the school was out of money. Lorretta and I had given $100.00 USD just the week before to the school so that they could purchase some very needy supplies. However, the food was not part of the “needy supplies”. The money paid the rent for the building and bought some petrol for the car of the director, and helped to bring in some paper and supplies for the office. Sergei and Elia and their wives had spent the weekend in fasting and prayer for the needs of this new work. Meanwhile, the students were enjoying their breakfast and getting prepared for classes. Our prayer time that morning was both specific and intense. “Lord, we need money and food! It had not been many days before this that the students had gone into the hills to collect mushrooms and berries for their evening meal. It sounds as if that will be our “Morning Information Item” for them at class time. I checked my wallet and realized that we were awaiting the courier to arrive from America with our cash for the month. We were receiving $500.00 per month for the both of us while we were serving in Russia. It was not a lot of money, but we were doing just fine. If we had been receiving more, we could not have spent it because there was nothing to buy!

So the short-fall of cash in my wallet and no cash in theirs made our prayer time, as I said, “specific and intense”. Once we had prayed to the only One who could turn this situation around, the issue was over. The circumstances had not changed, the food was still needed, the funding was still short, but the issue was now out of our hands. We would watch God work again here in this city of 100,000, in the far east of Russia.

As we left the office that early Monday morning, Tanya (Elia’s wife and my translator) asked if we could all go to the main market in Maykop that day because Friday was the big market day. Elia had to tell her that we were waiting for God to bring in the money so that we could go. There was no disappointment in her expression, simply the acknowledgment that that was O. K. She smiled her sweet, broad smile, stepped into the classroom and took her place at the front of the room to wait for her translating responsibilities for our class that day. I stood and looked.

How can I stand before them without the necessary tools to study and learn and communicate? The thoughts captivated my mind. I am to stand before young people who have suffered for their faith. They have paid a price to be Christians! They have faced intense persecution. They have family members in prison because they openly proclaimed Jesus as their savior. These students have been expelled from or been prevented from attending the university in their city because of their faith. And I have no books!

Now, I come to the crux of the matter! This was our fifth week in Russia. I had been teaching in this new school for two weeks. None of my teaching supplies (books, notes, papers) had arrived from Moscow. I had my Ryrie Study Bible and my Scoffield Reference Bible. I said, I had my Ryrie Study Bible and my Scoffield Reference Bible. That was it! As I stood in the classroom the week before and taught, I prayed for the next thoughts to come back to my mind. The Lord in His grace brought back so many words from the text that I was sorry that I was not recording them because I think that they were better than the ones in my notes. What a way to grow!

I cannot remember today how I was able to think slowly enough for Tanya to translate, and while she was translating, I was preparing the next section. But, now, the books, the parchments, the writings are not here! What am I to do about the lessons that these students need to hear on trusting God? Where are my lecture notes on faith? Where are the commentaries that will help me teach these new believers that God heard their prayers? How can I stand before them without the necessary tools to study and learn and communicate? The thoughts captivated my mind. I am to stand before young people who have suffered for their faith. They have paid a price to be Christians! They have faced intense persecution. They have family members in prison because they openly proclaimed Jesus as their savior. These students have been expelled from or been prevented from attending the university in their city because of their faith. And I have no books!

That is when the realization hits that I should be in the seats and these students should be teaching. They have learned the lessons! They have asked in faith and the answer comes. They have moved the mountain. They have crossed the river on dry ground, and it’s me, Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer!

God had arranged for them to arrive at the point of the crisis.

As I am standing at the door of the office, the thoughts of my pity-party were suddenly interrupted. Two men from Canada, one a Pastor, were passing through the Maykop region on their way to Ukraine. They were standing at the front gate. They had heard on their journey from a Canadian missionary that a small Bible college had started in Maykop that year. When they arrived in the city that morning, they stopped a militia man on the street and asked if he knew of the college and he told them that it was meeting in the home of his neighbor.  He directed them to our location. A student brought them to the office as we were walking out.

Our introductions took place and they stated that they were on their way to Ukraine to visit one of their Missionaries. We had a wonderful but brief time of fellowship. It was approaching nine and I was about to excuse myself to step into the classroom when the men stated that they had been commissioned by their church in Canada to dispense some monies to the new Bible colleges in Maykop and Krasnodar. Since I was the first full time American teacher, they wanted me to be present.

The Pastor reached into his briefcase and took out a small envelope and handed it to me. It was not my college and I passed the envelope to Sergei and Elia. They opened it very slowly only to discover 15 $100.00 bills in United States currency. Neither Sergei nor Elia had ever held $1,500.00 in their hands. At that point in the exchange rate, one American dollar would buy 1155 Rubles. That would mean 1,730.000 Rubles were available to the school for ministry. The Canadians related that they reached Russia in the previous week and were trying to get to Maykop since Friday but had faced multiple difficulties in getting to Maykop. But God had arranged for them to arrive at the point of the crisis.

Tanya and Elia would be going shopping for food and supplies, and they invited us for our first trip to the mall in Maykop, Russia.

And Chuck?

He would be discussing faith with himself!

Not his, but the faith of these young believers

who were learning to trust God

through every circumstance in life

under the direction of their Almighty God

 

And their American Teacher?

Hum!

Who should be the teacher here? (not me!)

And who should be the learner here?  (not them!)

 

Being Content in the Small Things!

 

What an awesome experience! To awake in the morning with…

a song in your head,

a spring in your step,

 a good insurance plan,

a roof over your head,

a car parked in your garage,

food on your table,

clothes for your body,

a job for the day,

a market in which to shop,

Life affords many great opportunities and we sometimes have the responsibility to decide which of the opportunities in which we will engage ourselves. There are times, however, and there are places, when the decision is not ours to make regarding a good insurance plan, (what is insurance?)

or a good roof over your head, (what is a house?)

or a car parked in your garage, (a car!…a garage?)

or food on your table (if I go into the hills and find it!)

or clothes on my body (same ones as last week and last month)

or a job (not my choice to make)

or a market in which to shop (have you seen a market?)

No Car? No Problem

This morning, the city of Maykop, Russia, was quietly arising from its night of sleep and its weekend of drinking, and its concern regarding the problems of the military in Moscow.  The four cars that “lived” on our street were trying to start. Two were successful, but the other two did not respond. The hand crank was unable to turn over the motor. So, that took care of the blue Lada. The other, an older Vasile, at least that is what we were told it was, needed more help than was available in the city of Maykop.  The motorcycle with the side car still had a flat tire. The former military eighteen wheeler truck, owned by a local business man, was still in the ditch. But its driver was now awake and out of the truck and wondering how he managed to get that big truck that far into the ditch.

So, the week started with its normal words of ”WelI, that’s Russia”.  It was starting out to be a normal Russian morning. In this small city, there are approximately 50 cars per 1000 people. That may be a correct statistic, but I am not certain that that means there are 50 ”working” cars per 1000 people.

Appreciating the Simple Things

We arrived at the college a bit late that morning because we had to stop and pump up the tire. It had a perennial and persistent and may I insert aggravating slow leak that only affected the tire when the vehicle was moving or needed. It stayed up rather nicely through the night but during the drive, it lost its air. The car was actually very comfortable, and we were thankful that Elijah had a pump for the occasion. He was well equipped for any eventual problem and quite handy. The Russian people had the necessary “know-how” to keep their cars on the road.

The student’s and the kitchen staff (the same) were busy cleaning up the kitchen when we arrived, having just fed breakfast to the first group of students. This morning’s breakfast consisted of hot tea, three varieties of delicious bread, some jam and some spaghetti which had been left over from the Sunday evening meal. All were very happy, because there would be times during the next three weeks that they would have far less to choose from for breakfast.

It usually did not take long for the clean up to take place because they did not have to heat up the water from the well. They had no soap so they simply rinsed off the dishes and utensils, wiped them as clean as possible, and placed them back on the table for the next group who would be coming in for breakfast. The room where the meals were served was about 9 feet wide and 14 feet long.

It was very bright and clean, One-half of the students would eat in the first shift, clean up the dishes and set them for the next group. There were 26 students, three leaders, and Lorretta and me. They could seat 15 in the room. The kitchen was 6 feet by 4 feet and was always crowded with happy people. They were rejoicing at God’s great provision for a place to slay, a place to study and the blessings of a place to eat the food that God always provided. The abundance of praise for the food was always greater than the quantity of food they had to eat.

Godliness and Contentment are great Gain

As soon as breakfast was concluded, the students gathered for the first teaching session. They never had to be ”prodded” to come into the class room. It seemed as if the first session always passed quickly, and we went into ”the chai break” where they gathered so they could talk with Lorretta and try to teach both of us Russian. They were never fully successful but the laughter they had in the process of trying to teach us, and listen to us as we tried to pronounce the Russian words, still rings in our ears.

For lunch that day we had spaghetti soup, the left-over spaghetti from the previous evening and breakfast. There was an abundance of bread and chai and it was appreciated by the students. It was a warm meal and the students praised God for His bountiful provision. The students went out today and collected many mushrooms that grow wild in the hills around the school property. This would be part or all of their evening meal. Boiling water and with sliced, fresh mushroom added for their Mushroom soup.  The breads of Russia had no preservatives and hardened very quickly but was always good for dipping in the mushroom soup.  They also used oils and salt to the breads for an extremely tasty addition to their meals.

Our afternoon was spent with the staff discussing how we would grade the student’s papers and how I would be able to make charts to hand to the students.  There was no Xerox, or copy machine, or mimeograph machine available which meant that they would have to copy the notes by hand. This would be slow, but it was the best and only process.  They would have to finish the copying before dark because there were no lights in the building.

The black board, a 2′ X 3′ part of a former wall, was hanging by a string behind what was called the teaching podium. The chalk was taken off the trim from the walls on the inside of the house. They always kept the board clean and were excited that they had it.

The Apostle Paul would have done well in Maykop, Russia because he wrote, ”Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state l am to be content” (Philippians 4:11) Thanks, Paul, l am also trying to be content.

Meanwhile, back in the class room, I said, ”You, the tall one, Yes, you. Will you please reach up on that wall and pull off another piece of Chalk?

Thank you!”

. . . and we continued with the lesson on how David, in 1 Samuel 21 & 22, along with Psalm 34  trusted his God in very difficult times,

Water

and I was the teacher.

You have got to be kidding.

These students should be teaching us,

and believe me . . .they did!

No Petrol? Lots of Faith!

Our 6th day in Krasnodar, and no luggage yet!

Suddenly our door tweeter whistled. We had our first visitors. It was one of the Russian translators, Genada, who told Lorretta and me that the new school in Maykop wanted us to come to Maykop and teach. I would be their first full time teacher.  We politely declined because none of our books had yet arrived from America and I needed supplies for preparation: notes, books, and computer etc.

Genada thanked me and said that they would be by on Saturday Morning at 9:00 A. M. to pick us up. It was then that I realized that my English must have been as bad as my Russian. I was positive that I had said that ”we would not be able to go to Maykop until the supplies arrived.”  He thought l said, ”we are ready to go teach right now, please come by and move us to Maykop.” We were going to learn a lesson that translated almost daily into our lives in Russia.

Servants do not call the shots on where or when will they serve

In all actuality, this was a wonderful provision from the Lord. We would vacate the apartment and the two young ladies who had to move in with us would then be able to have the necessary room for their readjustment to the Krasnodar area.  They had been moved into our apartment because their apartment had be rented to two groups at the same time and they needed a place to stay while this was being worked out with the owner of the apartment. We would be in Maykop, living in a wonderful Russian home with the young director of the new College.

We repacked our suitcases for the 9:00 Saturday appointment with whatever transportation would take us the three hours to Maykop.  Passports, money, my library of books [two Bibles], English to Russian Dictionary came with us, thus we had all the essentials.

Saturday came quickly; our supplies from America had not arrived so we waited for our ride.  We were told that Russians did not always arrive on time, so we relaxed and waited. 10:00 A. M., 11 :00 A.M., 12:00, Noon, 1 :00 P.M., 3:00 P.M., 5:00 RM. dinner, 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00.  It was then that we discovered the word “dzaftra”, freely translated, it means, “tomorrow”.  This word, when used, was much like a word heard in Southern California ”manana” It may not really be tomorrow, it for sure isn’t today! And it can be used in place of the word “never!”

Lorretta, announcing that she was not going to stay up any longer, since they were obviously not coming, went to bed.  I decided to wait up a few minutes longer.

At 9:45 P.M. our doorbell whistled and our chauffer stood at the door, our chariot had arrived.  Lorretta got out of bed, dressed quickly and we began our Russian/English hand signs.  They made gestures as to what had happened and we believe that we interpreted the gestures correctly. The vehicle had broken down, was repaired and loaded with different supplies for the school.  We brought our suitcases down the three flights of stairs and looked for a place to load them.

It was a vehicle much like a VW van.   The front seat was occupied so Lorretta and I would sit in the area, which usually has a middle seat, however not true tonight.  The area was now home to approximately ten sacks of flour.  Behind us was stacked, floor to ceiling, the sugar.  And behind the sugar was a couple with their small child. We never saw them, however we heard them talk from time to time.  No one spoke English, and we were in our third week in Russia, which meant that all of our questions would be asked to each other!  This would indeed be a unique trip into the night.

Uncertainty along the Journey 

Our driver, Benjamin, unable to understand even the slightest words of English, was a wonderful, sweet spirited man. Our gestures were working, so we were O. K.  I guess that the only question that came to my mind is:  “Were these the people who were supposed to pick us up?”  Once we were in the van, we slipped off into the night, heading, we hoped, for Maykop.

One hour into the trip, the van came to a stop. We were in the absolute boondocks. As Benjamin stepped out of the van, he looked at us, crossed his arms in the form of an X and said, ”Petrol”.  That was certainly a universal gesture and made complete sense to us. He stepped to the rear of the van, opened the door, and we heard the shuffling of people getting out of the van and bags being removed.  Soon they produced a can, which looked to be about a 5-gallon can. He poured the ”Petrol” into the tank and within moments, we were on the road again.

That was a relief.  It was getting quite late now, and we still had a long distance to go. I was supposed to preach at the church in the morning and I had no idea when we would get there, so, we traveled that dark evening toward our goal.  At approximately 12:00 midnight, the van stopped again. Benjamin got out of the van, crossed his arms again and we had our second intelligent conversation, ”Petrol” and with a shrug of his shoulders, he walked across the dark and extremely deserted highway. (1 should interpret the word highway in Russian for the reader, but there is no Russian word for ”Cow-path” available).

I did know this. We had been on the road for over two hours and that meant that at the closest we were over an hour away from Maykop.  It was very dark and deserted, we were out of gas again, and the local gas station (another necessary phrase needing interpretation) was not available. Benjamin walked across the highway, into a farm area and got the farmer out of bed and brought some gasoline back with him. By 12:30, we were on the road again.

I was desirous to see the highway upon which we were traveling, but Benjamin was driving with his lights off, using that old American song, “By the light of the silvery moon” for his navigation system. I crouched as low as possible behind the flour, hoping that what ever Benjamin decided to hit head on, without his lights, I would somehow be able to protect Lorretta and myself with the bags of flour.  If there were such a collision, we would suffocate in flour long before they could get us out of this pre-baked bread delivery truck. Of course the sugar behind us was to be contended with, if we did stop abruptly!

It was nearing 1 :00 A. M. and surprise of surprises, we stopped again. Benjamin and I were on a roll, this time I crossed my arms and said “petrol” and he seemed genuinely pleased that we had learned a Russian word. He nodded and held up seven fingers. I knew it was not the time, so I assumed we were about 7 Km from our destination.  Benjamin stepped in front of the van, and began his walk to town. He was still within sight there in the light of the silvery moon, when a car came by.  It was the first car we had seen in over two hours of driving. It stopped, Benjamin got in and they took off for town. Within one half hour, Benjamin returned with the Associate Pastor of the new church, Ellia, who was to become one more of our wonderful Russian friends.

The trip was simply a matter of deep Russian trust in a God who provides all necessary things.

He did not have gas, but he attached a rope to the bumper, put us into the back of his vehicle and with the van in tow, he took us to Maykop.  We arrived at Sergi and Luda’s home just before 2:00 A. M and were escorted into the room where we would occupy the couch, made into one twin bed, for our three week stay in Maykop. Were there some lessons in this for us?  The trip was simply a matter of deep Russian trust in a God who provides all necessary things.

  1. On break down on the way to Maykop, we were not accosted by road criminals.
  2. The first gas challenge was in the van, the second gas challenge was at the farmers house, the lone car on the road came by at the right moment, the pastor had no gas but had a strong rope and he was available to tow us into town and God came through.
  3. No griping about running out of gas, no discussion about the breakdown during the day, no concern about safe arrival, no problem about crowded conditions, no amazement as to God’s presence, no surprise as to God’s providing gas, wheels, repairs, towing or protection.

Yes, they were twelve hours late according to human plans, but their faith and trust in a God who brought His will and His timing to pass, was clearly on time and up to date!

And I was there to teach them?

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!

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“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”.)