See What He Will Do…

About two years ago the Billy Graham Association was asking for email stories of how Billy Graham’s Evangelical Outreach had touched our lives. I sent in the story of my Pop’s conversion. Previously to this request, when our daughter was at Wheaton College in Illinois we were able to visit the Billy Graham Museum on campus. Emotions came to the surface when I saw the photos from the Los Angeles Crusade at the Colliseum in 1963. I knew my dad and I were somewhere in that photo of the stadium filled to overflowing.

I sent in my story hoping that Billy would hear and know that I thanked God for his devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how it impacted my family.

What a thrill to get this book in the mail this past month, skimming through and seeing my story about Pop published.

I can hardly wait to show my Mom and Pop the book…

My parents are soon turning 86 and 85.

Testimony Tuesday ~ Beth

The following testimony is from my friend Beth. We met after her son Jamie and my son Dan became close friends in elementary school in Washington. Both Beth and her husband Dave are relational people who care about others and are always willing and ready to help those in need. We have been ministered to by them in so many ways. We truly treasure their friendship. Beth and Dave have three sons. The picture below is taken in Hawaii at their son Aaron’s wedding this last January. Here’s Beth’s testimony in her own words.

Dave ~ Aaron ~ Beth

In 1951, God chose to give me physical birth, into a non practicing Catholic family. From my earliest years I  believed in God and knew He loved me. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who took her Catholic religion VERY seriously. With her I spent a lot of time at church, which I didn’t like, but what was comforting was her love for God. My parents divorced when I was 9.  I ended up going to quite a few different schools, one of them being Bellevue Christian. Mr. Fredricks was my 8th grade teacher. He was an ex-drinker and smoker who loved to tell how God reached down and saved him. I was so drawn to his passion, but didn’t understand the message. My sophomore year I went to a Seventh Day Adventist boarding school. They believe Saturday is the Sabbath, so from sundown Friday till sundown Saturday, we could either study the Bible or go to church services. Up to that point, I had heard the story of Jesus many times in many ways by many different people. I wasn’t seeking, and thought I already knew how much Jesus loved me. But one night in 1967, He chose to give me spiritual birth. He pierced my heart, opened my spiritual eyes and completely overwhelmed me with His love.

         ” The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making  wise the simple.”  Psalm 19:7

 Looking back I have seen how even before I was saved God placed people in my life to nurture, protect & direct me to Him. He has shown time and time again how faithful, how merciful, and how lovingly patient He is. His truth is what I continually seek.

             “In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.”       Psalm 62:7,8

“With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”     Psalm 119: 10-16

 

                                       

These are Dave and Beth’s three sons in order of birth, Matt, Aaron, and Jamie.      

Testimony Tuesday ~ Kathy (a.k.a. Jack’s Nana)

This is my sister Kathy’s testimony. She is the oldest of 8 siblings. She was born in Tehran and immigrated to the U.S. with my folks shortly after World War II. Kathy is married to Len and she has two daughters Michelle and Melissa. Michelle is married to Ryan and has one son, Jackson.

 

Kathy with her daughters Michelle and Melissa

Growing up in our family, where our Mom was a Christian and Pop was a very religious man, was a real privilege.  Babushka Vera [our maternal grandmother] was a real prayer warrior and prayed for all of us especially Pop.  Vera [my younger sister] and I would go to Bethany Sunday School occasionally because of our friendships with Tamara and Milla Katkov.  We also went to a midweek meeting at Tamara Kushnerov’s [one of the teachers at Bethany].  I remember hearing my need of a Saviour at this midweek meeting, and then I went home and got on my knees and asked Jesus to come into my heart.  It is all a little fuzzy but I think I was about eight or nine.  Summer camps were a very important part of my growth and maturing in the Lord.  I started teaching Sunday School when I was probably about thirteen, and preparing for that helped me to grow as well.  We used to go to a Tuesday night youth group at YRCA (Young Russian Christian Association) which also added to my growth.  So many events and so many people were used by God to help me grow. 

I am now challenged and refreshed by my family as they grow and walk with the Lord.

Thank you, God, for your faithfulness!

My sister Kathy’s testimony is so short and sweet I’ve decided to add to her story with the following:

This is Len and Kathy’s first grandchild, Jackson.  Jack is Ryan and Michelle’s son.  While we’re on firsts…Jack is the first great grandson to Moisi and Nadia, our parents.  Nana to Jack, Kathy is a wonderful example of a grandmother who blesses her grandchild with her love and obedience to her Lord!

Kathy and Len

Kathy has a peacemaker’s heart and is very kind. She has a degree in teaching but more than that she has the gift of teaching.  Right now besides spending as much time as she can with Jack and substitute teaching,  she is caring for her 93  year old mother-in-law. May God bless her richly for all the good she does in obedience to Him. Kathy truly is an example of a Proverbs 31 woman who fears the Lord and does good for her household and others!

 

Testimony Tuesday ~ Svetlana

 

Katie and Svet 2003

 Svet gave me permission to post her testimony for Testimony Tuesday. She was born around the same time as my youngest brother and sister (twins) 13 years my junior. We attended the same Russian Baptist Church years ago. The following is her testimony in her own words.

“I’d learned about God at home, and from my grandparents who often spoke to me about God.  I heard my mom pray to this God every night…so I did too! 

I was 7.  Miss Heidi (hi Heidi!) was the most beautiful Sunday school teacher, and she made me feel very important!  She had asked us before, so next time Miss Heidi invited us to “ask Jesus into our hearts”, I decided I’d raise my hand.  I believed that God was real, and, I thought I’d get struck w/ lightening if I waited any longer…I was shy.  Miss Heidi prayed with me and together, we asked Jesus to come dwell in my heart.  I felt great!  I was excited and felt a weight had been lifted…my chances of being struck by lightning had just been greatly diminished!  I went home that day and immediately prayed that same prayer again…and again the next day…and again…and again.  I needed to make sure God heard me, in case he’d been too busy before.  I just couldn’t grasp the idea of his omniscience/omnipresence.

“Miss Heidi” is the one in the middle in the brown top with Jeanie and Ellen.

Though I’d never been to summer camp as a kid, in my early 20’s, God orchestrated a series of events that landed me in a job as summer staff at Hume Lake.  It was there that I came to understand how very different Jesus and the Holy Spirit were, from the sovereign, (and distant), God that I knew.  The staff studied Philippians for the first month, and the Holy Spirit introduced himself to me as he used the Apostle Paul to teach me that God was not only a serious, punishing God, but a loving God who took joy, joy, JOY in me, his daughter!  I’d never been so encouraged as a believer as I devoured the book, again and again! 

 

Hume Lake Christian Camp

For years my life verses were: Philippians 1:6 along with 2:13
“…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  These days, though it may seem cliché God’s word can never be overused, my life verse is: Jer 9:11 “…for I know the plans I have for you…”  It’s such a comfort to know that my Savior is always ahead of me and right around the corner!”

~ Svet

Testimony Tuesday ~ Jody



                   

Ellen and Jody

This is my friend Jody’s testimony. She gave me permission to post it for Testimony Tuesday.

My testimony is so simple. I was born into a family where my parents loved Jesus.  So had their parents.  And their parents.  And the parents before them, who upon receiving Him sold their whiskey distillery and moved to the farm to raise their children to love Jesus. So when I was five years old, my father came to tuck me in at night and asked me what I knew about Jesus.  I told him that He is God and that He died on the cross to save me.  He asked me if there was anything Jesus wanted me to do, and I told him that He wanted me to ask Him into my heart.  He said,”Why not now?” and I said, “Sure!”  That was the beginning for me.  Fifty years ago.So I enjoy this tremendous heritage promised in Psalm 103:17 and 18 and claimed every day by those first distillery owners who prayed this promise for all their children and children’s children to come:

 17 But from everlasting to everlasting
       the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
       and his righteousness with their children’s children-

 18 with those who keep his covenant
       and remember to obey his precepts.

Of course the rub is  “remembering to obey his precepts” and that’s the challenge of my life.  But life has been rich with His blessing.   I also have this overwhelming sense (because I’ve experienced it) of the blessing that will cover my children if I will be faithful, which puts this whole “living for Jesus” thing is a greater contextual scope.  It’s all good.  Praise Him. ~

If you’d like to read more testimonies click on Tim Challies. He is hosting “Testimony Tuesdays”. I think we’ll all be amazed at what wonderful things God has done for us! Blessings! 

Thinking of Retiring?

April 1997 ~ Moisi and Nadia

You’re 74, your wife is 73, you’re retired, what do you do? My parents, Moisi and Nadia decided to sell their house, many of their household possessions and move to Russia to start a Bible study ministry in a small village near Rostov-on-Don. They filed for a one year visitor’s visa and left with suitcases full of Bible study materials on May 6, 1997. They set up shop in a four-room home with no indoor plumbing. My dad is not an ordained minister. His experience comes from many years of following Christ sincerely, Bible study, service for the Lord, sincere love for God and God’s people. My mother loves God, loves my father, and loves to cook. They work together beautifully.

My parents were both born in Russia. When young, (1932), their families separately escaped out of Russia into Iran. They lived in and near Tehran, where they met and were married. My oldest sister was born there. My dad was not a believer when he married my mom. She was a believer and the daughter of a Baptist minister. Shortly after WWII they applied for and received permission to immigrate to the U.S.A. After customs and registering in New York they traveled to Los Angeles, where relatives set them up with shelter and work. Two more of my older siblings, myself, and four younger siblings were born to my parents. Twenty years into their marriage my dad accepted the call from God to follow His son Jesus as his Savior. This took place at the Billy Graham Crusade at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1963.

My brothers and sisters oldest to youngest. Kathy (who was born in Tehran), Vera, Fred, Ellen, Tim, Steve, Lana, and Leonard ~ 2003

My parents have faithfully followed the Lord in word and deed. On trips to Russia earlier in the 1990’s they felt the need of the lost sheep in this spiritually poor country. While visiting relatives they led a cousin to the Lord. She begged my parents to come and teach her the Bible. My parents prayed, listened, and felt it was time for them to go for longer than a 2-month visit.

A Bible study turned into a small church that met in my parents’ rental home. Up to 15 women started coming to church on Sunday. No men. They did not anticipate the response they’d get from the children in the village. Forty children came for Sunday School.

Many of the children came faithfully each week even though their parents did not come. Some of the fathers ridiculed their children for going. The Sunday School Christmas program brought out a lot of parents. Same for Easter programs. God kept opening doors for the men to hear the gospel, too. My dad was asked to speak at funerals where he always preached the Gospel, the Lord works in mysterious ways. At the end of their first year there were several new believers. My parents had to leave Russia in the Spring. Eight women wanted to be baptized before my father left. The lake was frozen and there was no baptistery in the village. The women insisted my dad baptize them in the largest bathtub in the village!

Cousin Natasha’s Baptism

My mom with her ducks and geese

My parents came home to the States in May of 1998. They had their medical exams and my mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She had surgery to remove a cancerous lump and had radiation treatments for 6 weeks. She recovered well enough to encourage my father to make arrangements for another one year visa. They returned to Russia in October of 1998. They had a great reception on their return and their mission there was confirmed. They bought the house they were renting and turned it into a church with their small living quarters. They built an outdoor baptistery. They have gone back for a few months at a time since 1999.  Their final trip was just last year. They went to  encourage the existing church and make arrangements for a visiting pastor from a neighboring larger city to come in and teach this small group of believers. My parents turn 84 and 83 this year.

Comparing my folks from this 1999 photo in Russia with their 1997 photo above you can see the toll their two years of service, cancer (prostate and breast), and age have taken on them. They do not have any regrets for the time and sacrifice their service in Russia cost them. They are now living in a Senior apartment continuing in service for their Lord.

I leave you with this song, Remind Me, by Aaron Spiro and Carlo Furlan as a fitting close to this story of my parents.

Remind Me

When I’m old, remind me not to get stuck in my ways
When I’m old, remind me not to sit around day after day
’cause there’s a race to run that doesn’t finish at sixty
And I’m not giving up till I’m safe in your arms

When I’m old, let me bring glory to your super name
When I’m old, remind me not to take your grace in vain

When I’m old, remind me who and what I’m livin’ for
When I’m old, remind me not to hide away and double lock my door

I’ll rest in heaven, retire there. Let me run for Jesus ’till I get there.

Moisi (Moses) and Nadia have certainly lived their lives for Jesus and they haven’t stopped yet!

Moisi and Nadia ~ October 2006

ht:  I Am, I Am, Kickin’ the Sky / Aaron Spiro & Carlo Furlan

My Testimony and a John Newton Hymn

HUME LAKE CHRISTIAN CAMP

Ellen’s simple version of her testimony, March 29th, 2007

I accepted Christ (was spiritually born) in the summer of 1963 at Hume Lake Christian Camp. I was a reluctant, stubborn, proud, follower of Jesus for many years. Similar to the birth process, I was comfortable in the womb (when God was calling me), but at birth when I had to get up and walk down an aisle and be singled out I howled like a baby. (Why do they say down the aisle instead of up the aisle?) I thank God He didn’t throw me back! I was a colicky baby. I fussed when anyone called attention to my bad attitudes, stubbornness, sin. I became more of a pharisee than a lover of God and my neighbor. I had my moments of obedience and peace. I had a long way to go and still do in the sanctification process. It has dawned on me what an amazing thing Christ did for me and the dirty rotten sinner I am. I still need to go deeper in this reality. I’m so glad God keeps after me. If my memory serves me correctly I cooperated more in the sanctification process after my baptism in high school. I’ve had periods of growth and periods of “being asleep in my faith”. BUT – GOD IS FAITHFUL and His promises are true. I want to follow Him for the rest of my life. Every day I want to say, thank you for saving me, I’m yours Lord. Every day I want to seek Him. More and more, I’m looking forward to seeing Him “face to face”.

I read this classic hymn by John Newton (In Evil Long I Took Delight) in Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney and felt it appropriate to include with my testimony.

In evil long I took delight
Unawed by shame or fear;
Till a new object struck my sight
And stopped my wild career.
I saw one hanging on a tree
In agonies and blood;
Who fixed his languid eyes on me
As near his cross I stood.
Sure never till my latest breath
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with his death
Though not a word he spoke.
My conscience felt and owned the guilt
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins his blood had spilt
And helped to nail him there.
Alas, I knew now what I did
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.
A second look he gave which said
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid
I died that thou mayest live.”
Thus while his death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue;
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled;
That I should such a life destroy
Yet live by him I killed.

Olney Hymns, Book 2: On Occasional Subjects (London: W. Oliver, 1779).

Molokan Cemetery

           

By HUGO MARTIN
TIMES STAFF WRITER

Photos by AL SEIB / Los Angeles Times
Women in traditional dresses wander through the Russian Molokan Cemetery after attending the funeral of an elderly church member.
Danny Kanavalov and son Josh, of Bakersfield, walk through the graves at the Russian Molokan Cemetery in the City of Commerce.
EIGHTY-FOUR-YEAR-OLD Shasha Tolmachoff lives in Glendale, Ariz., but plans that when she dies, she will be buried in the City of Commerce, in the same dusty parcel where generations of Russian Molokans including her parents and in-laws have been laid to rest.
“It’s very comforting to be with them,” said the retired homemaker as she walked gingerly around the tightly packed tombstones at the Russian Molokan Cemetery on Slauson Avenue after attending the funeral of an elderly church member.
Tolmachoff is a member of a little-known Christian sect that broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1600s. About 60% of America’s church-going Molokans–about 3,000 people–live in Los Angeles. [Descendants of Molokans in LA County number over 20,000]. Molokan Since 1941, most of them have been burying their ancestors at the Slauson cemetery, sandwiched between a paper factory and a warehouse.
The 14-acre graveyard has about 2,500 graves and space for thousands more, free to dues-paying church members. Two smaller Molokan cemeteries in East Los Angeles are too small or too full to absorb many more graves.
In recent years, as commercial development has surrounded the Slauson cemetery and vacant land in Commerce has become scarce, banks and real estate firms have clamored to buy and develop the cemetery or its vacant 10 acres for nearly a half-million dollars an acre.
But the six Molokan churches that own the property have rejected all offers outright.
“If our people have put our blood, sweat and tears into this land, why move?” said Alex Goosseff”

Yesterday I posted a description of the Molokan religion.  I was raised in this community. My grandparents and other relatives are buried at this cemetery. In high school I chose to leave this religion because of some of their beliefs. The outfits you see on these ladies are what is worn by married women to church services, weddings, and funerals. Molokans wear white to funerals. For weddings and other services they wear white or pastels.

Molokans (Milk Drinkers)

 

 The following post on Molokans is a combination of material I copied from The Molokan Homepage, Wikipedia, and my own observations and additions about my families experience in the Molokan Church. I am italicizing my entries. This is a long post so I will shorten what appears on the post page and give you the option to continue reading more if you’d like. I’m organizing this material so my children and I have a better understanding of the history of Molokans and what we were brought out of by the grace of God. Tomorrow I’m posting an LA Times article on the Molokan Cemetery where my paternal grandparents and other relatives are buried.

 The Molokans (Russian: Молока́не) are a “Biblically-based” religious movement, among Russian peasants (serfs), who broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1550s. Molokans denied the Czar’s divine right to rule and rejected icons, Orthodox fasts, military service, the eating of unclean foods, and other practices, including water baptism. They also rejected the traditional beliefs (held by Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians) in the Trinity, the veneration of religious icons, worship in cathedrals, the adherence toward saintly holidays, and the decisions of Synods and Ecumenical Councils.

 The Molokans also called “milk drinkers” were persecuted by their countrymen and government, and were exiled to a remote area of Russia (Transcaucasia), where they lived and prospered for several generations. In 1833, there was a reported outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon a number of Molokans in the Transcaucasus region. This created a schism between Constants and the newly evolved Jumpers and Leapers. With what the Molokans believed to be an additional manifestation of the Holy Spirit, this new smaller sect began a revival with intense zeal and reported miracles that purportedly rivaled that of Christ’s Apostles. Condemnation from the Constant sect lead to betrayals and imprisonment for many of the Jumpers and Leapers, now called New Israelites by their anointed leader Maxim Rudometkin. Maxim Rudometkin, while he was in prison, wrote a spiritual book that was smuggled out by close friends and relatives who came to visit him that later become the basis for a sub-sect of the Molokan faith. This book, used as a companion to the Holy Bible, is known as the Book of Spirit and Life. Molokans who accepted this book and who followed Maxim’s interpretations of the Bible are known as Maximisti, which make up most of the Jumper and Leapers sect. (This was the group my family was a part of. Maxim classified them as the New Israelites, the new chosen ones). Continue reading

Take Every Thought Captive

I borrowed this photo from my sister Lana’s blog,  Above the Clouds. She wrote about how Bible Study can be illustrated with these Matryoshka dolls. I’m paraphrasing but the idea is that there is always more to find, deeper to go. I’m going to use this illustration in how God has been going into my mind, revealing thoughts that need to be captured for Him. Thoughts within thoughts within thoughts.

A few years ago I started to memorize Romans 12:1-3. This proved to be a mind changing experience for me. God began working on me in regards to my mind. He showed me wrong (sinful) patterns of thought that I entertained in my mind. He started with obvious big bad thoughts “the big outer doll”, if you will. Then He opened up doll after doll to show me how the wickedness in my mind was infecting my heart.  These thought patterns, fantasies, scenarios, rebuttals, defenses, gave me bad attitudes toward loved ones and wrong justifications about my behaviour. I knew God wanted me to say no to them. He showed me with practice in obedience to say no each time the same patterns would force their way into my mind. I had to say no a lot before some would desist! This was revolutionary for me. Mind you, we still have many more dolls to work on. Just look at all of them in that photo! :) Sometimes I even try to put the same dolls back together. I am looking forward to the day that I’ll meet my Savior “face to face” by His grace with the last solid doll in my hand!

The gals over at Titus 2 Talk blog posted a great quote from a book about Susannah Spurgeon that gave me further hope in this mind struggle.

“The God who can understand your thoughts ‘afar off’ has the power to restrain them; no, more than that; before they reach you, while they are yet distant and unexpressed, he will purify and cleanse them, so that they shall enter your heart as angel whispers, and pass your lips only as words of love and blessing.”

I with Susannah want to be brave enough to pray, “Dear Master, I make your servant David’s prayer my own and say ‘Search me O God and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Here are some passages to consider: Romans 12:1-3; Colossians 3:2; Psalm 26:2; Is. 26:3; Mt. 22:37; Rom. 8:5-7; Phil. 2:5

ht: http://www.cse.ucd.edu/~saul/images/matryoshka.jpg /