The following is an update email we sent out a couple of days ago. I thought I’d post it here for those who might not be on our email list.
It’s been a while since we’ve sent out a general email update to everyone just filling you in on the details of our life. I (Thomas) am writing this from the Siberian city of Novisibirsk, the third largest city in Russia. Some of our InterAct team members are here, and my being here to visit them is now part of my responsibilities. As always, there is so much to tell, and so little space to tell it. On top of that, I’m sure all of you don’t just have endless hours to sit and read a miniature autobiography, so I’ll try to keep things brief, but clear.
Since January, things have been up and down for us, but our God never changes! Before we left the States in January we found out that we were expecting. But, sadly, about 9-10 weeks into the pregnancy we lost the baby. And again, about a month ago we were excited again to learn that we were expecting once more. But, sadly, we have lost this one too only about 4 weeks into the pregnancy. While this has been tough for us, I can say honestly that the Lord is using this for his glory. Russia has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. The child in the womb is a “fetus” for most people, nothing more. This has been a tremendous opportunity for us to testify to the value of human life, and the goodness of God through every trial. Aside from the above we’ve had some relatively minor sniffles and coughs. Isaiah had a mild urinary tract infection, his first in over a year and a half! This is quite significant considering he had four the first four months we were in Russia. Also, we are thankful to announce that he appears to no longer have fever seizures. As some of you might know, in the past when he had UTIs his fever would jump up and he would have seizures as a result of this. This, of course would add a lot of stress to the situation. But during this past infection his fever on several occasions went up as high as 103 and he never once had a seizure! Praise God! We are still able to get very good health care, and we have yet to encounter a doctor here for Isaiah that has not just been taken with him, treating him so kind and gentle, and bearing with us when we do not understand medical terms in Russian. Please thank God with us that he continues to keep us healthy, especially for his wonderful care of Isaiah. And please pray that he would continue to keep Isaiah healthy and well. Also, we pray that he would grant us more children in his time.
Our Russian languages continue to progress by God’s grace. We still take lessons each week, and on top of that we strive to fellowship in Russian-speaking situations as much as possible. Some weeks we literally get 30+ hours of solid Russian time. It has helped us greatly. I have been able to preach on average once a month, and this has been a great blessing allowing me to improve these skills. When I started doing this at the end of last year I would always completely write out my sermon and basically read it, making very few extemporaneous comments. But, by God’s grace, in April I preached my first real extemporaneous sermon in Russia. There were, of course, some mistakes but we were greatly encouraged. For Cristy, her skills have become evident in her being able to talk more and more with her Russian friends. Also, during our most recent pregnancy we decided to try a different clinic. While they have a high standard of medicine at this clinic, the doctors do not speak English. But I watched (proud husband moment here) as Cristy talked with the doctor completely in Russian! Her skills continue to grow. Please thank God with us that he continues to open our minds to grasp this language, and please continue to pray for more and more understanding and conversational abilities.
It seems as of late that “Studies” and “Ministry” overlap more and more. While we do have actually Russian lessons, and while we do continue on a daily basis to review vocabulary, learn new grammar, and do exercises, so much of what we do in ministry gives us opportunities to practice our Russian. As I said above, I’m preaching on average once a month. Also, we have begun to more actively participate in a weekly small group meeting for the “youth” at our church (“youth” in Russia means young singles, usually 18 years and older). The group normally meets twice a month at our apartment and twice at another lady’s apartment. There is too much to say about this, but suffice it to say that the Lord has provided us with numerous opportunities to minister to young singles, almost all of who are first generation believers, not having been raised in Christian homes. On numerous occasions issues about marriage, family and child-rearing have come up, and we’ve had opportunities to comment on these things.
My duties with InterAct are expanding, and I’ve been given a few leadership roles within the organization to help out our current Russia field director. As some of you already know there are some very exciting projects going on amongst some of the native people groups of Siberia with whom we work. This includes the Bibles for Tuva project (www.biblesfortuva.com), and other projects that involve us helping to develop indigenous church leaders amongst both the Tuvan and Yakut peoples of Siberia. Watch for more about this in the coming months. But in summary let me say that the church in these two places continues to grow and native leaders continue to be raised up. As a result InterAct’s role is gradually becoming more like a “partnership” with these native churches, having progressed from a “parenting” stage. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done though, and the needs are many. We are by no means done! Please thank God with us that he is growing our ministry and service in his kingdom, and please pray that these opportunities would continue to grow. Please pray specifically for the Bibles for Tuva project (please visit the website listed above to read more about the project itself and the needs).
-There are some good possibilities on the horizon for us to receive more permanent visas to
stay in the country. Please pray that these would come through for us, potentially as early
as this fall.
-Please pray for wisdom in regards to us purchasing a car in Russia. We are currently waiting to see if we receive a more permanent visa this fall. Currently we are able to manage with Isaiah on public transportation, but it is getting a little bit harder as time goes on. We are beginning to see that in the not too distant future we will need to get a vehicle of our own. Vehicles here are a good bit more expensive than in the U.S. Good used vehicles start at about $8000.
So there’s a general update of what’s going on in our lives. We thank you greatly for your support and prayers. We’d love to hear from you sometime. You can, of course, email us at this address, or even call us (but please keep in mind the time difference). We have a great little system setup where you can dial a Mississippi telephone number and it reroutes to Russia, costing you nothing more than if you were calling Mississippi. If you have unlimited long distance then it’s free. That number is 601-620-4567. Also we have a
“Twitter” site. For those of you who know about Twitter, our site is found at www.twitter.com/theslawsons.
We’ll be back in the States for a few weeks starting in August. We hope to see all of you if the Lord allows.