Greetings from Russia! We have now begun our second year here in Rostov. On January 7th, we celebrated old calendar Christmas with much fanfare! A wonderful midnight Christmas liturgy on a beautiful, snowy night was enjoyed by quite a crowd at our church, just under the famous Rostov Bells. The babushkas and other parishioners of the church ensured our children received a deluge of candies and gifts.
On January 13th, our family was treated to another amazing performance at the Yolka festival. Since Russians focus on fasting and prayer prior to celebrating the birth of Christ, they celebrate with Christmas music programs and festivals after Christmas! Local kids dressed up, sang, danced, and acted out famous Russian fairytales. And once again, each of our eight children received an abundance of candy as a treat.
From January 27th until February 9th, we had the privilege of receiving guests from America. The Conrads (our cousins) were treated to lots of sightseeing, including a few grand road trips. We really enjoyed seeing them, and we enjoyed showing them around Moscow, Rostov, Suzdal, Vladimir, Borisoglebsky, and Sergiev Posad. We all got to see several famous Orthodox churches and monasteries. While they were here, we also got to experience a record snowfall. A big “Thank you!” to them for making the journey to experience Russia with us!
Just prior to Great Lent, we celebrated the festival of Maslenitsa in the community of Davydovo. The celebration began at 3:30 p.m. with the women and girls of the community at one end of the main road, and the men and boys at the other end of the road. They came together singing an old Russian folk song. A proclamation was read, and this kicked off the celebration. Lots of games were played including tug of war, jump rope, balancing on log and trying to knock your opponent off, climbing a pole to retrieve a message, snow ball fights, and much more. There was an abundance of blini (thin pancakes) and hot tea to offset the chilly, snowy weather. Lots of singing and dancing were also enjoyed by all. Fr. Vladimir and Fr. Joseph enjoyed each other’s company, while the children ran and played in the snow.
On the way home the kids and I got to experience sliding off the road into a snowbank. No one was hurt, including the car. Within five minutes five cars had stopped to help us. Like a well-oiled machine the men in those cars worked together to not only get our car back on the road, but also another car that slide off right after us. From trying to “lift our car” out, to calling for others to help, to comforting Kenneth when he was scared after the rope broke, those men went well out of their way to ensure we were safe and taken care of. We are extremely grateful to them for their help. Indeed, there is never a dull moment in Russia!
As I’m writing this, it is now Forgiveness Sunday, and we are entering Great Lent. I ask everyone to forgive me for any hurt I have caused because of what I have said or left unsaid, done or left undone. Please forgive me, a sinner. May God forgive us all, and grant us a spiritually beneficial Lent.