Dognapper - November 15, 2006
An international incident. I am afraid I have become a dognapper. I assure you it was quite unintentional. Cleo, the Smiths’ dog, while often a nice and well-behaved dog, sometimes, with no warning, turns into a disobedient troublemaker. So, I am blaming the entire incident on her.
Now, some would ask, why does Cleo have these moments of rebellion? Well, I have many theories. First, maybe she was taken away from her mother too early. I am sure removing a pup from her mother at too young an age can cause all sorts of psychological problems. Perhaps, Cleo feels insecure in this family. I am sure she notices the Smiths have lots of different people stay here for a time and then they leave. She might be fearful she will be asked to leave.
Maybe, the Smiths themselves are to blame. They are required to travel for the ministries they are involved in. This may cause Cleo to feel neglected and unimportant. It might even be Cleo simply cannot understand the instructions she is given. I am sure her native language is some dog dialect, and then we humans ask her to understand English, Russian, and Ukrainian. Finally, maybe she is just tired. I mean really, when does Cleo get to go on vacation? Being a guard dog is hard work. It requires late nights barking at passersby, early mornings barking at the milkman. It is a pretty thankless job. I mean, you should see some of the food she is served; I wouldn’t eat it.
For whatever the reason, Cleo likes to escape from the yard. Sometimes I chase her down the street, yelling at her to come back in English. Sometimes I have to track her for a good distance and haul her home by the collar; we are quite the spectacle. Sometimes when she gets out and we are on our way somewhere in the van, I will pull up beside her and tell her what a bad dog she is before I drive away.
Anyway, by far the worst incident and the reason for this journal is that one fateful morning. I let Cleo out of the yard for a nice run, like I do every morning. I left the gate door open for her so that she could come back in at her leisure. About a half an hour later I looked out the window to discover Cleo had returned, so I came back outside and shut and locked the gate. About an hour later I was in the kitchen and I saw Sergey, our friend and pastor, run by the kitchen window. Usually, when Sergey comes into the yard he comes into the house. Then, I saw him run by again. I couldn’t figure out what was going on so I went to investigate.
Sergey told me that when he pulled up the neighbor yelled at him and asked for their dog back. It seems that when I locked the gate I accidentally locked two dogs inside the yard instead of one. The dog was completely out of sorts. Sergey and I both had to shepherd him out the gate. I have no idea how Sergey explained it to the neighbor. He was very kind to me about it, and very politely told me that they would like to have their dog back and then nicely informed me that I shouldn’t keep other people’s dogs again.
So, I am quite sure I have a horrible reputation with all of the dogs in the neighborhood. I am sure they tell each other to watch out for me. I can’t imagine what the neighbors think of me.
A Little Frosty - November 15, 2006
Okay, so now I am cold! Friday it rained all day, cold, icy rain. Sarah and I stayed in all day, but then in the evening, we had to go to class. It didn’t seem that cold when we left the house, but after an hour and a half at the youth center and then sitting in our classroom for two hours, I was pretty frosty. We stopped to talk to a friend and then I offered to pray for him. At the end of the prayer, he told me that he could tell I was shivering. I still had to walk to the bus stop, wait forever for the bus, and then walk home from the bus stop.
This is the point of the journal that I mention we could have heat in our English classroom for only $500. Many other rooms, including the sanctuary and youth center, also need heat. If you would like to help, please feel free to send a gift. If you want to label it, “Poor Shushan is really cold,” I am sure it will get to the right place.
I really am concerned though. It is only the middle of November and I am already wearing long underwear all the time. (Sorry if that is too much information.) I keep reminding myself how thankful I am to have not been called to serve in Siberia. When I watch the weather in the evenings I really try to make myself feel better with how much colder it is in other places, but I don’t know how much longer that is going to help.
I am also a little concerned I am going to suffocate myself while I am sleeping. I keep burrowing further and further under the covers. The other day when I woke up I pulled the green blanket from over my head and I was in a cream colored room. Sarah and I have a blue bedroom, so I was a little startled. I thought, “Where am I?” Only then did I realize that I had pulled a second, cream colored blanket over my head as well. Really, I am concerned about the winter.
How Can I Help? - November 15, 2006
A quote I found that has been really challenging me is: “A dewdrop acts out the will of God as surely as a thunderstorm. God cares little about size; He cares immensely about service.”
I have been thinking a lot about service lately. I want to be a servant. I really desire to serve God, and I truly believe that Jesus set the example of serving others by washing the feet of his disciples. I fully believe that my love for God should be visible in my love for and service to others.
Last January I went to a conference on missions. It was a good conference. The speakers were great, there were a lot of great discussions, and it was good to hear some information I already knew presented in a different way. One of the topics was service. The speaker shared that a person cannot truly determine their own service, it can only truly be determined by those you serve. He went on to tell the story of a church group in the U.S. that traveled to Mexico and built a church.
Building the church was an act of service, and I am sure they had the purest of intentions. However, the people they built the church for did not feel they needed a church. They had been content with the building they had and could have used something else more. The speaker was illustrating the fact that there must be dialogue between those who want to help and the people they want to help. He talked about how important it is to not decide what needs to be done but to ask, “How can we help?” I really felt like this was something I knew. It was kind of a “no brainer” to me.
So, a couple of weeks ago Sarah and I were invited to a youth event in a neighboring town. We decided to go and I offered to drive the van. We told a couple of other people we were planning to attend and when they asked if they could ride with us, we said of course. This is something I would have done at home. In the States, if the church doesn’t have a van of its own, parents and other adults drive. My intent was purely to help out, and I did not even for a moment think about the fact that this might cause problems. Oh, but it did.
The plan was for everyone to ride the public bus. So, those who rode with us would not have to pay for their transportation, they would not have to walk to the event from the bus stop, they would have a more comfortable seat and a more comfortable ride. People who had not been invited to ride with us felt this was unfair. Mostly, feelings were hurt. And, even though it was completely unintentional and I had the purest of intentions, it was my fault.
In the end, I had to make some real apologies. The youth event was a great activity, but many of those who had originally planned to attend decided not to, and that really makes me sad. But, I am confident that God has and is using this. I think my apologies have helped me to develop a deeper friendship with a couple of the ladies at the youth center. I think it has helped them to see me as a real person. Just like them, I make mistakes.
It also helped me to see some of the things that are different here. I have to pay attention to things and think before I speak or act. Pastor Sergey and I were able to talk about why I am here, and in that conversation he gave me some wonderful insights into how to be more effective in ministry here and a better picture of my role at the youth center. I really don’t think I would have learned all of these great things without making a mistake.