Friday, October 28, 2005

Introduction to Debbie's Russia Trip 2005

This blog consists of the email reports from the russia short term mission that Debbie went on in late June 2005. The team consisted of (left to right) Art Swanson, Ken Briden, Debbie Zimmer and Gary Rodney. This document includes emails from all participants except Art. I didn't get on his email list.

As you will see, lots of exciting things happened on this trip. To read this in the correct order, you will need to go to the bottom of the page and read the last entry first.


Tom Zimmer

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Final - from Gary

From: Gary Rodney
Date: July 9, 2005 10:56:45 AM CDT
Subject: Final

Hello from the good ole U.S.of A. ,

After 29 hours of travel, waiting, we (Debbie and I) finally made it home. I fully enjoyed getting home, after drinking a huge glass of cold and delicious milk, I got a much needed good nights rest.

The trip was awesome, thank you so much for all of your love, prayer, and financial support. I look forward to sharing more about the trip in the very near future.

The lives that were changed, both ours as well as theirs, unbelievable! God is certainly on HIS throne.

This year, more then in years past, I have seen evidance of spiritual growth in the local churches. (especially from the Essentuki Church) The people, both young and not so young, have taken positive steps towards reaching their city for our LORD JESUS CHRIST!

I hope to return some day, as we once heard from General MacAuther, To Russia that is, whether it's next year or perhaps the following, it all depends upon the LORD.

Carla and I have purchased a new home up in Dundee, Oregon. ( new to us anyway, built in 1928 ) We hope to begin moving up that way in early August. Actually, Carla and Mairi will move first, as I will need to attend to the selling of our home here in San Jose.

Again, thank you for everything, lives were impacted and changed, thanks to you.



From the Field -- Final - from Ken

From: Ken
Sent: Saturday, July 09, 2005 4:12 AM
Subject: From the Field -- Final

Goodbyes are never good.
My gas tank is empty.
This is a very emotional time. You have no idea the feeling of putting a Bible in the hands, for the first time, of a Russian senior citizen who had no hope for a better tomorrow and absolutely no joy in his life. Art and I visited in the flat of this older couple this morning, him partially paralyzed from a stroke two years ago, and her barely able to get around and hardly able to say two sentences without crying over their circumstances.

What a joy to see the smiles on their faces after we told them about Jesus Christ and His promise for a lifetime in the riches of heaven for those who ask Him into their heart. We pointed out several verses of hope and encouragement for them as they marked the pages and underlined the verses so they could read them again later. This couple had been baptized as infants in the Orthodox Church and were "saved," but they knew nothing of the Bible. They didn't even own a Bible. The knew nothing of God's promises. Sure they had been baptized, they told us, but they hadn't lived a very good life. They felt they had no hope of ever seeing heaven.

Before we left, they prayed the prayer of repentance and asked Jesus into their hearts. The ladies' tears of hopelessness now turned into tears of gratitude. What a feeling of humility to see this dear lady change right in front of our eyes. What a feeling of joy to see the smiles on their faces as we talked about being in heaven together. What a feeling of thankfulness to have her empty several years worth of tears and frustrations on my shoulder when we were beginning to leave. I told them that we were going to do a dance together when we meet in heaven, but they probably won't recognize me there. When I get to heaven, I'm going to be skinny.

I relate this only because I want you to know how God works. When we are at our weakest, His strength is manifested. I didn't have the energy to go out this morning. I didn't want to go. I thought all my energy was spent. But God answers all prayers, and He answered my prayer for strength and energy.

And two more dear souls will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

There is such a hunger to hear the Word here. There is such a need. The Russian people want hope for a better tomorrow. They want to know about a Father in Heaven who loves them and promises them a place in Heaven if only they ask Him into their heart. They need someone to turn to who will lovingly and patiently explain to them the Gospel. Unfortunately, the Orthodox church doesn't do it.

We don't speak the same language. We don't have the same culture. We don't have the same music or the same holidays. But we do have the same Father, the same Jesus Christ, the same Holy Spirit, and the same Word of God. We also have the same needs -- the need to love and to be loved, the need for assurance of a hope for a better tomorrow.

While talking to the people, we prefer to concentrate on what we have in common. Oh sure, we were occasionally challenged: Why don't you cross yourself after you pray? Why do you not read your prayers? Why do you not pray to the Blessed Virgin? But most of the people respected our differences and focused on our similarities.

We tried to dispel some myths, and they listened to us. Many of the Orthodox feel their salvation can be inherited from their parents or grandparents. Many feel that because their parents had them baptized as infants then they are automatically saved. Many feel that because they wear a cross around their necks, then they are saved or at least protected from evil. Many feel that simply because they occasionally attend the Orthodox Chuch, then their soul will go to heaven when the time comes. Many feel they need to cross themselves after every prayer, or read their prayers, or have a priest pray for them, or light a candle in front of an icon as they pray. They don't know that God hears our prayers whether we are standing, sitting, kneeling, or even flat on our backs. Not many of they know about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

And they received the message in a positive way. Why? Perhaps it was because we were Americans. Perhaps it was because they were going to get some free food out of it. Perhaps it was just to be polite. Pernhaps it was because their priest had never taken the time or the initiative to explain the Gospel to them. Whatever the reason, they heard the message. They prayed the prayer of repentance.

Were they born again? Did they repent? Will their life change? I don't know. I am told to spread the seeds. The rest is up to God. I am convinced, though, that some of them are now born again Christians from the Orthodox tradition. Slava Bogu (Praise God).

It has been a blessed three weeks -- or has it been four? Who's counting?

Gary and Debbie left yesterday, so we end like we began with just Art and myself. I wanted to stay through Sunday so I would have one more opportunity to speak to my brothers and sisters at the Baptist Church. This is their home, and it is not easy being a Baptist Christian in Russia. They need encouragement to carry on. They need to know that they have brothers and sisters in America praying for them. I again pray for strength, for my emotional energy is spent. But I know that when I am weakest, then He is strongest.

Go to the store, dear, and buy a gallon of milk. I'm a-comin' home.

Thanks for all your e-mails of encouragement and all your prayers. You are loved and appreciated.

From the mission field,


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Last E-Mail from Russia - from Gary

From: Gary Rodney
Date: July 6, 2005 4:22:14 AM CDT
Subject: Last E-Mail from Russia

Hey Everybody,

Well, in all likelyhood, this will be our last
E-mail from mother Russia. We finish up tomorrow morning and then have our farewell party tomorrow evening. We'll say our farewells and then Debbie and I are off the following morning, bright and early. Well, maybe not so bright, but certainly early. We get up at 3 AM and have to be at the airport at 5 AM our flight departs at 7:40 AM and we don't get into SFO til 9:35 PM July 8th. We have 2 hours in Munich and 4 hours in Boston. We will go through customs in Boston and will arrive in SFO, via UA-181 (United Airlines) {Domestic}
Tomorrow morning we will say our goodbyes (final prayer time) from on top of the hill behind the hospital. This has been the tradition since the beginning. We begin and end in this fashion.
We have seen many lives changed, both theirs and ours, we will never quite be the same. For the first time in 7 trips, I feel a confidance that the Russion people will be able to carry on in this vital ministry. Our Lord is so faithful.
In conclusion, I wish to express our appreciation and gratitude for the many prayers that have been lifted up in our names, and for the many of you who have been part of our financial support team.

May God bless each and every one of you

In HIS grip
G,D,A,& K

One more day - from Debbie

From: Debbie Zimmer
Date: July 6, 2005 4:24:56 AM CDT
Subject: one more day

This morning Gary was saying how he felt conflicted. He was anxious to get home but that would mean leaving many new friends, possibly never to see again. He took the words right out of my heart. You know the feeling, when you want to go but don't want to leave at the same time. I feel I've developed some good relationships especially with Luba and Natasha. We spend a lot of time laughing togeather. We had dinner at Natasha's. Cabbage rolls, better than the ones at the Kolos but Gary still wouldn't eat them. Her husband came home from a business trip and we all talked just like old friends. He said it felt like we were family.
As Ken keeps saying, "be flexible". We had discussed wheather we would go to camp Thurs or spend the day doing last minute things, aka shopping. After looking to me as to how much shopping time to allow for, we decided to spend one more day with the kids. Well I guess we forgot to inform Luba because she told the director that Weds. would be our last day and today when Tanya asked us we told her we would indeed be there and then when Luba came at noon with driver Sergei, she was a little put out that we had changed the plan. I think it's a case of too manys chiefs. So tomorrow we will go back up to hospital hill to pray again for the city, go to camp for a short while to say goodbye and bring any leftover craft supplies and encourage them to continue in their relationship with Jesus. Then shopping and farewell party with interpreters, drivers, etc. This may be my last e-mail depending on what tomorrow brings. I know that God is working in this country even tho' we see many problems. But we forget that they have been living in spiritual darkness for a long time. God is still on the throne as Ken said in one of his sermons and how arrogant it would be to think that the progress will stop just because we leave. We see great promise in Arkady, Tonnia, Pastor Victor and the Essentuki church. Patience I think is a key word here. As Reg said once, God is never late. So our prayers will continue for this part of the country that the message of the gospel will be spread bringing hope and joy to Kislovosk.
So da svidanya Alla, Stas, man in the red shirt, all the kids at camp and to all of our good friends. Hopefully we will meet again. If not here then in the sky with Jesus. Slava Bogu, (praise God)

From the Field -- 7 - from Ken

From: Ken
Sent: Wednesday, July 06, 2005 3:30 AM
Subject: From the Field -- 7

It's funny what you think of when you've been away from home and everything familiar for awhile.

Art says his first evening home, he's going to buy him a gallon of ice cream, a bag of patato chips, and watch a movie on TV.

Debbie says she just wants to take a shower and not worry about whether her mouth is open or not.

Gary says he is dreaming about a big tall glass of cold milk and hugging his grandchild.

I say, "Amen to that, brother." Please, dear, no mashed potatoes for awhile -- say the next forty or fifty years. No meat patties of unknown origin either.

We are winding down to a precious few hours. We had our last opportunity to preach the message of salvation to the pensioners today. What a wonderful feeling of leaving with the memory of all the smiles and the many kind words. There were a few ladies who had been to hear the message three and four times. I wish I had a tape recorder to remember all the kind words they wanted me to pass along to our sponsors in America. One person wanted me to tell "everyone" in America that she loved them. I'll begin by passing the word on to you. I'll tell everyone else when I get back in the good old U.S.ofA.

We have two more Bible studies on Wednesday and Friday.

By the way, the 4th of July doesn't get a very big play here in Southern Russia. Thanks to Debbie remembering to bring napkins with the flag displayed prominently on one flap, we had a mini-celebration. She gave out the napkins to many of our friends in the dining room, and we received a few Happy Birthday America's and many smiles.

I understand from Vera that some of my e-mail from the Internet Cafe has not gotten through. Hope this one makes it.

All is well. No sickness. Spirits high (except around mashed potato time).

Love from where the sun shines while you sleep,


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Tuesday noon report - from Debbie

From: Debbie Zimmer
Date: July 5, 2005 4:14:27 AM CDT
Subject: tues noon report

Preevyet y'all,

2nd day with the older kids. In the morning I'm feeling draggy like I can't do this again but once we get there and they start saying hello to us my outlook changes. Before I know it, the time with them is over. Only 2 days left. What a difference a few years make. Most of them are more attentive and cooperative especially at craft time. They really like making the lanyards and necklaces. They ask for more. Thurs. we'll bring what's left and let them make what they can. We learned a new game from them called "creek". kinda like london bridge but you grab someone on the way thru. Even grownups enjoy it. Some boys were playing with a skateboard. For a while I was thinking about trying it, maybe sitting down but then there was this little voice "remember the cartwheel?" Ok, well, maybe not. We play on a schoolyard and the principal told us to move because we might break the windows. With water balloons? Natasha (interpreter) said she was just trying to be important. So we moved about 10 feet and ignored her. There was someone watching us from the doorway to the school the whole time. Maybe she just wished she was playing instead of being 'watchdog'. Going to celebrate Tanya's birthday at lunchtime. Will bring the blouse that Luba and I picked out at the market. Luba sure has good taste. Ken gave me 1000 rubles (700 = $25) Luba wouldn' let me look at "cheap" things. Ended up with a knit top for 650. Dinner tonight at Natasha's. We're hoping for pizza. Our time here is drawing to a close. We're planning times of departure and last minute shopping (at least I am) Well, time for another trip up and down the 62 steps. What will I do for excercise when I get home?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Catch Up - from Debbie

From: Debbie Zimmer
Date: July 4, 2005 4:14:42 AM CDT
Subject: catch up

First of all, Happy Independance Day! Arkady asked me yesterday if we had day of independance tomorow. I said "nyet, I don't think so". I thought he was asking if we had a day free. He had to remind me of my own holiday. This morning I brought flag napkins to breakfast and passed them out to people we had an aquaintace with. I pointed to the 4 on my watch and said "Happy Birthday America". They understood. The kids at camp wished us a happy independance day also. They know their history. Wish I could say the same for our kids.
Now to catch you up on the last couple of days. Art and I went on a visit to 2 homes. The first was a mother, Alla and 15yr. old son, Stas. After initial greetings and asking about church attendance, Art asked them if they knew where they would go when they die. With so little time, we get right to the point. Alla said it was hard to be sure. Just the opening we were waiting for. I told her it was very easy, actually. Would she like to know? Testimony and gospel presentation followed. Art brought his bible and looked up actual verses so she wouldn't take my word that the Bible said such things. He thought I repeated the part about 'works, like church attendance and baptism, being good things to do, but they don't get you to heaven' too much but in the end they prayed the prayer of salvation and as we left I asked if they were going to heaven. Alla said emphatically, "Da !" The second home was more difficult. A mother, Elena, with a 19 year old son, Boris, who has infantile paralysis. Natasha and Art sat down across the room but since I was the 'designated knee patter', I sat on the couch next to Boris and started talking to him. He knew some english and managed to talk slowly but understandably. He also smiled when talked to. They both talked about their difficult life but faith in God. Boris even talks to his neighbor about Jesus. I told him he was a missionary just like we were. We prayed for them before we left. We were all pretty quiet on the way down the stairs. Just breaks your heart. Dinner that evening with a couple of sisters who are helping at camp and their parents. We had homemade pizza. It wasn't Round Table but it was good. Church at Essentuki Sunday. Contemporary service. The young people probably outnumbered the older. They joined us in misnistry at the lake last night. We anticipated something like the park but when we got there it was like a small amusement park. We started singing but no one was paying much attention until a women came up and asked us not to sing too loud. How can you compete with a jumpy house and rides. Ken finally grabbed bunch of new testaments and took of with Natasha in tow. I thought what the heck, what's the worst that could happen except we get kicked out. Some accepted the bibles and tracks for the kids but only one man let me show him the evange-cube. He wasn't interested. Ken, Natasha, Art and myself left and Gary stayed behing with pastor Victor and the young people playing games and singing. Some people came up later and they had a chance to talk to them.

Gary felt like the evening was a failure in respect to ministry but I reminded him where that thought came from and it was God's job to direct the evening. Maybe it was suppose to be a time of fellowship with each other. In retrospect, things happened just the way our goal is for the trip. Their young people stepped up to the plate and were in control. So I think our prayers are answered in that respect. ok, i guess I've rambled on long enough.
Until our next adventure,

Re: Day 1, week 2 - from Gary

From: Gary Rodney
Date: July 4, 2005 4:07:14 AM CDT
To: carla rodney
Subject: Re: Day 1, week 2

Hey everyone,

we began week 2 this morning, with a new group of youth. This group consists of 18 or so older youth, 12 through 18 maybe 20 ?????
We attempted to have a street ministry in Essentuki last evening, but we ran across huge barriers. The lake that we went to, was next to an amusement park. It's difficult to compete with amusement type rides compared to a frisbee and ball. It seemed to me, that the evening was a failure in comparason to our previous attempts. We sang alot of songs and they seemed to enjoy, but they wouldn't accept the literature or bibles from us. Ken, Art, and Debbie gave up and went back to the Kolos. I stayed a little while longer, although I felt like giving up as well.
Just before we sang our last song, I noticed 4 young women sittig off to the side, I motioned for Tanya and Olga (youth from the Essentuki church) to talk with them and to give out the literature. Others from our group started talking to people as well. WOW!
OK LORD, I get the picture, this is your ministry and not ours. Pastor Victor had planned on leaving early, but upon seeing the activity, decided to stay. I left shortly there after but the Essentuke Youth plus Pastor Victor stayed on.
While driving home, we saw Mt El Brus in the distance, with the sun shining off of the snow caps, WOW again! God is still on His throne, He is still in control. This is exactly what we have been praying for! For the Russian people to reach out to their neighbors and minister to them, instead of the Americans. Thank you Jesus.
Thank you for allowing us to come.

In HIS Strength
team 11 or maybe 12 (I lose track)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

From the Field -- 6 - from Ken

From: Ken
Sent: Jul 3, 2005 3:03 PM
Subject: From the Field -- 6

Where has the time gone? I can't believe we have only one week left.

On the one hand, it seems like we have been here forever. And on the other hand, it seems like we just arrived.

When it concerns my family, friends, and all things familiar, it seems like we have been here a mighty long time -- forever and a day, as they say. I suppose we have been. We've been here long enough that I'm not even bothered by Sergei's driving anymore. For those of you not familiar with Sergei, we affectionately call him

If your blood was tired when you got into his car, it will sure be pumping when you get out.

And I confess, I would sure like to give my wife and my grandkids a big hug. Oh -- and my kids, too. (That was said just for the benefit of my kids, so they will have something to fuss about.) But there is still much left to be done here.

On the other hand, we have been so busy that time seems to have flown by. Since our team is smaller this year, we do have a little more down time -- but certainly not enough to bring on boredom. I preach to the pensioners every morning and have a Bible study every other afternoon while taking food and comfort to shut-ins on the opposite afternoons. Gary, Art, and Debbie minister to the children every morning, and they also visit shut-ins in the afternoon.

This morning (Sunday) we fellowshipped with our brothers and sisters at the Gospel Church of Yessentuki, where we shared Communion with them. It was wonderful to sing "This Is the Day That the Lord Has Made" and a few other familiar praise songs with them. Their Russian words and our English words blended into a sound that was pleasant to hear, and I'm sure the Lord felt that way. We're going back to Yessentuki this evening to have a special service by the lake, to have an outreach program for those who are unchurched and possibly unbelievers.

We have also fellowshipped in different homes nearly every evening. We sometimes need to divide up in order to fill all the requests. Our hosts just want to chat with us, tell of their many problems and difficulties, as well as ask questions which they feel sure that we, being Americans, will have all the answers. We are honored to have so many friends here, and they always put much more food on the table than we can possibly consume in three meals. We are told that they will sacrifice food for themselves in order to serve us. It is touching. We leave a little gift of money in a gift bag to help pay for the meal. It's the least we can do.

I hit the wall along toward the end of last week. It seems like all my energy and emotion had been spent, but I've since gotten my second wind. Just pray that we, like the Apostle Paul says, can finish the race the way we began.

The police have really been out in force the last few days. It seems like there was a terrorist attack in Takestan, a country not far from here. It is in the Caucasus Mountains, but far enough that there is no real threat in Kislovodsk. In a Police State like Russia, whenever you see a lot of police, they are usually more of a harrassment than a protection. But when they learn that we are Americans, they usually let our driver pass through the barricades with little more than a cursory search of his trunk or a cautious appraisal of the passengers. No problem. Just part of living and serving in Russia. I'm sure happy I'm not dark complected, though.

So far, there has been no illness. Spirits are high, and God is in control.

I send my love from old Mother Russia,


Team stuff - from Gary

From: Gary Rodney
Date: July 3, 2005 5:00:20 AM CDT
To: Carla Rodney
Subject: team stuff

Hello everybody,

We serve an awesome God! He is ever faithful to our every need. We have been busy,(to say the very least) the first week of camp was successful, and tomorrow we begin the 2nd (week) we worked with the young children last week and with the older youth this week. The youth from the local churches are great, they assist us as well as leading themselves. We are going to a local lake this evening, where we will hold a varation of our street ministry. I'm not exactly sure what to expext, but I'm sure that GOD has a plan. More about that tomorrow,.
We are all doing well, We're looking forward to being with you all again real soon. We fly from Min Vodi on Friday, July 8th, to Munich, Germany. and then from there we fly to Boston, where we will go through customs. from there we will go to SFO (domestic flight)
We still have a full week ahead of us, so we can't let down just yet.
We want to thank each of you for remembering us in your prayers, we can certainly feel them. The team as a whole, sort of hit the wall on saturday, but this morning after a good nights rest (the first real restfull night that I've had anyway) We attended the church in Essentuki.

I'll write more later

Das-Vee Dan-Ya

Friday, July 01, 2005

good-byes - from Debbie

From: Debbie Zimmer
Date: July 1, 2005 3:53:30 AM CDT
To: Carla
Subject: good-byes

Well, today was the last day of camp for one group of youngters. they were about 6 - 12 years old. Lots of quick hugs but no tearful goodbyes like at the orphanage. They all have families and are well taken care of but I will miss seeing their little faces. Next week we expect around 15. They will be young teenagers. Many will be unchurched we are told so the stories may be new to them. Hopefully the craft time will be less hectic.

Poor Art. Trying to get a 6yr. old to tie a lanyard about did him in. The noise level may be more to his liking as well.
During our devotion time today a pretty brunette came up to Ken and asked to see him in her room later. He said "ok". I raised an eyebrow at him. Turns out she's the doctor. I told him that would make my e-mail.

We went to a cell group bible study last night. About 13 of us crowded around a table filled with food. Made me feel right at home. I can't quite find the right words to describe how it felt to read God's word together in different languages but still feel a real unity. People of course asked if we were coming back. All I could say is that I would like to but we would see how God leads and I would tell them the story of how I came to be on this team. I quess that's the hardest part. The not knowing if we will ever see these new friends again this side of heaven. Lunch is near and my stomach is getting used to 3 course meals.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

From the Field -- 5 - from Ken

From: pochta
To: Kenneth Briden
Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2005 9:19 AM
Subject: From the Field -- 5

The Bible says we have not because we ask not. It also tells to ask and we will receive.

Before we left the States, I prayed that we would have a harvest here like we've never seen before.

I'm happy to tell you that prayer is being answered. I stand amazed at God's power We still have a little over a week to go, and if the next week is anything like this week, I might just float home on the clouds. I wish you could be here and be a witness. Thanks for your prayers. Keep them coming.

Every day Luba is so excited when we leave the Senior Center after presenting the message of salvation. "Oy, Ken. Thees was the best ever. It was just the right words."

"Luba, that's what you said yesterday."

"Oh, reely. Well, thees was the best since yesterday."

The room is filled to capacity every day, and the people don't want the sermon to stop. As I said before, I wish you could be here, for you are a vital part of this ministry.

The Church camp is also going well, as well as the street ministry. It's nice to have our full team together now. We have come to be known as the "Four States Team," since we have one from Oregon (Gary is moving there as soon as he returns to the States, one from California, one from Texas, and one from Missouri -- although we all have roots in California.

I found a Diet Coke in a kiosk downtown a few days ago. Things are looking up. I marvel at the changes that have taken place in Kislovodsk since we first came in 1993. The place used to be so dark, but it is really lit at night now. There used to be very few cars, and now traffic is almost as thick as back home in Bolivar. And to top it off, many Russians are walking around with a phone dangling from their ear. Not all progress is beneficial.

We send our love from the other side of the world,

Ken for the Four States Team

Hips ok - from Debbie

On Jun 30, 2005, at 7:54 AM, Debbie Zimmer wrote:


thanks for negotiating around my typing error. I was starting to wonder what happened to you. It's been quite a trip so far. Not much success with the vbs. they've seemed to have heard it all before. but leading 7 girls to Christ last night was worth the trip alone. went shopping today at the porcelin? factory. didn't get too carried away. Gary kept reminding me that I had to carry it. Luba kept showing me 'pretty things'. My hip is ok, but sitting a long time gets uncomfortable. Please clean the kitchen before your mom comes. Could you call my mom and let her know I'm ok, since she doesn't have e-mail. Say hello to everyone for me.
Love you too. Thank you for your sacrifice in letting me trek all over the world.


Re: day 4 - from Gary

From: Gary Rodney
Date: June 30, 2005 7:48:40 AM CDT
To: carla rodney
Subject: Re: day 4

Hello Everybody,

Greetings from the other side of the world.

Last evening was our first opportunity for street ministry. We had close to 90 or so young people of various ages.
We played games, sang songs, shared testimonies, and told the gospel message.

Debbie was awesome, she had the opportunity to share the gospel with 7 young ladies, all 7 asked CHRIST into their hearts! Way to go Deb.
We had another 15 0r so, pray within the large group, and another 2 after the main thrust. Praise God!!
Debbie has finally received her first E-mail, way to go Tom. What about you Pam? you can route your letters through Carla if you would like.

Just mark for Debbie or for ART or for Ken or for ???????
We had a little down time this afternoon, we had the chance to do alittle shopping at the porcelon factory.
You can be very proud of this team, you can be assured, that your prayers are being heard.
May the love of Christ be with all of you.

From the field
gary, Debbie, Art, & Ken

Let it rain - from Debbie

From: Debbie Zimmer
Date: June 30, 2005 7:46:11 AM CDT
To: Carla
Subject: let it rain

Last night we went to do street ministry in a park by Vera's apartment building. Gary had warned us that we might be surrounded by youth asking questions about America. Sounded rather intimidating. I was hoping for rain so we wouldn't go. Turns out so was Gary and Art. No rain. We went.

Gary was giving his testimony to a large group and I noticed some young girls come up behind me. I went to them to say hello and pretty soon I was doing the evangecube to about 7 plus one old woman. I had an interpreter. One girl in particular, Christina, seemed anxious for me to finish and ask the question. When I asked if anyone wanted to ask Jesus into their lives and be friends with God, she quickly and enthusiastically said yes. I even tried to discourage them from answering if they were not sincere. One girl seemed to be dragging her friend along. But Christina seemed anxious to 'get on with it.' So after some discussion we prayed and I had them all tell me out loud that they believed in Jesus for forgivenes of their sin. It was as if nothing else was going on. Pretty soon Gary came up behind me and let me know it was time to go. I now have 7 new sisters in Russia and they have one in Texas. I took names and gave Christina my address. She speaks english fairly well. This morning we were discussing how good it was that God didn't have it rain even though we wished for it. "Oh yes it did" I said. "His Spirit was raining down on that park that night." We got back to town and celebrated with ice cream. I bought. Although I had to ask for a loan from Ken, cause I didn't bring any money.
By the way, you can send messages to the team or me personally at (Editor's Note: Removed email address)
I don't know if Carla or Vera has the address for rfunburk, but they would like to be removed from the list. Thanks. Doing a bible study tonight at Yessentuki church. I hope they don't want to discuss predestination or anything to heavy.
God is Good.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

from Debbie

From: Debbie Zimmer
Date: June 29, 2005 4:29:55 AM CDT
To: Carla
Subject: from Debbie

There are so many things I'd like to take pictures of and show you but I'd probably get in trouble. Like the man taking off his pants to wash them in the fountain, the policemen with the funny hats etc. 3rd day with the kids today. I think the newness is wearing off. Although we are still well received, they are acting more like normal children. Crowd control is an issue sometimes. Did some home visits the last couple of days. Met some nice older women who were very appreciative of our visit and the food we brought. Ken and I went together and Gary and Art did the same.

Yesterday, Gary and I went to see Maxim. He is crippled because of back surgery gone bad. But he is a Christian and has a great attitude. He loves America, especially rock & roll and cowboy stuff. Gary brought him a vest and sherrif badge. He'll probably sleep in it. He was a great encouragement to us. Everyone we visit wishes us good health and success. Gary presented the gospel at the kids camp today. Several kids stood up but you're not sure if it is sincere or just to please us. One of the boys, 10 yrs.old?, is our coworker's brother and as far as he knows has never prayed to receive Christ before. Slava Bogu! Gary and I wandered around the open air market looking for crayons and paperclips. We found one box of clips. It was dusty and kind of beaten up, but it's what we needed. Thanks God.
Pam, did I leave my SD card there? I think I remember puttng it in a safe place, but trying to remember what I did with it is driving me crazy. It's almost time for another 3 course meal. I don't think I'll be losing weight here. Gotta go

Time's up.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Day # 2 - from Gary

From: Gary Rodney
Date: June 28, 2005 3:57:39 AM CDT
To: Carla Rodney
Subject: day # 2

Hi Everybody,

We are doing well and so far, no one has heard from Mr Lenin (as in Lenin's revenge)

Today we completed our 2nd day of camp. Wow, what a pleasure. We arrived at 9:45 to hear the children singing with Arkady and friends. Debbie did an awesome job with the lesson, as well as the craft. The small group leaders assisted with the craft, we made bead crosses. The children loved them. I was prepared to run the games, but instead, Valya, Marina, and Arkady headed up that time. hmmmmmmmmmm? maybe I wasn't need after all! smile

Last night, we all went over to Laressa and Hussains for chickin shosleak (bar - B - Q) we went up into the hills overlooking K - town. it was beautiful. the food was very tasty. We even had chocolate cake made by Brad Hansons wife Karen. Brad is the pastor of the local penecostal church. for those of you who remember Daniel, Brad is his father.

Tonight, we are going to have dinner at Veras home. Vera has been one of our co-workers since forever. We only need a small number of interpreters this year, so we are only using Luba, Natasha, and Arkady. Ira is too busy with school. (yes Carla, I did give out all of your letters.

Debbie and I are scheduled to visit with my friend Maxim this afternoon, I look forward to the time with him.

I'll attempt to E-mail on somewhat of a regular basis from here on out. There is a new internet cafe right across the street from the Kolos. ( the building by the bus stop)

For those of you who know Art Swanson, please do me a favor and Drop him an E-mail, encouraging him, it's always nice to hear from back home.

Tom Zimmer, are you hearing that????

til later, pa-ka


From the Field -- 4 - from Ken

Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2005 3:50 AM
Subject: From the Field -- 4

Ministering in Russia is both very easy and very challenging.

On the one hand, the Russian people are no different from anywhere else in the world. They want and need what everyone wants and needs. They want to love and to be loved. They want to be able to feed their families. They want to talk and to be listened to. They want to be understood. They want to be accepted and encouraged. As we take food into their humble apartments, they welcome us with open arms and warm hearts. They are so very grateful (and even humbled) to have American visitors in their homes and in their lives, if even for a short time. They are so very thankful that we are there to listen to them and to sympathize with them. One trip to Russia, and one visit into a Russian apartment, makes most Americans realize just how much God has blessed those who live in America.

The challenging part comes in the communication, and I'm not talking about English to Russian and vice versa. For 70 years, they lived under a communist government that told them there was no God. However, during that time the Grandmothers and Grandfathers did what they could to keep God alive in the hearts of the young people. It was dangerous to own a Bible during this time, so the elder generation did what they could and told stories from the Bible. Consequently, the older generation of Russians learned from the stories, traditions, and myths. Their religious knowledge does not come from the Bible, but from what they have been told.

Russians have always been under the control of an authority figure, and that authority figure, when it concerns their spiritual life, is either their priest or their pastor. Unfortunately, as I have been told by many people, Russian Orthodox priests do not encourage their people to read the Bible. They tell them what they want them to know. Even in the Baptist church here, the people are fairly well controlled and dominated by the pastor.

Some of the myths can be listed as follows:

There is a belief that if a person is baptized as an infant, they are saved.

There is a belief that if a person wears a cross around his neck, then he is saved and protected from all evil.

There is no assurance of salvation. When you cross death's door, your good deeds had better outweigh your sins.

There is no personal relationship with Jesus. The Russsian Orthodox people do not know how to pray. All of their prayers are read or recited.

Orthodox believers feel you must make the sign of the cross after a prayer. If you don't, then you must not be a Christian.

I walk a thin line in talking to the Seniors here. On the one hand, I don't want to offend anyone and be critical of the ROC (Russian Orthodox Church), and yet I want to speak with truth and clarity. Probably 95% of the people listen with rapt attention, apparantly grateful that someone is taking the time to explain various things to them. There are a few others who challenge what I either said or did not say. I welcome the questions. I didn't come here to argue or to spread confusion. I came here in Christian love, and they respect that.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) we begin a Bible study. We are never sure how many will respond to this invitation. The room where we meet will hold no more than 40 people, maybe 50 if they are very good friends, and we are prepared for the maximum. We will talk tomorrow about how to have a personal relationship with Jesus and how to pray to Him without having to read the prayers. I will also answer whatever question may be asked. Please keep these Bible studies in your prayers.

It's good to have our team altogether now that Debbie and Gary have arrived. They are doing a great work with the youth, and I will let their e-mails describe their work. In the meantime, I send my love from the other side of the world. Thanks for supporting us through your prayer, gifts, and e-mail.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Preevyet from Kislovodsk - from Debbie

From: Debbie Zimmer
Date: June 27, 2005 4:06:02 AM CDT
Subject: preevyet from Kislovodsk

Gary and I are in the Internet Cafe. This is the first chance we've had to write. Tom, Ken does not have his computer here. The trip over was long but broken up by a stop in Wash. DC and Munich. We spent the day there at the Sheraton. At least 3 stars. Wandered thru the village and with what little German I know managed to get something to eat. A prayer was answered already. We were walking down the street and what did I see in a parking lot, but motorcycles. And Harleys, at that! The owner was from Maine. Has been there since '98. He showed us around. That was totally cool. But alas, he didn't have t-shirts, so a picture will have to do. As I was sitting around my second helping at the breakfast buffet, I'm thinking, "now this is a mission trip!" In Kislovodsk, Gary and I are in the new building of the sanatorium. It is pretty nice. I especially like the fact that I have a seperate shower pan and curtain so I don't have to put the t.p. and towels outside the door to take a shower. The toilet paper is not as corse and I have a fridge in my room. I could start to feel guilty about this. But we still can't drink the water and I do have the hardship of walking up 4 flights of stairs. Gary is on the 2nd. I guess he thought I could use the excersise. Kislovodsk seems to be more cheerful in general. More people walking and smiling and generally friendly. There is new and refurbishing of buildings. Everyone has a cell phone. Definate Western and European influence. Today was our first with the kids. We have a couple, Arkady and his wife Tonnya doing music since we don't know too many Russian songs. We hope to learn some tho'. They look like fun. Gary did the story and things were going along pretty smoothly until he said "and now for craft time. Debbie will show you how to do lanyards" I'm sure I had the 'deer in the headlights'look. After the initial onslaught of kids trying to hand you theirs to start for them, they were catching on. Better than the adults. Our driver came to pick us up at 11:50. And that gives Gary and me time to write home. Not sure when the next opportunity will be. Home visits ths afternoon with a dinner at someone's house tonight. Yesterday we went to two different churches. The first was traditional Baptist and the evening one was actually a youth service, run by their young people. We took part in the games. Luba and I are quite a team. They fed us pastries and tea. Gary was telling them about street ministry and they were excited to help. So we are arranging to do that in their city as well. They are a very energetic and spiritually alive group of young people. We got excited just talking to them. Arkady found out about my motorcycle exploits and thinks it's funny for a "beautiful woman", his words, to have such a different side. He had me show my pictures to the youth. They had lots of questions. I'm trying to keep a journal so I can share stories with you all when I get back. I wish several of you could be here with me and experience all this. Maybe another time, who knows.
Lunch time. Remember, you can e-mail us through Luba's address.

Friday, June 24, 2005

From the Field -- 3 - from Ken

From: pochta
To: Kenneth Briden
Sent: Friday, June 24, 2005 6:49 AM
Subject: From the Field -- 3

It was a typical Russian meeting. What more can you say?

Art, Luba, and I entered the rented room and were greeting by some 60 smiling faces and a few old grouches (but not many). It took awhile before we could get to the front of the room because so many wanted to greet us personally. In that setting, at that very moment, I forgot all about the lo-o-o-o-ng plane ride, the difficulties with raising the money, the airport waiting, the heavy suitcases, etc., etc., etc.

As Vladimir was making the introductions, many kept saying, "We know. We know." In other words, "Let's get on with it."

It was easy to speak to all those smiling faces. They were warm and receptive, and the Holy Spirit just took over. I think I referred to my notes on about the first paragraph. From then on, everything just flowed. What a wonderful feeling!! Several held up their hands to ask Jesus into their lives. Luba was ecstatic after the meeting.

"Ken, those were just the right words. They were right on the mark."

"Luba, I wish I knew what I said."

"Yeah, Ken. Me too. I wish I knew what I interpreted. I feel the Holy Spirit was at work."

Little did we know, though, that there was a spy in our midst. I wouldn't have said anything differently, but after I finished and we had a couple of prayers, then the excitement began. A lady city official approached the front of the room and said she wanted to ask a question and then she proceded to make a speech. At least she started to make a speech. She said everyone in the room was Orthodox, and I was trying to make Baptist out of them. (Of course, I never mentioned the word Baptist. That was just the worst profanity she could think of at the time.) She said no more than two sentences before she was verbally assuaulted by nearly everyone in the room. They were coming to my defense.

That's the Russian way, by the way. No worry. No problem. You are free to speak your mind as long as your mind agrees with most of the minds around you. They don't thoroughly understand freedom of speech just yet. Anyway, 95% of the room seemed to be on my side. One fellow approached the front and said that he was Muslim by birth, but, thank the Lord, he is a Christian now. He said more, but that was mainly what touched my heart. There were other positive testimonies, but I don't have the time to go into all of them. Suffice it to say, everyone wanted to express their opinion, and the lady didn't receive many positive vibes.

It was somewhat hard to restore order, but eventually the room calmed down to a semi-normal state. I tried to explain to everyone that it's okay to disagree with me. If someone can show me in Scripture where I didn't speak the truth, then I will be the first to admit it. I didn't take her objections personally. I took them with a loving attitude, because I know that lady is walking in darkness (although I didn't express that last thought out loud).

I asked Art after the meeting, "Art, what were you doing while all that ruckus was going on?"

He laughed. "I was in the back praying for you."

"Art, my friend, if you don't do another thing on this trip, you might have earned your stipes right there."

The Orthodox lady got the last word, though. The Veteran's Organization was unable to rent the room today or subsequent days. Something about they don't allow religious organization to use that room. Consequently, we met in a much smaller room today, but it's a room I love. It has a gigantic portrait of Vladimir Lenin on the wall, the Father of Communism and the one who said there is no God in heaven or anywhere else. "Religion is the opiate of the masses," Mr. Lenin stated. Well, we are telling people that there is a God right under his nose. And we are telling people just exactly what it takes to be saved -- also right under his nose. What a blessing.

Thank you so very much for those of you who donated money to buy food for these dear people. They may speak a different language, but they have the same needs as you and as I. They need to be loved. They need to feel the love of God flow from you to them.

What a mighty God we serve.

Thanks for all the e-mails. I may not have time to answer you personally, but know you are loved and appreciated. Keep those prayers coming -- for good health and a lot of energy. A personal note to my aunts: Don't worry. I'm safe, and I'll be home the middle of next month (I think).


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

From the Field -- 2 - from Ken

From: pochta
To: Kenneth Briden
Sent: Wednesday, June 22, 2005 8:59 AM
Subject: From the Field -- 2

Greetings from where the sun shines while you sleep,

I had a few minutes with Shushanna at the sanitorium yesterday. She tries to smile, but it is a weak effort. All the life has gone from her eyes and from her posture. It has been two years since her daughter Inna was killed in that senseless terrorist train explosion. I am afraid Shushanna will never recover. Her whole life was wrapped up in Inna, and it's as if there is no hope for her;. She still rejects God. I will have a chance to visit with her in her home later when the rest of the team gets here.

Art and I visited in Maxim's home too. For those of you who don't know Maxim, he is a man of 49 who went into surgery a few years back to correct a problem with his back. When he came out of the hospital, he was a total invalid. He can sit up in the bed with support, but getting to a sitting position is pure agony. He just wanted to visit and talk about America and God, not necessarily in that order. He is holding on to his faith through extremely difficult circumstances. I hope that we were able to answer some of his questions and that he was comforted by our visit. He always looks forward to the Americans coming. The screen saver on his computer is a picture of the American flag waving above the White House. I told him I felt like standing a saluting his computer. Not necessarily good humor, but Maxim enjoyed the thought.

We also visited with Tanya today. Again, for those of you who are new to the Russian ministry, Tanya has had many problems in her life. She is unable to walk or move. She loves to talk, though, although she is extremely hard to understand. Luba is exhausted by the time we leave her place. She lost her adopted mother and caretaker two years ago. Tanya is extrememly blessed to have two former classmates look after her. Both of their names happen to be Tanya. So that household is known as Tanya Bolshoye (Big Tanya), Tanya Malinki (Little Tanya) and Nasha Tanya (Our Tanya). Those ladies, all in their late 40's, are quite a sight. We talked and had a little time in the Word. We laughed some. We cried some. We prayed some. I think they all felt comforted when we left, although Our Tanya is somewhat distressed that this is going to be my last time in Kislovodsk. More tears.

Much more has happened, but there is not enough time or energy left to relay it all. As for myself: Health and spirits are high. Energy is low. In other words, not much different from being in the States.

I send my love from old Mother Russia,

Ken Garlandovich

Prayer needed for Debbie's Hip - from Tom

From: Tom Zimmer
Date: June 22, 2005 8:15:29 AM CDT
Subject: Prayer needed for Debbie's Hip

I spoke with Debbie last night, she leaves this morning. She says that she is doing a lot better. It still hurts, but not like it did. Thank you for your prayers for Debbie and the whole team leaving today for two weeks, please keep it up, it is working.

in Christ,


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Debbie did a stupid thing - from Tom

Hi all,

I talked to Debbie this morning, she is ready to go, but she did a stupid thing (her words). She was playing with the girls in the back yard, and Chloe did a cartwheel. You can guess the rest, Debbie tried it, and dislocated her hip momentarily. She says she can stand and walk ok, but sitting is pretty painful. I think she learned an important lesson, something about not being 15 years old any more. Anyway, it won't keep her from going, but it will make for a very uncomfortable trip, unless God chooses to heal here very quickly. Please pray for that, or whatever God leads you to pray for. I know from experience, after dislocating my shoulder some years ago, it was painful for several months.

In Christ,


(editor's Note: Here is a link to the video, You need Quicktime to play it)

From the field -- 1 - from Ken

From: pochta
To: Kenneth Briden
Sent: Sunday, June 19, 2005 7:20 AM
Subject: From the field -- 1

The trip was long and arduous -- an exercise in endurance -- but 27 hours after leaving our home in Bolivar, we were safely checking into our home away from home. What can I say about the trip? Nothing. The best that can be said is, "It's over."

Saturday was a day of rest as we tried to get our body clocks turned around. It still hasn't happened, but we're working on it.

The smiles, hugs, and kisses that greeted us at the Baptist church this morning made the trip over the big water worthwhile. It is nice to be back with all our friends, brothers, and sisters in old Mother Russia.

There is a certain sameness about the Baptist church service in Kislovodsk. Promptly at 9:00 a.m. Pastor Sergei purposefully strides in from the side door followed by two or three deacons. Immediately the people jump to their feet where they wait in anticipation for the Pastor's opening remarks, the opening prayer, and the 1st congregational hymn.

The typical service ("typical" means "every" service) has three sermons, three or four choir specials, two or three poems by various parishioners (Every Russian is a poet as well), and two or three special solos or ensembles. You always pray after the 1st sermon and after the 3rd sermon, but never after the 2nd sermon. I was asked to preach the second sermon today, and I found it very ironic that I came on the Day of Pentacost. I came speaking in an unknown tongue, and only Luba had the gift of interpretation. (Does anyone know why we don't celebrate the Day of Pentecost in most American churches? It is a VERY big holiday over here.)

Once the service began, there were few smiles to be seen. I injected some humor into my sermon, and the people responded well, but humor from the pulpit is not typical Russian. (That may be one reason why I am received so warmly here. It would be impossible for me to speak without some levity now and then.) The Pastor has an almost total control over the people. Why not? What other choices do the people have? There are no other protestant churches in the city. Unfortunately, they have no real joy and freedom in their faith, but they have an abundance of passion. During my time in the pulpit, the people were very attentive. An older gentlemen was trying to adjust the sound system while I was speaking, and it squacked several times. I thought the people were going to attack him. He stopped fooling around with the sound system before the revolution began.

I know that when you go into another culture, you adjust to that culture and not vice versa, but there are certain corners I have difficulty turning. Fortunately none of the guys that greeted me this morning had mustaches. I don't kiss guys with mustaches.

We have a full schedule of preparing for the rest of the team that comes on Friday. Please keep us in prayer: for health, safety, and that we would have a fruitful mission, proclaiming the Gospel boldly and in truth.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Jumping off day - from Ken

From: Kenneth Briden
To: Ken and Vera Briden
Sent: Thursday, June 16, 2005 6:27 AM
Subject: Jumping off day

Today is jumping off day, and I can hardly wait -- to put today in the history books. We leave our home in Bolivar at 9 a.m. and will arrive at our hotel in Kislovodsk, Russia, some 25 and a half hours later. That's not an exciting day, no matter how you slice it. That period of time, of course, includes all the driving time to and from airports as well as sitting in airports waiting for the next flight. I don't want to wish my life away, but I'm already looking forward to June 18.

This is going to be a great mission trip. I'm sure of it, because satan has been working extra hard on me the past few days. I sure welcome your prayers. In fact, please take a few minutes when you receive this to say a little prayer for our mission. I am dead tired already, and we haven't even begun yet.

I meet Art, one of our team members from Oroville, CA, in Chicago tomorrow. Gary, from San Jose, CA, and Debbie, from Austin, TX, will meet us in Kislovodsk a week later.

Looking forward to what He has in store.


Monday, May 16, 2005

Saturday, May 14, 2005 – from Ken

Thanks for all the positive comments about the e-reports from Russia.  It is a great feeling to know there are so many friends back home lifting up the Lord's work in prayer.  Once again, if you don't want to receive these letters, just let me know and I will take your name off the list.  I will understand.  I get overwhelmed with e-mail, too. Anyway, if you want to receive the messages from the field, I will send them to Vera and she will forward them to you BCC, so that all the recipients and addresses will not be shown.
We leave on June 16, returning to the States sometime in the middle of July.
I have a few prayer concerns I want to put on your plate at this time:
Number one:  Feelings about the US are rather negative at this time all around the world.  If Fox News is to be believed, and I think it is believable, there is a great paranoia in Russia concerning Americans spying on them.  I want to assure everyone that I will not be reporting anything of a sensitive nature.  I would be naive to think that anything sent out of Russia would not be read also by the KGB, or whatever they are called now.  Our mission is strictly a mission of love and of good will. 

I have absolutely no concern about anything bad happening once I reach southern Russia, where we are known, but anything can happen going through customs while entering and leaving the country.  Russia is predictably unpredictable.  Therefore, please pray for travel safety.
Number two:  Pray that we are able to raise enough money to take care of the expenses for the trip.  I am in the process of trying to raise $2,000 to buy some food to give to the Russian pensioners as they come and listen to the message of salvation.  I also want to raise some to buy some Russian language Bibles to give to those wanting to hear and read more.
Number three: The Caucasus's area of southern Russia has a large Muslim population.  Many of them are our friends.  Pray that some of them will accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
Number four:  Pray that God anoints our every word and action.  We travel not only as American citizens, but most importantly as ambassadors for Jesus Christ.  May we be worthy of that calling.
Thanks so much for caring.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday, May 13, 2005 – from Ken

In making preparations for my mission trip to Russia next month, I am getting my e-mail list of contacts ready.  I began with last year's e-mail list, deleted a few and added a few, and am now sending a preliminary letter to see whose e-mail address is no longer valid.  I will send periodic letters from the field detailing what is happening and asking for prayer on particular concerns.  This e-mail will be sent to Vera who will then forward it to the rest of the list.  (It is nice to know there are folks back home supporting a mission trip through prayer.  It is also nice to receive an occasional encouraging word from friends back home.) 
If you would like for me to remove your name from the list, just let me know and it will be done -- no fuss, no bother, no hard feelings. 

Our jump-off date is June 16.

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