These words: “change” and “hope“. They have been used in many different ways these days, but let’s forget about any connotations they may have for you for the moment. Let’s just think of them in them in their unbranded, basic meanings.
Before church this evening, the congregation and some guests traveled to the Sakmara river for two baptisms today. Both have been coming to the church for some time. The one young man was supported by the attendance of his grandfather. The other young woman had a friend and a relative come which was a blessing because her family does not support her decision to be a Christian. Her family is non-devoutly Muslim and has given her a lot of difficulty for her choice, but we hope her life will speak life to them in the future. Please pray for this new brother and this new sister, that they may find good support and good examples; that God may bless them and keep them strong for whatever the future holds! Pray for their growth in faith as well.
Afterward, we went for service at the church where we gave thanks and kept out of the cold (it has recently dropped from a sunny 100F to about 50-55F with wind and rain). The service was all in Russian since their was no translator visiting who knew English and my missionary hosts have gone back to the states for medical appointments. Now that they have left the country, I believe that I am now the only American left in this city, which is exciting… and a bit intimidating! It is okay though because their are two American shrines in the city that I can visit if I want some sort of perverted form of intestinal amnesty (aka McDonalds). I will probably eat more McDonalds here in 3 months than I will in 7 years back home, because everyone here wants to meet the American at McDonalds! I have eaten there 5 times already… the quality is slightly better here though, so I eat it.
After church we had “teatime” and Alex and I invited some people to come over to watch a movie. Eric, as pictured below in previous posts, agreed to come and we made sure to have a good time because it was his last night in Orenburg. He leaves tomorrow to live and study in Moscow at a very good school. We will miss him greatly. We splurged on some small oven pizzas and potato chips and German chocolate. He finished of our last bottle of Coke that we don’t drink and he even tried peanut butter, which he hates. We watched the classic musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” which got me thinking about these words; “change” and “hope.”
The film follow the the story of Tevya who is a Jew living in Russia during the time of the switch from Czarist rule to Soviet rule. Tevya is a simple man who has ongoing discussions with God about his position in life but always seems to show a faith through everything that happens. He finds out very quickly that the world around him is changing and he must continually decide what is most important in life in the face of change. He weighs tradition against Scripture and he weighs tradition against the feelings of his daughters and later he is faced with Scripture in opposition to a decision his daughter makes. Throughout the movie, life is compared to a fiddler on a roof who is attempting to play beautiful music from the heights so all can hear, while doing it in the face of a dangerous balancing act. Tevya wrestles with bending or even breaking his most beloved traditions in order to be good to ones he loves. He also must decide where his faith fits into it all, where his faith fits in “change.” Is it also tradition? Is faith meant to be bent and broken also when it becomes so dead and irrelevant that it cannot survive in the real world?
I think we all have decisions to make about change in our lives. The young man and woman who were baptized today have had to weigh what is important and then they have had to ask themselves what they think is most important. After talking with them, I think they made their decisions with thoughtfulness and maturity. It was their decision. The young man leaving for Moscow will also have decisions to make in the face of change. I have also been faced with much change just being here. And you are also faced with major changes. Maybe you are starting a new kind of school program this year, perhaps your work and finances have been changing, maybe your life is naturally changing in a way you did not see previously. Have you moved recently? Are you in a new relationship? It could be that the story of Tevya’s life as a balancing act truly describes your whole life as well, an endless balancing act.
So what’s most important? How do your most treasured thoughts, practices, and beliefs stand in the face of change? In the face of pain or discomfort? What is our “hope” founded on and why do we give so much to the things in which we invest? Tevya raises some good questions! But sometimes he does not give us the answers. His life, in his struggle through change, speaks much louder than his words. His outward decisions reflect his inner thoughts on trust and faith. He admits that he has no answers for some questions (like why his people always wear “hats”), but he is able to approach his inner conflict nonetheless and make his choice(s).
Whoever you are, wherever you are from, and whatever your life story sounds like, I pray that your life forms beautiful music for you and others to enjoy and I pray that when you feel like Tevya you can approach your own discussions with God/your own questions- with clarity, with thoughtfulness, and with maturity, so that you may stay balanced as you play your song and so that you know why you play in the first place.
Tonight I will get a little rest and then I leave early for camp again. This time it is a three day church camp for everyone as opposed to the language camps for students. I will be out of town for this time and will reconnect later in the week.
Today’s SHOUTOUTS are given to some people who have taken time away from other things to stay connected with me this week.
The first goes to my lovely sisters Jennifer and ManthaSam. Just because you’re housemates again, doesn’t mean you can gang up Randolph the White. A man can only take so much blondness. Mantha, if I hear you don’t study hard I will call you SixASixA.
The second goes to Bella: It is about time for you, since you do not know where exactly you will go next, for you to join the HSBC! You and Lemmy can get a joint account and put a picture of you both on the card which would definitely be worth it just to see the faces of the people you hand your card to when you make a purchase… & Hallo in Kalifornien from Alex.