In the Palm of His Hand

Shalom all! ‚   ‚   ‚   ‚   ‚  January 16, 2008

As most of you already know, i was denied entrance to Russia last week. i was heading back for 3 months of service in Beslan, but only got as far as Moscow, where they detained me for several hours and then sent me back out of the country. A number of you have written and asked more specifically about what happened and so forth, and so i put this together to tell more about that, as well as to share with you some of the things which are on my heart. What happened last week? Good question! i have no idea.

i ‚  arrived at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow on Wednesday night (Jan. 9th), and got to the customs booth around 8:30 or 9PM. The lady looked at my passport, and asked me to step aside and wait. Another agent came over, and she walked me to some office. They took my passport, and said they needed to look over it or something, and they had me wait in a locked room for maybe an hour or so.

Then, they asked me for the info on who had invited me; i gave it to them, and they moved me into a bigger and freer area, but now with a guard. Next? Silence on their end for several hours. So by the time 7AM or so rolled around, i was obviously livid - and i told the guard, 'You need to call your manager now so i can talk with them.' He did, and she was like, 'You called for me?' i said, 'i've been here for like 11 hours, and you haven't told me anything nor explained anything to me. Do you normally operate this way?' She assured me that they hadn't forgotten about me, and that her supervisor would be in and decide on the matter soon; at that point, i really couldn't even imagine she was meaning 'whether to admit or reject you.'

Then - silence again for several hours. Around 4 or 4:30 PM (marking about 19 hours for me in holding), a different lady came over to me with three guards and informed me that they were not admitting me into the country. i asked why, and they only said because of some clause or something. i asked them to explain why, but she said they couldn't and that i'd have to speak to the Russian Embassy in the US to find out why. Apparently i had 'done something' in the past there, but she claimed she couldn't say why.

i tried to argue that i had 3 suitcases with many gifts for the people of Bsln, but that made no difference to them. So i said sarcastically, 'Cos you guys are going to deliver them, right?'

i asked them to use the phone to call a lawyer (there's a good brother in Beslan who's a lawyer), but the one guard said they didn't have a phone. They put me on a plane heading back to London (i had connected there en route to Russia) which wasn't full, and so i assume that's why i didn't have to pay for that flight. Interestingly enough, the document they gave me which was about why they rejected me said i had no complaints when told, and that both they and i had signed that document. How funny! i did complain and try to reason them more than once, and neither they nor i signed that document!

When i got to London, i of course had a good bit of explaining to do to them since they wanted to know why Russia refused me. They turned out to be really nice guys, and they were in shock at Russia having done that. i reminded them of the Litvinenko case. If you followed it, Litvinenko was the ex-Russian spy who was living in England and was 'mysteriously' poisoned and died. (This happened about a year ago.) ‚  England investigated things and tracked down a Russian governmental figure " “ Andrey Lugovoy " “ accusing him as being involved in the poisoning, and they asked Russia to extradite him. Mother Russia's response? 'We don't extradite our citizens.' Period; end of story. (And besides, let us not forget: Putin has roots in the KGB, and is becoming more and more friendly with Iran - a nation lead by a psycho who has publicly called for wiping Israel off the map.)

But one of the British security guys i talked with was very helpful, and he went with me to the British Airways desk. i already had return tickets, but for April - and so there probably would've been a $200 rebooking fee or so. But since the security guy was with me, they didn't charge me anything. Praise The Lord! i did, however, still have to pay for the extra suitcase i had to check in - which cost $150.

God blessed me in my arrival back to the US, because i already thought i'd probably miss the next flight. i arrived in Newark, NJ, and was scheduled to fly to Pittsburgh, PA, around two hours later. The plane from London to Newark came in a good bit later, and so i really doubted i'd be able to make the connection " “ i still had to get through a long customs line, collect all my bags, recheck the bags, and then make it to the departing terminal. All of you’ve who’ve traveled overseas a few times can identify with that, and you know it’s not a 5-minute process. So anyways, i got through the customs line, got my bags, and hurried quite fanatically over to recheck them.

It was amazing " “ while i was still approaching, and before the guy could have read the Pittsburgh tags on my bags, he called out the exact flight number and called out that it would be flying to Pittsburgh; and so i knew right away where to recheck my bags. One of the younger guys told me, " ˜Terminal A.’ i repeated him to ensure i had it right, and he, seeing my frenzy, quickly walked over to me and pointed me in the right direction. He said, " ˜Head that way, and take the Airtrain to Terminal A.’ Both of those guys were like angels to me! You see, Newark Airport " “ like many other major airports " “ can be incredibly hard and frustrating to try and figure out" ¦ especially when you’re already strapped for time. i have no idea how that guy knew i was heading to Pittsburgh, and i was so thankful for the younger guy’s help and information. That would’ve been greatly appreciated anytime, but it was all the more so since i had just flown all the way to Russia, sat in holding for 19 hours or so, and then flew all the way back!

i am obviously going to write to and contact the Russian embassy here, but my opinion about why they denied me? Perhaps because they finally realized where i had been laboring for about two years, and just decided - that's enough. Anyways, obviously God's Eyes see farther and better, so i know He had a purpose in allowing that to happen. Praise be to The Lord Jesus Christ for His good, pleasing, and perfect will!

What my real response? With the help of Yah, infiltrate!

Because of the blessings of technology, i’ve realized that i can probably still do around 50% of the same outreach to the people of Beslan, even from outside the country! i have a few ideas which i believe The Lord has given me, and here are the two main things i’ve already started working on:

A monthly 2-page newsletter which will be mailed out to the many families, friends, and people The Lord has blessed me to know there. There will be four versions: one for adult believers, one for Christian children, one for adults/teens still outside the family of God, and one for children who may not yet know Him. Newsletters will include short Bible teachings/devotionals and accompanying verse, interviews with believers, cultural info on America, and English lessons among other things as well. These will be printed in Russian with little bits of Ossetian (their ethnic language) included, too. And though sitting down with actual families is much more personal, this new form of ministering to them through these newsletters will enable me to be in more continuous contact with the families and people i know in Beslan. One of the problems i had while living there was knowing way too many people, and never having enough time to fully visit them all. Now, newsletters can be mailed directly to them, and on a continual basis. The Lord’s Word will continue to go forth unto Beslan, and in some respects, even more strongly sine this approach will enable a more focused sharing of spiritual things each month!

God’s Word put to music. i’ve been working on a good bit of new music, and i’m really excited about what Jesus has enabled me to be working on. Lord willing, a new CD will be finished in the not so distant future, and i’m especially excited because this release will feature several instrumentals mixed with audio clips of people reading The Bible in Russian, and also some truth spoken in Ossetian. The highlight is that, in addition to the other songs and mixes, all of 1 John will be read over music" ¦ five songs with God’s Word being read in the background, and in a language they can understand! These songs will be placed throughout the CD along with the more regular rap kind of music i normally do, and i have no doubt that God will speak to many hearts through this recording! Please pray for this project.

See, we have the net, postal mail, and phones - all of which are virtually impossible to shut down and keep The Gospel out! So we win either way! And in their foolishness, they just made me a hero in much of Beslan’s eyes. Jesus never fails!

When God closes doors" ¦

It can be a very discouraging and heartbreaking thing when The Lord closes doors. He may show us why, and He may choose not to as well. That’s His decision to make. But just as many of the saints in Beslan have taught me with their lives, we need to trust in God and His goodness no matter what. In reality, it all comes back to just following Jesus, regardless of where He may lead us.

One of my neighbors in Beslan, Byella Totieva, one time said something so profound to me. i was a guest over at their house one day, and Byella shared something quite personal. You see, in September of 2004, Byella and her husband - Pastor Sergei - lost two of their six children in the Beslan terrorist attack. They are amazing examples of saints who continue to love and trust in Jesus, even after all they’ve suffered through " “ and in spite of all they continue to suffer.

Byella said something like the following, " ˜After we lost our two daughters, I read The Book of Job a lot, and as you know " “ it really helped comfort me. But in reading it, I noticed something very remarkable: God never gave Job the answer on why all the trials had happened. And now I see and understand that, even as believers, we know so very little in this life.’ Byella and her family have resolved to keep pursuing Jesus, and they remain active in the ministry. As their lives teach us, we are to trust in The Lord and in His Character no matter what may come our way. Devastation may befall us, and in this life we may never receive the answer as to why" ¦ but our reaction must be one and the same: to trust in The Lord and realize His Eyes see farther and better than ours, and that He always wants the ultimate best for His children.

And with the shutting of this door at the present time, that is, physically reaching out in Beslan, Russia, i know that for whatever reason, our Lord Who Is Sovereign and God allowed that to happen. And He has helped me remember what He has done in my life over the past few years, and how He has always shown Himself to be Faithful " “ The Lord Who Provides.

Over the summer of 2002, an Indian pastor visited Calvary Chapel Pittsburgh and personally invited me to go to India and serve with him there. i thought that was the path i was to take, and so as i was nearing the end of my English tutoring contract, i didn’t bother to even consider signing for the second year. i gathered my paperwork, and secured a visa to travel to India; things seemed to be in line for the ministry ahead. But when the time approached, i contacted this pastor but received silence in return " “ it was like he just dropped off the map. Of course i was very hurt, frustrated, confused, and so forth" ¦ and thought, " ˜Great, now what am i going to do since i didn’t even consider the second-year tutoring contract " “ what am i going to do for work?’ i had been tutoring through a program in which i was teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to foreigners here in Pittsburgh, and as my time was closing with that contract, one of my students asked me if i'd give him private lessons. i prayed and thus began trying to work as a private tutor. The beginning was very slow and quite unprofitable financially, but The Lord blessed me and the business grew" ¦ and grow it did! It eventually got to the point where i had too many students and not enough time to teach them! God enabled me to work as a private ESL tutor from about September 2002 until January 2005, when He then opened the door to serve at Calvary Chapel Jerusalem /For Zion’s Sake for three months.

After arriving and serving for a while at CC Jerusalem/FZS, Pastor Bradley asked if i'd consider staying for another three months. i was somewhat torn as i contemplated doing so, because i had previously been planning to visit Japan over the summer; the majority of the ESL students i had taught in Pittsburgh were Korean and Japanese, and i felt and believed that there must have been some reason The Lord gave me so many contacts and opportunities to share about Jesus with many of them. (And i had already even said i'd be coming.) But to stay on through the summer in Jerusalem? i also had concerns as to how, financially, i'd be able to stay that much longer. But after praying, pondering, and sharing with my pastor, Kevin Mallon, it seemed like what The Lord desired and so i agreed to stay for another three months.

While serving in Jerusalem, Bradley asked me to go with him to Beslan, and so we went there for about a week’s trip in April of 2005. Though the trip was very frustrating for me personally because of the language barrier with the people, Beslan appeared to be a huge open door for future ministry, and the people just stole my heart. Months later, The Lord allowed me to get a one year visa to Russia, enabling me to go back to Beslan and really begin reaching out there.

It’s been roughly two years since then, and after numerous trips back and forth to Beslan, it appears that Yah " “ in His perfect wisdom and loving grace " “ has allowed that door to be shut. The door to me physically serving in Beslan has been closed, at least for this time. But as i stated previously, technology still enables us to do perhaps 50% of the same work even from outside of Russia " “ and work that, because of it’s nature and the physical distance between Pittsburgh and Beslan, lends itself to much more specific and deliberate sharing of Jesus our Lord!

Grab your Bible, and open up to Acts 16:6-10. This is a very interesting passage of Scripture; Paul and others were actually forbidden by The Holy Spirit to speak The Word in Asia! They tried to go into Bithynia, but Jesus’ Spirit didn’t permit them to do so! Paul had a night vision and saw a man of Macedonia asking him to come to Macedonia and help them, and so Paul and the others concluded that God had called them to go to Macedonia and preach The Gospel.

Now, we may think it strange that The Scripture says that The Holy Spirit Himself prevented them from speaking the Word in Asia. But we must remember something very, very important: He Is God, and we are not. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Paul and the brothers were not allowed to preach The Word in Asia; God said so, and His call was right. We as believers can get so wrapped up in over-analyzing things that we miss what The Lord is opening up to us instead. But Paul let his heart remain open, and God opened an amazing door for them. Why do we as Christians so often think that there is only one specific ministry God has for us? Perhaps that is true, but in having been blessed by Him to travel a good bit, let me assure you that Jesus’ words remain true: there is a great harvest, but so very few workers. That doesn’t mean everyone’s called to be a foreign missionary, or to be domestic one " “ it just means that if The Lord closes one door, He will have absolutely no problem whatsoever in opening another.

There are several things and opportunities on my heart at this time, and i spent some time considering them and prayed. On Saturday night i typed up some possible mission opportunities, and even wrote some tentative dates. Besides the continued outreach to Beslan through newsletters and music, and possibly trying to get back there down the road if Yah reopens that door, there are three main opportunities that i've been thinking of and considering. The three main things have been regarding Italy, Jerusalem, and Japan/South Korea. And do you know what happened? On Sunday and Monday i received emails from people connected with each of those opportunities!

The very day after writing out those missions possibilities, a brother and friend emailed me out of the blue asking if i'd consider and pray about joining their mission to Italy. When i emailed him back i asked him for more specific info, and it turns out they have a mission trip coinciding with the exact time i had already written out for being in Italy!

The other opportunity is to serve again in Jerusalem, and they’ve welcomed me to serve there again if that’s how The Lord leads.

And the third opportunity is Japan/South Korea. And as with the Italy thing, my dear Japanese brother and friend emailed me out of the blue.

Now, do all these things prove 100% that The Lord is definitely telling me to go to each of those places? Not necessarily. However, it is " ˜highly coincidental’ and quite strange that after i spent some time and typed out some desires and opportunities, the following two days i got emails from brothers connected with each of those opportunities " “ and each mentioning something about me possibly going to those places. So i'd ask for your prayers, that The Lord would guide me, give wisdom, and provide for whatever He may be opening up. i’ll keep looking into these opportunities and praying about them, and we’ll see what The Lord does. Perhaps He’ll open one, or all, or none. That’s His decision, and i take great solace in knowing The One in Whom we believe; for He Is Good, His lovingkindness is everlasting, and He Is Faithful to every generation (Psalm 100:5).

This is not written to you as: "The Jason Story"  - i wrote this to testify of how God can and does work in each one of our lives when we let Him do what He wants to do. i have my weaknesses and problems just like others do, and i don’t claim to have everything all together. But like you, i know my Jesus, and that’s sufficient. My brother, my sister " “ let’s pursue God, and make ourselves available and eager to do His will" ¦ that’s what it’s all about. He may call us to represent Him here in the US, and He may send us to foreign nations to represent Him there. Our calling in life is really quite simple: to walk with God and to do what His heart desires.

Yep, this is getting long, so i'll close with a praise report and two prayer requests. Before all of you, i want to commend, applaud, and honor my dear brother in The Lord from Senegal, West Africa. His name is Diegane (pronounced JAY-gahn), and many of you may recall praying for him in the past. Diegane is a believer in an area where almost everyone is muslim, and he began seeing a lady around six years ago. Her name is Marem, and she was raised muslim. After meeting and getting to know Diegane, she accepted Jesus and is now a believer. They grew in their love for one another, but ran into a seemingly impossible obstacle to overcome. Marem’s family is muslim, and under muslim law, a muslim father cannot give his daughter to a man who isn’t muslim (although a muslim father is permitted to allow his son to marry a non-muslim woman). We in the US might think, " ˜So what? They should just marry.’ But life doesn’t operate like that there " “ it is a family-based society, and Marem’s father said no. In Senegal, that settles the matter" ¦ period. Marem’s father (Medoune) said he wouldn’t let them marry unless Diegane converted to islam, and numerous times attempted to convert Diegane. But our brother Diegane withstood the test time and time again, and he and Marem kept praying and waiting. Many of you may recall praying for them and this situation, and so praise be to our Living and True God " “ Diegane and Marem will be getting married this Friday! Marem’s father and family finally gave in, and have given their blessing to this marriage. OUR GOD IS UNSTOPPABLE! Praise and glory be to You, Lord Jesus Christ! Please pray that everything goes well, and that the enemy is bound from doing anything that wreck their wedding day or their marriage " “ and pray that Jesus will be glorified in this ceremony, and that Medoune and his family will repent and believe in Jesus The Lord!

The other is a prayer request for a very tragic circumstance. A friend here informed me that a brother from their fellowship was instantly killed while riding his motorcycle last Monday afternoon. His name was Craig, and he was an integral part of the fellowship’s music ministry; Craig, only in his early 40s or so, left behind a wife and two children. His wife also sings in the church’s praise group. Please pray that God would comfort their hearts, and shower them with His great mercies. Our brother, Craig, is not dead " “ he simply moved. But for his parents, wife, and children, this is of course an immensely painful time, and will remain a deep sorrow throughout their lives. Pray that Jesus would comfort them each time they remember Craig " “ both now, and throughout their lives.

Thank you all so very, very much for the many prayers you said - and emails you sent - concerning the whole episode with my being denied entrance to Russia. Our God Is still on His throne, and may His will be done in each one of our lives.

How blessed is the man who has made YHWH his trust! (Psalm 40:4)

O LORD, You are my Trust.
His lovingkindness is everlasting,

jason alan catizone