Israel Missions

Comforting Those Who Mourn October 2006 - Part 1

'For to everlasting is His lovingkindness' (Psalm 136)

Some things in life are so easy to grasp, while others cannot truly be learned in this life though one may be blessed to live a hundred years or more. Generally speaking, simple things are easily learned. Tying your shoelaces, how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich... though difficult at the beginning stages, none of us would assert that great intellect is needed to learn such things. Other abilities, such as learning to play an instrument or build something quite obviously require much more time, dedication, and wisdom. But what i find to be rather strange is this: there are also things in life which are both incredibly simple as well as being unfathomably complex.

Take the above-mentioned part of Scripture for example.i encourage you to read through this Wonderful Psalm, and to think about what The Lord is speaking here. 26 times it is written, 'for to everlasting is His lovingkindness.' Such an easy phrase to say, but to really understand and grasp hold of? Wow. Yah's love and kindness (which are not like man's " “ think agape) are eternal (with no beginning, and without end). Perhaps you are wondering why i'm taking so much time to write about such a simple phrase.It is because i'm convinced that if we can simply meditate upon and believe this verse, it will revolutionize our lives. In such few words we find the promises of unconditional love, continual forgiveness, and confidence to run to Him even when we're lost, in sin, and afraid. And in His Everlasting Arms, we are found, forgiven and cleansed, and boldly confident. Let no one mistakenly think such a beautiful phrase is a scapegoat to willingly sin, because you know God will just forgive you later anyway.' On the contrary " “ such amazing love, if truly understood and received, produces the opposite response... 'far be it from me to ever abuse such a wonderful love!' A friend here told me she thought it was strange that the same phrase is repeated over and over again. After all, it is written 26 times. But i don't think it strange at all. The Lord has not yet blessed me with a wife and children, but i can easily appreciate the fact that parents tell their children the same phrases repeatedly ‚   because they love them. Even at 29 years of age, my parents (rightfully) always tell me, "Be careful."  Why? Do they think they haven't told me before? Of course not " “ it's simply a reiteration of their love for me, and their desire that i'm safe and out of harm's way. So here, in Psalm 136, we find The Lord telling us " “ in every single one of the 26 verses written there " “ that His lovingkindness is eternal. I'm guessing there are perhaps at least two reasons for Him saying that beautiful phrase over, and over, and over again. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, we need to be reminded of what we already know more often than we need to be taught new things. Here is God reminding us " “ 26 times " “ that His kindness has no end. The second reason perhaps is this: YHWH wants to show us the truth of such a statement. Simply put, He really wants us to know that He means what He says.

So there you have it. 'For to everlasting is His lovingkindness.' It is an assurance for those already following Jesus of The Wonderful Nature of our Great God. He loves you, and that's just as true today as it was the first day you called upon His Name. And for those who have not yet surrendered to Jesus, it's a revelation " “ a revealing of the fact that you will never find anyone else who loves you as much as your Creator. So why run from Him any longer?

Tuesday, 9/26/06 " “ Yesterday, my brother in The Lord, Stas, did an amazing thing. (Stas is 24, and lost his younger sister, Ilona, in the school massacre.) He was driving me to my lesson with Madina (Tsabolova), and we passed a guy maybe in his late 30s who was staggering " “ obviously drunk or stoned. Stas looked back at him, and then put his car in reverse and pulled up next to the guy. Stas got out and went over and started talking with him. They were both crouched down, and Stas talked with him for a few minutes. I saw the guy starting to cry, and wiping away tears. After a little more time, they said their goodbyes, and Stas got back into the car. I encouraged him, saying that many people would just look at that guy and comment on him being just a drug addict or something. Stas explained to me, 'That guy used to come to our services,' but that he'd fallen into drinking (perhaps once again). What an amazing display of love, affection, and courage this new brother (Stas) in The Lord showed... something i feel many of us 'more mature' saints wouldn't. We too often worry about offending people's feelings, and so we don't say anything. Praise God for new family members who still have the zeal to reach out no matter what. God, give me that zeal once again.

Tried to get my registration done again today, but to no avail. Had the documents, but Larissa said the letter Nahzee wrote wasn't in the right format. From what she (Larissa) showed me, it appeared to be simply a matter of the format being incorrect, though it didn't look that different. She said Nahzee herself will have to come. I said her health wasn't great, but that didn't seem to matter to Larissa. She also told me, 'You can't teach English here.' i asked why, and she said because i didn't have a license. I told her that i know that's required for schools and such, but just helping people is what i'm doing. But according to Larissa, that too is not allowed. I explained that when i got my visa, i wrote that's what i was going to help with and i still received the visa. But that still didn't matter to Larissa. She told me, 'If you want to help, go with the people to the cemetery and cry with them, or give them money, but you can't teach.' i'm still in shock about the way she said that " “ if one of the families i help here who lost a child had been there, i would have feared for her own safety after saying something like that! Lord, help me to love her regardless. Bless her abundantly " “ her and all her family. Father, You changed Pharaoh's heart towards Your servant, Moses. Please change Larissa's heart to this servant of Yours as well. And Abba, please help Nahzee and i to go ‚   and finish the registration!

Went back to the church's building. Spent time praying, in The Word, and worshiping. Sometimes it's just so hard and frustrating being here... you don't know who you can trust, you feel inadequate, all the wasted time for registration, and so on. Praise be to The Lord for His comfort and grace. Bondo (a brother in The Lord) stopped by, and we had tea and chatted together. Coming back to Nahzee's (the grandma i now live with who lost her granddaughter in the attack), i went over to the Baptist church, which is right across the street. Sasha, Stas, and Adam sang some worship songs, and i also met two guys (Kazbek and Taimerlan, i think); Taimerlan lived in England for 5 years, and so we talked some (in English!). Back at Nahzee's, she and i " “ along with another babushka " “ moved a bed into the empty room, which is now mine. I'm amazed at times at the amount of physical work grandmas here do!

Wednesday, 9/27/06 " “ Went to the Baptist Fellowship in the morning. Pastor Misha read througth the beginning of John 15, and Aslan later shared about spiritual gifts. After, had tea with Adam, Sergei, Rusik, and Fatima (Totieva, who lost two sisters in the attack). Nahzee and i didn't secure a ride to Vladikavkaz, so maybe we'll go on Friday. Had lunch with her " “ she again shared a lot with me today. Before the school massacre, she and her daughter (Fatima) were so close " “ like one soul. But when Sophia ( Fatima 's daughter) died in the attack, Satan made a big split between Nahzee and Fatima. Fatima had earlier believed and gone to the Baptist church. But after Sophia was killed, she went and got baptized in the Russian Orthodox church, and became very hardened against God. She asked Nahzee, 'Why didn't God hear your prayer?' (to save Sophia). Nahzee told Fatima that she doesn't have an answer, but told me that she can't do anything against God " “ she will keep on ‚   believing and serving Him. Please pray that The Lord will restore their relationship and friendship. Nahzee also told me that even before Sophia's death, her (Sophia's) dad was very resistant to believers. That really frustrated Sophia, and so she put Christian music and other witnessing things everywhere! Sophia was a young teenager who loved Jesus, and wasn't timid about His Good News. Nahzee told me that all the Sunday School kids from the Baptist church who were in the gym during the crisis were together, and they were praying. The terrorists were angry, and told them to pray to Allah. So (So much for the religion of 'peace and tolerance.') Nahzee said the kids from the church were sitting next to one of the bombs. She couldn't say with 100% certainty that the terrorists had deliberately placed the believing children there, but they (the terrorists) had seen them praying (to The Real God), and so it wouldn't surprise me one bit to find out that the terrorists had purposely placed those kids next to a bomb. I mean, i know two stories of how the Muslim terrorists treated their own fellow Muslims there in that gym. Islam was a young boy who was held hostage in that gym " “ and as his name belies, he was Muslim. He tried to gain some sympathy and told a terrorist that he was a Muslim as well. The terrorist replied by saying something like, 'Just wait " “ I'll personally kill you.' Another woman (Salimat) who was held hostage with her young son, baby daughter, and unborn daughter asked one of the terrorists, 'Why are you doing this to us? I'm a Muslim, too.' The terrorist pointed to one of the female terrorists, who was strapped with explosives, and said, 'That is a Muslim woman.' (And i personally know both Islam's mom, and Salimat.) So if those beasts treated their own kind with such attrocity, why should i not believe they placed the Sunday School kids next to one of the bombs on purpose? Nahzee also told me something like, 'Madina (Totieva) escaped by chance... she tried to help one of her sisters " “ maybe Loobove " “ put she (the sister) didn't make it. Sophia (Nahzee's granddaughter) stood up, and was kiled. She would've lived if she wouldn't have stood up. Madina told me. But don't talk to her about the attack,' to which i agreed. Bringing up the subject of what claimed the lives of all four of her siblings " “ and almost her own life as well - is not something necessary to do.

Nahzee's grandson, Soslan, who's 13 and in 7 th grade, is supposed to come over later (Sophia was his older sister and only sibling). After leaving the house, i saw Byella (a young girl who escaped from the massacre and whom i previously taught English to) walking with her mom, and so i walked and chatted with them. Also saw Alina (another student) and her friend Byella (who also both survived the attack); told Alina i'd visit them. Saw Aza and friends (Aza is Alina's sister, and also escaped the attack alive). Saw Atsa (who lived, but lost his younger sister in the gym). Saw Alan (Adirkhayev), who lost his wife in the attack, though his two little girls survived by the grace of Yah. Just walk around for a few minutes in the small town of Bsln , and you're bound to run into numerous survivors, as well as family members of those who were killed.

Thursday, 9/28/06 " “ To God's glory... what a day! Barseek (Nahzee's big dog) kept barking and barking... she wasn't here, so i didn't know exactly what to feed him. Fed him meat and potato soup along with bread " “ and boy did he love it! Used the net at internet club. Tried to check my account online, but once again, their site was down for maintenance. Arrrgghhh! Hung out with Madina and Zalina (Tsabolova), and then taught Madina English. (She's the teenage girl who lost her younger brother, Marat, in the massacre.) i headed back to Nahzee's early, and ate and talked with her some. ‚   I saw Madina (Totieva) and chatted a little with her. (Madina is the only child out of five believing children who made it out of the gym alive.) I then went across the street to see if i could help Stas and Adam as they worked on the Baptist church's building. The Lord blessed me to help some, and then we had tea after. Met Gyerman (a guy who works with a lot of the families devastated by the attack), and he may try and organize a group there who want to study English. I also talked with another brother for awhile, and was about to head home. Stas mentioned he'd like to talk some, so i stayed, and The Lord blessed us with another really good time of fellowship. We hung out for a good while, and then Nahzee dropped by. She brought up the school massacre, and Stas shared his story (his only sister, Ilona, '89, was killed in the terrorist attack). The following is pretty detailed and graphic, but this was as he told it. He was sleeping the morning of Sept. 1, 2004, and heard shooting. (Stas lives very close to School No. 1). He thought it was perhaps just some kind of salute or something, since it was a holiday, and so went back to sleep. (The first day of school is considered a holiday throughout Russia " “ it's much more of a big ordeal and celebration here than it is in the US .) He said he remembers the exact sentence his grandma later said, which i think was, 'School No. 1 is under siege!' He got dressed in a flash and ran out. He said all he could do that day was chain smoke. On the second day, he had some hope when Aushev worked out a deal with the terrorists and they let some of the more than 1200 hostages go. However, Ilona wasn't one of them.... and time kept passing. He recalled the third and final day of the siege " “ the first and the second explosion, and bullets flying everywhere. Stas remembers feeling somewhat glad when the Russian soldiers started storming the building, thinking, 'Finally - it will be over,' and the hostages would be freed. He didn't spot his sister among any of the escapees, and so he went to the hospital here in Bsln, where people were bringing the bodies of the hostages. Stas recalls a doctor motioning with his hand to take the ones who were living to this side, and the ones who were dead to another side. He still didn't find Ilona, and so he went to the morgue here, which had around 30 or 39 corpses. Stas recalled the terrible smell. He was relieved and felt happy as he left the morgue, because Ilona wasn't there, and he had thought those were the only corpses there were. But when he heard there were also bodies at the morgue in Vladikavkaz, he went there to search for his sister. There were 300 corpses there, and Stas was shocked at seeing them " “ there were people who didn't look like people, 'just meat.' Burned. He didn't find Ilona there either. But in about ‚   month, they finally located her body and buried her. Nahzee also told me about the Baptist church's Sunday School teacher who was killed, along with her son (Dzerassa Sidakova, and Zaur). Nahzee told me that they buried young Zaur's body " “ headless. There was much more talk, and then The Lord blessed me to play the song He helped me write to the families here in Bsln. It's called, "truth,"  and it simply says that Jesus didn't forget them, and that He loves them - and it's sung in both Ossetian (most of the people in Bsln's ethnic language) and Russian (the national language). It was amazing " “ here i was, playing and singing the song written for the hurting hearts in this small town, and the two listeners both lost family members there. Stas even picked up on some of it, and sang with me. After, he asked me to show him some the chords, and then he started playing part of the song. All glory be to You, O Yah... please continue to minister to people's hearts through this song.

Friday, 9/29/06 " “ Nahzee and i listened to some Ossetian music; much of it is sort of hauntingly played " “ minor chords, and with a solemnness to it. As we listened, Nahzee told me what a beautiful voice her granddaughter Sophia (who was killed in the terrorist attack) had. A little later, Nahzee asked me to pray with her. After i prayed, she prayed " “ and it was one of those prayers i know God heard. It was very moving, and she so pored out her heart to The Lord. I don't fully understand how it happened, but one of her sons was killed some years ago. And she's lived here in Bsln alone, except for her granddaughter who also lived with her. But Nahzee lost Sophia in the terrorist attack. Nahzee, an elderly woman that's been through so much, prayed, saying something to this effect: 'Lord, all I've ever seen in this dirty world is untruth...' Among other things, Nahzee asked that The Lord would bless Raya to be able to have another child. (Raya and her husband Taimuraz are believers, and lost 4 of their 5 kids in the massacre. Raya's been trying to have another baby, but so far has not been able to.) Indeed, may The Lord grant them another child. Praying has been more difficult for Nahzee after she lost her granddaughter in the massacre. For she said how much she and others prayed, and fasted, and she doesn't know why God didn't hear her prayers. This is something her daughter, Fatima (Sophia's mom), throws in Nahzee's face at times... 'Why didn't God hear your prayers?'

Later, i was about to take a shower " “ but as happens in Bsln: no water! We waited for her son-in-law (Vladimir, Sophia's dad) to come and take us to Vladikavkaz to finish the registration. He came, and we picked up his son, Soslan, and then went to Vladikavkaz. Praise God, He totally changed Larissa's heart, and blessed us to finish the registration! Thank You, Jesus! They took me back to Bsln, and i gave Sos and the other guy that was with us in the car my CD. They took Nahzee to the border so she could travel to South Ossetia . Pray for her " “ there is still fighting and killing between the Georgians and Ossetians, and her going back there is quite dangerous. (She's originally from there.) As far as i understand it, this is a short summary of the problem. There is both North and South Ossetia; after the collapse of the USSR , Georgia became a separate country. However, part of the land that they want to claim is really South Ossetia . North Ossetia (the republic where i am) is within Russia 's current borders; South Ossetia is not. Georgians have attacked and killed many South Ossetians in order to grasp hold of that region as their own, and as a result, there are loads of Ossetians who have fled here to the north to escape the war. Russia backs North and South Ossetia, and for some reason, the US backs Georgia . This summary comes from what people have told me... i'm not claiming to be any expert in politics.

Perhaps you've also been confused by the names of where i'm at now. Here's a short bit of info that will hopefully help clear up some of that. I'm in Russia ; within this country, there are numerous republics. I'm helping in southwest Russia , in the Republic of North Ossetia . The majority of the people living in North Ossetia , ethnically, are not Russian " “ they're Ossetian. Ossetians are related to the Persians (like in Iran ), and have their own language, culture, music, and so on. All of the surrounding republics are Muslim; Ossetia is the lone traditionally Christian republic in this region. Vladikavkaz is the capital of North Ossetia ; Bsln, where i live, is a small town about a 20 or 30 minute drive from Vladikavkaz. In September 2004, Muslim terrorists from two neighboring republics (Ingushetia and Chechnya ), as well as from other areas, attacked School No.1 here in Bsln. They held over 1100 people hostage in a gymnasium for three days. On the final day, an explosion occurred inside the gym (though there's fierce debate about who caused the explosion) and Russian forces stormed the school - it was a seen of absolute chaos. Terrorists shooting, soldiers firing, kids running, people dying... an utter nightmare. More than 330 people lost their lives in those three days, most of whom were children.

Also, i know it might get confusing trying to figure out who's who since so many people here have the same names. For girls, there are lots and lots of Madinas, Zalinas, Zarinas, Alinas, and so forth. For guys, there are many Soslans, Aslans, Zaurs, Sashas, etc. Some here have great difficulty in saying 'jason' correctly " “ i get 'Jensen,' ' Jackson ,' 'John,' and what-have-you. Nahzee (the grandma i'm staying with) sometimes just calls me by my middle name (Alan), since that's a common name here and the Ossetians' ancestors were a people group called the Alans. I'm just thankful my name doesn't have any 'th' sounds in it! The Ossetian and Russian languages don't have that sound, so they often say 'f' instead of 'th.' Like when i was serving in Jerusalem , and our Russian brothers and sisters there would call Ruth, our office manager from Canada , 'Roof!'

Saturday, 9/30/06 " “ Went and visited with Mairbek and his family some. Kristina (his young relative in university) seemed disappointed that i hadn't visited for so long " “ she was waiting for me to help her figure out her laptop. Said i'd come Monday at 5, since they were leaving soon for Khoomalag (a village) today to spend a few hours there. Mairbek really wanted me to stay and visit until the last minute they had to leave! He asked Sima (his grandma) if he could stay home with me; she would've been fine with that, but i was scheduled to teach Susanna and whomever else might be at the Committee at 7. Gave Mairbek the 'Ronaldo' soccer notebook i bought for him at the bizaar. Tried to visit Alina (Naldikoeva), but no one was there. (Alina is a young girl who survived the school massacre, but has drastically changed after that nightmare.) Tried to visit the Plieva family - no one home there as well. (Elza Plieva was in the gym with her two young daughters, but her older girl, Alana, was killed. Her younger daughter, Zalina, almost died as well and it's truly a miracle that she's still alive. Elza feels guilty that she herself survived, but couldn't save Alana. Both Elza and little Zalina have some mental problems now. Who wouldn't after all they've gone through?) On the way to visit the Satsayevs, i saw Amina, Madina, and Liza (Alikova), as well as Kameela and some other girls; talked with them a little. (The 3 young Alikova girls were in the gym with their mom and grandma " “ their mom was killed.) Went to teach Susanna and whomever else might want to study at the Mother's Committee, but no one was there. Called Susanna, and she said she was sick and couldn't study today " “ said she'd call me if/when she had time. Went back to where i live and went into the Baptist church across the street; hung out a little with some of the young believers there. Came home and fed Barseek (Nahzee's dog). Boy, is he hyper! He has the energy of a puppy, but is about as big as a wolf - and he likes to jump on you! (But he's a great watchdog, too.)

Monday, 10/02/06 " “ Went to the Baptist church' service this morning. Sergei (Totiev, who lost two of his children in the school massacre) talked about how we, as people, know how to count many things... money, distances, and so forth. But some people don't how to 'count' regarding their lives and eternity. One woman came up front and repented of her sins " “ praise The Lord! Afterwards went to the other fellowship; Jambul had a wedding to go to in Vladikavkaz, so Sasha spoke. Later, taught Madina (a high school student who attends that fellowship) guitar and English. Pray for Madina's mom " “ she's a Jehovah's Witness. The Lord blessed me to share some with Madina about them, and thank God she's not part of that cult.

Please pray for:

  • God's comfort and mercy for the many grieving family members;
  • Repentance and revival in Bsln;
  • The Lord to bless and protect Nahzee in South Ossetia ;
  • Me to keep my personal time with Jesus. There's so much to do, & it can be hard to deliberately set aside time to be with Him. Far be it from us to be so busy about 'His business' that we neglect or forget Him;
  • The Lord to remember, bless, and convict His people, Israel . Peace be to you, O Jerusalem !

For those interested in learning more about the Bsln terror attack, i encourage you to do an internet search of the word Beslan " “ there is a lot of information out there: photos, interviews, and so forth. I can assure you that the more you research, the more God will move your heart for these hurting people.

May The Lord Almighty bless you for your prayers and support and encouragement that so many of you give! I hope you've been blessed as you've read about the above people, real people whom you've helped touch. Praise be to our Great God Who calls some to stay, and some to go. He gives the increase, and He Alone Is Worthy to receive all of the glory! Reminding you that He never changes,

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Give thanks to YHWH (The LORD) , for He Is Good!

Psalm 107:1