Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Reflections from a Writer in Moscow

It seems there is a problem in the stratosphere and I'm not currently able to update my website.  

But I really wanted to get a newsletter update to the world so I am posting it here.  It's not exactly the same voice as my blog, but I think you'll like it ok.

Let me know if you have any questions or if you'd like to partner with me for the next year in Moscow.   I know God will bless you in return.  
Reflections from a Writer in Moscow
May / June 2014
Kris A. Newman

Greetings from Moscow!

I trust that you are enjoying the same lovely spring/summer weather as we have been blessed with in Moscow.  They tell me it is unseasonably warm and I’m ok with that.  It is incredible how quickly God can change the landscape from winter to summer. 

Although the regular school session ended on May 30, we still have three weeks of summer school classes to manage before I am free to come home.  The end of the year, of course, causes me to reflect on this season of my life.  One year ago I had no intention of leaving Thorp for any reason, I enjoyed working at the law firm in Eau Claire, loved the writing assignments for 5ive for Women magazine.  My life had fallen into a very predictable pattern.

I had no idea that God was setting a new thing in motion that would change everything.  I never imagined I would be in a classroom with students from literally around the world.

I am humbled that He chose me to be here this year.  When I consider the many new friendships and connections He has provided with people from all over the world, I am humbled.  When I consider the conversations about His grace I have been able to share with honest, transparent seekers, I am humbled.  When I consider the healing I have received for my back when “just one more prayer” was prayed, I am humbled.  God has been good to me this year.  In return, I hope that I have used the right words, shown the greatest amount of love, returned good at every hand and been a vessel of honor for His glory. 

My return flight lands in Minneapolis at approximately 6:00pm on June 25th.  I have to tell you, I’m looking forward to a lot of American faces and places.  And yet, I know I’m not quite done here. 

Moscow is a hard city in many ways.  It takes a lot to build a foundation of trust.  There is a long history in this country of hurt, deceit and treachery.  It’s ingrained in their culture. To find the beauty, one must look beyond the walls, reach beyond the surface. You can’t Photoshop reality.  I have done my best to reach out and make several connections with people around the city.  They are from many facets of life.  Mostly, they want to practice their English with me and, in return, help me with my Russian.  However, I have lived long enough to know that every friendship made is an opportunity to share grace.
This point was driven home for me at Easter time.  On Good Friday we had a special devotion where the students each read a portion of the Easter story from the Children’s Bible.  As we read, we discussed what the story meant.  At the conclusion, the Sudanese Muslim girl looked at me with eyes wide, “Does that say that Jesus died for me?  For all of us?” 

I assured her that is exactly what it meant.  She became very quiet and thoughtful for the rest of the day. 

When it was time for dismissal she had one more question.  “Miss Kris, that story about Jesus, is it real or is it fake?” 

Clearly, God has sent me here for a purpose.

But, as always is the case with God, there is never only one job to be done.  I have also been actively involved with the United Pentecostal Church of Moscow and the local missionaries, the Robert Moses family.  Using my limited computer skills, I helped them create a website for the church among other sundry tasks to enhance their visibility in the community.  Due in part to this exposure, several saints from the Philippines and one from Venezuela have been added to our church family here.
As an Associate in Missions with another year-long teaching contract before me, I am excited to see what the next school year will bring.   However, this can only happen if I raise the necessary budget to cover another year on the field.  I do receive a salary from the school, but it doesn’t quite cover the cost of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.  My budget for the upcoming year is $13,700. 

I am also in need of prayer partners.  There is no such thing as having too many people praying, and I appreciate the words of encouragement and support received more than words can say.

As we close off another Moscow month, here are the current prayer requests:

Pray for strength and wisdom for the Filipino sisters who are attending our services.  They often travel for three hours to attend service.  Their lives here are very difficult.  Often they only have one day a week off from work and it generally isn’t on Sunday.  Pray that they will be able to attend services.    
Pray for safe travels for me and my colleagues as many of us are heading out of Moscow for the summer. 
Pray for us to be able to bridge the cultural gaps as we share the Word.
Pray for my students to continue to seek God for themselves.

Thank you for everything.  Your prayers and support mean a lot to me.  There are days I feel like I’m being carried on someone else’s strength and I know it’s your prayers at work.  Drop a note to me here or through my e-mail at

Also, please visit the church website and see what’s happening in Moscow.

In His Service,

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dreamy St. Petersburg

I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. And this is one: I'm going to tell it....     Emily Bronte

The Dream of St. Petersburgh

I dreamt I took a train to an adventure. My mind was filled with all the possibilities and `'what-ifs" I had always imagined.  I expected to see beautiful things, hear musical voices, see colors and textures and life I had not known before.

The train in my dream rushed through the darkness with only the occasional disturbance.  

I awoke to find myself there, at that place, the place I had dreamed of!  Surrounded by history and meaning, I walked behind my knowledgeable guide.  She told me the story of her city.  "This is where Alexander I lived and this was Catherine's palace.  We have Nicholas's statute over here and the lighthouse over there."  We wound our way through unfamiliar comfortable streets filled with the voices of life.  

The Fortress of Peter and Paul stands chief among the buildings in this dream.  Walking through the walled city I found myself taking pictures and wondering about their story.  Who lived here?  Who walked here?  Who rested in the safety of the mamoth walls?  And Why?  What did they hide from?  I could almost feel their sense of safety, hear their hushed whispers.  

Sometimes it rained - hard, chilly raindrops forcing up the umbrellas and drawing strangers closer together.  Unexpectedly, around another corner, the sun would shine and the skies would clear.  Equally by turns it was cool and warm.  A day which couldn't make up its mind what kind of day it wanted to be.

Still we walked.  Sometimes strolling, sometimes with purpose, sometimes with crowds, sometimes without.  Always surrounded by the story.

We happened on a parade at one point.  WWII veterans and their families holding pictures of those lost in the Great War.  This city felt the cost of the war in devastating fashion.  The survivors are grateful for those who paid the price to hold the land.  They celebrate with intense pride.  The uniforms, the flowers, the pictures, the stories flowed through the street with the rain playing softly overhead.  

We stopped for coffee at another point.  Like Goldilocks we tried first this spot then that before we found a place that was just right.  Hot coffee, sweet treats, gentle conversation refreshed us both.

As we exited the last Metro I caught sight of a painting tossed on the street.  In the broken fragment I could see perfect blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds.  A building grew in the painting it's rounded turret strutting its strength against nature.  "I'm still here!"  It shouted behind the billboard tacked to its face.  "Don't let the modern facade fool you.  I have watched the gate for centuries.  I saw Napoleon and Hitler trying to take me away.  Neither Soviet rule nor winter's blizzard could change my stand.  You may paint me with advertisements or bathe my stone in whitewash.  The fact remains.  I am still here."

As I lay my head down at the end of the day, I realized it was not a dream at all.  I really did come to St. Petersburg.  I really did see, hear, taste, feel these things.  And another day awaits.
I thought I was awake, but found myself still in the dream.

Another swirl of color, sound and smells swished about me.  The sun was out now and shining brightly.  Golden domes atop fortress buildings glimmered in the horizon as I walked a new route. 

“There is Bro. Turner’s favorite bookstore.”  “There is my favorite palace.”  “There is St. Isaac’s Cathedral.”  Over and over the phrases of my friend crowded into my hearing as she tried to show me all of the best and share with me her abundant knowledge. 

Passing The Church of the Spilled Blood, a remarkable piece of architecture, I was caught by the sound of a quiet flute dancing among the trees.  Wearing black and strolling carelessly, the flutist interacted with his audience.  I drank in the peaceful sounds a moment before continuing.

“We were here yesterday.  Remember when we crossed the bridge after the parade?  That’s where we were.”  My friend stood pointing and, to my surprise, I did remember.  The bridge with the four horses prancing above beckoned us to go on.
Another dash of music surprised me upon a wall outside of a hotel.  I didn’t know the song, but gave it a passing glance to honor its existence.

Through this passage and that, winding behind and between the ancient buildings, we finally erupted into a bright square.  “Now we’re here.  There is The Hermitage.” 

Ah!  The Hermitage!  Frosted in mint and cream, the elegance was almost more than one could fathom.  To our right a spare, modernist, clean-lined building humbly held court.  Court isn’t all that it held, however.  It also held a Kandinsky Exhibit. Up a glass staircase, through a winding passageway and then there it was!  The very thing I wished to see. 

Many years ago I had received a print of the Kandinsky painting “Winter Landscape” which has hung in some manner of honor or another ever since.  The colors carried a promise for me that someday I would see the real painting, I would stand before it.  And now, here in my dream, I stood. 

“Thanks, God,” I whispered. 

But Kandinsky wasn’t the only artist present in this dream!  We gazed at Da Vinci, danced with Matisse, rested with Monet, laughed with Van Gogh and a host of many others inside The Hermitage.  Wandering through the labyrinth of rooms my heart was overwhelmed with the beauty and contrasts of expression.

Many tired hours later we were home again.  The welcoming apartment with its fresh baked chicken covered with tomatoes and mozzarella opened its doors.  Wearily we rested.  Sharing again our lives and finding so many commonalities, so many subtle differences.  Born on opposite sides of the Cold War we found kindred spirits.

Sunday dawned early, but not early enough and we quickly made our way to the train which would return me to Moscow.  Brisk steps, brisk breeze and brisk good-byes jumbled together on the platform of the waiting train.  Out of breath, I sat in my seat, closed my eyes and slept.

If you would like to see additional pictures,
 please visit my Facebook page:  Author Kris A. Newman

Friday, April 4, 2014

Shifting Success

Success.  The result of goals?  The result of calculated risks?  The result of God?

I have been giving a lot of thought to success lately. 

For one thing I am constantly harping about it to my students. “If you want to succeed in reaching Honor Roll, you must complete each day’s goals.  If you continually meet or exceed your goals, you will have success.”  That’s a goal thing.

Success hovers above me as I live this Moscow life, too.  Having found my way around the Metro was a particular kind of success.  Grocery shopping, ordering food at a restaurant in a foreign language, making friends – all successes checked off my invisible list.  That’s a calculated risk thing.

I am told I have been successful at raising my children and am asked for advice.  “How did you raise your sons so successfully?”  A question for which I have no response.  I honestly don’t know.  I ponder it often and shake my head in amazement at their successes, at their achievements, at their character.  Where did they come from?  How did my mistakes, miscalculations, misunderstandings allow them to become men of honor?  That’s a God thing.

I understand success in the business world.  After three, six, 12 months of employ, my work product and conduct has been evaluated and re-evaluated.  “You are too loud.  You are too assertive.  You do not speak up enough about problems.  You are not confident enough.”  My favorite?  “You work really hard and you do an excellent job, but you make too many mistakes.  You need to slow down.”  I cannot tell you how many times my lack of success has been connected to moving too fast and worrying too much about what should be done in a day.  I thrived on rising to the task, deflating the stress and being successful!

I have long held to the idea that if I could make my boss look better, then I had done my job well.  The best teams I have been on have allowed me latitude to be creative in insuring their success.  And I did make them look better.   I comprehend the importance of those business goals and agree with them.  I work hard to apply them to my personal business as I see their value. 

But now I’m engaged in another kind of business with a different set of parameters.  The business of education is much like an art project whose final pattern is not known for many years.  I have had passed to me certain impressionable minds and hearts.  I have the ability to break their creativity, to shatter their confidence, to frighten them away from dreaming big.  Equally, I have the opportunity to unlock their creative genius, to build their confidence, to strengthen their desire to dream impossible dreams.   Each day is another chance to fail or succeed.

The importance of this window of time is magnified in an international school such as this.  These lives are those of future leaders.  These children already speak two or three languages.  The likelihood that they will go through the next five years of education together is remote.  Rather, we will soon be only memories of one another scattered to the four corners. 

How do I measure the success of my work as an educator?  With more questions, of course.

Do they read better now than they did in October?  Can they work sums more quickly?  Do they know how to tell time?  Have they mastered a broader vocabulary?  Do they enjoy the art of learning?  Are their friendships stronger?  Is there a sense of community which builds them up?  Are they thriving?  Is there any tool lacking in their toolbox?

There is another layer.  I am also an Associate in Missions.  My purpose here is to share the goodness of Jesus Christ with Moscow.  People have invested in me financially and prayerfully to share in this project. 
I know how Americans generally gauge success of a church.  “How many in Sunday School?”  “How many baptized?”  “How many have received the Holy Ghost?”  How many?  Not many here.  It seems I am not much help at all to the missionaries I have been assigned to assist.  I must remember that that measure of success as an AIMer cannot be quantified by numbers. 

I need to change my perspective.  Shift my paradigms.  Rearrange my view.

I read in Luke 7 the other day how John the Baptist had sent followers to ask Jesus if He was the One sent from God.  You would think John wouldn’t have to ask considering all that he had seen and heard of Jesus, but still he worried whether he had done his job.  Had he pointed to the right guy that day on the beach?  What if he missed it? 

Jesus seems to ignore John’s question all together with his response.  “Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.”  John 7:22. 

It seems to me He was saying, if you do whatever your hand finds to do – be quick to help someone see more clearly, help someone in their walk, reach out to everyone with grace – even the destitute despised by society – speak the truth, show someone how to be raised from their sins, share the good news…. Then you are successful.

My job isn’t to have results.  My job is to sow seeds.   With my students, with my colleagues, with every single person who crosses my path.  My success can only be measured by the One for Whom I work.  

Yes, I do have personal goals to achieve while I’m alive.  Yes, I do have a plan to reach those goals.  Yes, I will do my best to be the best possible Follower of Christ I can.  Yes, I will continue to engage myself in stretching further to serve Him better.

It’s true.  There are many ways to gauge success.  Based on that, I think this year has been successful so far.  It’s a good investment of my time and of your prayers and finances.  I can’t imagine what the final harvest will look like, but I am excited to see what God has in mind.  Thankful He trusts me to plant the seeds and represent Him.   

According to these paradigms, am I successful? 

Well, I have seen many opportunities to share joy with others.  I have watched children read the Bible with excitement who had never seen a Bible before.  I have held the hand of someone who asked for prayer and felt the sweet presence of God bring peace to them.   I have broken the Bread of Life with several discussing the ins and outs of how to walk with Jesus.  And more.

Not only me, of course, but my colleagues and friends who share this adventure with me.  And you, my readers, my supporters, you are a part of this success, too.  Your encouragement and finances provides me with opportunity I wouldn’t have otherwise.  I am only the mouthpiece emboldened by your confidence.

So, now, let me rephrase the question.  Have we been successful so far?  

Yep.  I think we're doing okay.  So far so good.


To order a copy of A Book of Pages About Crossing Bridges or a Friend Named Jesus,
 please visit my website:  Writer's Pages
Facebook:  Author Kris A. Newman

Monday, March 3, 2014

News Update

Just a quick note to let my blog readers know I have added a Moscow Update newsletter to the website.

February was too packed with living to have much time to write.  Spent a day at an art gallery.  Enjoyed Valentine's Day celebrations, scribbled some words at the coffee shop - but no time to sit still and just write.  I'm afraid if March walks past at the same pace there will be a war of the words crashing onto my keyboard!  

Until then, here's the latest link:  MOSCOW UPDATES

Thanks for stopping by!  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wait-y Words

It’s been a bit since I sat down at the computer to write on purpose.  I have done some scribbling and some rambling, but they aren’t words for sharing, just for emoting. 

I’m not sure where my serious words have gone.  I apologize for having lost track of them.  I know you are waiting to hear all about my marvelous Moscow adventures.  But the words are winding elsewhere winging away on the winter wind.

I go from here to there in Moscow surrounded by millions of people.  I am lost in a sea faces moving from one place in line to the next.  Forced to walk the pace of those before and behind and around me.  I am closer to them than to any other human being here, but without words.  We move in syncopated silence. 

I purposed to share that with you in a long short story so you can see through my eyes, but there seemed no reason for the writing.

Yesterday I sat down on purpose with a blank sheet of paper before me and started six time – SIX TIMES – to tell you something important.  But nothing important wanted to be heard.  Stumped, I closed the computer and made my way to the house of a great writer – Count Leo Tolstoy - hoping he had left some words for me.   Like a slow-moving lava, the ideas began to surface. 

But not enough to write about.  And evening turned to morning and a new day dawned.

This morning, thanks to modern technology, I saw the home going service of a patriarch of Pentecost - Bishop Frank Tamel.  In true Pentecostal fashion there was rejoicing and laughter and much, much music.  Story after story was told of the influence of this man.  Thousands of voices rose together in affirmation of the affect this life had had upon their lives. 

There, in the middle of the Pentecostalisms, in the middle of the crowd thousands of miles and hours away the words began to form.

One of the sons of the deceased told the story of how one man talked to another man who was the father of the Bishop.  Because the man and the father spoke, Bishop eventually gave his life to Jesus.  One conversation caused a chain reaction shift that changed an entire city worth of lives. 

Imagine that.  One man talking to another man offering a simple sentence of hope. 

It occurs to me that the real reason words exist is to communicate a message between persons.  I have something to tell.  You are listening to what I am saying.  If my message is mundane, you will quickly lose interest and move on to another conversation elsewhere.  When the words are hiding, it is because they think they have nothing to say.

As a Christian, as someone whose life has been changed by a message of grace and hope, my words carry an extra treasure.  No conversation, no communication, no sharing of words is ever rudimentary, it is never useless.

With that in mind, I thought again of what I have to tell you. 

Much is happening here in Moscow.  It is easy to make an acquaintance in Moscow, but not so easy to make a friend.  There is a definite distinction.  Yet, I find the grace of God creates a strong bridge easily crossed regardless of language and culture. 

I have mentioned before my classroom full of bright, curious minds.  One of them is a Muslim girl who is always quick to raise her hand to pray “In Jesus Name!”  She loves to read the Bible and to tell the stories she is learning.  Another child has asked me to write down the simple prayers we pray in class so he can teach them to his family at home.  Yet another comes to me frequently with Bible questions.  Those conversations are eternally valuable and only time will tell how many lives are affected.  I hope I don’t brush them off as incidental conversations, but see the weight they carry like the man-to-man conversation above.

My classroom is also a place where parents come to talk with me.  Sometimes we talk about their children, sometimes we talk about them.  Mothers in difficult situations have sat at my table as they tried to sort out what the Bible teaches, what does God expect of them.  I find myself struggling for words of hope.   I recall my own dark nights of the soul and dredge up the hopeful verses that shone brightly into my life.

This room is also a place of prayer.  I pray there myself, often as a means to keep balance when the students’ personalities ignite one another to mischief.  I pray there also with my colleague as we seek God’s help for problems bigger than our experience.  The joined faith of those words brings courage to us as we listen to the other.

Yes, there is much to talk about in Moscow.  It’s not that the words have escaped me.  They have just found another way to be expressed.  I hope that my words would have a lasting impact on many generations.  I hope that my faith would create a chain reaction so explosive a city’s worth of people can be changed.

I have decided that words are treasures to be spent lavishly.  If you feel you have run out of words, just wait a minute.  They will come.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Latest Newsletter

For those of you who are only connected through the blog, here is a link to the latest Moscow Update Newsletter.

Hope this finds you enjoying a blessed start to 2014.



Sunday, December 22, 2013

I'm the Project

I have met many new acquaintances, and some very good new friends, here in Moscow.  One of them is an English teacher who has assigned me to several of her students.  They are to take me places in Moscow and speak only English with me.

To me, this is an amazing opportunity to see this marvelous city through the eyes and experiences of the young people who will be leaders of the next generation.

Yesterday was the first event in the project.  A young man, Sergey, was in charge of me for the day.  He said we would go to a conservatory for a free concert performance involving graduates and students.  He didn't know exactly what to expect, only that there would be music and it was free.  

Although my words below do not begin to scratch the surface of the experience, I wanted to get the words out of my hands before they are lost.  Some of these phrases were formed while I sat beneath the music's spell, others while I slept last night.  

We met on one of the platforms of one of the stations that lay deep within the earth beneath the center of Moscow.  I can't tell you exactly where we were from the outside of the Metro, but from within it was the Red Line station - I call it Lenin's Library because that is my scratchy translation.  I scurried behind my guide glad for his height making it easier to keep track of him through the maze.  Once upon ground we sloshed between the slush and the snow and the freezing rain, dodging people and traffic and flying puddles, we made our way to an impossibly old building.  

If you have ever been to a piano recital you could describe the audience we joined.  Parents, grandparents, instructors, siblings, roommates and assorted other supporters politely lined the small hall where the first performances would be held.  Sergey read through the program and tried to explain it to me.  

It's funny, really, as much as I enjoy classical music I don't have any knowledge or training in it.  I don't know Bach from Chopin, but I know what I like and I know when something is properly executed.  I just do.  I've not had a lot of exposure to it and it's not something I would turn the radio dial to.  Yet, here I was infinitely excited to be seated in this lovely place anticipating lovely music.

The hall was a room really with high ceilings framed with careful molding and painted a soft yellow.  In the center was a stunning crystal chandelier.  I wished instantly for my good camera when I saw it.  

"Oh my!"  I said aloud.

Sergey looked around puzzled.  "What?"

"Look at that!  It's so beautiful!"

He sort of laughed and shook his head doubtless wondering about his addled American project.  

As the music began I watched as light and music danced together along the crystal beads playing with centuries of sound and life.  These chords so new to the young rang richly with history to the old.  Crossing generations, politics and lifestyles the music breathes.  

I watched one particular pianist who diligently worked to maintain decorum.  It was good for her to be a part of a duet as it allowed her some freedom while helping her follow the straight lines of the piece.  Her hands and face danced jubilantly with each note played.  Floating along the keyboard, she had forgotten her audience and played only for the joy of sound.  I couldn't help but wonder where her imagination took her as the music sang to her soul. 

I looked around the room more closely at the audience.  It occurred to me that many of them had been raised during Soviet times, some even during Stalin's reign of terror.  I watched the music behind their eyes and wished I could ask them where the memories of the music took them.  Did they see days when music was taken from them and given to another?  Or was music given the people in a general sense as a replacement for God?  The need for beauty and purpose did not cease when the government decided that God was for fools.  Rather, it found a new avenue and I wondered how that affected these lives around me. 

Leaving the small hall behind, we joined the larger performance venue to see who might perform there.  We were pleasantly surprised to find children showcasing their talents.  Even more spellbound I sat watching them participate in centuries of timeless expression.  

I considered how I was surrounded by a rich heritage of beauty and art in these rooms and yet I seemed the only one entranced by its significance.  Perhaps the others had been there so many times, had heard the beautiful notes so frequently, had listened to the crescendo and fall until it had all become common place. These audience members have been here before.  To them this is lovely, but not stunning.  

It occurred to me that the participants in this act playing out before me were much like their American counterparts.  I have watched my friends in Russia stand amazed when they encounter a divine touch from God.  When His quiet amazing presence fills a room, the awe on their faces is easy to see.  Often in America it is not so.  Many of my American friends are so awash in His grace and presence, it has become common place to them.  Bored, they look around, chat idly, play on their cell phones - and don't even notice He is there.

Afterwards I walked with my young friend down Arbat Street.  Fresh new architecture lines the sky above centuries old, solid buildings.  At the end of the avenue one of Stalin's Seven Sister buildings holds court.  The contrasts are stark here.  Western capitalism is making its mark, but not without allowance made for Russian tradition.

At the close of the day, the music warmed my heart and caused me to smile long into the wintry walk home.  I find I am rather excited to be a part of this project.  My next tour guide is expected to take me to an art gallery and then another will take me to the Kremlin.  God is good.  That's a fact!