1 December 2001 

Dear Friends,


Merry Christmas! We pray that all is well with you this year, that you remember to thank God for the wonderful gifts He gives you. Over the past year and a half, God has richly blessed our marriage! We are learning a lot about His patience and love. We are very thankful for a reasonably priced apartment in an exceedingly expensive city. It is nice to have a bit of space we can call our home. The air is refreshingly clean in this "sleeping region," since we live near a very large forest-park.


This is our first Christmas letter, even though it is the second Christmas we have observed as a young family. Recently, we celebrated our second Thanksgiving in Moscow. Both times we gathered together with Dean and Olga Kershner, enjoying a scrumptious feast including the traditional liver. We are very thankful for their friendship, and have watched their family grow to include little Irvin.


Ira graduated June 2001 from Rostov State University in Economic Theory, beautifully defending her thesis in English, and finishing with a perfect 5.0 GPA. Now she is studying for her Master's at Moscow State University (MGU), the most prestigious institution in Russia, on a full-ride scholarship. She is studying International Economics, researching the subject of electronic government, and recently arranged a personal meeting and interview with the Ambassador of Singapore. Even though she is an "outsider" at MGU, she is already becoming known as one of the smartest students around!


Stan is teaching English part-time at the commercial Griboedov Institute of International Law and Economics. He enjoys the challenge of motivating students who sometimes seem too rich for their own good. Also, he is still programming a bit whenever there is something to do. He enjoys sometimes going to the bazaar, because it really keeps him on his toes to get a good deal and not be cheated.


We have been fellowshipping at the Christian Life church, planted a decade ago by the Greater Grace church in Baltimore, Maryland. Attendance Sundays is nearly 250, and maybe 150 for the Wednesday night service. We enjoy singing in the worship team, as well as singing duets together for offertory.


Thank you for your prayers this past year and always. We covet them dearly. We especially thank you if you were praying for Ira's brother Misha, who gave his life to Christ last summer at the conference in Kaliningrad. Please continue to remember him and his spiritual growth. After that conference, we traveled to Bugulma (by the Ural mountains), where we collected huge scrumptious mushrooms in vast forests with warm friendly relatives.


Please be praying that we will be a good witness to all around us, but especially to relatives, including Ira's mama and papa, and her cousin Lena who lives in Moscow. Also, Lena and Dasha, two girls who studied in Bozeman with Ira, have moved to Moscow. Pray we will be a good witness for Christ in all we say and do.


Isaiah 9:2 says, "The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined." Pray that we will be able to help those around us discern blinding materialism from the freeing Light of our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Rejoicing in His birth,


Stan & Irina Guthrie

Moscow, Russia


Here is another funny one we sent via email right before Christmas:

Merry Christmas, One And All!!!


That "holiday rush" everyone speaks of in the U.S. has certainly hit us, but even harder, since today is a working day.  Fortunately, Irishka found out her grade in the last of her seven classes yesterday, another perfect 5, so she is done.  Stan, however, is working 9-5, which means he left home about 7:30 and will arrive after 6 pm.  So the holiday rush is multiplied by the fact that work continues without even slowing down.  Stan was up very late last night grading tests, and then we read the Christmas Story from Matthew and Luke together.  We had been invited to a party at Steve and Christine Hayes's house, but it would be over 2 hours travel one-way to get there.  Even without attending, we were up late.  Stan has a bit of a break between classes, so he has an opportunity to write.


This is turning out to be a "Christmas to remember."  As they say, you can laugh or cry.  We choose to laugh, and invite you to laugh with us.  It would probably seem funnier to us if it wasn't real, and if it wasn't so serious.  But it's amusing nonetheless.


For tonight, we invited 5 couples from church over.  We're not sure if all of them will come, but it could be up to 12 people.  More likely, it will be 8-10.  Still, a full house!  We plan to have a lot of fun, eating tasty food which Irishka prepared (and is preparing), singing Christmas carols, and having a White Elephant gift exchange!  Until Saturday, we had no big table.  We ate daily on our tiny kitchen table, and sometimes used a little coffee table when we had guests.  But we needed a table.  After a year of searching, we finally found something close to what we need.  It was funny, because these tables, which fold to 3 sizes, are everywhere in Rostov, but hard to find in Moscow.  All they sell here are huge tables for tiny apartments.  But we found a good one!  Stan spent almost 6 hours putting it together.  The hinges alone required 108 screws put by hand into particle board.  That's when you start to sing, "All I want for Christmas is an electric screwdriver…"   =)


In classes today, Stan is not actually teaching, but showing "White Christmas."  There's another version of the song included at the bottom of this letter.  Organize a quick performance when you read this…  To help you understand, here's a bit of background.


Yesterday morning, the 24th, we received an unhappy call from our neighbors downstairs.  They complained of a waterfall flowing through their entire apartment.  Their language was quite "colorful," shall we say.  We checked under our sink, and, yes, it was a bit wet.  It turns out that the faucet was leaking.  Stan took it apart (no small feat without tools) and noticed that there was no rubber gasket where there should have been, only some bits of rotten string that someone had wrapped up in there in lieu of a 5-rouble gasket.  Over time, they rotted, and started leaking.  We had noticed that there was a bit of water around the faucet, but didn't think it was anything too serious.  As it turns out, though, the caulking around the sink, as well as around the base of the faucet, is all shrunken and rotted away, so water leaks down through.  This is a slow process, but we were using the sink a lot preparing food for Christmas.  Normally, the water probably had time to evaporate before dripping down to the 4th floor below.


The faucet is very old, and should be replaced rather than repaired.  Stan did a quick band-aid of plastic bag, electrical tape, and duct tape.  With the help of dry newspapers, he carefully checked for leaks none.  Everything was good to go, at least for a few days.  Christmas would go on!


Irishka needed to go to the university Monday afternoon, so she headed out.  Just minutes after she had left, the bell rang frantically.  Stan assumed it was his beloved returning for something she had forgotten.  But instead of his smiling sweetheart, he was greeted by two smelly, drunken bums who claimed they were plumbers.  When they offered to fix the leak for free, Stan got suspicious, and refused.  They kept pounding on the door and shouting, but eventually gave up and left.


In the late afternoon, Ira returned, and called our landlady.  Stan had spoken with her on the phone earlier, and she wanted to try to get it fixed immediately.  We didn't want anyone barging in and messing things up while we were trying to prepare food, or especially when we had a houseful of guests!  Our landlady is a bit upset, because she thinks we are responsible.  But the apartment was falling apart before we moved in.  It's actually better now, as Stan has re-wired things, repaired things, put the door back on (the huge "solid" metal door was anchored in crumbling sand), and just yesterday replaced a dozen tiles which had come off in the bathroom.  But landlords here aren't expected to do anything with the rent money except party.  We're very fortunate to have a mostly-helpful landlady, praise God!


In the early evening, we got another angry phone call, wondering why we didn't fix anything.  Stan went to check it out, confident his repair, though temporary, was good enough.  It was.  But the drain pipe now decided to  open up.  About an 1/8 inch separation opened between two sections of pipe, and all the water, instead of going where it should, was dumping onto the floor.  Since the space was saturated, it went down immediately.


Stan also fixed this, with electrical tape and duct tape.  No more leaks.  But very mad neighbors!


A bit later, the phone rang again.  Irishka answered it, and was greeted by the "2 Stooges Plumbing Co."  They wanted to come over and work on our sink.  Irishka pressed for more details.  What would they do?  The conversation went something like,


Stooge: Your neighbors are complaining about your broken sink.

Ira:       Yes, we know.  We fixed it.

Stooge: We'll come over and break your sink for you.

Ira:       What?

Stooge: If you have any leaks again, just call us.  555-55-55.

Ira:       What will you do?

Stooge: We'll break your sink for you.

Ira:       It's already broken.  We need it fixed.

Stooge: But you still have water.  We'll come over and break it completely.  That way, then you'll have to turn the water off to stop a flood.  You won't be able to use any water.  And if you can't use any water, you'll be more tempted to call a plumber to come fix it.

Ira:       Will you fix it?

Stooge: Now, we just break it.  Then you find someone else to fix it.


The stooge was a bit drunk, and was speaking very coarsely and rudely.  Ira kept her calm.  Good thing Stan didn't trust them!  The last time someone came in, even though he was "good" and well-paid, he ripped off a dozen tiles and broke them, just installing a new sink!  So if they claim that they want to break something, look out!!!!


In honor of this memorable occasion, Stan composed a song this morning.  The text appears below.  Sing and enjoy!


With love, prayers, and wishes for a merry Christmas for all,

Stan & Irina Guthrie


Wet Christmas

By Stan Guthrie, Christmas 2001

(To be sung a deep Bing Crosby voice.)


I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas,

With trepidation and with fright,

Where the neighbors bristle,

And plumbers whistle,

To come break all of our pipes.


I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas

With nightmares looming in my sight…

May your neighbors vary, be right,

And may all your Christmases be dry.

This page is created and maintained by Irina Guthrie, copyright 2003