We had an interesting start to our relationship with Julia. We wrote about her in an earlier newsletter:
After meeting her the day before, Julia and I met at her bank to sign the paperwork. Since nothing in Russia is quick, we had plenty of time to talk and get to know each other.
Julia mentioned that she had been getting nervous about being able to find good renters. (She actually immigrated to the U.S. – a big part of her puzzlement over why we would do the opposite.) Her two months here would end in less than a week. Now more comfortable discussing matters of faith, I said, “that must mean God sent us to you, and you to us.”
“Absolutely,” she affirmed. “Yesterday morning before you arrive, I went to visit Ksenia Blazhennaya about this to beseech her help.” She was surprised I hadn’t heard of Ksenia. “Even Laura Bush came to visit her when she was here!”
My curiosity peaked. How could I have missed knowing about such a revered person here?
“So where is she?”
“She’s in the Smolensky Cemetery,” Julia replied.
“Oh, so she’s dead, you mean.”
That’s when I got Ksenia’s story — my head swimming the whole time.
Julia gave me not only the grand tour and introduction to her apartment, but also as much of her little microcosm as she could show me in three hours. We walked to a nearby cemetery, in the midst of which was her own church. Now she began to open up more about her own history and faith.
Through the love and prayers of the former priest of this church, Julia had a dramatic conversion to Christianity eight years ago. This man was apparantly such a spiritual father to the community that literally thousands came to Christ through him. Julia’s own daughter, born the very hour of his death, is named after him. Moreover, she also credited his influence in the restoration of her marriage two years ago after years of divorce.
Our conversation continued:
“So this school you want to take your boys to, what kind of a school is it,” she wondered.
“Christian,” I answered, simply.
“But what kind of Christian?” she pressed.
“It’s not one kind,” I replied. Even though it was formed out of one church, I didn’t want her to pigeon-hole it. “The beauty is, the teachers come from many different streams.”
“Which ones? Does that include Orthodox, Catholics?”
“No, well, they are pretty much all Protestant,” I backpeddled.
By this time we were walking with a friend of hers Julia recommended as a babysitter. So the conversation turned into a Q & A on Protestantism, which they had no clue about. I highlighted the brief history of the schism between East and West in 1054 and then between the Catholics and Protestants 500 years later. They seemed to appreciate much of what I said, especially my assertion that a foundation of Protestantism was a desire to return to a more biblically-based form of church, approaching the simplicity of Apostolic times. This agreed with their distaste for these “new sects.” My statement that salvation (and all of life) were a gift of God through Christ also met with a wholehearted endorsement.
Arrival at our destination cut this conversation short, but I later told Julia I was already sad to see her leave after just meeting. Would that we could build on what we had just experienced!
Fast forward to June. She wants to come with her husband and two children to live with us for the month of July! Even if we were best buddies, this would send Diana to her grave. Thankfully, we leave for Germany on July 2nd for three weeks. In her two days with us, however, she managed to stress the dickens out of us, accusing us of:
- opening one of her rooms (which we did to put her stuff in it that she had left all over the apartment). But not content to get an apology, she couldn’t stop going on and on and on about it, asking me to explain our reasons for doing it and then tearing into me again as though my reasons amounted to a retraction of my apology.
- taking her stuff from another room for our use (when she had actually left the stuff for us). Again she kept going on about it, unwilling to allow any possibility of her memory being wrong.
Her maliciousness was unbelievable. She brought out a side of me that never gets expressed in the U.S.: vehemence. I had to keep Diana away from some of it it was flipping her out so much. We left for Germany sure that there would be trouble and a raised rent waiting for us when we returned.
Update July 26th: After spending time in prayer, not only about the situation, but also for Julia herself, we returned yesterday and met with Julia today. She could not have been more pleasant, brought up none of the yucky stuff, and informed us that they had decided not to raise the rent. Praise God! Our Realtor is amazed and thinks she could get more than twice what we pay!