Larry Stephans - Moscow letter - October 29, 2001

Richard left for Armenia on Friday so it's felt like we are amputees ever since! We miss him a lot and miss his considerable contribution to our joint efforts here in Moscow! He said he was sorry to leave but glad to go! (That  paradox, eh?! How often one feels that way....) We find again and again in this work that it matters little WHERE we are. Our happiness is not dependent on that factor. No matter where we are--no matter in what field--our joy and satisfaction are the same, as long as we are giving it our best and our all.

Here things continue much the same. Generally the same ones keep appearing in our meetings and in the English lessons too, so that is encouraging! 

It was nice to have a visitor on Sunday in the morning meeting. Dennis Braasch was passing through Moscow on his way to another city (on business). He lives in South Carolina, but has roots in North Dakota, so I know a lot of his relatives! 

Since moving our clocks back an hour this weekend it feels like we have just plunged head-first into winter. Now our evening activities all take place entirely in the dark of night. Our temperatures are a bit warmer again (a few degrees above freezing) and we have a lot of misty rain, or drizzle the last few days, adding to the gloominess. Of course the overcast skies make it get dark quicker in the evening too. Richard claims to love winter, cold temperatures, and snow and ice... so he was hoping it we would get a real dump of snow before he left for the sunny south. He was disappointed, but I was not! A few times last week there were flurries of snow in the air, but never anything measurable on the ground. I maintain there will be plenty of time for that before winter is past, so what is the hurry?!

In our meeting yesterday morning our friend Monte McDonald mentioned something he had been taught in law school. Always look for one basic, underlying factor or issue in a case or a problem. Generally if you can identify and resolve that one thing then everything else falls into place and often the whole matter is then solved. However, it is not always easy to find and put your finger on that ONE THING! It's often obscured by a whole lot of secondary issues. (I'm not quoting him exactly, I'm afraid, but that is the essence of it as I understood it.) Then, to my amazement, he went on to say that he thinks the one basic thing that needs to be settled and resolved in our lives is forgiveness! Being forgiven, forgiving ourselves, and of course, forgiving others. That is the solution to practically every problem. The reason I was amazed to hear him say that is that it brought back to mind what I felt was one of the most outstanding things I heard in all the conventions I attended last year. Someone was speaking about waste and among many other things, said that the quest for justice is a great waste of time and energy!! People spend tremendous amounts of time and energy trying to get to the root of things that happen, trying to determine the guilt or innocence of those involved, determining who did what or who said what. Endless investigations. Accusations and counter accusations and on and on....... All in the quest for justice, as if justice were the answer to everything--the ultimate secret of release and happiness. But justice is not the answer--the answer is forgiveness!! I remember I was a bit startled when I heard it but the more I thought about it then (and many times since then) the more sense it makes. Law demands justice, of course. And the law is unforgiving. The human "need" and demand for fairness and justice is very deeply rooted in our being--at least when we have been wronged. We want and crave justice for ourselves at such times, but often fail to be as concerned about it when someone else is the victim. Nor are we as keen to have justice when we have done wrong!! What one thing did Jesus stress more than forgiveness?! Not only seven times, but seventy times seven. To forgive is to set set others free, yes, but when we forgive others then we realize that WE are the ones who have been set free (meaning that we ourselves were in bondage until we forgave!).  Another thing that clearly shows the value of forgiveness is the tremendous, immeasurable price that Jesus paid (and the Father paid) to purchase forgiveness for us and for all mankind.

I should confess I have had a hard time formulating these thoughts and conveying them in a lucid manner, but I hope they will have some meaning for you just the same! It's often hard to tell it as we feel it! 

Please pardon more now, and all the best to you as always.