Monday, December 17, 2012

Baikal Marathon.

One of the craziest/coolest things that I've ever done, was to run a marathon across frozen Lake Baikal last March.
You can now enjoy a "documentary" about this event. It even has english subtitles!



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It doesn't show signs of stopping...

It's been snowing like crazy in St.Petes. So, our typical drive to school turned from "alreadyhorrible" 40 min to "justshootmenow" close to an hour. Yup, just one way. And don't forget that we then have to turn around and go pick Ryan up. Starting to feel bad about complaining about your 10 minute commute to work? Just kidding.

On the bright side, we have amazing Christmas weather. I just wish it would go away on Jan.2d.

Oh, well...

(I took this picture today from my office window. That pile is about one week of snow).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Almost our final adoption update

NOVEMBER 19, 2012

Monday at 2pm to be exact.  

It was looking like this would be our last court date.  We were hopeful but you really never know what to expect here.  

Literal (or almost literal;) transcript of happenings in court:

1:50pm - Zhenya's prep with lawyer (he adopted Maya alone, with my permission, but at this point in time he is her sole parent legally).  Last time I didn't say anything in court but just observed in the back.  Which was good because our judge intimidated the pie out of me.  She spoke incredibly fast, incredibly quiet, all while keeping her head down looking at her papers and needless to say all in Russian.  Sitting in the back it was almost impossible to hear and understand what she was saying.  So. Back to Zhenya's prep….unexpectedly our lawyer turns to me and starts prepping me for what I will need to say in court.  Uh, What??  While I do speak Russian, all capabilities in the language seem to fly out the window when I am intimidated and nervous.  As the blood drained from my face I tried not to panic and think of how I should answer the questions.

2 pm - Enter the court.  Present are Zhenya and I, our lawyer, the social worker who has been visiting our home to check things out and see how Maya is doing with us, the Prosecutor who represents Maya and her best interests (she fights on her behalf if she sees that we are an unfit family) and then after we are seated, the Judge.

2ish - Lots of quiet fast reading by the judge, standing up and down while she makes some official statements, reading of papers, etc.  Each of the representatives are given the chance to share, add things or raise any questions.

2ish+ - Zhenya is called forward to answer questions.  He does a great job answering things like, Ryan's dual citizenship, what Ryan thinks about the adoption, etc, etc.  Pretty basic stuff.
UNTIL, suddenly and unexpectedly, the judge and prosecutor come back to the fact that Zhenya is adopting alone.  Even though this is legal, they don't like it and feel like now is the time to try and talk us out of it.  And the same ol' questions start over again….do we really live here, are we really going to stay, what if Maya would get dual citizenship, what would America do/require, we already have a biological child -why adopt.  But what became scary was when they seriously started talking about that it's not a good idea for Zhenya to adopt alone.  Why not wait a few years until things are better with my Russian docs?  Why hurry now to adopt?  She is living with us in foster care and can do so until 18.  So we have lots of time, just wait and adopt her later….. Zhenya then does a great job addressing all of this and makes it clear that we do not want to wait and have her only in foster care.  That even though this might be a more difficult path, it's important to us that she legally becomes a Shulgin.  

2:40ish - My turn.  Thankfully there was no reason for my momentary panic in the beginning.  When I was called up they just wanted to know if I approved, what I thought about the adoption, IF my family in America knew about the adoption and what they thought about it.  Now this kind of conversation is right up my alley!:)  Not hard at all for me to talk about Maya and my family!  It's interesting, but there was an immediate softening in the Judge and Prosecutor as I talked (I think that had something to do with sharing how my Mom and Dad cry tears of joy when they talk with Maya on skype and how much they love her and are happy for us).  They also asked what words she was saying now.  1 being Papa that is used for Daddy, Mommy and Ryan.  2 being Hi in English.  When English was mentioned they almost seemed a little surprised and asked how she was doing with that.  Since we have our example with Ryan and how both languages are completely natural to him, it helped a lot to alleviate fears that she would only know English.  All in all, it seemed to go well.  Zhenya seems to think that my testimony was the clincher and is convinced that this helped our case strongly.  

2:45 - Prosecutor share her opinion and recommendation.  She is a very nice younger lady that seems to like us.  So she had nothing negative to say and basically shared that she approves.

2:50 - Judge leaves the court room to make her decision.

Eternity….Ok, so it was only a couple of minutes, but it felt like forever.

We all rise when the Judge comes back.  Lots of fast, quiet talking AGAIN!  Ahh, come on!   I could barely catch anything that she was saying.  But at a certain moment Zhenya turns to me with a slight smile and nod of his head and I gathered that everything was alright.

3:00 As the proceedings are finishing up our Judge suddenly turns very human on us while smiling and congratulating us and wishing us all the best.

3:15 Sitting in the car making phone calls to our loved ones letting them know the news.  First call is to Masha, Zhenya's sister who is babysitting Maya.  On the loudspeaker we can hear screaming, laughing, dancing and tears.  Maya gets on the phone to excitedly "talk" to Papa.  And that's when I lose it.  It's really over.  15 months of the most stressful time of our married lives.  15 months of miracles and roller coasters.  15 months of battle with papers, people, lines, deadlines, and in prayer.  15 months of living on the edge and waiting for God to come through yet again - miracle after miracle.  It's really over.  We still feel like we are in a state of shock.  

3:45 We pick up Ryan from friends who helped watch him while we were in court.  When he is told the news there is more dancing.  The past few months he has asked more than a few times if Maya was ours yet.  So he was beside himself when we told him that Maya is now a Shulgin.  He has been sharing the news with everyone, without much explanation, just excitedly proclaiming, "Maya is OURS!"


Please know how truly thankful we are that all of you have carried this burden with us as we have been on this journey.  It doesn't seem enough to say Thanks for your prayers.  But we are so very very thankful and humbled by your love, support and encouragement.

All our love,
The 4 Shulgins

Monday, October 8, 2012

Yay! Maya turned 1 on October 2d!

Adoption Update.

   Ugh.  Getting tired of writing updates quite honestly!
The saga, unfortunately, continues.  The good news is that we are still in the process at least.  Court was not a fun, easy experience today.  There were the expected questions of finances and what we do that are very difficult to answer.  So, they asked for more paperwork.  We have a month to gather the docs and then NOVEMBER 12 is our new court date.  

Please pray for the gathering of those docs.  What would be relatively easy for most people to get becomes really difficult for us with our "strange" situation and how we live.  
Our lawyer and the government workers seemed pleased with everything and said this is totally normal considering the circumstances and not to worrry.
So here we are.  Not worrying.  Exhausted and tired of the on going stress this brings, but not worried.
One way or the other, we'll get there!!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mission Adventures 2012

I can almost guarantee you that about 96% of all current missionary newsletters start with this sentence: "Well, the summer is over…". 

This one is not going to be different. Because it's true, summer indeed came to an end and it's time to reflect on some of the highlights of Mission Adventures season. 
As Ma Russia we believe that one day our nation will no longer be labeled as a "receiving" one. We know that God is able to rise up a new tribe in Russia- young people that obey His command "to GO".
However in the meantime, in this part of the world it's not very easy to find participants for programs like MA. Year after year our numbers are consistently low, but we have learned that numbers are not important. 
How's that? Well, great question, thanks for asking. See, because while we have had relatively small number of participants, we have been able to develop strong relationships with them and impact them individually. As a result, there is a high percentage of them that gets involved in some kind of ministry at their local church, or ends up doing a DTS (Discipleship Training School). 

This year we had two completely different programs in two different nations. 
First, we partnered with a different organization called Youth For Christ. Every year YFC host different outreaches in ST.Petersburg area and one thing they've noticed is that people that facilitate these outreaches definitely needed more training. Well, this is what Mission Adventures is all about!

At the end of June, 16 participants arrived at our campground. 

We had a blast with them.   This was one of the best weeks we've ever had.  It was the first time we've been able to host a Baptist group and we LOVED this team!!  In the past the Baptist church has been hesitant to participate in MA but it looks like we've broken through a barrier and the church as a whole seems to be excited for more teams next year!  The break through came when our team left for their outreach.  One of the places they went was to a Baptist youth conference of about 200 people.  They performed their program and shared their testimonies and blew everyone away.  Everyone there was so impressed that they started asking questions about how to join for next year!!  It was great walking away from our time with them and feeling like we had truly accomplished something great.

We were also excited about Phase Two of MA where we were going to Latvia with the goal to help launch MA there.  We were supposed to have a team of 8 with a mixture of both Latvians and Russians.  We bought our tickets, jumped on the train and were off!!……….Only to arrive and find out that there were no Latvians that would be joining us.  Meaning, we had 3 Russian girls we were expecting in 3 days time.  Who had paid for visas, transportation, the program, etc.  Needless to say, it was a blow for us and our first thoughts were, 

"Do we cancel? "

We knew that canceling wasn't an option, but we also knew that our original program and plan was not going to work.  So, (little pat on our backs) in 3 days we came up with a completely different program and developed something specifically for these girls that were coming.  With so few participants it also meant that we, as a staff, also became participants with them.  Part of our 'tour' in Latvia was going to a home for people with down syndrome of all ages, visiting a center for street kids, an elderly home,working on a FARM!, etc.  Our time in Latvia was AMAZING!  We, as a staff, were stretched and challenged.  And all three of the girls are taking next steps in pursuing missions more seriously!  One just left for Georgia (the country folks, not the state!;)  And the other two want to do a DTS.  AND the Latvian YWAM base is more seriously pursuing doing MA themselves next year.

So even though there was some unexpected turns, MA this year seems to have been a great success!!  The difficulties we have each year in encouraging church youth groups to participate, has been disheartening.  But once again, we have been encouraged to keep focused and plugging along, no matter what our numbers are.  We have seen time and time again that God can take that few and do great, great things.  It's our job to just be faithful with what we've been given.  


Thank you for all of you who believe in us and pray for us along the way.  We never take your support for granted.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Hey everyone,
This is a video of foreigners trying to read russian street names spelled in english.
This should fill your hearts with enormous respect for Heather, who has to read (and use) such words frequently.