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Updates from St. Petersburg, Russia

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Prayer Requests
And Answers!

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. (Galatians 2:10 NIV)

Please pray that we will be able to maintain the funds and volunteers needed for the winter feeding and warm room programs.

Please keep the children from our orphanage with HIV that still need parents, in your prayers.

Our new divisional leaders, Tony and Patricia Kennedy, appointed for Russia have arrived and been welcomed.  They have huge challenges ahead so I ask that you keep them in your payers as they make the transition from Canada to Russia.

We are looking at ways of creating funding streams for Saint Petersburg. This is a critical need for the future of the Army here in Russia. We have had some small success on renting out one of our apartments to visitors to the city. I am starting to make contacts with potential supporters. Please pray that we be able to start some kind of local support.

We still need equipment for our medical clinic where we serve the homeless and those with HIV.

Transportation needs (our vehicles are both wearing out).

A larger building in which to worship and minister with better public access.

A piano for the Corps. We are getting closer on this goal.

 Our Russian language Salvation Army Web Site which we are just beginning.


The below letters, stories, pictures and prayer requests come to us from Majors Vic and Ellen Tidman who are ministering with the Salvation Army in St. Petersburg Russia. 

RESCUE ARMY (in pdf)

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;Weep o'er the erring one, lift up the fallen, Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Chorus:  Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save. -   Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) #691 Salvation Army Song Book

I passed a dead man on the street today.  I do not really know much more than that.  The police were on guard and he was partially covered by a table cloth from the outdoor

restaurant where he fell.  From his clothing, shoes... and hands he appeared to have been homeless or at least a laborer.  I wondered about his family, his life and about his soul.  Had he been to see us for food, for clothing, or our clinic?  Did we tell him about Jesus? 

The realities of working among the hurting in Russia can be very stark.  Infectious disease, for example, is just more common.  Last year here in Russia there were over 24,000 deaths from tuberculosis.  To give a point of comparison, in my home country of the USA we average 650 deaths a year from tuberculosis.  HIV is just below epidemic levels here.  The population of Russia is about half as large as the population of the USA.

Often when you go from English to another language words serve more that one purpose.  The word for Salvation in Russian (Спасения) is usually translated rescue.  So here we become the Rescue Army (Армия Спасения.)  Some one asked one of my translators once "just what do they rescue people from?"  The answer to that question is a both easy and hard, especially in a country where the concepts of sin and compassion are nebulous at best.

The photo to the right is from our feeding program. 
The numbers drop way off during the summer but now that the cold has returned we will see many more.  The photo to the left is from the street feeding program we are doing on Sunday afternoons. The bag is from our Russian trade department.  The words translate heart to God, hand to man.


As Ellen and I move into our second winter of work here, please keep us and God's Russian Rescue Army in your prayers.  Pray that in all we do, we tell about Jesus.




The Salvation Army Summer Camp...RUSSIA STYLE

Camping 2008
Since my earliest memories a summer does not pass that I do not find myself in a camp somewhere.


I love camping. As many of you know, Ellen and I were once backpackers. The outdoors calls to us. This summer we got to see Summer Salvation Army youth camp, Russian style. It reminded me of a time when I was a child going to Salvation Army camp outside of Nashville, Tennessee, only more rugged. The photo to the right is the camp kitchen at our camp this summer. The wild mushrooms were great!


We are only able to do camp for a week this year and we are very fortunate to be able to follow another church group to this site. It saves us a lot of time and expense on set up which is a real blessing. The camp is on

land that was the site of war between Russia and Finland right before the Second World War. Ellen and I passed a destroyed bunker on a short walk we took hunting for blue berries near the swimming facility pictured to the left. We will give the risk management assessment a pass this year!

 We are only able to do camp for a week this year and we are very fortunate to be able to follow another church group to this site. It saves us a lot of time and expense on set up which is a real blessing. The camp is on

land that was the site of war between Russia and Finland right before the Second World War. Ellen and I passed a destroyed bunker on a short walk we took hunting for blue berries near the swimming facility pictured to the left. We will give the risk management assessment a pass this year!



So, as I am sure that you can tell. Camp is different here but some things are much the same. Kids come out of the city and adjust to a wonderful new environment. They recognize God in their surroundings and through patient teaching they come to know the need for Christ in their lives. The devil hates Salvation Army Summer camp. It continues to be a life long love for me.

We have great hopes of making it available to the near by North Russian Area corps next summer. Pray that God will provide the funds needed for equipment to make that happen. For staff we use Officers and volunteers. The handsome young man in the top photo is Captain Vadim Khurin. He and his wife Captain Inna Khurina make the camp program happen here. They do this is addition to working hard at keeping his American Officers from creating too many cultural disasters. They have been a real blessing to us.







Reality Check


We have returned from furlough (vacation) and are back to work. One of the privileges that God has given Ellen and me in our current appointment is that we occasionally go to Moscow to share our experience with the cadets (future Russian Salvation Army Officers) as ad hoc teachers at the Institute for Officer Training (IFOT.) Ellen does classes in pastoral care. I do fund raising and disaster response. While I am teaching the cadets also learn that I am Ellen's primary pastoral care project.

This week I taught my last fund raising class to the final group this term. The end of class assignment is to use one of the money raising techniques they have learned in their corps back home. I thought I would share some of the projects with you.

One of the Cadets (in Russia) needs a bicycle to do visitation and errands for the corps. He also thinks it will help to attract young people to the corps. He has already raised 1,205 rubles (about $50) toward the project. One of the cadets (in Moldova) is going to try to develop a project (grant request) to purchase a washing machine. She hopes to use the funds generated by allowing others to wash to fund a social service outreach. Finally there is a program by one Cadet to encourage soldiers to bring fire wood to the corps so that the corps will have heat all winter this next winter. She explained how hard it is on the old people to come to the corps for study and fellowship when it is so cold. Do not let anyone tell you that your gifts for overseas work are not making a huge difference! I am not sure who is actually doing the teaching here, but this new Major has a lot to lean.

 We have just finished a wonderful visit with Lyle Richardson a long term benefactor of the children with HIV in the orphanage we work with. In the photo to the right he is teaching the children to sing "This Little Light of Mine" which is also the name of the program he uses to raise funds for the children. Lyle is 85 years old and left us reenergized to continue to make a difference in the lives of the children. He has been visiting Russia since communist times.

 While he was here he asked the doctor in charge of the program what the children needed most. His reply, without hesitation, was families. He explained that nothing can replace the love of a father and mother.



"All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." (Galatians 2:10 NIV)

Send Captains Tidman an email 



Different Worlds,
Christmas 2007

Luke 2:13 - Luke 2:15 (NKJV) - 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"  15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that
the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us."

As we approach this Christmas day I have been thinking a lot about differences.  This is especially true as Ellen and I now live and work in a very different place from what we have always known.

Shopping carts swivel on all four wheels.  That's right; in Russia you can push your cart sideways and at an angle as well as forwards and backwards.  Like most shopping carts in the US one of the wheels will not be working properly.  This means that driving your cart in a straight line is, well, difficult.  The shortest distance between two points is often a series of diagonal lines.

Day and night do not work the same either. During the summer we have nights where it never really gets dark. Right now we have the opposite.  Sunset is at 4:00pm when the photo to the right was taken as we did some walking near our office.  Sunrise is at 10:00am.  We took the photo below on the way to work at about 9:00 in the morning.  This time of year most of the light I see is midday through our office window looking at the wall across the parking lot.

Because of the Russian Orthodox calendar, Christmas is celebrated by most of the population in January.  This year it falls on the seventh.  It is not celebrated with the exchange of gifts.  That happens on New Years day.  This is a hold over from Soviet times when all things religious were despised.  The photo below was taken in Sennaya Ploshchad (Сенная Площадь) which was the old hay market.  This is the scene for much of Dostoevsky's work.  Much of Crime and Punishment happens around this square.  There was once a huge church.  The soviets tore it down to make way for other projects, including this monument to "Peace."  They even renamed the square to "Peace Square."  But today everyone just calls it Sennaya.

Tearing down a church to make a monument to peace will preach, but that is not my purpose for sharing.  I am afraid that even at home we have some Churches that have become monuments.  Peace, you see, is not about something that you make or do.  Peace is something you become.  Peace is flesh and blood.  Christ became peace.  He expects his followers to become the same, "And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"  May you have the peace of Christ this holiday season, regardless of how different the situation is in your world.

In Him,

Vic Tidman




When we are honest with ourselves we recognize that the homeless are an easy target. They are where they are because of poor choices that they make. They drink or use drugs or have emotional control problems or depression and the list goes on and on. So we go along, comfortable in our knowledge that we have somehow managed to raise ourselves above all of this.

This works well until we come face to face with the realization that there is no difference. This works well until we look into the face of a homeless person and see ourselves and realize that they are looking into our face trying to see Jesus. In the USA we tolerate the homeless. We hope that we will not have to deal with them. And please Lord, don't let them pan handle me.

In Russia they are despised. They represent the fears of every person living on a $50.00 a week job and this is exactly where a large part of the population lives, including even some that work for me. Saint Petersburg is a big city. Over six million people live here, not counting the homeless. It is bigger than Dallas. It is bigger than Atlanta. There are no Salvation Army homeless lodges, no Harbor Lights. This year the city government is talking about maybe some temporary tents. It will not happen.

Here at The Salvation Army we try to help. Last night we had about 50 folks eating a bowl of noodles and sleeping on our floor. Last night I did devotions with them and started my walk to the Metro Station to go home. It was cold, way below freezing, and I was tired. A light snow was falling around my face. As I walked I almost did not notice the man with soiled clothing stumbling in front of me looking under stairs and in entranceways for a place to sleep. I did not notice until he stopped, turned, and looked into my face. I prayed that this night he would not freeze.

                                                                                  (photo and story by Capt. Vic Tidman)

 It has been estimated that there are currently more than four million homeless people in the Russian Federation. If you are homeless in Russia, you do not have the right to residence permit and without a residence permit, you do not have the right to employment, to medical care, to welfare benefits- you do not even have the right to marry.   

Prayer request and answers:

  • We have a translator! Please remember Nikolai in your prayers. I am hard enough to understand on a good day.
  • There is a chance that increased concerns about terrorism will place a gate in the entranceway to the courtyard where our building is located restricting the flow of the general public to our front door. This would hamper everything we are trying to do. Our divisional headquarters is examining our options.
  • We are being threatened with extra tax audits because we pay so little to some of our employees. The government is afraid that we are paying people under the table to avoid taxes. This is not the case. We just do not pay enough.
  • The dollar continues to drop. This means that every Salvation Army grant aided territory in the world has less real money to minister with.




It is also a cold world! This photo was taken when the days were longer and balmier last November. Since then it has gotten serious about being cold. Today is the first time in a long time that we are above freezing +1 Celsius. We are standing at the Peter and Paul fortress with the nearly frozen Neva River in the background.

This is especially hard on the homeless and our numbers are increasing. We have changed our feeding time to 4:00pm to encourage work and sobriety and we are still providing a warm night program. The Salvation Army is not licensed to provide housing and we do not have the facilities and equipment even if we were. We open our doors at about 8:00pm. An Officer leads devotions at 9:00pm. Then we allow those that want to stay warm to wash clothing, take a shower, and watch a movie on the TV. If someone falls asleep on the floor we just wait until morning to wake them. Then we give them some food and sent them on their way.

We will deal with from 35 to 65 folks a day in this program. Ages have started from as low as 14. We do not know how old, but there are many seniors. It is one of the things that we do to save lives from the cold. As you can see it is no where close to the level of support we provide in the US.

We also have a clinic here staffed by a doctor and a nurse. This is a photo of our doctor working with one of our clients. We see 15 to 20 folks every day. Many we see come to us with small injuries but also many come with major problems like TB or AIDS. Some come from abusive home situations where they have been injured. We help or refer as we can. The equipment and the medicines are all donated so our ability to help varies from month to month. The clinic equipment reminds me of going to the Doctors office when I was a child. It has been a long time since I was a kid.

Prayer Request:

We are still worried that increased concerns about terrorism will place a gate in the entranceway to the courtyard where our building is located restricting the flow of the general public to our front door. This would hamper everything we are trying to do.

We are being threatened with extra tax audits because we pay so little to some of our employees. The government is afraid that we are paying people under the table to avoid taxes. This is not the case. We just do not pay enough. Our salaries here are way below average.

The dollar continues to drop. Here in Russia over the last year it has gone down over 23%. This means that every Salvation Army grant aided territory in the world has less real money to minister with. I am looking at drastic budget shortfalls.

Those out in the cold need your prayers; winter has a long way to go.

Funding for our work especially including local support.

Equipment for our clinic.

Transportation needs

A larger building with better public access in which to worship and minister.

New Russian Officer Candidates

A piano

Many of you have requested contact and address information and even donation information. For those that would like this I am attaching a document. Thank you for your prayers!

In Him,

Captain Vic Tidman




Greetings from Saint Petersburg Russia, spring has arrived with balmy days approaching 50 degrees. I need to start my newsletter this month with a small disclaimer. Kind of like the small print on our medicine packages. This is not an "Official" Salvation Army letter. It is just an attempt by me to share personal experiences and prayer request and answers to prayer about life as an overseas Officer in our wonderful Salvation Army with my friends. So please if this is just clogging up your mail box or causes distress in anyway just let me know and I will adjust my mailing list. Also if someone mentions that they would like to receive this, have them drop me a note. I have never wanted this newsletter to be about money and it is not a funding request. My only desire is for it to be about Christ. Remember, anything I do that is good or worthwhile is Jesus. The bad stuff I do all by myself. Every day I try to do less by myself.

One of the ways we are building tradition here in Russia is through the training program which continues to be a real ministry of the Southern territory. As you know USA Southern Territory Officers Bradley and Anita Caldwell have been leaders in establishing, what I feel is, one of the best programs of its size anywhere in The Salvation Army world. They are now doing the same thing for Officer continuing education in the EET. God is blessing their efforts!!


Ellen and have been privileged to teach at EET IFOT during our first year. This is a photo of me teaching a class. The Officer seated to my right is translating. Ellen teaches Pastoral care, something she excels in. On the other hand I teach fund raising, something I... well never mind. I also do a seminar on bridging the gap between Social Services and the Corps. Both of us will attest that we learn much more from working with the cadets than we ever impart so it is helpful for us to be given this opportunity to minister.

Many of the traditions in a country that has had the Army for over 100 years do not yet exist in Russia. Most of our officers have been officers for less than 10 years. This year we will actually promote folks to the major rank. At this point we have very few majors. Ellen and I also join the majors this summer along with the Caldwells.

Someone noticed a McDonalds in an earlier letter so I wanted, for fun, to share this picture. You are looking at a McDonalds "walk through" window not far from our quarters. Out on the edges of towns there are "drive through" windows at McDonalds but in town they often have these walk up windows with a limited "to go" menu. We also have a Carl's Junior (Hardees) right across the street from the Corps. In Russia the majority of folks live in the two cities of Moscow (Europe's largest city) and Saint Petersburg (Europe's 4th largest city.) These city dwellers walk or take public transportation everywhere as the Tidman's are learning to do. We now go long periods of time without ever getting into a car, sometimes days. I can remember at home sometimes feeling like I lived in the car.

Speaking of our wonderful Salvation Army you might like to know that about 17 cents of every world service dollar donated to The Salvation Army finds its way to the EET territory. It would be correct to say that there would be no Salvation Army in Eastern Europe without our world services donations. We are a new Army here operating without many of the traditions that support us elsewhere in the world. So many things here in Russia, especially for The Salvation Army, are different and evolving. When Ellen and I were dating we went to see "Fiddler on the Roof." That movie has much to say about the importance of tradition building in our lives.

Ellen and I are looking forward to some furlough time in the USA this May. Matthew and his wife Sarah graduate this May from Asbury and we will be able to be in attendance. Ward's son Colter also graduates. I am unsure how Asbury will be able to operate without Mom and Dad's extended family in attendance! Misti has finished her degree in Library Science from the University of Kentucky as is taking a position as the Head Children's Librarian in Ashland, Kentucky beginning this May. She is looking at buying her first house. This is something Ellen and I have never done. Hopefully we will get to see many of our Salvation Army friends at Congress and commissioning this June in Atlanta. This will possibly be our last trip home until homeland furlough two years from now. If you miss us this summer you will just have to come and visit. We are trying to open a Bed and Breakfast in Saint Petersburg to fund the work, so we have the room and we would be glad to have you.

Thank you for your prayers! Keep Christ first in your life and build traditions which honor Him!

In Him,cpt. vic tidman -

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. (Galatians 2:10 NIV)


How Close Are We?

Recently I was taking a visiting officer to the Airport who had been struggling with a bad back. I wanted to park close so I told the driver that I would cover the parking so that we could be close. To my surprise he passed the regular paid parking and headed to a place some distance form the door. When I asked him what he was doing he explained "I can park here for free, it cost nothing, and it is close." When we parked we were over a football field from the door.
This is when it occurred to me that close for a Russian is different than close for an American. Russians walk much more that we do in the USA and anywhere within 3 to 10 blocks is close. For me close is the parking space nearest the door. I would guess that there is a place in the world where close is three miles or more.
As we approach Easter I am wondering if I am close to my Savior. Or perhaps I am wondering if I even know what close is.

Spring has roared in this month with inches of snow in the morning and a melt off by late evening each day. This is a photo of a very unusual Orthodox church near the AIDS orphanage where we minister to the children there with food and other necessities. It is made from wood, not the first choice for building materials here in Russia.

I also got to attend our first Russian wedding. One of our associate officers has married a Salvation Army cadet (officer in training) from neighboring Estonia. So we will loose her, but Russia's loss is Estonia's gain. In Russia if you are a Christian, you go through two marriage ceremonies. The first is a civil ceremony which takes place at the town hall. The state will not recognize your marriage unless you do this and it requires a lot of paper work and as always fees. Then you go to the church wedding. For Salvationists it is the ceremony straight form our ceremonies book. After the wedding you drive all over town to have photos taken in the special places around the palaces, statues and other traditional areas.

Then you return to the reception where this photo was taken. For all of you Salvationist that are wondering, the Captain had permission to forgo her uniform and the glasses contain juice. Like receptions in the USA there is endless food and fun conversation and even games. The Bride is occasionally taken away from the anxious groom for fun, but she is always returned.


In Him,

cpt. vic tidman




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