About 1910 a young man escaped across the border from Belarus in Russia and hoping to help his family economically, joined his older brother in Ft. Worth, Texas. After the boat trip to Galveston, he secured transportation to Ft. Worth and found jobs with the Swift and Armour meat packing companies. He was riding on a streetcar one Sunday afternoon with intentions of going to the Majestic Theater when a W.M.U. lady also boarded the streetcar and sat beside him. She recognized that he was European and told him that she was going to a place where there would be other people like him, maybe even some who spoke his language, and invited him to go along. He was embarrassed to tell her that he was going to the theater, so he went with her. The place was a Russian Baptist Mission and he enjoyed the fellowship with others from his country. He kept returning to the mission where he, in time, accepted Christ as his Lord and was baptized and called to preach. Because of this call to preach he attended Southwestern Baptist Seminary for three years, and Sylvester Nicholas Lozuk, who had been Russian Orthodox, became pastor of the Russian Baptist Church of North Ft. Worth. His plan had always been to return to his home in Belarus, but the first World War came, and then the Communist takeover changed his plans. His parents were chased from their home and farm by the Communists and had to escape to the forests. Because of the extreme cold and snow, and having a difficult time obtaining food for their existence, his mother died, and not much later his father, Nicholas Lozuk, followed.
Looking for other immigrants from Ft. Worth's Northside, the new pastor and his church came across the Felix Linkevich family, Roman Catholics from Pinsk in Poland. (Grandmother Ana was a "Pullman" of German background before she married.) Ana Linkevich and her daughters had lived through World War I, and their home had been taken away from them by the German army to be used as a stable for their horses. Starvation at times seemed imminent, but as the war came to a finish they were finally able to get on a train (they had a cattle car for the family) which took them to Germany and to a port city where they boarded a ship for the U.S. After enduring and overcoming some severe problems like having their passports and money stolen as they were about to board their ship, they arrived in the U. S. and entered through Ellis Island and from there took a train to Texas. Grandfather had come before the beginning of the war and had already built a home in Ft. Worth. The pastor and church began visiting this family and sharing the gospel with them. After a while, every member of this family came to accept Christ as his savior except the grandfather, who remained faithful to his Catholic background all of his life. Among the daughters of this family was Jenny, a small, friendly, enthusiastic, generous young lady. She eventually married Pastor Lozuk and they had two sons, George and Paul Roy. They bought a small frame house at a sealed bid auction where North Side High School was to be built and nearby houses were being sold off. This house was moved across the street onto Grandfather Felix Linkevich's property, next to his house, and became home for the Lozuk family.
George attended North Side High School and upon graduation, had the third highest grade in his class, each of the three separated by only one tenth of a point. During his senior year he went to a youth camp and felt God's call to preach. Because of his high class standing, his principal recommended him to a friend, the president of the Gulf Oil Company, and the friend offered George a job, which he accepted. That night he couldn't sleep for wrestling with the idea that God wanted him to preach. He knew that if he accepted a job with a lucrative salary, he might never do what God wanted him to do with his life, so he returned to the oil company man and thanked him but told him he couldn't accept the job because God wanted him to preach, and he had to go to college to prepare himself.
In Corpus Christi lived the Jimmy Tyson family. The son of Captain John T. Tyson, a career Army man, and Katie Miller Tyson, Jimmy Tyson first was an automobile mechanic who later became a salesman of automobiles and insurance. He and Myrtle Jane Chandler met at First Baptist Church while she was a business college student in Corpus Christi. She was from Seadrift, the daughter of Allen Luther Chandler and Samantha Pollard Chandler. The Chandlers had lived in Seymour, Texas, when Myrtle was born to join their three boys. They heard of a place in Carthage, Oklahoma where a family could homestead land for a number of years and it would be theirs. But Carthage was cold, and Samantha lost a baby boy there. The Chandlers, wanting to return to Texas, heard of a similar homesteading deal in South Texas and decided to go there. Myrtle remembers the ride across Texas with her brothers in a covered wagon pulled by mules, and her father's stopping in Beeville for the birth of his second daughter, While there, he used his mules to help install Beeville' sewer system before going on to Seadrift on the Texas Coast.
The courtship of Jimmy Tyson and Myrtle Chandler led to marriage, and they said their vows in the parsonage of the Second Baptist Church on March 31, 1921. Their church membership was at the First Baptist Church, but when the church forced the pastor, Rev. T. A Binford out of the pastorate, a group, including the Tysons, went with him and formed the Central Baptist Church, which later became the Morgan Avenue Baptist Church. The Tysons had three daughters, Myrtle Kathrine (Mickey), who was mentally challenged, Veda Rae and Elouise.
Veda Rae, the second one, had a strong inclination toward writing and had just finished high school. She did her first year of college study at Del Mar Junior College in Corpus Christi, decided on journalism as a major and applied to enter the University of Texas. The reply came back that all of the women's dorms were full. Trying to decide what to do next, Veda Rae told her little redheaded aunt about the situation. Alice Clark replied, "Well, I've never thought you should go to the University of Texas anyway. I think you should go to a Baptist school like Baylor." Following this advice, Veda Rae applied to Baylor and was accepted.
When the fall semester of 1946 began, friends in her dorm told her of a Friday night missions program for telling small children about Christ and she decided to attend. Through this Baylor missions program she eventually met George Lozuk. He had heard about her because she worked at a mission directed by a friend of his who lived in the same house he did. However, he had never met her.
One Friday night there was a joint meeting of all the mission groups at the First Baptist Church. After the meeting the children were being taken back home. George was in the back seat of one of the cars taking the children home when he saw one of the young lady workers taking children up to their house and making sure their mother was there to receive them while the other workers were just standing around talking. He thought, "Lord, why can't I meet a girl like that"? It was Veda Rae as he saw her for the first time.
They were both sophomores and it was time for the big homecoming activities, one of which was to build a float for the parade. George went to the sophomore dormitory looking for help with the construction. As a group of girls came in he asked if they would help work. Veda Rae happened to be in the group and volunteered to help. This was their first face to face meeting, and even though she was dressed in blue jeans and an old shirt of her dad's, George was so impressed that he invited her to the sophomore banquet, after which they began dating regularly. Because of limited finances, many of these dates were long walks together ending with a chocolate ice cream cone at the corner drug store on 5th.street.
The following semester at Baylor, George moved into the home of the Wilson Fielders, who had been missionaries for many years to China. He roomed with a new friend, Robert Geer. It was at this time that he attended a revival at the Emmanuel Baptist Church where Dr. W.W. Enette, a missionary to Brazil, was preaching. He told about how God had led him to speak to many people who had never heard of Jesus and of the great need for missionaries. George went forward during the invitation, telling the preacher that he was already a Christian, but he felt that God wanted him to be a missionary. He didn't know where, but he was ready to go.
For a while, George wondered if God wanted him to go back to his father's country, but at that time, there was no way to take the gospel into the Communist Soviet Union. During the summer of 1947 George worked for the Home Mission Board in central California, leading camps, Bible Schools and revivals. Veda Rae returned to Corpus Christi and worked as secretary in her home church. The letters she typed about the upcoming revival bothered her because she felt that God was calling her to be a missionary, and she wasn't sure she was ready to go. The last night of the campaign she went forward and told Morgan Avenue Baptist Church about God's call to be a missionary and that she was willing to go wherever He led. She felt wonderful affirmation of her decision as several of the girls in her intermediate Sunday School class gave their lives to the Lord that night.
Graduation day from Baylor came and George and Veda Rae received their diplomas. George was going to remain in Waco and do a year of graduate study, and he had also begun to pastor a small church in Manor, just out of Austin. Veda Rae was going to teach journalism at the small Baptist University of Corpus Christi. This was a very difficult separation because God had been leading these two lives together for three years. George sought every opportunity to visit Veda Rae in Corpus Christi on the weekends, sleeping at night in old deserted quonset huts that had been left by the military on the campus of UCC.
A rather humorous incident occurred before graduation when George was invited to preach at the Manor Baptist Church in view of a call. That same weekend Veda Rae had been invited by a dormitory friend to visit with her in the family home in Austin. Sunday morning as George was meeting the people at the church, in walked Veda Rae and her friend, who did not live in Austin but in Manor. What an awkward situation it was trying to act as if they did not know each other! What would the people of the church have thought of a pastor coming before the church and bringing his girl friend along? Years later this situation was good for many laughs with the people at the church.
The day came when George invited Veda Rae to Ft. Worth to meet his family. There he took her out to Forest Park, beneath a large oak tree, and told her that he felt that God wanted him to go to California again to serve with the Home Mission Board, but he didn't want to go alone this time. He wanted to take her as his wife to work with him. Veda Rae accepted the proposal and this led to a shopping tour for engagement ring styles. Though they applied separately, the HMB accepted them and the fact that they would be married before going out to California to work.
One day George drove to Corpus Christi, driving through dense fog, and placed a ring on Veda Rae's finger. There was a wedding at the Morgan Avenue Baptist church on June 2, 1950, as George's father married the couple. The following day (Saturday) they drove to Manor to preach one more time before leaving. They would be gone from the church for ten weeks, and a friend of George's would be the supply preacher for that time.
They crossed the country to California (in a 1940 Chevrolet club coupe with 150,000 miles on it) going through Long Beach and Hollywood. They worshiped on Sunday morning at the Little Country Church of Hollywood because they could not find a Southern Baptist Church. The Sunday morning was very interesting because the Old Fashioned Revival Hour quartet sang, and their pianist, Rudy Atwood, played the piano. The guest preacher was a Scotsman by the name of McGinley, and he preached on "The Saddest Word in the English Language: LOST." This worship service was a wonderful experience, and a sweet lady from the congregation approached the young couple and asked, "Are you folks newlyweds?" How did she know?
Traveling from Hollywood to Fresno on Sunday afternoon, and then to Berkley on Monday morning, they began their work with the HMB with a Vacation Bible School in China Town, San Francisco, in a store front meeting place. They also helped start a church in a garage, held a VBS in a community center and many other such places. Thus began a deep and special love in this couple that has endured and grown through the years as they became involved in various phases of the Lord's work and the beginning of a fabulous journey as they sought where God wanted them to plant their lives.
Returning from California, the couple lived in the room George had used as a boy in his parents' house, attended Southwestern Seminary during the fall semester of 1950 and went to the church field in Manor on weekends. Housing at the Seminary was very difficult to find at this time, and the situation at George's house was getting cramped. At Manor, people were trusting in Jesus as their Lord and the church was growing. The Lozuks left seminary studies for the spring semester, moving into a tiny one-room apartment on the church field. It was during this time that Veda Rae was asked to teach second grade at the Manor school. What a new experience this was for her!
Returning to the seminary the following fall of 1951, God provided a lovely little house (purchased for only $35.80 per month), and both George and Veda Rae studied until graduation in May of 1953. The call to missions was always in their minds, but God had not given them full directions as to where and when. Moving back to the church field, they lived in a farming area in a share cropper house. It was rustic, with only a cistern that caught water from the roof of the house when it rained. During the winter time, it let in great drafts of cold wind around the windows. It was during this time that that they decided that it was time to begin a family, and Paul Tyson, their first son, was born in the small hospital in the nearby town of Elgin, with Dr. Roy Morris, a good Baptist doctor, assisting.
On Sundays George preached, Veda Rae taught an intermediate girls' Sunday School class, and they both worked with the church's young people. That summer, they took eleven Manor young people and their baby (Paul) to Alto Frio Baptist Encampment in their 1940 Chevrolet club coupe and a large trailer. Veda Rae cooked for the group over an open fire with a large frying pan over 3 tall juice cans, and they used makeshift tents for sleeping at night. While they lived in Manor, Mark Douglas joined the Lozuk clan, born in Elgin with Dr. Morris's help.
The Lozuks still didn't know where God wanted them to be missionaries. While attending a missions week in Ft. Worth, God jolted them with the realization that now was the time to search for and discover His will as to where they should serve. Reading of possible countries in literature from the Foreign Mission Board, Veda Rae came across an article by missionary Tom Neely which said that Venezuela was of such a climate the he thought it might be won to Christ in one generation. She shared it with George. Praying about Venezuela, they came to believe that it was the country where God wanted them to serve.
In April of 1956, leaving two little children with Grandpa and Grandma Lozuk, they flew to Richmond, Virginia, to the Foreign Mission Board, to be appointed Southern Baptist Missionaries to Venezuela, and with their sons, in August of 1956, left for language school in Costa Rica, Central America, to learn the Spanish language. They enjoyed this lovely country with friendly people -- even the daily rains. Planning to stay a year in Costa Rica, they were allowed to go home six weeks early after learning that George's father had suffered a stroke. He died July 17, 1957.
George's mother, who had never worked outside of her home, went to Monnig's department store in downtown Ft. Worth and began to work in the gift wrap department through the Christmas season. Then she changed to lady's alterations, and worked there for 30 years, riding the bus back and forth to work daily.
In October of 1957, the George Lozuks took their boys to New York and boarded a Grace Line Ship to Venezuela. After six days, they docked in La Guaira, the port city of Caracas, to a brand new style of life. The missionaries who met them had decided that the Lozuks should go serve in San Cristobal, a city in the southwestern part of the country and high in the Andes mountains, and help to start missions and churches in places where there were none.
They did this kind of work for a year and a half, helping one already established mission in the city where twice a month, George lead singing at the San Cristobal mission while Veda Rae played the piano. The other two weekends, he traveled and worked with other groups of people. One weekend, he would catch an old DC-3 and fly to Guasdualito, a small river town in the central plains, and the next week, he would drive to San Carlos de Zulia, another river town located at the southern tip of Lake Maracaibo, where the humidity and temperature were almost unbearable to newcomers. The mission in Guasdualito met in the home of one of the believers, and the San Carlos church met in an abandoned bar. The Guasdualito mission had to discontinue services during the month of June each year because the river flooded the town.
While the Lozuks lived in San Cristobal, Ann Eileen, a beautiful little daughter, blonde like her father, joined the Lozuk family. They lived in the Andean mountains, so she's their Andean daughter, born about an hour and a half from where Venezuela borders with Colombia. .
Life changed abruptly for the Lozuks when the Mission asked them to move to Maracaibo. The Altos de Jalisco Church in Maracaibo called George to be its pastor, and this meant going from the high, cool Andes Mountains to the sun-infested western shores of the Caribbean Sea. The Altos de Jalisco sector of Maracaibo was a shanty town, characterized by dirt streets and one-room houses where people slept in hammocks and rolled them up during the day to have space to live. Sometimes a kitchen was attached as a shed to the back of the house. They used charcoal for fuel, and the people worked at whatever job was available to have food for the current day.
While they were working with the Los Altos church in 1963, Veda Rae received word that her father, Jimmy Tyson, had died of a heart attack. Taking Ann with her, she went home for the funeral services while George stayed in Maracaibo with the boys. Veda Rae and Ann had left hot Maracaibo, and when they landed in Texas, it was cold winter time. Ann wanted to turn around and go home.
It was a blessing that some time before Jimmy Tyson's death, Veda Rae's mother, while caring for Mickey, had begun a child care business in her home which continued to give her financial support through many years. She also began a Special Education department at Morgan Ave. Baptist Church. All of the years that her daughter Mickey had been alive, there had been no place for her in Sunday School. Now buses brought these special children to Sunday School each week. Mickey lived until June 9, 1971.
The Lord prospered the work in Los Altos and the church that met in a shack. In time, a large auditorium with an educational building behind it was built to accommodate the growing church. James Lawrence (Larry) joined the Lozuk family in February of 1964. Since he was born in Maracaibo, he's their " Maracucho." A blonde like his father, he was a real contrast to many of the people who lived in the area of their church.
In Maracaibo, the Lozuks had friends who worked with a number of oil companies from the states and attended the English-speaking Faith Baptist Church of that city. Many of the men of these families, who became their lifelong friends, worked on Lake Maracaibo, which was known as the "lake of oil wells." Because of their Christian testimony, they began churches in many parts of Venezuela, like Tia Juana across the lake and Caracas and Anaco in eastern Venezuela and influenced many Venezuelans for Christ.
While living in Maracaibo, the Lozuks had purchased a pet hamster for the children which some how managed to escape. After three days it came back. Veda Rae was expecting another child at this time. As she reached down to capture the hamster and put him back in his cage, he bit her. Since the animal had been loose for three days and no one knew if the hamster could possibly be rabid, the doctor decided that Veda Rae must have rabies shots. The injections caused a severe allergic reaction and the baby came seven weeks early. For a while the baby was in a serious condition because her lungs would not inflate. On the third day she seemed to improve. However, early on the fourth day came an urgent call from the hospital saying, "If you want to see her alive, come now." Martha Lauralyn died within the hour. The only time that this baby daughter was in her father's arms was when he carried the little white casket to the grave. Thus, when the Lozuks left Maracaibo, they left Martha Lauralyn' s tiny body in the little grave in the Corazon de Jesus (Heart of Jesus) cemetery there.
After living and working in Maracaibo for six and one half years, George was asked to go to a meeting in Mexico City, where a week long seminar was presented about using radio and television to present the message of Jesus not just to Venezuelans but also to radio listeners all across South America. Fellow missionaries wanted him to study how to do this on his upcoming furlough, set up a radio studio and produce Christian radio programs in Caracas. Feeling that this was what God wanted them to do, the Lozuks, after George had studied at the Baptist Radio and Television Commission in Fort Worth and also at Texas Christian University, moved to Caracas, Venezuela's capital city. Little did they know that God was going to make this, which seemed to be possibly a missionary fad of the moment, into a fifteen-year ministry.
Carefully looking in Caracas for a house that would serve as a radio recording studio and not finding a place that was affordable, the Lozuks decided that an ordinary back bedroom of a house would have to be used to start the work. It was an interesting experiment trying to acousticize the room with egg carton liners, throw rugs, and quilts. One day, driving in Caracas, George spotted one of the plastic egg carton liners. "Get out of the car and pick that up," George said to his wife. "We need all of these that we can find." This back bed room was used this way for about one year before the Mission was able to purchase a house for the studio. When this room was prepared, the singers and preacher, German Nunez, pastor of Central Baptist church in Caracas, came there, and so the first program of "Christ, The Only Hope" was recorded for broadcast from the Caribbean island of Bonaire going out at 500,000 watts.
Letters soon were coming in from many parts of the country, and, because of Transworld's powerful voice, even from surrounding countries. Veda Rae was helping George with the mail, answering letters and sending out Bible study courses and Bibles. From the letters she learned of people who had accepted Christ through listening to the radio programs who wanted pastors and churches in their towns.
One letter came from a woman who lived very high in the mountains. She had sent back the first lesson of a Bible study, but she said, "Please don't send me any more. I have to make such a long trip down to the store that serves as our post office, and I just can't do that all the time." Veda Rae sent her the whole Bible Study course at one time. It was months before she heard from the woman again, but when she did return the lessons, she sent a letter saying, "I don't know what it is, but something has changed in my life. I've never seen a church or a pastor, but maybe someday, God will let me find a church and be baptized because I know I'm different now".
Another woman, Maria de Aray, who lived in the town of Onoto in Eastern Venezuela, was very disturbed because her husband was extremely ill, and she was having a difficult time supporting the two of them by raising chickens and turkeys and selling their eggs. One day she was particularly depressed and, not knowing what to do, she turned on the radio to create a little distraction. She happened to tune in to Transworld Radio, where the announcer at this moment was saying, "Christ is the Only Hope." This caught her attention, and she continued listening to the program and to Rev. German Nunez as he presented a Biblical message of hope. As the program was ending, the radio pastor invited the listeners to place their trust in Jesus Christ, even at that very moment. Maria de Aray, in her desperation, fell to her knees in front of the radio and prayed, "Oh, Jesus, help me." God heard her prayer and saved her that day. She was so excited by what had happened in her life that she shared the salvation message with her husband, who also was saved that day. Maria began listening daily to the radio program and felt that she needed to go to Caracas to meet this radio preacher. When she arrived there, she found Rev. Nunez, shared her testimony of what God had done in her life, declared that she wanted to be baptized, and requested that a church be started in her town, offering her home as a meeting place. Several missionaries went to the town of Onoto to begin preaching in her home, and later, some of the seminary students also went. In this manner, a new Baptist mission was begun in the town of Onoto.
A Venezuelan home missionary said that because of the "Christ, the Only Hope" program, people in the town where he was beginning new work threw their homes wide open to him and that he could have used a number of helpers just going around telling people that they represented the radio program. Seven Venezuelan churches were organized, calling themselves, "Christ, the Only Hope" Baptist church. The radio program received so many letters from the Dominican Republic that George, with the radio pastor and singer, went to three cities of that country to hold radio rallies.
After the death of Martha Lauralyn in Maracaibo, Veda Rae kept saying that God had one more little girl for the Lozuks, and soon she was expecting a child. The doctor said that the birth of the baby was two weeks away, so George made a trip down to the Venezuelan plains country to check out some radio contacts with the missionary who lived there. This missionary had no phone in his home. George and the missionary were packing his car to go out into the rural countryside for a two-day trip. Back in Caracas, the baby suddenly decided to come. Veda Rae made phone calls to everyone she knew in the city looking for a ride to the hospital, but no one was at home. Suddenly she was inspired to call a vacant missionary home. Fellow missionary Katy Harlan answered the phone, explaining that she had just come to this unused house to read while her husband took care of some mission business in the capital. Veda Rae told Katy her situation. Katy said she had no car, but might know of a way to let George know what was going on. She called the operator in Guanare who then called a Ministry of Public Works office across from the home where George was staying and asked someone there to go across the street and tell the blonde man what was happening in Caracas. Upon hearing the news, the two men immediately drove to the nearest airport. A plane was leaving for Caracas, but its flight list was already made up, and they didn't believe that this was an emergency and wouldn't let George on board. He had to travel in a kind of taxi-bus ("por puesto") that goes between cities in Venezuela and which would take five hours to get to Caracas.
In Caracas, Veda Rae called the doctor and told him she was driving herself to the clinic. He said, "Drive slowly and thank God we're not in the 6 o'clock traffic hour." Lauralyn Ruth was born, and the Lozuks had their second beautiful blonde daughter. George arrived five hours later to welcome the newest Lozuk. The doctor told Veda Rae later that they got the baby out just in time because the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. At home, the other children were happy with their baby sister. Ann said, "Her name's Lauralyn, but we'll call her Lolly." And they did for years. Venezuelans call girls born in Caracas "Caraquenas," so the Lozuks now had Paul and Mark from Central Texas, an Andina, a Maracucho and a Caraquena.
Both of the Lozuks were deeply involved in the radio ministry, thoroughly enjoying the evidence of God's blessing of the work. But when they were in their late forties, Veda Rae, at the radio office one day, suddenly couldn't type, speak or play the piano. Some evidence of this was noted the Sunday before when she began making many mistakes while playing the piano at the Emmanuel Baptist Church, where she served as church pianist. Their doctor, a friend from Central Baptist church, determined that she had suffered a stroke. After medical treatment and a period of rest and recuperation, she was back at the studio. Typing was still very slow, driving was difficult and piano playing had to come back slowly, but they thanked God that the condition slowly improved..
Veda was attending a women's meeting in Colombia when one of the directors of the work in Latin America said to her, "We need the Lozuks in Ecuador." She was so enmeshed in the radio work that when she got back to Caracas, she didn't relay this message to George for two weeks. Finally, she knew she must tell him, and his reaction was like hers -- neither of them wanted to leave what they were doing in Caracas. The radio ministry was becoming very fruitful: some 9,000 people were currently studying the Bible correspondence courses, and people were being saved and new congregations started. In Venezuela alone seven new Baptist churches were organized with the name "Christ The Only Hope Baptist Church." Finally, the director called and asked the Lozuks to at least pray about his request. After talking to the Lord about this possibility, He told them, "You know this radio work is not yours, but mine. I want you to turn it over to the Venezuelans you have trained and move to Quito, Ecuador." The Lozuks with great difficulty said goodbye to Venezuela with its 25 years of memories and where three of their children were born and Martha Lauralyn was buried. They would have a brief time in the United States to see their parents and their children, Paul, Mark and Ann, and leave Larry at Baylor before going to Quito. Only Lauralyn would go with them to Ecuador.
In Quito, George had the newly-created job of administrator of the mission, working with the missionaries of Ecuador for two years and living in an apartment with views of the beautiful snow-covered mountains. Lauralyn, now in her early teens, was grieving for her Venezuela and would not be consoled about having left it. Always an animal lover, she one day accompanied friends on a trip out of the city of Quito and discovered beautiful horses. The Lozuks, saying, "Thank you, Lord" moved out into the fantastic Ecuadorian countryside and bought their daughter a horse. She and a German girl friend had many adventures with their horses, always being able to look up at God's magnificent snowcapped Ecuadorian mountains.
After two years another change came. George Lozuk was asked to serve as associate to Dr. Bryan Brasington, the area director for Latin America. Because of all the traveling this new job would entail, Lauralyn returned to the U.S. to finish her last two years of high school living with Veda Rae's mother in Texas, and George and Veda Rae moved back into the city of Quito. They would spend the next five years traveling Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and, for one year, European-like Chile, working closely with the missionaries of these countries in a pastoral type of ministry. They loved their work, with its relationships with both missionaries and nationals.
During an annual physical, a doctor in Quito discovered a rather large kidney stone and a nodule on George's prostate. Because of this, his Area Director suggested he go to Florida to use a lithotripsy process on the kidney stone and have the prostate problem checked out in the Baptist Medical Center of Jacksonville, Florida. There the doctors found prostate cancer and, after discussing various treatments, decided to implant thirty-six radiation seeds directly into the prostate gland, which they said should take care of the problem. Veda Rae flew to Florida to be there for the surgery, and they both spent Easter of 1988 in Jacksonville. George returned home feeling as if the prostate problem had been solved.
Two and one half years later, Veda Rae, alone one day in their apartment, received a phone call from the area director of Europe. He asked if George spoke Russian. "Well, I really don't know," she answered. " He spoke it as a child." The man called later and talked with George, telling him that for the first time, Russian Baptists had asked for a Southern Baptist missionary couple and wondered if the Lozuks would be willing to be Southern Baptist's first missionary representatives into the Soviet Union. George told him they'd talk to the Lord about it. This invitation coincided with the appointment service (1990) in San Diego, California, of Mark and Carolyn as they were to go to Bolivia as SBC missionaries. Both George and Veda Rae were able to go to the special appointment service and there met with the area director of South America and also the one from Europe. The need of Russia was presented to them and that day, after prayer and Veda Rae's statement that we could "pray about this for a long time but you know that we are supposed to go," the decision was made to go. They were nearing retirement age but came to understand that God wanted to use them in their last years of missionary service to open the work in Russia. So began the different task of preparing for a cold weather climate -- coats, boots, scarves and gloves.
Texas is not really the place for buying heavy duty winter clothing, but they had former missionary colleagues now living in Canada who told them that much of this could possibly be purchased there. Their daughter Ann, working for American Airlines at the time, secured them tickets for the trip to Canada, and their good friends helped them purchase many of the cold weather items needed, except for the fur hats which they would add in Moscow.
A date was set for leaving for Europe, but the doctor in charge of missionary health at the Mission Board decided to recheck the cancer problem. George went to Baylor hospital in Dallas, where they found that the malignancy was growing again. Six days before their projected leaving date, George was advised that he had to have radical prostate surgery. This surgery was done on November 28, 1990, and the recovery period, with its medical and physical problems, led to much soul searching about whether or not they could go to Russia and almost to depression. Somehow, the Lord, by His grace, led them through these dark days. One week before the visas for Russia were to expire, the suitcases and footlockers were packed and ready to go.
On Feb. 7, 1991, George and Veda Rae arrived in Amsterdam in the dead of winter, stored the footlockers they would be taking to Russia, and caught a flight to Berlin, where they met with the Board's treasurer for Europe, Becky Smith, and stayed in the Deaconesses Hotel and were amazed by the beautiful snow. Life was changing rapidly for them.
From Berlin, they flew to Zurich, Switzerland, where they were met and taken to the Baptist Seminary to meet the area director. An appointment was made to meet with him the next morning. Given a room there at the seminary, they experienced jet-lag and slept right through the alarm, waking up only when the area director came knocking at the door to see what had happened. They talked with him about the plans for Europe and the Soviet Union and were utterly astonished by the fantastic location of the seminary. The following day was Feb.12, 1991, when they flew to Amsterdam to retrieve their stored luggage and take their flight to Moscow.
The flight made a stop in Warsaw, Poland where security was very tight. Pictures of the airport were not allowed from the plane, though George did manage to to take one. From Warsaw, they began the last hop on their trip to Moscow. One of their major problems was that Veda Rae was still wearing her ear rings as she had done for years in Latin America and was reluctant to give them up. They had been advised that Baptist women in Russia did not believe in wearing jewelry. This problem was discussed on the flight and George finally said, "God, Veda Rae's ear rings are your problem." About 10 minutes before landing in Moscow, George looked at his wife, and the ear rings were gone.
They landed at Sheremetiva, Moscow's International Airport, at about 10 p.m., and it was obvious immediately that they were in another world. The lights were dim, and no one was smiling. As they arrived at the immigration booth, the immigration officers had no words of welcome, only stern looks as they thoroughly investigated their travel documents. At the luggage carousel, they began to retrieve their many pieces of luggage and foot lockers, five of which were loaded with movie projectors and Jesus films. The time was almost 11 p.m., and they wondered who would meet them.
As they began to clear customs, strange questions were asked, one of them being ,"How much money are you carrying?" "$l0,000," George answered. The next statement from the customs agent was, "Show me," and George had to count it out in front of him and everyone else standing around. The next problem was that they did not want to let the movie equipment through customs, so they had to leave it there and the Moscow Baptist Church retrieved it the following day.
A young man from the Baptist church had arrived in an old van to meet them. He spoke only a few words of English, and communication was very limited. Driving through Moscow, they saw that everything was frozen and covered with snow, since this was the dead of winter. They arrived in front of a large brick building and George asked the driver, " Hotel?" He shook his head and said, "No, church." It was already after 11:00 at night. He stopped the van and began to remove the luggage, and people came out of the church to carry the suitcases inside. It seemed that no one had made hotel arrangements for the Lozuks, and they were to spend the first night in the pastor's office, using it as their bedroom. Before they could try to ask questions, the ladies working in the church kitchen decided that they needed something to eat, so they graciously brought out soup, bread and hot tea and insisted that they eat it all. The Lozuks soon found out that hot tea ("chai") was to the Russian people what coffee is to the Latin Americans.
As it turned out, Veda Rae slept on the couch in the pastor's office, and George slept on the floor that night. In spite of getting to bed after midnight, they were awakened very early the next morning to go down to breakfast. Needless to say, there were no shower facilities, so they just went as they were. They were taken downstairs to the dining room and found themselves in the midst of a rather large group of young people. They quickly discovered that this was a group of church musicians who had come from all over the Soviet Union and who were to study in music seminars for one week to prepare themselves to be choir directors and church music directors. Before sitting down to breakfast, this group broke out in song as their prayer before eating. It was some of the loveliest music the Lozuks had ever heard. At the close of the meal, the music group sang again. George and Veda Rae's hearts were thrilled by the fantastic music and the joy being expressed as the young people sang.
After breakfast they went back to the pastor's study and discovered it was being used as one of the music classrooms. They were in a very awkward situation, with no privacy and not knowing what to do or where to go. Before long, they were notified that a hotel room had been arranged for, and they, along with all of our luggage, were transported to the Peking Hotel. Interestingly, after noting all the luggage, the music professor using the pastor's study asked how many people were traveling in the group. He was amazed that it was for only two people.
The Peking was one of the older hotels in the city, and they were to stay there for a week and a half. They had not been instructed on how to use the restaurant in the hotel. They were supposed to make advance reservations for each meal, giving the specific time when they wanted to eat. Otherwise, the hotel would not reserve space for them in the dining area. However, they were told by one of the men in the international office at the church that they should most likely do all of their eating at the snack bar, which turned out to have a very limited amount of food and choices. They had no idea where eating places outside of the hotel might be and the snow and ice discouraged exploring. Many months later, they discovered that McDonald's was only three blocks away. Because of only eating at the snack bar, within a week they each lost ten pounds and suffered through several days of the flu. They finally became so hungry that they went down to the restaurant and told the waiter in charge of the dining room that they wanted to eat. The only thing he would offer them was a Chinese restaurant beside the dining area where they would have to pay for their food in dollars. They went in gladly and had a good Chinese dinner, which they enjoyed in spite of the fact that it cost $35.00.
After almost 2 weeks in the hotel, they were to begin an eighteen-day train trip to meet Russian Baptist leaders. Their traveling companion was ValentineYerisov, a retired Russian pastor who helped Veda Rae with Russian. He also helped them memorize John 3:16. Their first stop was Minsk, where they were met by friendly Russian leaders and Veda Rae was presented with a bouquet of flowers. There they met the pastor and church members and enjoyed the church's excellent choir. The trip went from Minsk to St. Petersburg to Kiev to Odessa and back to Moscow. Each trip was overnight and took from twelve to thirty hours. When someone asked George where they lived in Russia, he quipped, "On the train," and sometimes they felt as if that were true. They eventually made sixty overnight train trips while visiting Russian Baptist leaders across the Soviet Union.
Learning to travel on the train was a new experience. Once on
the train, clothing was changed
to casual, such as sweat pants and shirt. This made for a more comfortable ride and also served as sleepwear for the night. As the train approached its destination in the morning, once again
dress clothes were put on for arrival.
Upon boarding the train, once guests settled in the stateroom for the
ride, tea was served by
the conductor. This went well with the lunch that was usually brought on board. The lunch which they brought personally on board was not elaborate, usually a piece of sausage, bread, cucumber and sometimes tomatoes. Combined with the tea, it made an elegant meal before bedtime.
Airline travel was used only occasionally when the trip was very long or haste was needed. It was very different from U.S air travel. What a surprise to see dogs allowed on the plane with their own seats and experience in-flight meals such as a piece of chicken in a plastic bag along with another baggie with a piece of bread. The drink was usually "mystery water." One trip from Novosibirsk to Moscow helped in understanding something of the vastness of Russia. The flight left Novosibirsk at 8:00 a.m. and arrived in Moscow at the same time, crossing four time zones. There were two breakfasts that day.
There was no Russian language school set up for missionaries to learn the language at that time. However, it did not take long for George's language of his childhood to come back to him and he was soon completely at home in speaking to people. For Veda Rae, who had spoken Spanish for thirty-four years, it was different.. She spoke a lot of Spanish to the Russian people. She also smiled a a lot! Finally, she started getting into the Russian language. One of the first breakthroughs was at the bread store when she learned to order one white loaf and one black rye loaf. She made two very close friends among Russian Baptist women, Victoria, who spoke a good bit of English, and Vera Danilovna, a member of our church who became a loved and trusted friend.
The first apartment available for rent was from Victoria. Her son had vacated his apartment, a tiny place but adequate for two people, and it was rented for a short time. A few months later our Russian pastor found an apartment for sale where a Jewish family was immigrating. This apartment was purchased in the name of the Russian Baptist Church because they had no legal right to purchase as foreigners, and cost $10,000.00. It was meagerly furnished with a double bed, wooden storage chest, table and chairs, a divan, small stove and refrigerator and a few dishes. Items like plates, cups, glasses and a frying pan were nowhere available to purchase. Through the months, each discovery and purchase was an adventure. When a teflon frying pan was found (and it was the only one on the shelf) Veda Rae had to hold on to it while George went through the cashiers line to pay for it.
George's office was set up in a tiny room, about the size of a big walk-in closet. A desk was built in, made from a used door, and a filing cabinet stood at the end. The computer sat on the desk, fax machine on the filing cabinet and the copy machine sat on the window sill -- a big wide one. An antiquated fold back couch filled the area and was used as the guest bed for folks needing a place to sleep. It was not only uncomfortable, but the fax machine and phone seemed to work all night long, since people in the U.S. did not remember the time difference and the phone usually rang at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. to send a fax.
The bath room was divided, with the tub and sink on one side and the
commode on the other. This was convenient when there were numerous
people but not easy to become accustomed to.
Toilet paper and soap were rare discoveries. George never left home without carrying two cloth shopping bags just in case he would see something (maybe toilet paper) that had been unavailable for some time. This was the custom of the people; everyone always carried cloth shopping bags, even when going to church.
Shopping was done every day because of the need to find something to eat. Bread was bought at the bread store (white bread and black rye bread), vegetables at another, eggs, cheese and butter, still at another, and meat had to be purchased at a special meat market. Basically, shopping was daily, and the round was made of about six stores to see what might have come in that day. Many times milk, cheese and other such items would not be found for days. Guests from the U.S. often asked just what was needed and were asked to bring in powdered milk and sugar.
Travel from the apartment meant walking three blocks to the bus stop, getting off near a subway stop, going on the subway to a street car stop, and then riding a few more blocks on the street car. This is how they regularly went to their church. Once the subway routes were figured out, one could get around the city and connect to busses and street cars going to one's destination. Their metro station called "Rizhskaya."
The Moscow Baptist Church was a marvelous experience. It became the home church for the Lozuks. It could seat 800 people, but usually there were another 400 standing in the aisles and out to the foyer. During the cold winter times people would leave their coats on. Of course, the married ladies always had their head covered. There were three services on Sunday, at 10:00, at 2:00 and at 6:00. The services were two hours long and three preachers spoke at each service. The choir usually sang four to six special numbers. The music was beautiful and very heartfelt and at the close of the service there were great hugs and kisses expressing the love felt for one another.
With the passing of the "freedom of conscious" law under the leadership of Gorbachev in 1990, the door was opened for many American Christians to go to Russia and see for themselves what God was doing in the Soviet Union, and a part of the Lozuk's ministry became to receive these people so that they might visit the churches, the Kremlin and Red Square where they passed out thousands of tracts, New Testaments and Bibles. George and Veda Rae even took one of these groups, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and his party, on overnight train trips to Kiev and Odessa.
One of the major objectives of the Lozuk presence in the Soviet Union was to meet the Baptist leaders in as many republics as possible. In most cases the leadership didn't know who Southern Baptists were, what the Foreign Mission Board was, or even what a missionary was or did. They were accustomed to visitors who came for a few weeks, visited the churches and depended on the Baptist leadership to take care of them in matters of housing, travel and food. They could not understand that SBC missionaries came to live among the people and would have their own apartments, transportation and financial support. It took the first two years to get this message across as well as the fact that the SBC was 15,000,000 strong and was able to help the needy work of the old Soviet Union. In time, as understanding came, these leaders became very close, trusted friends of the Lozuks and a great bond of joint ministry was established.
Another great need and objective was getting invitations for SBC missionaries so that they could be appointed to the area. This involved many train rides and much waiting outside of offices before the moment came when invitations were offered. The first invitation came for the Steve Haines family to go to Kiev. Following this the Dan Panters were invited to Minsk and the Mel Skinners to Moscow. Relationships were finally being established and the Baptists trusted us and knew that we would not bring in missionaries that were not capable theologically and spiritually to serve among the seminaries and churches. This relationship lasted all the days that they continued to serve in Russia and surrounding republics.
Youngest daughter, Lauralyn, came for a two week visit to Moscow arriving on February 4, 1993. Her arrival was celebrated with a trip to the Moscow circus that first night and as the circus was finishing a beautiful show blanketed the ground. Upon arriving at the Lozuk apartment she had to go out to a park area and make snow angels even though the hour was quite late.
After a two week visit during which she learned to order bread from the bread store (one white and one dark rye) and buy bananas from the fruit vendor, she prepared for her return on February 18. Since George needed a checkup with the cancer surgeon, he scheduled his trip along with hers. They arrived in the Houston airport just to learn that Mother Lozuk was in the hospital after suffering a heart attack. The trip was made to Ft. Worth that night to visit the hospital early the next morning. After three good days of visiting, Mother Lozuk went to be with the Lord on February 22 and was buried on February 26. This same year George's only brother, Paul Roy, died on December 23 of cancer.
With the arrival of freedom in the old Soviet Union and Gorbachev's declaration (as seen on Russian TV.) on December 25, 1993, that Communism was over, several great changes for Christians were observed. Where previously churches and their buildings were either destroyed or closed, now new churches were being established quickly. Sunday Schools that had been against the law were now being organized all over the country. Churches could now freely baptize new believers without the authorization of the KGB and Bibles were being printed in the country. Several seminaries were established for the training of young people who would become pastors and missionaries throughout the land. A Home Mission Board was established in Russia sending out almost one hundred missionaries, many to places that had previously been cities closed to outsiders by the government. It was wonderful to see what God was doing now in this country that had been dominated by Communism for over seventy years with it's major teaching that there is no God.
George and Veda Rae Lozuk would soon be sixty-five years old. I t was time to thank God for showing what His power and might could do in Russia, for the wonderful Christian leaders that they had met among Russian Baptists, for the fantastic praise heard from Russian Baptist choirs, for the good personal friends He had allowed them to make and to pack the suitcases and leave the job to others that He was sending. What an honor and privilege it has been to serve on three continents in some twenty-five countries for thirty-eighty continuous years. It has truly been a FABULOUS JOURNEY.