‘She loves people into the kingdom’
Blume lives on the fifth floor of a six-story apartment building. Two large doors — one metal and one wooden — guard the entry to her two-room “Stalinsky” apartment with its 12-foot ceilings. As she slowly stirs a pot of borscht for her guests, Blume wears a white blouse with pearls and a navy blue skirt.
Blume discovered her calling, as she considers it, when she participated in a 1994 Let’s Start Talking campaign in St. Petersburg geared toward Russians who wanted to improve their English skills, using the Bible as their textbook.
“All I could think about was coming back to Russia to live, and I did everything I could to get back here as quickly as possible,” Blume said.
Mark Woodward, co-founder of Fort Worth-based Let’s Start Talking, called her and said what others were thinking:
“D’Anne, you can’t speak the language; there is no full-time missionary there. You would be all alone. You’ve never had
training in missions; you just can’t go to Russia and stay by yourself.”
He persuaded her to go to Chemnitz, Germany, where she could get experience working with a team and then see if she still wanted to return to Russia.
The next summer, living on her savings, she was back in Russia, where she remained for six months. She returned to Russia in 1996 and 1997, staying a little longer each time.
In 1998, the Richland Hills church, where Blume had been a member, picked up her financial support. Missions minister Ron Holland said he had been reluctant at first because of Blume’s lack of experience and language proficiency.
“She was so determined; she just kept circling around and coming back to us,” Holland said. “And it was obvious that the Lord was using her. She was studying and converting people and had such a sense of calling by the Lord.”
At first, Blume had to advertise to get students, but soon nearly all of them were referrals. For several years, she purposely lived with Russians, including a couple of her students. “They literally taught me what to do and what not to say,” she said.
A few years ago, Blume refused to let a painful hip replacement surgery derail her ministry, even when walking up and down stairs hurt so badly she feared she might not be able to continue.
She has become one of the most experienced and valuable Christian workers in Russia, said Woodward, who frequently brings Let’s Start Talking teams to St. Petersburg to work along with her.
“She loves people into the kingdom, yet she is strong and bold at the same time,” he added. She will talk in English on the subway to see if someone’s ears perk up, he said. If they do, she’ll invite the person to study with her.
Blume also identifies with the many other single women in Russia, co-worker, Chuck Whittle said. “She has developed strong and enduring relationships that have led many to Christ,” he said.
Blume said the most rewarding part of her work comes when her students begin to say words and phrases that let her know their faith is growing — even if they don’t yet realize it.
“It’s a thrill you can’t explain,” she said.
In the early years, she dealt with many challenges, including culture shock and getting hold of the language. The Plainview, Texas, native had suffered from severe depression before she moved to Russia, and at one point it returned.
“Culture shock is the weirdest thing. It comes out of nowhere in waves,” she said. “You feel sad and angry. It’s just this mixed up, ridiculous feeling.”
She learned to wait it out, go to an American restaurant, visit with Americans, and then go back to the fray. Eventually, depression passed as Blume became better adjusted to her new home.
Becoming proficient in the Russian language remains a huge challenge, she acknowledged. In the early years, she took language classes but didn’t study hard enough because she was teaching so many English studies.
“What I cannot do is teach a lesson from beginning to end in Russian with great grammar,” she said. “But when I need to get a point across, I have enough words to do it.”
Despite the challenges, she believes that God can use nearly anyone who is willing to come to the mission field.
“However weak you are, it’s like God delights in weakness,” she said. “I mean, look at me — divorced, single, old, a woman. If I had thought about all the reasons why I couldn’t do this, I would never have come. Lots of people didn’t think I could do this. It took me four years to convince myself I could do it.”
She believes that, in some way, her 29 years of marriage and then divorce were preparation for her work today.
“I needed to be humbled and changed in a big way,” she said. “It also taught me to never give up. Call me hard-headed or tenacious, but I want to keep on and on with these students, and I won’t give up.”
Nov. 1, 2006