In November of 2000, I (Mike) moved to Russia to help establish a Russian Charity named MIR.  A little over a year later I married Olga.  Later, the Lord gave us a wonderful daughter, Valerie. Over the years, God has led us and blessed us in many ways.

We have a home in St. Petersburg, Russia and spend time in the USA, Finland, Montenegro and Estonia.  I have businesses in the USA and volunteer with Stoneworks International, a mission organization with projects in Europe. I also partner with churches in Uganda and Congo, so I travel a lot.

We hope you’ll wander around here, learn more about us, have some fun and see evidence of the goodness of God.

Ask for the Ancient Paths – Jeremiah 6:16

If you’ve listened to my podcast, this scripture is familiar to you.

I recently spent some time transcribing the first podcast episode. I may do more of this in the future, making that content available in print as well as on the podcast feed and my YouTube channel (the video is also below).

This text is highly edited and shortened somewhat from the podcast. I offer it to you, in case you find it helpful:

Jeremiah 6:16 says, Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths. Ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

This has been a key verse for me for many years. I can’t remember when I first encountered it, but it was perhaps 25 or 30 years ago. As I have pondered and applied it, this verse has been very, very helpful as I’ve lived the life that God has given me.

I want to share a few thoughts which have been very beneficial to me and my family over the years. Let’s see how God can use this scripture it to influence our thinking and our perspective.

Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths.

The first thing that I see here is that we’re told to stand at the crossroads and look. That first word is vital: Stand.

As we go through our lives, we very often come to crossroads, times of decision. Some are very important decisions; some are perhaps not so important (or seemingly not so important), yet yet we come to these crossroads in life. Quite regularly, I find myself at a point of decision, a place where I need to see and understand how best to move ahead. I want to know, what does God have for me? Which way should I go?

As we come to these crossroads the Lord is saying, “Stand there. Don’t keep moving. Even if you feel like you must keep moving, do not keep moving. Stand and look. Take the time to stand.”

Our lives can be very hectic, the pressures on us can be so great. Perhaps people’s expectations of us cause pressure, or our expectations of ourselves can influence our decisions. And the Lord says, “Stand there and look.” Keep your eyes up. He wants us to look outside of ourselves to see what is going on.

And then the next sentence is perhaps the most important: ask for the ancient paths. It is so ery important to ask – not try to figure it out, not try to think things through, but to ask. Where are the ancient paths? Where are these good ways? What is the ancient path here before me? What is the good way for me? This is a worthy prayer.

And here I want to go to something that Jesus said when he was asked an important question. One of the experts of the law tested Jesus with a question. He said, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” And here Jesus replies, quoting Deuteronomy chapter 6, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”  Jesus is saying, “The most important thing of all the Law, is to love God.”  

So then, returning to Jeremiah chapter 6, we come to a question – how do we discern the ancient path, the good way?

I believe Jesus revealed an ancient path: to love God.

And so, when I am given a choice, when I see options before me, I will ask for this ancient path: “God, which of these options helps me to love you more? Which of these decisions leads me to love you more?” Because an ancient path, a very good way, is the way that leads me to love Him more.

Very often when I ask that question, I’ll receive clarity quite quickly, because the Spirit is revealing His will. Often when I have a decision, one path will be either more selfish or self-concerned, or perhaps more comfortable or an easy, familiar choice. Another path will be one of self-sacrifice, of living by faith.

And then I can say, “Well, the thing that helps me to love God more is to take the path that may not be as familiar to me or as comfortable, but one that makes me depend upon Him more and walk into the miraculous, where I know that if he doesn’t do something, then nothing gets done.”

This helps me tremendously, to ask, “God, of all the options ahead of me, which is the way that helps me to love you more?” And then listen for this answer.

Ask for the ancient paths. Ask where the good way is and walk in it . . .

And this also is vital – to walk in what we’ve received from God. It’s a theme I return to very often. Not only do we need to know the will of God, but we also must do it. We must walk in it. This is the living out of His will. We ask for this path. We ask for the good way, and then we walk. We don’t just do something a single time; we live it out.

Jesus himself said, “I am the way.” Christianity is not a set of religious beliefs to which we give mental ascent at one point in time. To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus. And a disciple is one who travels with his teacher, who lives with his teacher, who sits at his teacher’s feet and learns.

Jeremiah 6:16 is saying, ask where that good way is and then walk in it. Don’t run, don’t be scared, don’t look back fearfully, just walk in the way that God has shown you.

And the promise is you’ll find rest for your soul. That’s a promise, the natural result of obedience. If we stand at a crossroads and we look around and we ask God to reveal the ancient paths, the good way, and then we walk in what he’s revealed to us, then our souls will be at peace. We will find that rest.

This is a fundamental understanding for Christians –  the importance and the necessity of surrendering our will to God, standing at these moments of choosing and asking Him to show us the way and then actually doing His will, by His grace.

Jesus himself said, “Anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a man who built his house on a rock.” But, Jesus said, “If anyone hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice, then he’s like a man who built his house on sand.” The difference is the doing of what he says, not the hearing of it.

Perhaps you, wherever you are, whatever your circumstance, are at a crossroads in life, a point of decision making, and you’re not sure of where God wants you to go, what path He wants you to take. I encourage you, stand, don’t let people force you into making a decision before you have revelation from God. He will give you what you need when you need it.

James says that if any of us lacks wisdom, we should ask, and God will give wisdom without finding fault. And when we ask, we should not doubt that He’s going to give us wisdom. Because if we do doubt, then we’re like waves in the ocean. We’re just thrown back and forth.

So, I encourage you – stand at the crossroads, you be immovable, and you ask the Lord to reveal His will. What is the ancient path for you? Expect His answer. He will give it to you when you need it. It may be at the very last moment; it may be a few months in advance. It’s up to Him when He wants to reveal His will for you. He knows the best time.

He’s never late, so he’s never anxious.

Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths. Ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

On The Physical Death Of Jesus

A friend shared this with me the other day and I thought it would be good to share here – mc.

Reprinted from JAMA – The Journal of the American Medical Association

REVISED from JAMA – The Journal of the American Medical Association March 21, 1986, Volume 256
Copyright 1986, American Medical Association


William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, M Div; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI

From the Departments of Pathology (Dr. Edwards) and Medical Graphics (Mr. Hoamer), Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; and the Homestead United Methodist Church, Rochester, Minn., and the West Bethel United Methodist Church, Bethel, Minn. (Pastor Gabel).

Jesus of Nazareth underwent Jewish and Roman trials, was flogged, and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. The scourging produced deep stripelike lacerations and appreciable blood loss, and it probably set the stage for hypovolemic shock, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus was too weakened to carry the crossbar (patibulum) to Golgotha. At the site of crucifixion, his wrists were nailed to the patibulum and, after the patibulum was lifted onto the upright post (stipes), his feet were nailed to the stipes. The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion was an interference with normal respirations. Accordingly death resulted primarily from hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Jesus’ death was ensured by the thrust of a soldier’s spear into his side. Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.

The life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth have formed the basis for a major world religion (Christianity), have appreciably influenced the course of human history and, by virtue of a compassionate attitude towards the sick, and also have contributed to the development of modern medicine. The eminence of Jesus as a historical figure and the suffering and controversy associated with his death has stimulated us to investigate, in an interdisciplinary manner, the circumstances surrounding his crucifixion. Accordingly, it is our intent to present not a theological treatise but rather a medically and historically accurate account of the physical death of the one called Jesus Christ.

Continue reading

News from Congo

The killings continue in Northeast Congo. I asked friends in Congo to send news:

From Damiri (church planter, pastor and a bishop over the churches):

There have been many attacks and killings in the region that have caused our pastors, their families and many church members to move, some to Beni, some to Butembo and others in the deep equatorial forest. After several attacks in Biane, pastor Muyali has moved to Beni with his family and some of his church members, most of them displaced and started living at about 40 kilometers from Biane, near Mambelenga.

Last month as Muyali and Alphonso (our pygmee brother) were preparing to build our church in Mambelenga. Killers came day time and shot bullets on people in the market, others were killed by axles and machetes, houses and a clinic were burnt down. They kept their operation until next morning. Our church members ran to Apende for refuge, pastors escaped from killings in Mambelenga, but until today nobody can tell how many were killed in Mambelenga. About a week later Apende was attacked, Noela [Bethuel’s wife] had left two days before the attack, she had been teaching there; after Mambelenga was attacked, there was no taxi taking people out of that zone, Bethuel had to send brother Bosco from Beni to get Noela back to Beni.

During Apend’s attack, Pastor Germain’s family was scattered in the jungle for one day they did not know where is each other family member was, finally when they decided to go to Beni, we thank God they reached Beni the next day after three motorbike break on their way to Beni in very bad spots where killers pass most of the time.
Some of our Church members from Apende are in Beni, while others went to Mongamba where Pastor Elu is planting our church. Five of our churches are closed now due to the massacres. Pastors and their families are now in Beni and Butembo. 

It is now about one month since Oicha was attacked, people do not sleep in their houses in Oicha fearing for their lives, because killers come sometimes while people are asleep. So every evening they lock up their houses and go to the city center to spend the night on the main road sides. About three weeks ago we had a group of 50 displaced from Oicha, they came to our church in Butembo for assistance.

Beni is full of refugees from all the suburbs around. The main problem is that, they leave almost everything in their villages and cities, they have no food, no pets, no jerrican to fetch water, no bedding… our churches in Beni and Butembo have been assisting the refugies a little bit, but needs are great. 

About one month now, the Italian ambassador got killed at about 15 kilometers from Goma [far to the South]. The officer that went for investigations also got killed. 

We have more than 100 rebel groups in our region. But killers in Beni are Islamist “Daesh”.
The situation is complicated, because some of our soldiers are involved, sometimes things that were looted in villages and cities are found in the army barracks.

Thanks for praying for North Kivu and Ituri region.

From Bethuel (pastor, businessman and bishop):

We are grateful to  all brothers and sisters who care for the Church in Congo. Indeed, we are crossing a very traumatizing period. 

Since the killing of our two missionaries [a few years ago], we have not been able to live in peace. We are serving God in very insecure zones. When one of us goes in those risky zones we feel like we may never see him back again, but God cares. 

The ministry is heavy on us but we are not discouraged. Orphans, widows… displaced people cry day and night for help. Six years of bloodshed, it is too much. 

God have mercy on us.

Here are the pastors:

Pictures from Congo

I recently received an update on the work in Congo.

  • Damiri presided over a wedding at his church in Goma.
  • Jeremie, Bethuel and others made a mission trip to a pygmy village.
  • Students graduated from Bible school.
  • Several new believers were baptized.

That part of Congo has many difficulties, and it’s a joy to see the church doing its work: preaching the gospel, baptizing believers, and leading people into maturity in the Lord.

A New Project

I (Mike) have had a side project for a few months and can finally announce it!

I’ve been working with the Elisabeth Elliot Foundation, and we recently launched the new foundation website: www.ElisabethElliot.org.

If you don’t know much about Elisabeth Elliot, her biography is a good place to start. You might also like The Jim Elliot Story. She was a straightforward and serious follower of Jesus, and she spoke the unvarnished truth in love. Olga and I have received much from her ministry. 

How we got here: Olga translated one of Elisabeth’s books into Russian, and through that process we became friends with Elisabeth and her husband Lars. Through that friendship, I became involved with the foundation. 

I’ve been preparing audio recordings and other resources for the site; we currently have about 150 of her long-form talks available, and we have over 400 of her Gateway to Joy radio programs on the site. Just to give you an idea of the scope of the project: we have another 600 cassettes to process (that is, another 1,200 talks), and we need to prepare the remaining 1,900 Gateway to Joy programs.

We also created The Elisabeth Elliot Podcast, a weekly podcast of her long-form lectures (about 50 minutes each). You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. 

I encourage you to visit the site and take advantage of the resources: audio recordings, videos, photos, biographies and more. 

In other news, I continue to produce my podcast and recently posted an episode that might interest you: A Biblical Perspective on Your Future

I arrived in the USA after an ‘interesting’ trip from Russia; goodness how Covid-19 has changed international travel (flights canceled, delayed and empty). Olga and Val were due to arrive on Saturday evening, but their flights have also been canceled and we’re hoping we can get them here early next week. It’s been difficult to find options.

We are very thankful for the life God has given us. His ways are good and always lead to peace for the soul. Let’s press on, in Him, fearless and humble, for His sake.

News from Congo

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re supporting ministry in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cornovirus travel restrictions have kept me from visiting as I’d hoped, yet we’ve been able to continue sending funds to support local churches. The home church is located in Butembo, and about 14 daughter churches are spread out in the region, pastored by missionaries ordained and sent from the home church.

That area, northeast Congo, continues to be quite dangerous with killings happening on a regular basis. Yet the believers continue their work, spreading the gospel and meeting the needs of refugees.

My friend bishop Damiri Paluku Wasumbusu recently sent this  update about one part of their work:

Church on the Rock in Beni organized a pygmies’ couples seminar last week, attended by pygmies who were wedded in Church on the Rock. Pastor Bethuel, his wife Noela and missionaries were part of the seminar, to share about their marriage experience and culture. How do Pygmie communities understand marriage life. What are some of their culture shocks as they join bantous. What are the challenges for Pygmie communities in the context of war. The seminar was very inspiring and missionaries learn a lot about missions among Pygmies as they shared their experiences. Five couples of Pygmies and their children plus six missionaries attended the seminar for four days.

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A Postcard from Russia

It is berry-picking time in Russia. Above Olga and Val are joined by Olga’s mom (at left), Val’s friend Yanna and Yanna’s mom as they head out to the forest for blueberries. Val found a costume bonnet we had and thought it the best head-wear for the day.

We’ve spent much time at dacha this summer. All the borders continue to be closed, so we haven’t traveled at all. In an alternate reality, I would have by now made several trips to Estonia as well as Montenegro, Serbia, Romania and Finland. It’s been good to stick close to home.

The ministry  continues. We’ve been sending funds to help people in several countries as they face significant challenges as a result of the Covid-19 shutdown. Many people live day-to-day, so hunger becomes a real issue. I’ve also had many conversations with missionaries and partners, helping work through the pressures and issues that have arisen.

I continue to work on my podcast, Ask for the Ancient Paths. You can find it on iTunes, GooglePlay, Spotify, YouTube, etc.


My Two Albums

For those who don’t know, before I moved to Russia I recorded a couple of albums. I’ve had boxes of CDs (!) sitting in the States, and I finally got the albums on iTunes, Spotify, etc.

The two albums, both acoustic instrumental, are called Sanctuary and Invocation.

Invocation is all solo hammered dulcimer, and Sanctuary is dulcimer and open-tuned (CGDGAD) finger-style guitar. If you buy an album, you’ll also get a four-page digital booklet (like liner notes) with more information about the recording.

(Be aware, there is another artist named Michael Cantrell who has an album called Mooseknuckle Honeysuckle. That ain’t me, but it’s a great album name!)



A Conversation About Covid-19

A friend of mine is a doctor in the Northeast USA. Her husband oversees a major Covid-19 treatment facility. Over the past few days, she and I have exchanged emails, and I thought it might be useful to share what she said. Below is an edited version of our communication.

My friend:

The whole point of a lockdown is to “flatten the curve” so transmission doesn’t occur so quickly, rather than running like wildfire though society overwhelming the medical profession and hospitals. If we can slow it down, we can have time to look for cures, and possibly a vaccine, although I’m not getting my hopes up on that one.

We also need to protect our medical personnel, or we won’t have any left to carry on. We are already learning so much about who is at risk, the crazy and many ways this affects people of all ages.  There are loads of research protocols working on these things now and they are already coming out with information, even if it’s only things that aren’t working.

It’s sobering to look back at the flu epidemic of 1918 which started in Haskell, Kansas and killed over 50-100 million people worldwide in a relatively short period of time. I’m listening to the book The Great Influenza by John Barry.

We learned a lot from that pandemic, but clearly there are many today who are not taking those lessons to heart. Young people in particular were hit hard, particularly boys sent off to war. It was horrific and devastating. When the virus first hit in Kansas a small town it wasn’t as fatal as it became later when it hit the Army barracks. This virus could do the same. It can morph and take on more devastating effects. There were also areas of the world where it was not as lethal.

Influenza in a bad year in the USA in the last decade killed about 60,000+ people, and that was with a vaccine in America. Normally it’s more like 30,000/yr.  This is already beyond that and we are trying to contain it in the strictest way we can. We don’t even know if you can get immunity if you have it once. It could be like malaria (not a virus caused illness) where you get it over and over, and it could potentially kill you each time you acquire it. The residual effects this disease is having on people who survive might be lifelong. My daughter’s boyfriend who is a neurologist, just gave a lecture on all the neurologic manifestations they have seen with COVID, stroke being one of the worst ones. Continue reading