Welcome

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.  In 2011, we welcomed a three year old Russian girl named Valerie into our home. 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 am the Executive Director of Stoneworks International, a mission organization with projects in Europe from the Barents Sea to the Balkans. 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.

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

No Doubt

I recently communicated with a friend regarding a situation she is praying about, a big life event decision. Here is our correspondence:

Me

One thing comes to mind regarding your prayer request:

This from James: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

Do not doubt that you’ll know the will of God; He’ll let you know when you need to know. James also said, “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

This helps me: rather than trying to decide on which path to take, I aim to discern God’s will and then decide to be obedient. There is much freedom in this way of knowing which path to take.

Don’t be afraid to let go of something fruitful in order to be able to hold something even more valuable.

My friend

Thank you soooo much for this encouragement.  This is super helpful and really gives me a focus in my prayer.  Now that I think about it, I do feel like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  Now to learn how not to doubt!  I’ll be in prayer the next few days; thanks so much for providing some encouragement and scripture to help and guide the process!

Me

You’re welcome. It took me quite a few years to learn not to doubt. The key for me was realizing that I had been putting my faith in my weak ability to hear rather than in God’s ability to speak clearly. My faith was in myself, not in Him. He knows how to break through my weaknesses. Now I put my faith in Him and His promises, not in my abilities.

My friend

Oh that helps A LOT.  I’ve never looked at it that way before.  In fact, I have always really doubted my ability to hear the Lord, which affects my prayer life, in general – not just when I have a specific area that I need direction in.  Thanks again for this shift of perspective!

More News Regarding Congo Relief

More news from Damiri — 

Hello again,

Church on the Rock Beni proceeds with the second distribution. As I wrote before, the whole territory of Beni is still not safe, people get slaughtered. Last week 4 trucks were burnt in Ituri, many people were slaughtered. So keep it in your prayers.

For the distribution, 4 Families from Mantumbi received food, cooking oil, clothes, Soap and mattresses. 14 others Families of refugees also received food and Soap. 4 ladies and 3 children are being assisted with medical and psychological Care. One particular lady is seriously traumatized. When I visited them, she quickly recognized me, but the way she was talking too much, I thought she was mad. She has been in the hospital for three weeks now. Doctors say she needs to be discharged and continue with psychological assistance.

With the Relief Fund we have also been paying for medical bills.

Pray for another sister from Mantumbi that is admitted, ready for her baby delivery.

I thank God for bringing me safe back in Goma. I went to the air company to confirm my ticket, only to find out that all flights have been canceled between Goma, Beni and Butembo and cars will also be stopped from moving between cities in 48hours, because Goma had registered 3 cases of COVID-19, so I decided to rent a cab to Goma. The journey took the whole day on a narrow bumpy road, very scary.

I am very very grateful for all your contributions to make this possible. Brethren were very happy and encouraged by my visit. The food, medical Care and other home needs for the refugees are being covered with the support you sent. Today Butembo Church is proceeding to the second distribution of Food, Charcoal and cooking oil.

As we pray for all the nations, I want to add on your prayer list two more requests for Congo.

– Two New cases of Ebola was found in Beni, that is two days before the declaration of the end of Ebola.

– The Director of the President’s cabinet was summoned to the court and arrested the same day for embezzlement of millions of dollars, evidences are many. But this scenario risks turning into something else, as we know the former president is always looking for ways to Come back to power. He has the court, the senate, the Parliament and the army behind him. So pray that the will of God is done in this situation.

May God bless you for your Love and Care in such a time.

If you would like to support the work in Congo, serving those who lay their lives down for the gospel of Christ, you may send donations:

Online:
Visit http://www.sjumc.org
Choose “Cantrell Missionary Support”
Write “Congo Relief” in the notes section
Follow instructions to finalize the donation

Or

Make the check to:
St. James Missionary Fund
Write “Congo Relief” on the memo line

And mail to:
St. James UMC
111 West Lake Drive
Athens, GA 30606

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Let This Sink In

This, just from Damiri –

Mantumbi is still dangerous. One of our elders refused to come to Butembo with Pastor Deo. He was afraid of hunger in a big city like Butembo. So, he ran to a nearby village when Mantumbi was attacked. A few days later he went back to his farm to press some palm oil. The jihadists found him and slaughtered him. Deo knows of many cases like that.

If you would like to support the work in Congo, serving those who lay their lives down for the gospel of Christ, you may send donations:

Online:
Visit http://www.sjumc.org
Choose “Cantrell Missionary Support”
Write “Congo Relief” in the notes section
Follow instructions to finalize the donation

Or

Make the check to:
St. James Missionary Fund
Write “Congo Relief” on the memo line

And mail to:
St. James UMC
111 West Lake Drive
Athens, GA 30606