A Postcard From Russia — Summer’s End, New Beginnings

Baptism at Elama

In August, at Elama we hosted more church groups and camps, and the last of our summer teams have returned home after a very successful season of ministry. Above at Elama, Sergei Tovstapet and Olga Barzhura baptize Leanna, one of the young ladies from Street Cry’s rehab center. Sergei and the girls from the rehab center have done quite a bit of work at Elama; they’ve grown to love it there and have become good friends.

We also hosted a church from Vyborg — a group of 30 young people who were very helpful and had a great time. The families Uliathat lived there have come to think of Elama as home. Last week we packed up everything at Elama (kitchen, water system, beddings, tools, etc) and put it into storage. Unfortunately, if we leave anything there over the winter there’s a high probability of it getting stolen. So, next year we’ll unpack it all and have another good summer. Already a few teams have expressed interest in helping build and repair Elama next year.

Now we turn our eyes to the fall: this week we’ll be interviewing children for the hosting program, a few long-term missionaries are moving to St. Pete soon, we’ll have several teams visiting this fall, and we’re already planning for teams that will come after the new year. As you know, there is quite a bit of increased tension between Russia and the West over the situation in Georgia. This could affect our work, but as of now we are continuing as usual.

This summer has been fairly cool and rainy; the families that stayed at Elama wrote a little song about it, the basic idea being: “We spent a nice winter at Elama this summer”. This summer has been the fulfillment of the joke — Russia has two seasons: 9 months of winter, and 3 months of waiting for summer.ulia_2.jpg

I (Mike) will go to Finland on September 14 to renew my Russian visa. My new visa will limit the amount of time I can stay in Russia to 90 days out of every 180. This means that I can stay in Russia at most only 6 of the next 12 months.

Thankfully MIR has a very good staff and my physical presence is not necessary for the on-going work. God has been preparing us for this change, but it’s still a challenge. It’s a little hard for me to think that I won’t be able to be in my home whenever I want.

Of course it’s difficult for Olga to be away from her home and family so much. Olga is allowed in the US only for a maximum of 6 months, and I am allowed in Russia only for a maximum of 6 months! I think we’ll be spending more time in a third (and forth?) country.

My next update will detail some of the new opportunities and challenges that are on the horizon. It’s all good, and we are confident that God’s kingdom will expand as a result.

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