As promised, here is an update on the changes that are coming for Olga and myself. For the past couple of years, we’ve felt that there was a change coming, and we feel that God has confirmed this in several ways. I’ll start with an overview of things —
Eight years ago I moved to Russia to help establish a Russian charity named MIR. I did not do this on my own but rather as part of a team and in submission to the MIR board of directors. We started our work in January of 2001, and since then it’s been gratifying to see MIR grow and have such good fruit. We now have a good staff and are involved in a wide variety of programs. I am very thankful for the good advice and prayers that have been offered by many of you over the years. It’s amazing to me how the Lord has led us and provided for our needs.
Stoneworks International (www.stoneworksint.org)
A few years ago Dave Hulley and I founded Stoneworks International, a US charity, to support the work of MIR and to do other work in Russia. Dave is the Executive Director of Stoneworks. He and his wife Anne adopted two Russian teenagers and they have made many trips to Russia. Their daughter Liz has been living in Russia for a few years and working with MIR. It’s been a pleasure to partner with Dave. Stoneworks also has grown and is now involved in ministry in other countries besides Russia. More about Stoneworks in a second. . . .
The Visa Situation
As mentioned before, my new visa will limit my time in Russia to 180 days out of every year. When the changes were announced by the government last year, Olga and I felt that I should not ‘fight’ to find a way to stay in Russia full time but that these changes were another indication that my role in Russia would be changing. In particular, my role at MIR . . .
New MIR Leadership
I’m happy to announce that Masha Oshkina has been hired as the MIR Executive Director. Masha has been working with us for a couple of years now. Many of you know her and know what a great person she is. From now on, she’s the ‘go to’ person at MIR. For the time-being I’ll continue to be the chairman of the MIR board and I’ll formally have the title of Director, though I will not be involved in the day-to-day activities of MIR.
This is an emotional transition for me — I do have some feelings of being the ‘dad’ to MIR; I’ll always do everything I can to help MIR grow and succeed. Yet, we all move into new phases of life while others follow after us. The important thing is to abide with the Lord and follow His guidance.
Isaiah 54:2 has been meaningful to me recently: ‘Enlarge the place of your tent; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; Lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs.’
So, this brings us to the new opportunities: soon I will become the Executive Director of Stoneworks. In this new role I’ll be helping MIR as well as serving ministries in Belarus and Montenegro. Our ‘tent’ is expanding, and I’m excited and thankful to be involved in this new work.
In previous Postcards, you’ve seen the new work in Montenegro that’s unfolding; as the Lord allows, I’ll be focusing more on helping the local church there. I look forward to preparing short-term mission teams and long-term missionaries for work in Russia and Montenegro.
Stoneworks also provides support for Spring of Revival (www.stoneworksint.org/sor.html), a ministry in Belarus. That country is a very difficult place for our kind of work, and I look forward to helping Spring of Revival.
Stoneworks is currently based in Massachusetts and we’ll be moving operations to Georgia, where Olga and I are based when we’re in the US. To that end, we need to identify office space, and I hope to find someone who will volunteer as an Administrator to will help with various tasks, since we’re not 100% sure . . .
Where We’ll Live
Talking about tents expanding — it feels like we’ll be living in a tent for a while. Olga and I will continue to be ‘bridges’ between cultures. We don’t sense that we’ll be based in the US full time. For now, it seems that we’ll spend time in the US, Russia and Montenegro. This is partly due to the fact that Olga is allowed in the US for 6 months (assuming her current visa will be renewed next week) and I am allowed in Russia for 6 months.
Of course, we are very open to the Lord surprising us, and I hope we’ll find a permanent home at some point. It’s difficult for me to think that I won’t be allowed in my home whenever I want. We continue to prayerfully consider if we should apply for a US green card for Olga; that would have an effect on how long we’d be in the US.
For now we’re taking the steps we see ahead of us, while trusting the unforeseen future to the Lord.
As our lives go on, I see that the idea of pouring out our life is being realized more and more. Not that we are doing something special for it, but it is clearly the work of Lord.
With all the changes coming we have to lay down our lives again and trust that we are in His hands. In my prayer this morning I almost felt like saying “It is not fair! Why do we have to die for ourselves for the sake of others? When will OUR turn come? When can WE start enjoying our lives?”
But if you think about it in the light of eternity, this kind of life is the only life worth living. Those who will lose their life will find it. And God did not put us on this earth so that we might “enjoy” life.
Yes, He has blessed us beyond counting, and I can truly say that I have an abundant life, full of His blessings. And if I ever choose to “take up my own life”, then I will fall and lose my life.
Right now it seems like our lives are going to be even more unstable than before. We will be moving from place to place more often and will have to count days in and out of the country.
But I believe that even greater blessings for us and others will come as the result of it. But it is not easy. I does take a lot of dying and laying down of your desires and wishes.
It breaks your heart, but it also heals you and lifts you up and gives you a clearer picture of things that matter most. God is purifying His servants, and we are blessed.
We welcome your thoughts and cherish your prayers. Please pray especially that we will rest in the Lord and hear His voice clearly.