As I’ve been posting pictures of Montenegro, I realized that people may not know what I really do other than see beautiful places on a regular basis. So, I thought I’d write a note about what I’m up to these days.
For those who don’t know, I am the Executive Director of Stoneworks International, a small American mission organization that has projects in Russia, Estonia, Belarus and Montenegro. I’m also the chairman of the board of МИР (MIR), a Russia charity I helped found about 11 years ago. And, I’m a founding board member of Päikesekiir (Sunbeam), an Estonian charity that’s in the process of establishing a day center for children with disabilities in Northeast Estonia.
Here in Montenegro, I’ve recently done some preliminary planning for a mission team we’ll host in May. I’m spending time with ministry leaders and co-workers, as well as with Olga’s sister’s family. In the past, I’ve helped several short-term mission teams run summer camps here; I hope we’ll run another this coming summer. And, having an internet connection, I continue to communicate with partners in other countries.
In Russia, our ministry faces a variety of challenges, including financial short-falls and a staff in transition; I’m in regular contact regarding budgets, staffing, vision, etc. MIR has just finished a successful summer, and we’re thankful for that. I’ve also been helping a couple, Yan and Nadya Boldyrev, as they transition their orphan ministry to work more closely with us. I’m also in talks with Teen Mania about a 40-person mission team they plan to send to Russia and Estonia next summer.
In Belarus, I primarily help in decision-making regarding the future of the ministry, and I help assure that reporting (financial, ministry) is going smoothly. Other Stoneworks board members are active in helping the ministry in Belarus. Of course, the staff of our sister ministry, Spring of Revival, is great and serve selflessly. Recently, I helped our co-workers there get Estonia visas, and I look forward to the time when our friends in Estonia will meet and partner with our friends in Belarus. The ministry staff in Belarus are facing a difficult time these days; the culture is under siege and the financial markets are very unstable.
My work in Estonia continues to grow. The biggest project is Sunbeam, a center for children with disabilities we plan to build in Johvi. Right now, the city is working on zoning changes for the land they will grant to us. I’ve had several meetings with the architect, and his designs are nearing completion; it’s going to take a while to build it, but it will be great when it’s all done. I’m also in early planning for a project to build a missionary guest house in Estonia, a home where Christian workers from Russia and other ex-soviet states can take a break and be refreshed. We’ve identified a building at Camp Gideon that we hope to renovate for that project. Our relationships with people there get better and better all the time. We also now have an apartment in Estonia (our home is still in St. Petersburg), and our car is registered there, so our connections in Estonia are increasing.
This update has the word “I” quite a bit. It must be said that everything I do is in partnership with many wonderful people. In Russia, I commend Masha, Katya, Tatiana, Tanya, Yan and Nadya, Zhenya, Dima, Marina, Lyle, Peter and Liz; in Estonia, I tip my hat to Artur, Liana, Erkki, and Andres; in Belarus, the work is carried out with love by Olga, Yasha, Alesya and Masha; in Montenegro, my co-laborers are Vladimir, Marijana, and Violeta; in the USA, I depend very much on Mary Jean (who is the best!), Dave, Larry, Jill, Dan, Kirk and Phill (who is actually in South Africa). These people and many more are my co-workers for the sake of the gospel.
God sets us together as living stones, and I am very happy with the ‘stones’ among whom He has set me.
So, that’s a quick run-down of what I do. I’m also enjoying being a new father, as Olga and I are in the process of adopting a little girl who is living with us now — a 4 year old named Valerie. And Olga and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary in November.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a flat overlooking the Bay of Kotor, on the Adriatic coast of Montenegro. Another day, another beautiful view. . . .