A Ministry Family Reunion

We recently concluded our Stoneworks All-Ministries Conference. We met at Camp Gideon in Estonia. While the weather wasn’t so great the fellowship was wonderful.

All our partners attended except for Liz Sukhovskaya who was in the USA about to have a baby. Stoneworks board members Jill Tyson, Kirk Wassmann, Larry Heller and Mike Cantrell also attended, but sadly Dave Hulley, Dan Wilson, Glenn Cole and Bert Ficke were unable to join us.

The theme of our conference was Abiding in Christ, and speakers were Yasha Goncharenko, Sergei Tovstopiat, Vladimir Cizmanski and myself. Also, every ministry shared about their work; it was great for everyone to see how all the other ‘living stones’ are being used by the Lord. It was a blessed time of building relationships, receiving good teaching, and having fun times together.

In all this, we see a view of the manifold grace of God, His multi-faceted work in the world. We gather as member of the body of Christ, mutually encouraged by one another’s faith.

News from the USA

Our time in the States is coming to an end. Olga and Valerie went to Russia on Monday and I will go to Russia tomorrow. This has certainly been a bittersweet visit. It has been great to see so many family and friends, and Mom’s funeral went as well as anyone could hope. After the funeral service in Georgia we had a grave-side service at a family plot in Tennessee. It is remarkable how many and varied people loved my mother, and many thought of her as a second mother. She leaves a good legacy.

We are very thankful for all the love and support that has been shown to us in so many ways.

On the trip to Tennessee, I let Valerie do some driving in the very parking lot where I practiced driving when I was 15 years old. She did a good job and had a great time.

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While in the USA, we’ve had great time with our many friends in the Athens area. It’s also been a blessing to be with my Dad, helping him in his transition to a new chapter in life. Everything is good.

Much awaits us overseas. Between now and the end of the summer we will be quite busy. Soon, we’ll welcome a team and run a camp for single mothers at Camp Elama. Olga will lead a small team on our first mission trip to Moldova, and I’ll have a first visit, and deliver some aid, to a church Western Ukraine that is ministering to refugees from the war in Eastern Ukraine. I’ll also meet with our three interns in Estonia and later serve with a team in Montenegro.

I had to leave my car in Montenegro when I flew to the States. I’ll drive it home at the end of July, with visits to Serbia,  Ukraine and possibly Romania. Sadly, the air conditioning on the car broke the day before I left Montenegro; I need to get that fixed pronto since Montenegro will be HOT in July. It’s always something . . . . .

Stoneworks continues to grow and bear good fruit. (You can read the most recent Stoneworks newsletter here. ) We also face various trials and challenges, which is quite normal for life in ministry. Just a few days ago we discovered that thieves have been using counterfeit checks on our account, buying items from Craigslists all around the country. Thankfully we caught it quickly and haven’t lost any money. So, we’ve closed our bank account and are opening new accounts. Time consuming and frustrating.

It’s always good to face hardships of various kinds because it helps us develop perseverance, and if we embrace perseverance then we’ll be better people, not lacking anything.

Onward!

A Postcard from America

 

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Now THAT is a birthday picture. Valerie has just about the most birthday parties of any person I’ve ever seen. Even though her birthday is in July, we decided to throw a party now so she could share it with her friends here in Athens, GA. We met at my dad’s farm, and part of the festivities included a ride in the dump truck. This summer I’m sure we’ll have parties at dacha, at Camp Elama and perhaps even in Estonia.

Our time in the States is coming to an end. Though we’ve been here for quite a while, the time has flown by. It’s been great to be here, and now we look forward to going home and experiencing new adventures on the other side of the ocean. We leave a week from today. Our apologies to all our friends near and far who we hoped to visit but did not. My mom’s health has kept us close to home for the most part, and homeschooling has also kept us grounded.

Much has been accomplished while here. I’ve helped several mission teams and interns prepare for summer ministry. I’ve also had many meetings with friends as we’ve encouraged each other in the faith. I’ve also spoken/taught quite a bit. If you’re interested, you can click on the link on our homepage and listen some of my teachings.

IMG_2263My mother’s health continues as it has. Several weeks ago she broke a hip, and interestingly in some ways she’s doing better now than before she broke the hip. God has provided a great team of care-givers to help mom and dad while we’re gone.

We will go to St. Petersburg and then quickly go to dacha to open it up for the summer. I will go to Estonia in early May while Olga and Valerie remain in Russia. I will drive to Montenegro with my friend Heikki. In Montenegro I’ll meet two of our interns and one board member; we’ll meet with ministry leaders and potential new partners in Montenegro, Serbia and Romania before arriving in Estonia where the interns will serve with Sunbeam, the center for disabled children.

As we go, we are quite aware of the increased tensions in that part of the world. Please keep us in prayer, that we’ll love God more than anything else, that we’ll have wisdom about where we are to be, that we’ll be a blessing to our friends in those many countries, and that we’ll have discernment about His will for our family.

 

A Postcard from Russia

estonia-sjumc-val.37-001July – what a good month.

At Camp Elama in Russia we served with a team from Austin, Texas helping run a camp for at-risk mothers and their children, then we were at Camp Gideon in Estonia with a team from Athens, Georgia helping run a camp for children with disabilities (above). It was great to have so much time with our friends – Russian, Estonian and American. (I also very much enjoyed helping build picnic tables for camp Gideon.)

These days are very clear examples of the unity of the body of Christ. It’s a great comfort experiencing how the Lord unites us, as we love Him and serve others in His name.

My primary role is to help others do what God is calling them to do, so I’m particularly gratified serving in these situations. One camp staff member said that the team from Athens was one of the best she’s ever seen; they served selflessly with joy and unity. What a pleasure to help them serve.

I had several very good conversations with team members and one or two may intern with Stoneworks next summer. In our talks, we often returned to the truth that we must surrender our lives to Christ in order to receive life from Him:

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

What we DO should be the fruit of our relationship with Christ, His life expressed through us. We don’t work to earn God’s favor, we work because He has given His favor as a free gift and we want others to be comforted with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

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Prayer for Peace from Methodist Bishops

The following letter was sent from Bishop Eduard Khegay and Bishop Christian Alsted calling the church to prayer concerning the difficult situation in Ukraine and how it affects Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil.1:2)

In a time of turmoil and unrest in Ukraine and other European countries we write to You, the people called Methodists in the Nordic & Baltic and the Eurasia area to encourage You to continually devote yourselves to Christ in prayer for peace and understanding among the peoples of this world.

Many things divide the earth’s population – nationality, culture, language, economy, ethnicity, gender and age, however the kingdom of God has always been a realm that despite of all gathers people together in mutual love in Christian community. While the political winds are shifting, the church is called to be a fellowship not of this world and yet sent into this world to reflect the self-sacrificing life of Christ. (John 17: 16, 18) This is by no means an easy task, and we continue to be challenged by the ever changing circumstances under which we live, as we seek to interpret and live out what the church should be, a redeemed and redeeming community.

As United Methodists in the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference we are bound together in a covenant to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Our mission is along with other Christians to be part of Christ’s redeeming and transforming work in people’s lives, in the society and in world, rather than only to be successful and recognized. To “spread scriptural holiness” is to grow together and as Christ followers intentionally influence the society “to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God”. (Micah 6:8)

Jesus said to his followers: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives.” (John 14:27) Trusting in this promise we ask our churches to unite in prayer…

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be comforted as to comfort;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in forgiving that we are forgiven;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

May we as the United Methodist Church be such an instrument of peace always reflecting the love of Christ.

Christ is risen; He is risen indeed.

Eduard Khegay Bishop of the Eurasia area

Christian Alsted Bishop of the Nordic and Baltic area

A Postcard from Estonia

skype-us.58I’ve just had a nice visit to Estonia. It was very nice to have a quite leadership meeting with Artur, Andres and Ursula. I hope to have some very good news about Sunbeam in the near future. Artur always seems to have some great plan in process . . . .

When I travel, our family uses Skype to communicate. Above is what I saw during a conversation a few days ago. Olga and Valerie are in our flat in St. Petersburg, Russia and I’m in our flat in Jõhvi, Estonia. Can you tell that we enjoy playing around while we talk?

I received an email from a Norwegian believer, Trygve Nilsen, who I met a year ago when he visited Estonia. Two weeks ago as he was praying, he felt led to contact me about a small ministry in Moldova that he’s been helping. My heart leapt when I read his note. A pastor there, Victor Urasinov, has a small church and runs a crisis center for single mothers. They help about 15 mothers and their children. Additionally, Victor and his wife have adopted eight orphans. I’ve exchanged emails with Victor and like all that I hear from him. I may try to make a fact-finding trip there. So, we’ll see how that goes . . . .

I’m in the thick of planning multiple mission trips and helping support the workers over here. We’ll have teams in Norway, Russia, Estonia and Montenegro. I plan to be with the teams in all of those countries, so the next few months will be quite busy preparing and then traveling. More news on that later.

A friend sent a message the other day reminding me of a great truth about our God. He is a refuge in times of trouble. We do not need to fix our problems before we go to Him. He wants us to run to Him in times of trouble, to find safety with Him.