A Postcard from Russia

unnamedVal is 12 years old! Hard to imagine. The picture above is of her enjoying her birthday meal at dacha — piles of food in the foreground and piles of building materials in the background.

We’ve just finished a bit of traveling — we met a team from Athens, GA in Estonia and helped them run an English camp at Camp Gideon. Then we went with them to Finland and stayed there for a week after they went to the USA. It was great to see the team. THEN, we drove back to Estonia to drop Val off for camp while we returned to Russia. Now we’re all together again at dacha.

Next week, for the sixth year running, we’ll run a camp for a drug rehab program for single mothers and their children. A couple from Texas will arrive on Friday to help with that camp. In a few weeks we’ll drive to Montenegro. I will visit a potential ministry partner in Albania while we’re there.

One interesting thing — Olga and I are translating a book written by a minister from Kazakhstan. I’ll give an update about that later. It’s taking a bit of time to work on, and the end result will be very helpful for missionaries, churches and any missionary sending organization.

We’ve already started talking with people about next summer! We hope to have a team in Montenegro and perhaps one in Moldova; the Estonia team has already set dates for their camp. We’re also planning  a Stoneworks leadership conference in St. Pete in October. As usual, we have a lot going on.

This comes to mind, from Psalm 84:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

May our strength be in the Lord, may our home be with Him, may His blessings flow through us to those He brings into our lives.

A Postcard from The Cantrells

This year we’ve enjoyed the plentiful life that God has given us.

Mike continues to serve in Europe, the USA and Africa. The work is expanding: Stoneworks added new partners from Romania, Estonia, Moldova and Russia. Mike travels often to encourage and help partners in many countries, and August saw the Stoneworks biennial conference in Odessa, Ukraine, attended by over 50 people from the Arctic to the Adriatic. We thank God for the great relationships and fruitful work He has entrusted to us.

Olga continues to home school Valerie and be good friend to many. She led a camp in Russia for single mothers, and she served with a mission team in Estonia. Olga also helped start a homeschooling co-op in St. Petersburg, Russia. She also did a lot of painting and moving logs at dacha!

Valerie is a beautiful 11-year-old and continues to grow into a lovely young woman. She studies in two languages, plays the piano and takes dance lessons when in Russia. She loves drawing and continues to improve in it. She says, “My Dad’s exaggerating!” (But I’m not.)

Olga and Val go to Russia in January. Mike will go to Congo in January and then to Russia in early February. We have a lot of ground to cover in the next few months, and then the summer work will be upon us!

In Christ –

Mike, Olga and Valerie Cantrell

Pictures, counter clockwise from top left:
1) Olga’s mother, grandmother and Val, at dacha (4 generations!)
2) Mike teaching in Butembo, DR Congo, with bishop Damiri Paluku
3) Olga and Val at Barberitos in Athens, GA
4) Mike and Mike Anticoli, standing on the equator in Uganda
5) Olga and Val with Grandad Jim (Mike’s dad)
6) Val with a feathered friend!
7) Val when we visited friends in Texas (can you tell?)
8) Center: Olga and Mike at dacha, on a sunny/rainy summer day

A Postcard from Russia

As you can see, Val and Miki are having a good time. We’re all doing well, having enjoyed the early part of summer (we’re getting a lot of work done at dacha) and just now entering the busiest time for us. We have friends from the USA visiting, and it’s been good to welcome them and show them the city, which is full of life because of the World Cup. We’ve never seen so many different nationalities on the streets. The city is festive.

Soon we’ll go to Estonia; Val will attend a children’s camp and then we’ll meet a team from the USA that will run an English camp. Then I head south for a ministry trip. I’m still praying to discern where I should go, but I know I’ll end up in Romania for a week and then go to Odessa, Ukraine for our Stoneworks conference. I may also visit Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia. Prayers are appreciated as we discern how and where we’re to spend our time.

Dresses!

One fun result of my visit to Congo is that Valerie and Carrie, the pastor’s daughter, have become pen pals. They’ve shared a few letters and have given special gifts – they have matching dresses.

Val bought two dresses in the USA and sent one to Carrie.

Here, Carrie is wearing her dress while talking with Val by WhatsApp (when I was in Congo in February):

Then Carrie had two dresses made in Congo and sent one to Val:

 

 

Africa and Beyond

Slowly I’m getting caught up on writing this update. Apologies.

We had a great visit to the States. We spent time with my Dad in Athens, GA and had very good fellowship with our church and many friends there. We spent a few weeks in Texas, mostly in Austin but also visiting folks in other cities. It’s been two years since we were there and it was great to reconnect. I also visited ministry partners and friends in Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota and Maryland. Our time in the States is always quite full and we’d love to have more time there, but life in Russia beckoned and we’re very glad to be home.

Africa

In February, I visited Uganda and Conga. I went with a small team from New England, once again led by Mike Anticoli. Mike performed our wedding in Russia and later planted the church in Congo where we serve. It’s been really good to reconnect with Mike and I hope we’ll continue working together in the future.

We arrived in Uganda and quickly went to visit Sam Bahiirwa, near Fort Portal. We spoke at Sam’s church and had some good fellowship with him, his family and church leaders. I spoke on Hope. At one point I mentioned how the Bible likens Hope to an anchor for the soul. I saw blank looks on the faces of the congregation. So, I asked how many had been on a boat. None of the local villagers had been on a boat. They live in the mountains and don’t travel very far from home, of course they’ve never been on a boat. Then, part of my teach then became explaining boats, anchors, waves, and wind, and how Biblical Hope is solid, not just wishful thinking.

Sam moved to a new building in a village. His church is a witness to the townfolk, though the building itself is in poor repair. The owner of the building has offered to sell it to Sam at a good price, so we’re hoping God will make a way for that to happen. We also got to see speakers and a generator purchased with funds donated by friends in Athens, GA. Continue reading

Merry Christmas

It’s been quite a year, and a good one at that. We really covered the ground this year, from the Baltic to the Balkans, from Eastern Europe to the Eastern USA, from Scandinavia to the Equator.

We returned to Russia earlier this year to be greeted by some difficulties with our local fellowship in St. Petersburg. As many of you know, relationships with folks in church can sometimes be challenging and even painful. The Lord led us through that time well, though it was quite difficult at times. Drop us a line if you’d like to know more about how the Lord has been a good shepherd for our family. We are very glad for any opportunity to proclaim His goodness.

Olga continues to home school and helps with the children’s ministry at our church in Russia She has recently been knitting socks for the family. Val is a happy fourth grader, growing and enjoying life. She continues to study dance and the piano and has recently been toying with the Celtic harp. Val wants you to know, “wherever you are, God is with you and God’s love never fails.”

Mike visited Africa for the second time, teaching and encouraging believers in Uganda, Congo and Tanzania. He also taught at churches and a Bible school in the USA, Romania and Montenegro. He continues as Executive Director of Stoneworks which leads him to travel as he serves partners and projects in Belarus, Estonia, Montenegro, Romania, Norway and Ukraine.

God has been so faithful to us, as He always is. Every year brings us joy and hardships, but nothing is ever wasted with Him. With each passing year we collect new treasures of His goodness and presence. We can truly say, ‘my cup runneth over’.

In Christ –

Mike, Olga and Valerie Cantrell