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

A Postcard from Russia

We’re getting deep into the Autumn and I haven’t given an update about the summer. So, here goes –

We did a LOT of work on dacha this summer. Actually, we hired a crew to do most of it — new siding on the back part of the building, a new veranda, new windows for the downstairs, and a renovation of the ‘summer kitchen’. Slowly but surely we’re preparing dacha to be a small retreat center. (Please let me know if you’re interested in helping. We could use a construction team to help finish some of the rooms (and get some windows upstairs!!).

I had a great time with a team in Romania (click here to learn more). We have been very blessed by the relationships God has given us in Romania, and I look forward to seeing how they will grow. Olga, Val and I visited Romania again in September (after a visit with dear friends in Serbia). Our friends/partners in Romania have a 10 year old daughter who immediately hit it off with Valerie. It was all good. So, Romania seems to be an area of future investment and growth. We’re already planning to send another team next year. We also welcomed a team in Estonia and worked on Camp Elama as well.

We had a great visit to Montenegro in early September. It was really good to have time with Olga’s sister and her family as well as with our many friends and ministry partners there. It’s all very good. The church recently bought some land and is planning to build. I have a small role in helping with that project. I also found a GREAT location for a summer camp in Montenegro. We are just beginning the process of talking with the local administration about how/if we can buy it. Prayers are appreciated.

Continue reading