A Postcard from Russia

I’m finally able to post to the website. Our site was hacked and it took quite a while to clean up all the files and get things ship-shape.

Last Sunday after church we went for a walk in the Summer Garden here in St. Petersburg. Spring is finally (pretty much) here, and it was nice to get out and enjoy relative warmth. I took the picture above at one of the many fountains in the renovated garden.

On Saturday, I go to Africa for my second trip there. I will visit Uganda, Congo and Tanzania, where I’ll teach at a conference, preach at churches and continue building relationships with my new friends. I’ll have more news when I return.

Olga and Valerie will remain in Russia. We’ve opened up dacha and there is always a lot to do there. Homeschooling is winding down and we’re already looking forward to 4th grade. Valerie had a piano recital and a dance recital, both went very well.

So we move ahead, always looking to our loving father to guide the way.

Done and Done!

Finally.

It’s been almost four years since we started the process of Olga becoming a US Citizen and we’ve just taken the final step: Olga received her US passport on Thursday.

Olga and Valerie go to Russia on Tuesday. I will go a little later, on the 30th. So, we’re packing, wrapping things up here in the States and preparing for life in Russia once again.

Olga continues to homeschool and do all manner of things around the house. Val is doing great, such a joy.

I’ve been teaching a series entitled A Biblical Attitude Toward Money. This is in preparation for my next trip to Congo. The church there has asked me to prepare a few teachings; in addition to teaching on Money, I’m also preparing sessions on Authority, Life After Death, and Knowing God’s Will.

I continue my work helping ministries in Europe, and focus on Uganda and Congo continues: just today I sent funds to Uganda in preparation for a conference we’re sponsoring; we’re also purchasing wood-working tools and Bibles as well helping orphans go to school.

This summer looks to be busy: we’ll send mission teams to Russia, Estonia, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova and Montenegro. We will also have interns in Romania, Montenegro, Belarus and Estonia. I will travel to several countries as usual; I’m still discerning where the Lord wants me this summer, but it seems that I’ll attend a men’s conference in Norway and be with mission teams in Estonia, Montenegro, Romania and Ukraine.

Our lives are full, abundant. And this is what Jesus promises: if we’ll just die to ourselves and let Him be our guide, then we’ll be fulfilled beyond imagining.

 

Hurrah!

Olga was granted US citizenship today! We started this process almost 4 years ago when we applied for her US green card. Now she is fully a citizen.  Hurrah!

The past 8 days have been a bit of a rollercoaster (as usual). Last week we weren’t even sure if Olga would have an interview before mid-January. The officers as USCIS were very helpful and made it possible for us to finish everything up today. Olga passed the tests with flying colors and took the Oath of Allegiance soon after.

It’s nice to have this behind us, though the last piece of the puzzle is getting Olga her US passport, which we hope to do early next year.

Quick Update

We have good news — on Thursday December 22 Olga will interview for naturalization. It’s been a long slog as we’ve waited. Apparently our paperwork was set aside for some reason and was not being reviewed as we thought.

This week we were able to talk with an actual person, a supervisor at USCIS, who discovered that we’d been waiting far too long and immediately made space for Olga to interview.

If all goes as we hope, she will also take her oath of citizenship that day. We’re in the process of finalizing the packet of documents they request for the interview, and Olga is studying for the tests she’ll take: writing, speaking, civics.

We have tickets to fly to Russia on January 17, so it looks like we will be able to make that deadline. It will be a busy month between now and when we depart.

Prayers are appreciated — not prayers that Olga will get citizenship but that God’s will be done. We feel that He wants us to learn even more the necessity of not grasping to our own will but releasing our lives into His hands, walking like little kinds holding their father’s hand. If He wants Olga to be a citizen of the USA, then she will be a citizen. But, I believe He is far more interested in our willingness to abide in Him than in any particular outcome. All things work for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

Recital –

We’ve been busy working at dacha (news about that soon), and on short notice we came into the city for Valerie’s piano recital. She’s been studying with a really great teacher and has a talent for the piano.

We’re just about to move into the very busy time of the summer. I will make a quick trip to Estonia next week (meeting with the leaderships of Sunbeam) and then go to Finland and Norway for a men’s conference with the Arctic Men’s Fellowship. Olga will lead a team to Moldova starting June 18. In July I’ll drive to Montenegro and then work my way north, with ministry stops Serbia, Romania and Ukraine. I’ll be traveling with my friend and Stoneworks board member Glenn Cole. We’ll also welcome teams in Russia, Estonia and Montenegro.

And here is Val:

Home Again

We’ve just arrived safe and sound in Russia. Our trip over was uneventful and we had no problems at passport control when we entered the country. As you can see, though, our suitcases exploded when we got home! Now we need to bring order to what was an orderly apartment when we walked in.

We’ll take it easy over the next few days as we settle in and get over jet lag (note the look on Olga’s face and Val’s body language). I’ll go to Estonia on Monday to pick up my car and meet with folks there. Two weeks from today Valerie Bryson will arrive to stay with us; she’ll be interning with Stoneworks in Russia, Belarus and Moldova.

We are very thankful for warm send-off our Sunday school class gave us and the prayers of the church during the service on Sunday. God has set us among good people.

To Russia!

 

Quick Link: Stoneworks Newsletter

Our time in the USA is coming to a close.

It’s been wonderful to spend the last several months with family and friends on this side of the ocean. Valerie has made closer relationships, Olga and I have been encouraged in many ways. We’re very thankful for having so much time with my Dad.

I’ve mentioned it before: Olga and I often say that we don’t want to choose our life but rather receive the life that God has given us. We’re not here of our own choosing, and so we can receive with thanksgiving the time He’s given us here.

Olga has not yet received her citizenship. We applied in early October, and after some research on the internet it seems that it will be a couple more months before we hear anything. So, we continue to wait. . . .

And yet, we’ll be quite busy as we wait. The summer is filling up, as usual. Olga will lead a team to Moldova; I’ll be in Montenegro, Serbia, Romania and Ukraine; and we’ll all be in Russia, Estonia and Finland. And of course dacha will need our attention as well!

I’m constantly reminded that anyone who wants to be fit for service in the Kingdom can not put his hand to the plow and then look back. We look ahead to what the Lord has prepared for us, and we’re very thankful for all He’s provided while we’ve been in the States.

So Far and Yet So Near

Valerie has a weekly piano lesson. Her teacher is in St. Petersburg, Russia while we sit in Athens, Georgia. It’s actually a pretty good arrangement. We use Skype for the call, so Valerie and the teacher can see and hear each other. It works well.

We do this because, interestingly, the Russian names for notes are different from the American names, which makes sense because the languages don’t share an alphabet. Americans use letters to name notes and Russians use the familiar Do-Re-Mi. For instance,  C in America is Do in Russia, D is Re, etc. In the States we’d say that we’re playing a C major chord, and in Russia it is a Do major chord.  The notation is the same, just the names of the notes are different.

Onward

We’ve covered some ground since our last update, visiting friends, co-workers and family in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. It’s been great to be in Georgia for an extended stay. The days are full, and we are very thankful for this time in the States, though it does have its challenges.

We had a very nice visit with friends near Washington, DC. Their oldest girl and Valerie are like peas in a pod. When we arrived, they gleefully discovered that they wear the same pajamas. It was all uphill from there.

We are still waiting to hear from the US government regarding our applications for Olga’s citizenship, which they received three and half months ago. We have tickets to go to Russia on April 3; hopefully we’ll get everything wrapped up by then.

Olga is faithfully homeschooling and seeing good results. She’s also been baking bread, and she baked her first American style cake, from scratch. Val is doing great. She’s just started swimming lessons and is VERY excited about that. She’s also studying piano, dance and gymnastics. We’re having a very sweet time as a family. 

Mike has been teaching Sunday school on occasion. His work with Stoneworks continues: helping prepare interns and mission teams for the summer work; coordinating trips to the USA for partners from Estonia and Russia; preparing for an upcoming board meeting. Next month he’ll speak at a church in Baltimore. Stoneworks continues to grow, recently sending a long-term missionary to serve in L’viv, Ukraine. You can read the most recent Stoneworks news here.

While this post is an update about our lives, we realized that everything we have is from God. We are thankful to receive the life God has given us. The Lord is King of all. He is the Head of His body, the church. He alone deserves our praise and devotion. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize for which Christ has called us, pressing onward and upward.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you. We’ve had a great year. The Lord has led us through heartache and rejoicing. We thank Him for the abundant life He has given us.

We have good news. Mike received his Russian visa, and it’s perfect: it is good for three years and allows for unlimited stays in Russia. It is so good to have this done. It’s particularly gratifying to know that the Lord continues to keep the doors open for us to live and serve in Russia.

We applied for Olga’s US citizenship. Because she has a green card, we are obligated to be in the USA for an extended visit. We submitted the application in October and are waiting to hear from the US government if they accept the application or if they need more supporting documents. We hope to have this all done in the first quarter of next year, but the Lord knows His plans for us and we’re content to be where we are. Though, we miss Russia greatly and hope to go there as soon as possible.

Olga continues to homeschool Valerie. It’s going well, and God has blessed our family through the homeschooling experience. Valerie was baptized in July and is doing great. She has a servant’s heart and loves to give gifts. She loves school (she wants to fight bad microbes when she grows up) and she’s also quite talented in drawing, music and dance.

Mike has been meeting with mission teams and individuals, planning the work for next year; he hopes to help several interns serve in Montenegro, Estonia and Russia, and he will help mission teams as well. In addition to ongoing projects in Russia, Estonia, Belarus and Montenegro, Mike’s work is expanding into Norway, Moldova and Ukraine. Olga led a team to Moldova last summer and hopes to lead another team next year.

Click here to read the most recent update from Stoneworks International. 

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