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.

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Ahh, St. Petersburg

We live in the city center and are very thankful we get to see such a lovely city every day. People who live in the suburbs don’t see the old city nearly as much as we do. This video is a great view of our hometown –

 

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.

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.

Recital –

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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:

Extortion

After recovering from jet lag and getting settled, a few days ago I went to Estonia to get my car. My car is registered in Estonia and ‘hibernates’ there when we’re in the States.

While in Estonia I had good meetings with the leadership of Sunbeam and Camp Gideon, and I had a great meeting in Latvia where we may have some ministry opportunities opening up.

Yesterday I returned to Russia in my car. I had no problems at the border and I was very happy to arrive home.

extortion.11This morning I went to my car, which was parked on the street in front our building, and found that both license plates had been stolen and a note was on the windshield instructing me to pay 5000 rubles ($75) for the return of my license plates.

Of course, I can’t drive without license plates, and I can’t get them replaced in Russia since my car is Estonian. Thieves know that a foreigner will pay money to get the plates back since it is such a hassle or impossible to replace them otherwise.

However, I don’t pay extortion if I can help it. Plus, there is no guarantee that the thief would return the plates even if I pay him, or he may steal the plates again to get more money. Ughh.

So, the plan is that I’ll go to Estonia (by bus) for a few days early next week to get new plates and then bring them to Russia. A week from tomorrow I leave for a trip to Latvia and Ukraine, so I really need the car! I was looking forward to a nice rest in Russia this week.

Since I won’t pay, hopefully my extortionist won’t get angry and do damage to my car. And now I wonder how to keep the plates from being stolen again . . . .

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Home Again

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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.