A Postcard from Russia

Val 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.

Africa, England and Moldova

We’ve had website ‘issues’ for a few months and I’m finally able to post an update. Much has transpired since my last report.

The work in Africa continues. My trip in January was different compared to previous visits. I was in a different city and met many new people.

Mike Anticoli, Vin Lucien and I spoke at a conference held by Church on the Rock in Goma, DRC, at the foot of an active volcano. Damiri Paluku (with me at left) is a great friend, and he pastors the church in Goma. It’s an honor to minister with these men.

I spoke on The Prophetic Gift, a study of how God used prophets in the Old Testament and New Testament. There are many false prophets in Congo, people who claim to speak for God but tear families apart and manipulate people for financial gain. The church was happy to hear the truth that God wants his gifts to be used in love, to build people up, to encourage and comfort His people.

We met with a group of business people who gather regularly to encourage each other (see the picture above). I helped introduce them to IBB Talks, a Christian business video series that has been a great help to many around the world.

In addition to teaching and fellowship, I carried water filters and solar LED lights so people who have no electricity can have light in their homes. Continue reading

A Postcard from Romania

Well, I’m in the middle of a grand tour. Over a week ago I left Estonia, driving south for three days to Montenegro. My time there was excellent and full of life. I spoke at the Word of God Evangelical Church in Podgorica and had great fellowship with family, friends and ministry partners. It would have been nice to have more time and hopefully Olga, Val and I will visit next year.

Then I drove to visit friends in Serbia and a few days ago arrived in Sighișoara, Romania (in the heart of Transylvania, above). Yesterday was a full and joyful day. I spoke at three churches (one Romanian and two gypsy/Hungarian) and felt that the Lord encouraged and comforted many people. It’s gratifying to return to minister in fellowships, to see familiar faces. Last year I was here with a team that prayed for many people. Last night a man told me how much that blessed him and prepared him for the year.

Here is my view at one of the village churches last night, just before I spoke:

This week I’ll have other meetings and on Friday or Saturday I will drive to Odessa, Ukraine in preparation for our Stoneworks conference next week, where we will welcome over 30 adults and about 20 children.

One lesson that continues to resonate with me: if anyone wants to be fit for service in the Kingdom of God, they can not put their hand to the plow and look back.

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.

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.

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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