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.

This 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 . . . .


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.

A Postcard from Russia

Our return to Russia went smoothly. The flights went well, we had no problems crossing borders and are almost completely over our jet lag. After a few days in St. Petersburg, we went to dacha (above) to open up the house and get it ready for the summer. Our dacha (summer house) is about 250 years old, and shows it.

Last fall we had the foundation fixed and the workers left quite a bit of rubble and chaos. So, we spent several days cleaning the place and finishing up some projects. I also built a greenhouse that wore me out. During the winter someone broke in and stole many tools (and in the process damaging some property), so we also had to recover from that.

Dacha is looking better, but it still needs a lot of help. Our hope is to turn it into a ministry center, and we’re slowly working our way toward making it able to host larger groups of people.

We’re now back in the city. Tomorrow, I (Mike) go to Estonia for a few days and then drive south to Montenegro, meeting my Finnish friend Heikki Hakala in Riga, Latvia. Heikki and I have wanted to take a road trip together, and we’ll visit historic sites along the way. We’ll also visit Schloss Heroldeck in Austria, a Christian conference center (and castle!) where I’d like to lead a youth retreat at some point. It’s interesting research to say the least.

In Montenegro I’ll meet with many friends and ministry partners. I’ll also welcome Stoneworks board member Glenn Cole and his daughter Sarah, who is an intern with us this summer. We and another intern Anna Savelle will then make ministry stops in Serbia, Romania, and Ukraine as we head to their internship in Estonia, serving at Sunbeam and Camp Gideon.

I’ve recently had contact with a church in Western Ukraine that is helping refugees from the war in the east. We’ll visit the church, learn more about their needs, and hopefully carry some donations with us. Please contact me if you’re interested in helping with that particular need.

Olga and Valerie will remain in Russia, taking care of things in the city and then spending more time at dacha, enjoying country life as Valerie gets a golden brown tan.

The words of Jesus are constantly in my ear, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Let’s keep pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which Christ has called us heavenward.



A Postcard from America


Now THAT is a birthday picture. Valerie has just about the most birthday parties of any person I’ve ever seen. Even though her birthday is in July, we decided to throw a party now so she could share it with her friends here in Athens, GA. We met at my dad’s farm, and part of the festivities included a ride in the dump truck. This summer I’m sure we’ll have parties at dacha, at Camp Elama and perhaps even in Estonia.

Our time in the States is coming to an end. Though we’ve been here for quite a while, the time has flown by. It’s been great to be here, and now we look forward to going home and experiencing new adventures on the other side of the ocean. We leave a week from today. Our apologies to all our friends near and far who we hoped to visit but did not. My mom’s health has kept us close to home for the most part, and homeschooling has also kept us grounded.

Much has been accomplished while here. I’ve helped several mission teams and interns prepare for summer ministry. I’ve also had many meetings with friends as we’ve encouraged each other in the faith. I’ve also spoken/taught quite a bit. If you’re interested, you can click on the link on our homepage and listen some of my teachings.

springtime in the USA

My mother’s health continues as it has. Several weeks ago she broke a hip, and interestingly in some ways she’s doing better now than before she broke the hip. God has provided a great team of care-givers to help mom and dad while we’re gone.

We will go to St. Petersburg and then quickly go to dacha to open it up for the summer. I will go to Estonia in early May while Olga and Valerie remain in Russia. I will drive to Montenegro with my friend Heikki. In Montenegro I’ll meet two of our interns and one board member; we’ll meet with ministry leaders and potential new partners in Montenegro, Serbia and Romania before arriving in Estonia where the interns will serve with Sunbeam, the center for disabled children.

As we go, we are quite aware of the increased tensions in that part of the world. Please keep us in prayer, that we’ll love God more than anything else, that we’ll have wisdom about where we are to be, that we’ll be a blessing to our friends in those many countries, and that we’ll have discernment about His will for our family.


A Postcard from Moldova

The Urasinov family

We’ve just arrived in Russia after a long and fruitful 3-week trip (8043km, 5026 miles total). We spent 2 weeks in Montenegro and then visited new ground in Romania and Moldova. In Montenegro, we were able to visit family, friends and ministry partners. It was great to encourage and be encouraged by our Christian family there.

As we passed through Romania on our way to Moldova, we unexpectedly made great connections in Sighișoara, right in the heart of Transylvania. We were welcomed warmly by local believers and learned a bit about what God is doing in that area. We hope to visit again (and it was fun driving through the Carpathian Mountains).

We went to Moldova to meet the Urasinovs, a Christian foster family in Soroca, just across the Dniester River from Ukraine. Early this year I (Mike) received an email from a Norwegian believer I had met a few years ago. He’s been helping the Urasinovs, and as he was praying for them my name came into his mind. So, he felt that perhaps the Lord wanted me to be involved in some way. I immediately started communicating with the Urasinovs.  My purpose in the visit was to build relationship and discern if the Lord wants Stoneworks to partner with them.

Victor and Victoria are foster/adoptive parents to 8 children and have two biological children. Victor was a drug addict who came to the Lord several years ago. They’ve now opened their home to abandoned children. Two children are currently at university and one was out of the house when I took the picture above. Victor is the pastor of a Full Gospel church (about 50 members).

They are fairly isolated. They partner only with the Norwegians, who visit less than once a year. They’ve never hosted a mission team or received help from the States. Moldova is the poorest country in Europe, and it quite an experience to visit there. Most of the population is either quite old or young; many adults have left to find work in other countries (never to return), so many  children are living with grandparents and then orphaned when the grandparents die.

We really like the Urasinov family and had a good visit, though it was too short. We look forward to seeing if/how the Lord opens doors for us to pursue partnership with them.

Dniester River, Ukraine on left, Moldova on right

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Green Card News

As many of you know, we’re applying for US green cards for Olga and Valerie. We don’t intend to live in the States full time, but we feel like now is a good time to get green cards.

Our lawyer just wrote saying that it may take another 5 – 9 months before we’d go to the States. I’m very surprised at this but the US government is taking longer than expected to process applications, and it’s just a long plain old long process.

However, this means that we’ll probably be on this side of the ocean for the summer, and that’s good. We can do a lot of work at dacha and I’ve got plenty to do in Russia, Estonia and Montenegro as we have teams coming over for summer ministry. Our lives are not our own, and we’re happy to be here if the Lord wants that. Though we’re sad that we’ll be away from our family and friends in the States for so long. (It’s been two years since we visited Texas!)


A Postcard from Russia


To Belarus and Beyond; All are Different, All are Loved; Faces of Sunbeam

Winter finally arrived! We had a (relatively) warm December and early January, and now we have a good full-on Russian winter. This picture was taken by my friend Zhenya Koltakoff as we were exploring in the forests north of the city.

As some people know, we’re in the process of applying for US green cards for Olga and Valerie. We thought we’d be in the States by now but the US government has asked for more documents, so we’ll file another round of paperwork and wait to see what they say. Who knows when we’ll go the the U.S. of A. . . . .

Since our last newsletter, I (Mike) have traveled a bit with visits to Belarus and Estonia. It’s been good to have time with friends (who are ministry partners). In addition to the travel, I’ve been helping Sergei Tovstopyat and Ursula Randlaine prepare for trips to the States, and I’m planning for summer mission trips. This summer we’ll have two teams in Montenegro, a team in Estonia and a team in Russia. We recently hosted a friend from the States, Seth, who was here for a few days after delivering a plane from Portugal (he’s a pilot). We love to host people, so come visit.

For the past few weeks the Cantrells have been happily at home. Valerie is doing well homeschooling, learning the piano, taking dance classes and memorizing Scripture. We’ve been getting our flat in order and even re-arranged the living room furniture.

And now from Olga: “The last month has been a little challenging, but I feel like we have passed a little milestone in Valerie’s homeschooling and upbringing. Valerie likes to memorize scriptures and do a lot of creative things. I’m learning to make bread and enjoy it very much. You know, it feels like a new beginning.”

Valerie says, “Thank you. Dad, Mom and Valerie love everybody. You’re welcome!”

A Postcard from Russia – Tempus Fugit

Once again, it’s been a very full month since our last newsletter. We celebrated our 12th anniversary on Sunday. Tempus Fugit, eh? For our anniversary, a friend who works at the Four Seasons gave us a free pass to High Tea (thanks, Masha!). It was quite a treat. You can see how elegant it was and what a beautiful date I had.

I (Mike) was in the States for two weeks attending a Stoneworks board meeting and having good time with family, friends and ministry partners. Sadly, I wasn’t able to meet with everyone I wanted, but we should have opportunities:

Several months ago we filed paperwork with the US government to get green cards for Olga and Valerie. We intend to get US passports, and this is the first step. At some point we will (hopefully) be in the States for an extended visit as we finish up the process. We do not intend to live in the States full time but sense that we should now get US citizenship for Olga and Valerie.

We are already planning mission trips for next year. As the Lord wills, I’ll be in Montenegro with a team in May, and in July we’ll have teams in Russia, Montenegro and Estonia. (Anyone interested in leading a team to Belarus?) We are moving forward in our plans to buy land in Montenegro to open a Christian camp.

Interestingly, we don’t yet have the money for the purchase, but everything else is in great shape: good relationships, much unity among the leaders and a clear dependence on God’s guidance and provision. We will need money when the time comes to buy, but we’re not quite there yet.

And now from Olga: It is hard to believe that Mike and I have been married for 12 years! It seems just like yesterday, and I keep thinking what a young and inexperienced girl I was then. Now my life is so full! I continue homeschooling Valerie, which a great fun, though it is challenging at times. Next year according to Russian system Valerie has to start school, and we  are hoping we can home-school her here. The Russian law has been changing on that. Also, it is far less common here to educate your children at home, and pretty often now I get into conversations about it with various people. One of them was my dad. When I first told him about our decision to home-school Valerie he was very negative, but as we talked more he actually admitted that it made a lot of sense. So we are on this fun and hard road, and we love every bit of it. Valerie keeps making progress and loves discovering new things and new skills!

In Christ,

Mike, Olga and Valerie Cantrell

Upcoming schedule:
Nov 27 – Dec 4     Estonia
Dec 15 – 19          Belarus

A Postcard from Russia

Well, well. Autumn is here and we put on winter tires just in time; we’ve just seen the first snow of the season. Many of the leaves have now fallen. It’s been a glorious Autumn.

After a tremendous amount of travel (Central Europe, Germany, Montenegro, Estonia, Finland and Norway), we are now at least settled in the same general area. I’m in Estonia for a few days taking care of some business (like putting on winter tires) and head to Russia tomorrow.

On Friday we had a board meeting of Sunbeam, the center for children with disabilities in Estonia. That program is doing very well (but is in need of financing, as is often the case). The director, Ursula, is a very good leader, and more children are joining the program. In addition to the wonderful paid staff, we also have two interns from the USA serving for several months. The leadership team is pictured below.

One VERY good outcome of the meeting is our intention to open a Christian kindergarten in one wing of the building. I hope to have more news about that in the coming months. This was Artur’s idea, and we all agree that it will be a wonderful thing to have a Christian school there, starting with a kindergarten. Continue reading

A Postcard from Norway

Since my last postcard I’ve covered some ground. After leaving Estonia, I took the ferry to Helsinki and spent two nights at Koppero. From there, I drove to Rovaniemi, Finland (on the Arctic Circle) to attend a men’s conference with Yura Belonozhkin. He brought a team of 16 men from Russia to the conference, and I was very glad to meet them and also meet brothers from Norway and Finland.

From there, Yura and I drove up into the Finnmark region of Norway. We visited several ministry partners as Yura planned for future ministry. For instance, he is planning a men’s conference/camp in Lakselv, Norway to be held in May, which I hope to attend. From Lakselv we drove to Vadso on the Varanger peninsula (past several fjords, above) and met other ministry leaders. Then, we drove into Russia, to Murmansk, and from there I drove south to home! It was very good to have time with Yura as we drove those long, beautiful distances. It’s ALWAYS good to have personal time with brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’m now safely, happily at home. Valerie has started her ballet and piano lessons; Olga spent the last few days juicing and canning apples from dacha; and I’m getting caught up on emails and updates. I just bought tickets to travel to the USA for a Stoneworks board meeting. (I used frequent flyer miles, so the flight is only costing $153!) I’ll be in the States for about 2 weeks, mostly in the Athens, GA area, in early November. (This seems to be a season of travel for me. . . .)

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. – Luke 6:36