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.

Testing and Tempting

I’ve been pondering this from James:

. . . the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. . .

There is a difference between testing and tempting. The Lord allows our faith to be tested. He wants us to pass the test; He will give us the grace to pass the test. He never tempts us toward evil.

A Tempter wants us to fail. A Tester wants us to succeed.

Our trials, our battles against sin, are allowed so that we’ll be complete, mature. The important point is that we need to let perseverance have it’s full effect, allowing hardships to do their work in us, considering them as discipline from a loving Father so that we’ll share in His nature (see Hebrews 12).

When hard situations arise, I often pray, ‘Lord, let this difficulty do it’s work in me so that I’ll be a better disciple and love you more.’ Rather than avoid the hardship, I submit and allow perseverance do its work — this is my goal.

So, press on and let these difficult situations, these pressures and hardships, form the image of Christ more deeply in your heart.

Water Filters

While in Congo, I introduced the church to Sawyer water filters, the type I learned about last year during my visit to Tanzania. One of my favorite memories is of meeting with several pastors, showing them how well the filters work. They were all very impressed. I had only four filters with me.

Damiri Paluku, one of the lead pastors in Congo, told me that typhoid fever is a very big problem in the villages. They have no medical care, no doctors or medicine, therefore many, many people die from typhus. These filters removed typhus from the water, and Damiri said that many lives will be saved by giving people clean water.

Through the generous donations of two families in the USA, we recently sent 70 filter kits to Congo. Each kit contains the filter as well as a ‘bucket kit’ that allows the filter to be installed on a bucket. We are also purchasing buckets.

When Damiri learned we’d send 70 filters he wrote, “Wow! Praise God! All our churches will be covered!!! That is like paying thousands of dollars for medical bills! May God bless you very much. This is saving many lives. Continue reading

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

Baptism in Congo

I hope to post a full update soon, but here’s a picture I took the last month in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

 

Eleven people were baptized while locals watched from the shore, some were washing clothes and others were hauling water. It was a beautiful experience and is a great example of how the Lord continues His work in all situations.

Our God is a God of Hope.