A Postcard from Estonia


Forest Beast SoupForest Beast Soup. We had our first bowl yesterday. Made with Elk and Boar meat (and perhaps a few other things) it was quite filling and had a bit of a kick.

We’re in Estonia for few days with Olga’s mother and grandmother. We had our Forest Beast Soup in Tallinn (above) in the medieval Town Hall, c. 1403. The restaurant definitely saves on expenses: lit by candles, serving soup, pickles and pastries with no utensils (just drink the soup).

There were some special events in Town Square, and Valerie got to speak with Father Frost (on stage!) whereupon she recited an impromptu composition on the theme of Grandfather Frost giving gifts, and he promptly gave her some candy.

with Father FrostI (Mike) had a very touching moment with Valerie the day her adoption was finalized. I had the honor of telling her her new name. As she sat in my lap I said, ‘do you know what your last name is?’. She didn’t know she had a last name. So I told her. She was happy to learn that she shares that name with not only her mother and her father, but also with her grandparents and many other people. “That’s a lot of Cantrells!”, she said. Then I told her her middle name, Evelyn, and that she is named after my mother. She lit up. It’s been a joy to watch her receive and embrace her new name.

I’ve reflected on how this informs our relationship with God. The Bible says that we love the Lord because He first loved us and that we did not chose Him but He chose us. He gives us a new name and adopts us into His family. Valerie would not love us, would not be in our family, if we had not chosen her (by God’s guidance) and first loved her. She would be a stranger to us if we had not taken the initiative. She would not have our name, not be in our family. So it is with God. He seeks us out.

Many people know John 3:16: God loves us so much that He gave his Son so that we would have eternal life. John 3:17 says that Jesus did not come to condemn the world. His heart towards us is one of love, acceptance, forgiveness and adoption. We’ll grow to love Him and embrace our new name, being in His family, as we believe, trust and live with Him.



going home for the first time

The past two days have seen very significant milestones in our lives, and the transitions have been smooth and joyful as we move from one phase to the next. Now is a time of rejoicing and looking to the future.

We thank the Lord for His guidance and love as we turn the page on two significant parts of our lives:

First, we are VERY happy to announce that our adoption is final. Valerie is now officially a Cantrell! We received the final court order today.

Exactly two years ago, on December 28, we picked up Valerie from the orphanage.


on her first day with us

When she came to live with us, she was three and a half years old and spoke just three words. For the past two years, Valerie has been under our guardianship but still a ward of the state.

No longer! She is now Valerie Evelyn Cantrell, a member of her forever family.

We are so very thankful for the many prayers and other support that people have given us over the years as we’ve dealt with lost pregnancies and infertility. It’s great to be a part of the body of Christ and receive blessings from God through His people.


Valerie today

Also, there are changes at MIR. Twelve years ago I moved to Russia as part of a team to open a Russian charity named MIR. Through this work I met my wife and have been blessed with abundant life.

For the past twelve years I’ve been the president and director of MIR. About four years ago I stepped down from the day-to-day leadership of MIR when I became the executive director of Stoneworks International, and a couple of years ago MIR started a transition toward having fully Russian leadership.

Last night we had a MIR board meeting and finished that transition. I have resigned my position at MIR and no longer have any official tie to the organization.

Sergei & Kristina Tovstopyat

The new chairman and director is my good friend Sergei Tovstopyat. Sergei has been on staff with MIR for a few years, and he’s been the Executive Director since September. You can read about Sergei here.

We’ve agree that I’ll be the ‘grand-dad’ and continue to advise and help as much as is needed, but Sergei now is the leader and carries the responsibility for the direction of MIR. I happily hand over this role to Sergei. He’s a good man who loves the Lord and is laying his life down for the gospel.

Many people deserve thanks for their years of service to MIR: Mark Browne was the visionary who started the process, and founding board members were Alexander Kotenkov, Maria Mikhaylova, Dimitry Rozet, Mikhail Moshkov, David Hulley and Dan Wilson. Other board members have included Lyle Thomas, Zhenya Koltakoff, Larry Heller and Arkady Bizyanov.

In my role at Stoneworks, I’ll continue to support MIR in every way I can.

I’m very glad that MIR will continue beyond me as Olga and I look forward to the next chapter in our lives.

To The Court!

Good news on the adoption: tomorrow Olga will take all of our documents and make our initial petition to the court.

Our local Family Services officers, who have been helping us prepare the packet (which took a few months to complete), said that our documents are perfect. So, we’re hopeful that a court date will be set soon.

There will be two court appearances before the decision is made. We’re VERY happy to be taking this next step.

A Postcard from Georgia — Springtime


We arrived in the US about a week ago, just in time for some beautiful spring weather. We are also very thankful to have beat the volcano eruption that has stranded so many people in Russia.

koppero_fin_iceJust a week before we arrived in the States, we were in Finland, which was quite a different setting.

We have news about our embryo adoption: We’ve met with the fertility clinic, and the people there are all very nice; it’s a good clinic.

The adoption process continues to take longer than we would prefer, but we’re content to wait. We’re still waiting for the donor family to finish up some paperwork so the embryos can be transferred to our clinic in Atlanta. We don’t know how long that will take.

If the embryos arrive in Atlanta before May 15, then we can do the transfer in early June. If they arrive later, then we’ll have to wait until July.

sunday_club-2The past week has been filled with fellowship with our many friends here. It’s so nice to have time with Mike’s parents, and our Sunday night home group has been a particular encouragement to us.

I (Mike) am talking with several people who are considering being missionaries with Stoneworks. I’ve been praying for the Lord to send workers to the field, and it’s great to see these prayers being answered.  And work continues as we prepare to send mission teams to Russia and Montenegro this summer.

We’re very thankful for the abundant life that God has given us.

News from the Cantrells — Adoption

As many of you know we’ve always wanted a family, and we found out a few years ago that Mike is unable father children. We’ve wanted to receive the family that God gives us, rather than ‘making’ it happen by our own will. The Lord promised Abraham a family, but Abraham and Sara were unwilling to wait for God’s timing and took it into their own hands; that didn’t turn out very well.

So, we’ve waited until we saw the Lord clearly providing for us; and we now feel that this is happening. And we’re very excited about it.

We are going to adopt!

A lot of our friends have adopted, so now we get to share in those experiences. 🙂

Our adoption is a bit different from most others, because we are going to adopt an embryo.

Here’s how that works: couples like ourselves create embryos by in-vitro fertilization; most of these embryos are implanted into the mother; some are not implanted and are frozen; families then choose to donate those frozen embryos to couples like us.

This means that Olga will give birth to our adopted child. Continue reading