What My Life is Like (these days)

So, what is my life like in my role at Stoneworks? Here’s a small look at recent events:

In late August, my family and I drove from Russia to Montenegro. For ten days, I was with a team from the US looking at some land (at left) we hope to purchase for a camp; I’ll write more about that in a separate post. I also spoke at the church, met with the church leadership and had extensive time with ministry partners. My sister-in-law and her family live there as well, so we had some good family time. Last week we returned from Montenegro. However. . .

In order to drive from Estonia into Russia one must reserve a time at the border crossing. When we arrived in Estonia a few days ago, after driving up from Montenegro (three days on the road), I went online to reserve a time but there were no available slots for several days. (I couldn’t have reserved a place earlier, because we weren’t exactly sure when we’d arrive in Estonia.)

So, the car and I were ‘stuck’ in Estonia while we sent Olga and Valerie (my wife and daughter) to Russia on a bus.

It was good to be in Estonia, since I was able to meet with Ursula Randlaine, the director of Sunbeam, as well as with Artur Põld and Andres Toome. I also delivered donations to Sunbeam: a laptop, a computer tablet, and some developmental materials. The mission team had carried them to Montenegro from various points in the US for me to deliver to Estonia (it can get complicated).

Since I will attend a conference in Finland this weekend, we decided it was best for me to stay in Estonia and take a ferry to Finland (which I did yesterday) rather than drive into Russia a few days behind my family only to immediately drive to Finland.

I’m spending today in a little cabin in Finland (no running water!). I have a decent internet connection and can do some work from here. Tomorrow I will drive 8 hours north to Rovaniemi, Finland (on the Arctic Circle) for a men’s conference with Yura Belonozhkin; next week Yura and I will go up into Finnmark, Norway to visit ministry partners. We will go all the way to the Barents Sea. From there we will cross into Russia and visit the Murmansk region before I head south to St. Petersburg (and home!).

In two week’s time, I will have traveled from the Adriatic Sea to the Arctic Ocean, all because of the relationships God has given us: our Living Stones.

Jesus promised that He would give abundant life, and I surely have received it.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  John 10:10

A Postcard from Russia

Actually the picture above was taken in Estonia last week, but I’m now in Russia. It is a field of rapeseed (canola) located very close to the Gulf of Finland.

While in Estonia, I attended the Open House for Sunbeam, the center for children with disabilities we are opening in Jõhvi. Click here for pictures of the Open House. Just before that, I returned from a great trip to Montenegro where I met a team from Athens, GA. Next week a team from the States comes to run a camp at our Russian camp Elama, then we take them to Estonia to do ministry there. Then I go to Finland to pick up one of our two interns who will help us in Russia and later in Montenegro. It’s a full summer.

Olga has some news about her grandfather, Orest:

My grandfather is 93 years old and served in WWII. He has a long history of being a part of the communist party and being an atheist. We’ve been praying for my grandpa practically since we’ve been believers. Recently my grandfather’s health has been declining. We’re all wondering how much longer he’s going to be with us. Last Sunday my mom once again approached him about the message of God’s love, and he agreed to pray a prayer of salvation with her. The fact that he said to God ‘please forgive me’ is a real miracle, because I don’t remember him saying anything like this to anyone ever. We are very thankful for God’s mercy and His love for my grandfather, and we pray that God will fill him with a knowledge of His peace and His presence.

A Postcard from Russia — Snow and Heat

Winter has arrived in St. Petersburg. We’ve had quite a bit of snowfall over the past few days (see our car below). The city is beautiful as we continue to press on in our life and work. Here is an update about a few items —

MIR hopes to send 39 children on the hosting program in December. Laws recently changed in Russia, and this is making it much more difficult to send children on the hosting program. Please pray for the staff of MIR, to make good decisions and have favor with the government officials. Much needs to be done before the children travel on December 13.

Our relationships and work in Estonia continue to grow, and next year should see some significant activity. I (Mike) continue to help coordinate the establishment of a center for disabled children there. We’re planning a fact-finding trip to Norway early next year, which will include Estonians and Americans. Also, an architect has offered a house that we may be able to use as a Christian guesthouse — whenever he finishes it (it’s 80% done). And we’re hoping to send a few mission teams to minister in camps next summer.

Last week, I went to Camp Elama with Sergei to work on one of the stoves (below). Sergei is working to make Elama more useful throughout the year, and fixing this old smokey stove is a part of that. As we tore it apart, we discovered that it was built with the outlet from the firebox actually below the fire — not a good design. And the stove fairly fell apart, so Sergei will need to do a lot of rebuilding. We’re hoping to host a couple of camps at Elama this winter, and it’s good that Sergei has learned how to build stoves. Most of the buildings are now heated. That is a significant improvement over last year.

This will be the first year of our married life when we won’t be in the US for Christmas.  We’ll miss our family and friends in the States, but it will be good to have Christmas and New Year’s with folks here.