A Need for Balance

There is a gate on the lane leading to the little cabin where we stay in Finland. One of Valerie’s chores, assigned a couple of days ago, is to open the gate when we come and go. She enjoys it, and she’s almost a perfect counterweight for the counterweight . . . .

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She actually gets some air time:

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A Drive Near Hauho

In case you haven’t heard, the ministry I direct, Stoneworks International, has a new partner in Montenegro. The R.A.E ministry in Montenegro serves the Roma & Ashkali/Egyptian population in Podgorica.

Roma and Ashkali refugees from Kosovo live in ‘temporary’ housing that was built many years ago. The refugee camp is built on the site of an old dump.

I’m very happy to be working more closely with Siniša Nadaždin, the leader of the ministry, and I am very grateful to the Lord Jesus for allowing me to participate in the fruit of these good relationships He’s given us.

We’re in Finland for a few days enjoying the little cabin called Koppero. I have a simple ‘office’ here so I’m able to work, and it’s nice to sit by a beautiful lake and enjoy the autumn weather, for the summer has passed; the days are cool though the leaves have not yet started to turn. It’s nice to enjoy a fire during the cool evenings.

We’ll go to Russia in a few days, spend about a week there and then plan to head south to Montenegro. Once again we’ll drive all the way from St. Petersburg, Russia to Podgorica, Montenegro. Valerie and I have made a list of all the countries we’ll visit on this trip. She’s drawn all the flags and will check them off as we cross borders. If all goes as planned, we’ll be in 15 countries in the next few weeks!

I also plan to visit a potential new ministry partner in Moldova with a stop or two in Romania. More about that later . . . .

Here is one of my favorite drives in Finland, a small road between Hämeenlinna and Hauho —

Familiana: at Koppero

a view of the main cabin from the sauna

We just returned from a nice visit to Finland. A friend has a small log cabin that we can visit just about any time we want. (Thank you, Juhani!) We’ve been going there for quite a few years now. The weather was great – cool and sunny – though the leaves aren’t out yet.

The cabin is called Koppero, the Finnish word for ‘Hovel’. It has no running water but it has a lot of heart.

In addition to some good family time at Koppero, we also visited our friend Riitta. She owns a Finnish estate, Hovinkartano, on the same lake. It’s always good to get caught up with her.

Visiting Finland feels like visiting an old friend. We really like it there. I was able to get some work done in a make-shift office thanks to modern wireless internet technology.

And Valerie made a friend:

When Val asked ‘can I kiss him?’ many thoughts ran through my mind. The primary being, ‘if Olga were standing here I’d probably say no, but since it’s just Daddy here I’ll say yes’.

Now we start to move into the very busy part of the year. Soon I’ll be in Montenegro with a mission team, then we’ll welcome teams in Russia and Estonia. In between we’ll be at dacha (a summer house in Russia). I’m helping coordinate several projects in various countries (visit the Stoneworks Ministry Map to see where we work), so there is always something interesting happening. You can see updates at the Stoneworks site.

Here are a few more pictures:

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A Postcard from Finland

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A few times in the last week I’ve spoken with people about one of God’s characteristics: he is able to do more than we can ask or even imagine. Not too many years ago I would not have imagined enjoying time in a little, primitive cabin in Finland. Now it’s a source of great joy. In all our planning, we try to leave at least one blank spot for the thing we can’t imagine, and it may be that very thing into which God is going to call us. This helps us hold our lives loosely, trusting that God is a REALLY good shepherd, and He will lead the way. He’s led us to Finland, and that’s very good.

There’s a certain joy in visiting Finland. We love it here. I’m in Finland on my own this time. Olga and I have bank accounts in the US, Estonia, Russia and Finland. I needed to come to Finland to take care of some banking and visit friends, and a few days opened up for me to do that.

I stay at a little cabin call Koppero, next to the lake Pyhäjärvi. A friend owns the cabin and lets us stay here whenever we want. As you can see, the lake is still quite frozen. The temperature inside the cabin was the same as the lake; it took several hours to warm it up. Koppero has no running water though it does have electricity and I have a wireless internet connection. So, for a few days this little cabin is the European office of Stoneworks International (see my executive office below).

I’ve also just had a very nice visit with our friend Riitta Tarvainen. Riitta owns an old Finnish estate, Hovinkartano, and we’re very glad that we’ve become friends with her. She told me today how her local church, in the small village of Hauho, has supported missionaries around the world. It’s encouraging: God is at work in every culture, and once He begins a good work He continues it all the way to the end.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen

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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 . . . . Everywhere

Since our last Postcard we’ve been all over Europe. At the end of August we drove from Russia to Montenegro (you can see a photo record of the trip here). The picture above was taken when we gassed up in Augustow, Poland. We spent almost a month in Montenegro, visiting family, friends and ministry partners. Valerie had a GREAT time, especially at the beach (here is a video of her first experience of the sea).

Then we drove from Montenegro to Rathenow, Germany, the town where Olga lived for a couple of years when her father was stationed at a Soviet military base in East Germany. Olga has many good memories of that town, and it’s where she and her mom first heard the gospel preached; this happened just as the Soviet Union was collapsing. The commander of the base surprisingly allowed a group of Christians to share their testimonies.

From Germany, we went to Estonia. Olga and Valerie returned to Russia while I applied for my new Russian visa and spent time in Estonia and Finland. The picture below is of Finland in Autumn.

So, in the span of about 6 weeks we were in these countries (in order): Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia and Finland. It was quite an adventure.

Valerie is doing very well. She’s growing like a weed and speaking better and better all the time. She’s a good kid and we all love each other. We are gathering documents necessary to petition the court to terminate Oksana’s (Valerie’s birth mother’s) parental rights. We think this will happen in a few weeks. Then we can then move to adopt Valerie, however there is a six-month waiting period after termination of parental rights before we can adopt.

The ministry continues. You can see the most recent Stoneworks update here. Several projects are in various stages: we’ll host a mission team of 40-60 who will minister in Russia and Estonia; two teams from Georgia will go to Montenegro; we continue to work on Sunbeam (the center for children with disabilities in Estonia) and I hope to have some good news about that soon.

Even though the world faces difficulties and we are affected by those forces, our hope is not in the things of this world; our hope is in Christ who is a good shepherd. Remember, He has prepared good work in advance for you to do. His best is always in the future.