Welcome

In November of 2000, I (Mike) moved to Russia to help establish a Russian Charity named MIR.  A little over a year later I married Olga.  In 2011, we welcomed a three year old Russian girl named Valerie into our home. Over the years, God has led us and blessed us in many ways.

We have a home in St. Petersburg, Russia and spend time in the USA, Finland, Montenegro and Estonia.  I have businesses in the USA and am the Executive Director of Stoneworks International, a mission organization with projects in Europe from the Barents Sea to the Balkans. I also partner with churches in Uganda and Congo, so I travel a lot.

We hope you’ll wander around here, learn more about us, have some fun and see evidence of the goodness of God.

Stoneworks — News from Montengro

Montenegro was a part of Yugoslavia and is located in the Balkans, across the Adriatic Sea due east of central Italy.  It’s a small country (pop. 650,000) with only about 200 protestant believers.

Stoneworks continues to partner with the Brethren Assembly in Podgorica, one of only three Evangelical churches in the country.

In May, I’ll go with a team from the University of Georgia to do a variety of projects — prayer-walking in cities where there is no local church, running a four-day youth camp, leading children’s ministry meetings, teaching English and most important of all, building relationships.

Here’s a report from Vladimir Cizmanski, pastor of the Brethren Assembly:

Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Eph.5:15-16

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It has become a tradition for us at the beginning of the year to write about the distribution of shoe boxes full of Christmas gifts that we receive thanks to the international organization Samaritan’s Purse.

The difference this year was that we received twice as many as in previous years (20,000 this year).  This project is becoming more and Shoe boxesmore important to us as we have more personal contacts each year.

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This time over 1,000 children came to our building to attend our Christmas program and receive a shoe box.  We were able to take the opportunity to inform their parents about our other activities such as Saturday children’s club, English Language course, summer camps and special events.

We have recently had twenty eight children coming to the Saturday Children’s club which is a great thrill for us.  We are praying for this ministry that is so important for the future lives of these little ones.

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An Important Update

As promised, here is an update on the changes that are coming for Olga and myself. For the past couple of years, we’ve felt that there was a change coming, and we feel that God has confirmed this in several ways. I’ll start with an overview of things —

MIR (www.mir-russia.com)

Eight years ago I moved to Russia to help establish a Russian charity named MIR. I did not do this on my own but rather as part of a team and in submission to the MIR board of directors. We started our work in January of 2001, and since then it’s been gratifying to see MIR grow and have such good fruit. We now have a good staff and are involved in a wide variety of programs. I am very thankful for the good advice and prayers that have been offered by many of you over the years. It’s amazing to me how the Lord has led us and provided for our needs.

Stoneworks International (www.stoneworksint.org)

A few years ago Dave Hulley and I founded Stoneworks International, a US charity, to support the work of MIR and to do other work in Russia. Dave is the Executive Director of Stoneworks. He and his wife Anne adopted two Russian teenagers and they have made many trips to Russia. Their daughter Liz has been living in Russia for a few years and working with MIR. It’s been a pleasure to partner with Dave.  Stoneworks also has grown and is now involved in ministry in other countries besides Russia. More about Stoneworks in a second. . . . Continue reading

How I Got to Russia

Here’s a quick recap of what got me started on this path:  For several years I was the administrator of South Shore Church (now Red River Church) in Austin, Texas.

I loved my job and thought I’d be there for a long time to come.

Mark Browne, then executive director of Mission Global Outreach (MGO) spoke at church in the fall of 1999, and some friends felt in their hearts that I should go to Russia and get to know Mark better. So, my friends surprised me by paying for my trip to Russia with MGO in January of 2000. I thought, ‘well, this will be great, a free trip to Russia. Should be interesting.” This was the beginning of an unexpected change in my life.

Well, after the trip I felt, through prayer, that I should return to Russia but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. While in Russia on that first trip, I had felt a call to “see the seasons change in St. Petersburg.”

The elders at church had been praying about my situation, and we all agreed that it was time for me to step off staff and move on to new things–that was a scary step of faith. But God has been teaching me that it’s quite alright to trust Him in difficult or confusing situations. Let me give a little background on that:

As I was praying in the summer of 1999, I sensed that the Lord wanted me to go on a fast–I hadn’t been planning to fast at all. (I was quite overweight, and that was an indicator of a lack of discipline which spilled over into other areas of my life.)

So, I prayed “how long should this fast be?” I felt that it should be 40 days. Then I asked “what kind of fast should it be?” I was thinking maybe one meal a day, or no TV/movies/radio/newspapers, something like that. The fast I felt prompted to do, however, was the following: no solid food, and nothing that had any flavor. Well, that kinda left me with water.

So, I started the fast in early July 1999. It was a long 40 days. As a matter of fact, at the time I said it should be called a “slow.” It was very difficult, but the benefits far outweighed (pardon the pun) the cost. I’ll tell you, if the Lord calls you to something, He will give you the strength to complete it, and the result will be very good. If you’d like to know more about the lessons I learned in the fast, please feel free to write me.

I will give God the glory, because I certainly didn’t have it in me to do something like that. This was a very big lesson in learning to discern the will of the Lord, and trust Him to guide my steps as He gave me strength.

So, back to Russia: Originally I thought I would probably return to Russia as a member of a team from Austin. As I was stepping off staff at the church, Mark Browne asked me to work as a staff member with MGO in the summer of 2000, serving the teams that work in the summer camps.

I spent three months living in a camp and an orphanage, serving kids and helping coordinate the various teams that came from the States. In the fall of 2000 I was elected to the board of MGO and was commissioned to go to Russia and start a Russian charity (now named MIR).

In less than twelve months I went from my first visit to Russia to living in Russia. It was quite a ride! And the ride continues . . . .

My readings in the Bible took me back to Psalm 23, and I know that the Lord is a good shepherd; He will lead us beside still waters, He will make us lie down in green pastures, and He will be with us in the valley of the shadow of death. His rod and staff (discipline, leadership, salvation) are comforting. So, we have nothing to be anxious about as we walk with Him.

I encourage you, whatever your situation, to seek after the righteousness of God and trust that everything you need will be provided. Put your faith in Christ. Very few will be in the situation in which I find myself, but we are all called to love God with all our being, and to love others as we love ourselves.

God is a loving Father, He is worthy of our praise; Jesus sets the perfect example for us all to be selfless servants, speaking the truth in love, walking by faith, and looking out for the needs of others; the Holy Spirit gives us the life of God as a river of living water, of blessing and truth and mercy, to flow through us to the people in our lives who God loves more than we can imagine.