A Postcard from Russia

This has been quite a summer, one of the busiest and hardest we’ve ever had. It has certainly been the most diverse.

Olga’s grandfather, Orest Groten (above), passed away in July. He is much missed. Born in 1918, he was a child of the Russian Revolution. He joined Communist Party in 1942 and lived his professional life serving the military, first in WWII as a radioman and later as an engineer designing ships and submarines. For almost all of his days he was a committed atheist. At the age of 93 he asked Jesus to forgive him of his sins. He was a loving father and grandfather, a real anchor for the family. He could combine being strict with being very loving. He taught himself to play the piano and accordion; he enjoyed life, had a wonderful sense of humor, and heartily welcomed an American son-in-law into the family. We are sad that he is not with us now, but we are glad that we will see him in heaven.

In June we helped a mission team from Teen Mania as they ministered in Russia and Estonia. In July, Mike drove through Central Europe and helped a team run a youth camp in Montenegro. Two interns, Caroline and Krystal, joined us for several weeks, and it was a joy to have them share in our lives and receive good things from the Lord. Caroline’s mother, Linda, also visited, spending time at dacha and at the Hermitage (that’s quite a contrast). Mike traveled through 14 countries in a month’s time, visiting Budapest, Vienna, Auschwitz/Birkenau, and Tallinn. There were many meetings in Russia, Estonia and Montengro: building relationships, planning for future ministry, encouraging one another.

From Mike: One thing that made the summer hard was my visa situation. When grand-dad died, I was driving in Slovakia on the way to Montenegro. Of course, I quickly started planning how to return to Russia in order to be with my family. However, my old visa had just expired and my new visa started in early August (I thought I would be in Montenegro the whole time and wouldn’t need a visa). It was a bit of a shock to face that hard reality, that I couldn’t go home. It was the first time that political borders and legal issues kept me from being with my family. It was very hard on all of us for me to be at a distance during those days.

From Olga: It has been the hardest summer I’ve ever had, very busy, non-stop for two months, and that was hard; and losing grand-dad was a shock. I feel like there are some things I need to learn all over again: what comes first and what comes second. First is my relationship with and abiding in God, and out of that flows everything else. That is my lesson for the summer.

The Lord has been saying this to us in many ways and at different times. Apart from the Lord we can do nothing, but if we abide in Him then his life will flow through us (John chapter 15). God has been calling us to abide in Him. Please pray for us that we’ll abide in Him and trust that all else will take its rightful place.

Sunset over Pühajarvi, Finland

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.

Snapshots from Russia

We were all at dacha for the May 9 Victory Day holidays earlier this week. I go to Montenegro tomorrow to meet a mission team, and it was nice to have this family time before my trip.

The little white flowers are called “Under the Snow” and are considered to be the first flowers of Springtime. The daffodils are also blooming now.

The buds are on the trees:

We organized and cleaned the summer kitchen. It looks worlds better than it did:

Of course, we have a meal together. We cooked shashleek the day before and had good leftovers as well as traditional Russian salads.

Great-granddad Orest came to visit our home a few weeks ago. I like this picture:

A Toast at Dacha

Nine years ago on August 28 I proposed to Olga. We were at dacha (a Russian country house) celebrating her grandmother’s birthday.

A couple of days ago, we had another birthday lunch under the apple trees at dacha. Russians love to give toasts at special occasions. Orest Grooten, Olga’s grandfather, gives a toast to his wife:

And here is Orest walking back into the house.

A Bolton-King-Beck-Klemm-Grootten Family Reunion!

We have been invited to attend a reunion of several family lines — Bolton-King-Beck-Klemm-Grootten — in  August, in Narva-Jõesuu (formerly Ust’-Narva, formerly Hungerburg), Estonia.

tanya_orest_ludmillaPictured here is our grandfather Orest Maximillianovich Groten (Grootten), with daughter Tanya (Olga’s mom) and wife Ludmilla. You can see Orest’s father as a boy in the picture below.

Here is some more information about the family, sent to us by Victor Minakhin, a  cousin who has done much research on the family line:

Around 1780 two brothers from the city of Kingston upon Hull in England came to the Baltic provinces of Russia as merchants. Their names were Richard Thorley Bolton and Robert Bolton.

Richard became a well known merchant in Narva and Robert in Riga. Both married local ladies and had numerous offsprings.

Robert Bolton died in Riga in 1807 and his widow moved to Narva where some of her children were living. Richard Thorley Bolton died in Narva in 1818.

A very incomplete research has revealed that Richard Thorley Bolton had at least 38 great grandchildren and Robert Bolton had no less than 63 great grandchildren. Many of them were living at the beginning of the 20th century.

Now, a hundred years later their grandchildren and great grandchildren are living in Australia, England, France, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Russia, the United States and other places.

The Bolton name is a very ancient one in England. It goes back to the 11th century.

The idea of the Reunion was suggested by the following line of the descendants:

Robert Bolton’s daughter Mary Bolton in 1821 married Hans Peter Beck, a Narva merchant whose family originates in Denmark most probably as Huguenot refugees from France.

Their daughter Maria Beck in 1845 married Oscar von Klemm who was born in Mitau (now Jelgava, Latvia) and later became a full General in the Russian Army.

Their daughter Olga von Klemm in 1874 married Maximillian Grootten, an engineer from St. Petersburg whose grandfather came to Russia in 1760s from Hamburg and whose ancestors probably arrived in Germany from Holland.

The picture below if of their silver wedding anniversary in 1899.

Olga Cantrell’s grandfather Orest (pictured above) is the son of the boy at right in the picture.

Orest’s father – Maximillian Grootten (above at right) had thirteen siblings.

The youngest sister of Maximillian, i.e. one of Orest’s aunts was called Adelaide (“Adia”), seen above, front row at left.

She was married in 1912 to a well known expert on hydrobiology Professor Dimitry Beling who headed a research institution in Kiev. Germans made him to continue in this position after they occupied Kiev during WW2.

When the Soviet troops were close to liberating Kiev, Germans evacuated Beling to Germany. After the war he and Adia worked at the Goettingen University and lived in West Germany.

Their daughter Helena Beling remained in Leningrad amd married Vadim Regel of famous St. Petersburg German family. They had two children – a son and a daughter.

In 1960 Adia started to commute between Goettingen and Leningrad often staying with her grandchildren.  Although a West German citizen – she died in Leningrad in 1989.

Her ashes were buried in Goettingen. A large part of Adia’s archive is preserved by the Regel family now in St. Petersburg.

Special thanks goes to Victor Minakhin for compiling this information and being the force behind the gathering of the family in Estonia in August.

A Postcard from Russia — ‘Our Girls’

We have mentioned this before, and it’s high time to introduce you to Zhenya, Anya, and Natasha. Just about a year ago, we were in the US when three young ladies from our church, on short notice, needed a place to stay for a few weeks. Well, that ‘few weeks’ has turned into a year of blessing.

We are now like family; even at church the girls are referred to as Канртеллы (Cantrells).

We just celebrated a fine Thanksgiving meal with them and other friends and family, where Olga’s grandfather, Orest Maximilianovich, played the piano (see the picture below).

— Zhenya Kopushy has degrees in Education (Russian language and literature) and Physics (thermodynamics). For six years she taught at a Christian school and is now working with a Dutch mission at Hospital #15 for street children. She leads intercessory prayer at our church.

— Anya Kazak is originally from Belarus. She is studying to be a teacher of deaf children and is also teaching at a Christian school. She is the leader of the children’s ministry at Street Cry.

— Natasha Pavlova is a counselor at Crimson Sails, a Christian children’s shelter in St. Petersburg. She has as degree in architecture and worked for several years at an architectural firm before joining the staff of Crimson Sails three years ago.

Zhenya, Anya and Natasha bring life and joy to our home. We continue to argue with them about who is the most blessed by this arrangement! This is clearly a God-given family, and we are so thankful.

Orest Maximilianovich Grotin, Thanksgiving 2009, at the very piano on which he learned to play over 80 years ago

Family History

Recently one of Olga’s distant cousins discovered an old photo of her ancestors.

Here is the photograph taken at the Silver Wedding of Nestor Grootten and Olga von Klemm. The celebration took place in 1899 in Riga, where Nestor worked at the time.

We are working on identifying everyone in the photograph.  Maximillian, Orest’s father is the boy standing on the extreme right, with a smudge over his face.

Orest’s father – Maximillian Grootten had thirteen siblings (four of them died in infancy according the best information I have which needs to be double checked).  The youngest sister of Maximillian, i.e. one of Orest’s aunts was called Adelaide (“Adia”).  She was married (since 1912) to a well known expert on hydrobiology Professor Dimitry Beling who headed a research institution in Kiev.  Germans made him to continue in this position after they occupied Kiev during WW2.  When the Soviet troops were close to liberating Kiev, Germans evacuated Beling to Germany.  After the war he and Adia worked at the Goettingen University and lived in West Germany. Their daughter Helena Beling remained in Leningrad amd married Vadim Regel of famous St. Petersburg German family. They had two children – a son and a daughter. In 1960 Adia started to commute between Goettingen and Leningrad often staying with her grandchildren . Although a West German citizen – she died in Leningrad in 1989.

Her ashes were buried in Goettingen.  A large part of Adia’s archive is preserved by the Regel family now in St. Petersburg.