A Postcard from Moldova

The Urasinov family

We’ve just arrived in Russia after a long and fruitful 3-week trip (8043km, 5026 miles total). We spent 2 weeks in Montenegro and then visited new ground in Romania and Moldova. In Montenegro, we were able to visit family, friends and ministry partners. It was great to encourage and be encouraged by our Christian family there.

As we passed through Romania on our way to Moldova, we unexpectedly made great connections in Sighișoara, right in the heart of Transylvania. We were welcomed warmly by local believers and learned a bit about what God is doing in that area. We hope to visit again (and it was fun driving through the Carpathian Mountains).

We went to Moldova to meet the Urasinovs, a Christian foster family in Soroca, just across the Dniester River from Ukraine. Early this year I (Mike) received an email from a Norwegian believer I had met a few years ago. He’s been helping the Urasinovs, and as he was praying for them my name came into his mind. So, he felt that perhaps the Lord wanted me to be involved in some way. I immediately started communicating with the Urasinovs.  My purpose in the visit was to build relationship and discern if the Lord wants Stoneworks to partner with them.

Victor and Victoria are foster/adoptive parents to 8 children and have two biological children. Victor was a drug addict who came to the Lord several years ago. They’ve now opened their home to abandoned children. Two children are currently at university and one was out of the house when I took the picture above. Victor is the pastor of a Full Gospel church (about 50 members).

They are fairly isolated. They partner only with the Norwegians, who visit less than once a year. They’ve never hosted a mission team or received help from the States. Moldova is the poorest country in Europe, and it quite an experience to visit there. Most of the population is either quite old or young; many adults have left to find work in other countries (never to return), so many  children are living with grandparents and then orphaned when the grandparents die.

We really like the Urasinov family and had a good visit, though it was too short. We look forward to seeing if/how the Lord opens doors for us to pursue partnership with them.

Dniester River, Ukraine on left, Moldova on right

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A New Project in Belarus

This is one example of the work our organization does in Belarus. Please contact me if you’re interested in knowing more or supporting this very worthy project.

From the Stoneworks International website:

We are very excited to announce our next project in Belarus: a home for young men we hope to open this Fall.

In 2009 Spring of Revival and Stoneworks opened the Minsk Family Home, a home for young ladies who are leaving the orphanage system and need help making the transition to life on their own.

Timothy House is a natural extension of this ministry to graduate orphans.

If you would like to donate to help establish this home, please send a check to Stoneworks or donate online.

You can see and download a brochure here: Timothy House Brochure.

Here is an open letter from board member Jill Tyson:

Dear friends,

From the first days when I met Olga Goncherenko in Belarus I understood immediately that hers was not a casual relationship with the orphans in her country. I knew from the way the children smiled and hugged her while we were there that what she and her team were building special relationships that would last through the years.

Indeed, the commitment of our dear Christian friends has yielded much fruit in the lives of 100s of orphans in Belarus. One result of their discipleship and devotion to the children was the beginning of the Minsk Family Home in the fall of 2009, a home for Christian women who have graduated from the orphanage system in Belarus and want to continue their studies in a safe place.

Spring of Revival and Stoneworks International now announce the next step, the founding of a home for men. We will call this home Timothy House, because we feel these young men will truly become Godly examples in Belarus.

Please see the attached brochure, and pray about your involvement in this endeavor. We are committed to raising 80% of one year’s support before we give the “go – ahead” to begin in fall of 2011. A Christian Belorussian couple is willing to parent the home, and we already have several young men in mind to live there. If you are able to help distribute the brochures or raise awareness for the need, we would sincerely appreciate it, and we would also be grateful for a one-time gift or commitment for monthly support in any amount.

We are excited to be a part of revival in Belarus, one life at a time. Belarus is under-served in World Missions from the USA, partly because no American missionaries are allowed to live there. The environment for ministry is hostile to Christians, and no private orphanages are allowed. The government watches everything, especially foreign help which makes legal cooperative efforts at times impossible without God’s working miracles (which He has done on a regular basis!) Praise God that He doesn’t depend on rulers or laws to accomplish His will!

With a thankful heart for your interest and concern,

Jill Tyson

That Can’t Be

A few days ago, a group of Russian orphans arrived in the US to spend Christmas holidays with host families. This is one part of our work in Russia. You can see a video about their arrival here.

MIR board member Lyle Thomas writes of the day the children departed from St. Petersburg —

I met with Andrei Gvozdovsky on Monday, (who works for MIR on the hosting program) right after he and Masha (the director, his wife) had spend most of the night traveling around the city to pick up the kids and take them to the airport. The kids aged between 2 and 15, many of whom are handicapped.

Andrei’s heart went out to these kids, and he expressed hope that they would be adopted as a result of this experience. He related a short but telling moment:

One little boy asked him, “When are we leaving?” – and the Russian word implied by car.

Andrei pointed out that they would be flying. The child didn’t understand.

“Like a bird,” Andrei explained.

“That can’t be. People can’t do that.”

A shelter in the Russian countryside

I recently received this from MIR board member Marina Topoltsyeva.  Marina is also the director of Road of Life, a transitional home for graduate orphans in St. Petersburg.

Marina visited a shelter in the countryside –

Dear Friends,

Here are pictures I took at the shelter my friends from the church started in the village 1.5 hours drive from the city.

There are about 10 kids whose parents are addicted to drug and alcohol. They gave the children up and disappeared.

The youngest child is 3 months old, the oldest is 6 years. They have a building but it remained empty for 2 years and renovation had not been finished.

The children have no documents, no records, but need medical help. The director is very busy with paperwork.

Please pray for the workers to take care of children and funds to provide essential needs. We brought them chicken yesterday they cooked it and ate it right away.

The goal of this shelter is to try to bring mothers back, send them to rehab centers to become free from addictions. If it doesn’t work they will look for families for these kids so that they would not end up at the orphanages.

The Road of Life is going to help sending girls and boys to do some work there and take care of children. That would be great if the teams come to minister there. God bless you. Marina.

Valera Pavlov — A Life

By Le Ann Dakake, director of New Horizons for Children, a hosting program for Russian orphans –

n57702888_30198416_2635In the fall of 1986 a baby boy, Valera Pavlov, was born to a young married couple in the small village of Chubaksari, Russia. He was the 2nd child born of their 3 children and everyone was quite happy! However, in the height of the Soviet Union rule, the family did what they could do survive and lived day to day making money to buy food and maintain a place to live.

Communism was a part of their everyday life, and while it promised equality and provisions among all, not everyone actually received the care and support that was broadcast to the world in government’s propaganda. A couple of years later, the couple gave birth to a daughter as well, bringing the family to 5.

Soon after the arrival of Valera’s sister, while trying to survive and provide for his growing family, the father was forced to take on odd jobs working on other’s farms to make ends meet

In 1991, Valera’s father took him, at about the age of 5, to tag along for a day’s work on a farm to chop wood. This had become a normal part of Valera’s life as mom was now at home with his toddler sister. On these days, Valera would entertain himself while his dad plowed fields, watered farm animals, sheered sheep, butchered hogs, milked cows, did simple repairs or like today; he chopped wood for the coming winter.

At the end of the day, if the work was satisfactory, the family might invite them to have leftover dinner portions. On this particular day, the father’s work seemed satisfactory, so he and Valera were given some food to eat. After dinner, as is customary, the woman who owned the farm handed the boy’s father a glass of wine.

However, this day’s glass of wine was very unlike any previously offered to his dad. Apparently, the family didn’t have the money to pay for the day’s wages and some alternative was sought to get out of doing so.

Not quite understanding what he saw, Valera would later remember something: the woman took a thermometer, broke it, and poured some liquid from it into the glass of wine. She then handed it to his dad. Continue reading

Zhenya Kopushu

Zhenya Kopushu is one of the young ladies who lives with us in Russia. She’s working in a hospital for abandoned children.  She is praying about being one of the counselors when we build Immanuel Children’s Home (more about that later).

Below is some news from her from our church’s website.


Zhenya Kopushu graduated from the StreetCry School of Ministry in 2004. Since then she worked as the Russian language and literature teacher in the Harvest Christian School, served as children’s pastor in our church and is currently heading intercession.

This year the Lord opened doors for Zhenya to minister in Tsimbalina hospital for abandoned children. Here are some of the most recent testimonies from her work there:

“For several months we prayed for doors to open. The Lord touched the hearts of the doctors to receive us favorably, even though it is a rare case in Russia that hospitals would be open to Christian workers coming to help with the sick, to pray and preach the Gospel.

Children are taken to this hospital from the streets and from broken homes of drug addicts, alcoholics, etc… Their parents do not care for them.

Every child’s story is heartbreaking. It still takes a lot of effort on my part to hold back the tears while I am in the hospital – I do weep though a lot, as I intercede for the children later at home. Every child has experienced malnutrition, severe beatings, often times even rape.

In addition to many sicknesses, they suffer from loneliness, rejection and fear of the future, which for most of them is uncertain.

At best, it’s a Russian orphanage with very little true concern from the heart, for these children…

They are hungry for love. When I come, they run to me, take me by the hands, call me Mom and do not let me go. At the end of every visit, they ask me to take them home with me and I just wish I could – I want to take them all.”

Here is just one of many stories:

Masha Orehova, 10 years old  was brought to the hospital from a home where both mother and father are alcoholics. I first met her a couple months ago.

She crawled to me on the floor, called me Auntie – her look was so miserable, and voice so faint that everything inside of me crumbled with pain. The same evening the doctors described her background.

When she was 5 years old, her father being drunk threw her out of a 5th storey window. She survived but her backbone was badly damaged.

She was bed-ridden for a long time and eventually lost her ability to walk. Nevertheless, she was given back to the same parents again. Both mother and father kept regularly beating her up and father even raping her.

Finally, the authorities started the process of taking parental rights away from them, and Masha was placed in Tsimbalina hospital. Her first several nights in this hospital she refused to sleep in a bed but crawled under it to hide herself and slept there – she was bound by fear of everyone.

In the doctors and nurses, she saw a threat rather than people trying to help her. She looked at them as if she were a small wolf, hungry and fierce, ready to bite.

It is scary for me just to try to imagine the emotional and physical torment she has been going through all these years – I understood that only God could touch and restore her broken heart and broken body, giving her hope and a future.

I began regularly praying for Masha and telling her about Jesus. I told her that Jesus loves her and wants the best for her.

Slowly she started changing, fear was gone, and she began smiling as she saw me come. Every time I came, she asked me to tell her more about Jesus.

Faith was birthing in her heart.

Toys and games were not so important – all she wanted to do was lay there and listen to me speaking about Jesus. During Christmas, we brought presents to Masha as well as all the other children in the hospital. She was so happy – thanking God for all!

She wanted me to read her the story of how Jesus was born over and over again until she was able to repeat it herself.

Very recently, Masha received Jesus into her heart – I prayed together with her. Please join me in prayer for Masha’s complete restoration and for her future, for God’s will and plan to be done in her life rather than the devil’s plan for destruction.

Zhenya is seriously considering and praying through the idea of opening a small family type Christian orphanage where she and several other girls from our church, driven by the similar concerns and currently involved in different capacities in ministering to suffering children, could live and take such children in who have nowhere else to go, providing them with the atmosphere of God’s love, salvation, restoration, healing, hope and a future.

Journalism and exploitation

Here is another thoughtful post from Liz Hulley:

A recent New York Times article described the problem of male rape in Congo. The piece was accompanied by photographs of four of the victims, framed by striking blue backgrounds. The caption read, “… All are Congolese men who were recently raped and agreed to be photographed.”*

I had to wonder…why was it significant that they had their photographs taken? And what was the incentive? Is this “good journalism”? Would the story have held as much weight without it?

At a conference on orphan ministry that I attended in the spring, they told the story of some orphans who had been visited by a team of Americans. The Americans quickly won their trust and interviewed the children. The children were eager to share their stories and agreed to be videotaped.

These tapes were later aired on TV, and the kids eventually saw themselves on TV. Their personal lives became a sensation, something used to produce a reaction. It was traumatizing for them.

This leads me to the question…when does an attempt at advocacy become exploitation? The U.S. journalists recently freed in N. Korea had been investigating the sex trade. Their research was surely a worthy cause. Yet I wonder how they would have chosen to publish the results. Continue reading

From Montenegro to Russia

We recently drove home to Russia from Montenegro.  It was a beautiful drive along the Croatian coast and up into Hungary.  There we visited missionary friends and saw (rainy) Budapest.  The relationships were great, the city was beautiful and we hope to return.

Then we drove to Minsk, Belarus to visit Spring of Revival, a Stoneworks program.  Olga Goncharenko and her team are doing a great job there.  We enjoy our time with them and fully support them in all they do.  Visit the Stoneworks site to learn more about Spring of Revival.

Then we headed into Russia and are now safely back in our flat in St. Petersburg.

We really enjoy this traditional music from Montenegro.

What is MIR?

We believe that the Lord sets us together as members of His body, as living stones.  As we honor the relationships that He establishes, then the work naturally flows.  We made a video to help people see and understand better what MIR is and work to which we’ve been called.

Many thanks go to Thomas Umstattd for making this video.  He came to Russia and lived with us for a month, helping in many ways.

God’s Love in Action

Olga and I have three young ladies from our church staying with us, Zhenya, Anna and Natasha.  I’ll post some pictures of our ‘new family’ soon.  Natasha works at Crimson Sails, a Christian children’s shelter.  Here’s one story of the way the Lord uses His people to save the lost. This is from Street Cry’s update

Dasha (in the photo at left) was sent to this Christian shelter by her district police station officer.

Her alcoholic mom’s alcoholic boyfriend attacked Dasha with a knife.  She managed to escape almost without injuries with her grandmother’s assistance. With no time to even get dressed properly, and without a coat or boots, this young child ran through the snow and frost to the police for help.

As the police inspected Dasha’s home, they found a destroyed apartment, with almost everything sold in order to buy alcohol.  There was no food and not only Dasha did not have a desk to do her school homework but she did not even have a bed where she could sleep.  The court case began by denying Dasha’s mom parental rights.  While the case proceeded, Dasha was placed in the Christian shelter.

Very soon, she received Jesus and began attending Sunday school at our church.

Continue reading