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.

Ice and Fun

Here are a few quick pictures from our life —

First, this is the view out my window today. The weather has been hovering around freezing, so HUGE icicles are forming from the roofs. These are well over 6 feet long (2 meters).

One has to be very careful when walking on sidewalks. These icicles will kill you when they fall, and many people are injured by falling ice at this time of year and in the Spring.

Here are some pictures of me and Valerie playing around with the webcam. (Val grabbed a couple of hammers from my dulcimer, so that what she has in her hands.)

Snapshots from Russia

This is a pretty standard view of our city streets these days —

One of my joys in being part of an international family is introducing Olga (and now Valerie) to my home culture; today (sleepy) Valerie had her first bacon and egg breakfast. This is probably the first time she’s eaten bacon, and she really took to it.

Sergei Tovstpyat and I went to Charlie Chastain’s garage to start his van and put on winter tires (the Chastains return from the US next week and need to have their van at the ready).

It’s common here to rent a garage in an area where there are many garages. This is what it looked like today.

Each little building is a one-car garage. The garage owners rent their plot from a company that owns the land. As you can see, some people have a pile of snow up to the roof because their neighbors shoveled the snow from in front of their garage. Like so many things here, it’s not convenient. It took us a long time just to drive to the garage and then clear the snow from in front of the door.

So, for those of you in the US who wonder why it it can take so long to get things done here in Russia, this is one example of how a simple project can eat up more than half a day.

Christmas Day on January 1?

We celebrated Christmas on New Year’s Day because Valerie wasn’t with us on the 25th. She’d never celebrated Christmas like this (or maybe ever), and I don’t think she’s ever opened a Christmas gift. It was great fun to watch her learn what it is to open a Christmas gift. There was a sled waiting for her under the tree.

We read the Christmas story from the Bible and later Olga’s mother and some friends came to visit. We cooked a turkey and had a good meal together as a family. And the two grandmothers got to talk on Skype.

We start with Valerie opening a gift from her American Babushka:

Valerie – Day 2

Well, I said yesterday that I wouldn’t post pictures of Valerie every day, but some folks have asked to see more.

We’ll celebrate Christmas on New Year’s Day, since Valerie wasn’t with us on the 25th. We have a tree with presents under it waiting for Saturday morning!

We start with a video of Valerie meeting babushka (grandmom) Cantrell over Skype:

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Earlier this month Olga and I went to Estonia. Our good friend Anya Kazak went with us. Anya has never been out of Russia, so this was a thrilling event for her. She loves medieval history and Tallinn was a joy. It’s a very well-preserved medieval town. We really like it there.

Olga and Anya walked the city while I did some work back at the flat.

Here are a few pictures from their stroll around the Old Town of Tallinn:

(click on the thumbnails to see the full-sized image)

130th Birthday of the Alexander Bridge

From De Rebus Antiquis Et Novis

The Alexander Railway Bridge was opened on August 30, 1880. In the end of 19th century, it was the longest bridge in Europe, 1436 meters (just under a mile long). It was also the last large bridge in Russia built from imported iron. Newspapers compared it to the Suez channel. The importance of the bridge was that it was the point of connection of the railroads from Moscow and Western Russia and the railroads of Urals and Siberia, including the Trans-Siberian Railway.

In 1918, two spans were exploded by retiring troops. After the revolution the bridge was renamed to Syzran Bridge, after a nearby city.

In 2004, the original spans of the old bridge were replaced, though its supports remain.