A Postcard from Estonia — A Full Life

We’ve just returned from Estonia where we had a quick visit with a mission team from our home church in Athens, GA. The team is ministering in Camp Gideon, a Christian camp in the shore of the Gulf of Finland. This team is particularly memorable in that my aunt, Judy Cantrell, is a member. That’s her above at right with Valerie and other team members. So, it was good to have some family time as well as mission time with the team.

The team went to a restaurant where you catch your own meal. Olga caught her first fish (ever!). Here she is with Bill Arnold, who has been a great help in many ways. In addition to serving the children, the team is also involved in construction projects, and Bill is taking a leading role in that.

Our summer plans are in flux. I won’t be going to Montenegro as intended, since the mission team that planned to run the camp had to cancel their trip. Thankfully, the youth in Montenegro have been able to connect with other ministry opportunities. I’ll spend more time in Estonia, where I’ll meet with the architect of the center for disabled children and do some other work.

You can read the most recent Stoneworks newsletter here. This will give you an idea of the variety of activities going on this summer. I am very thankful to be a part of such a great team. Our work continues in Estonia (mission teams, center for disabled children), Russia (mission teams, Camp Elama) and Belarus (summer camps, visits to orphanages and shelters, the Minsk Family Home).

I continue to be reminded of how unity is more important than activity. Even though we have a lot going on, it’s more important to abide in Christ, to live with and depend on Him, and to work for unity with those around us; we trust that activities will be a natural result of our relationship with Christ and with one another. Jesus said, ‘by this people will know that you’re my disciples — by your love for one another’. God values love above all else: first loving Him and then loving one another.

Let’s all set our hearts to love God more and more. For He is the beginning and end of all, the cornerstone and the capstone.

A New Pavilion at Elama

As many of you know, Elama is our camp in Russia. We’re gearing up for the summer, and a team from Athens, GA returned yesterday from building two pavilions at Camp Elama, in Russia. Click here to see a slide show of their first few days. Pictured above is the large pavilion which will be used for gatherings and meals. A smaller pavilion will be used as a summer kitchen.

We are so very thankful for all the hard work of so many people. One of the team members said he was very impressed by the quality of the people working on the project. So, now is a good time to mention a few of those people:

Allen Amason was the US team leader and made this all possible by his tireless work and enthusiasm. Sergei Tovstapyat is the camp administrator and was the project manager for this work. John and Karen Bull helped in innumerable ways. Masha Oshkina is the Executive Director of MIR and helped with team coordination and was with the team for a few days. My wife Olga handled food planning and team administration. Mia Häyrinen came over from Finland to work with the team.

We are very thankful for the relationships that God has given us. Our love for God and for one another is more important that the tasks we do. God does indeed set us together as living stones. And times like this show how true that is.

A Postcard from Russia — Teamwork

I (Mike) am back in Russia after a great trip to Montenegro. Today Olga and I visited a couple of teams we have here in Russia. Above is the team from Oak Hills Church in San Antonio. Oak Hills has sent teams to Russia for many years, and they are always a very good team. They all told us their time here has been really wonderful — good relationships have been formed with the children in the camp, and the camps staff has also worked well with them. They sang a beautiful multi-part harmony acapella song for us. They are great! They sang at the opening ceremonies of the camp. It was a joy to be with such a happy, witty and enthusiastic group of people.

I am writing this from Elama, the camp we’re running. Today the children’s camp came to a close. About 60 kids were here for more than a week attending a Christian camp organized by Source of Life Church. On Monday we’ll start a youth camp for about 100 people. In August we hope to host a couple more camps, and we also have a few Christian families living here for the summer. It’s a real joy to see so much life here, especially when just a few weeks ago it was fairly lifeless. I’ll send an update about Elama next time.

Please keep us in your prayers as we come to mind. We have a lot going on, and we face some changes. I’ll write more about that later. Please pray that we’ll have wisdom and unity as we pray about decisions that are ahead. So many wonderful things — Montenegro, Elama, the teams in camps, the MIR staff, New Horizons — give us joy and thankfulness in our hearts, because God has allowed us to participate in His good work.