Merry Christmas

It’s been quite a year, and a good one at that. We really covered the ground this year, from the Baltic to the Balkans, from Eastern Europe to the Eastern USA, from Scandinavia to the Equator.

We returned to Russia earlier this year to be greeted by some difficulties with our local fellowship in St. Petersburg. As many of you know, relationships with folks in church can sometimes be challenging and even painful. The Lord led us through that time well, though it was quite difficult at times. Drop us a line if you’d like to know more about how the Lord has been a good shepherd for our family. We are very glad for any opportunity to proclaim His goodness.

Olga continues to home school and helps with the children’s ministry at our church in Russia She has recently been knitting socks for the family. Val is a happy fourth grader, growing and enjoying life. She continues to study dance and the piano and has recently been toying with the Celtic harp. Val wants you to know, “wherever you are, God is with you and God’s love never fails.”

Mike visited Africa for the second time, teaching and encouraging believers in Uganda, Congo and Tanzania. He also taught at churches and a Bible school in the USA, Romania and Montenegro. He continues as Executive Director of Stoneworks which leads him to travel as he serves partners and projects in Belarus, Estonia, Montenegro, Romania, Norway and Ukraine.

God has been so faithful to us, as He always is. Every year brings us joy and hardships, but nothing is ever wasted with Him. With each passing year we collect new treasures of His goodness and presence. We can truly say, ‘my cup runneth over’.

In Christ –

Mike, Olga and Valerie Cantrell

Green Card News

As many of you know, we’re applying for US green cards for Olga and Valerie. We don’t intend to live in the States full time, but we feel like now is a good time to get green cards.

Our lawyer just wrote saying that it may take another 5 – 9 months before we’d go to the States. I’m very surprised at this but the US government is taking longer than expected to process applications, and it’s just a long plain old long process.

However, this means that we’ll probably be on this side of the ocean for the summer, and that’s good. We can do a lot of work at dacha and I’ve got plenty to do in Russia, Estonia and Montenegro as we have teams coming over for summer ministry. Our lives are not our own, and we’re happy to be here if the Lord wants that. Though we’re sad that we’ll be away from our family and friends in the States for so long. (It’s been two years since we visited Texas!)


A Postcard from the USA

Well, it’s been too time since our last family update. Our apologies. Much has happened since we last wrote.

We are in the USA right now, and it’s been great to have time with our family in Athens, Georgia (that’s Mike’s Dad at left in the picture above) as well as meet with many friends and co-workers.

We have finalized the adoption completely! After finishing the Russian adoption, we did an adoption in the States. It’s a bit complicated, but I (Mike) did a ‘step-parent’ adoption; so we have adoption decrees in both Russian and English, and everything is all done. We now start another long process: we’ve filed the first round of paperwork to get Olga and Valerie US green cards. We do not intend to move to the States full time; we’ll continue to be based in Russia, but we feel that it’s time to get green cards for Olga and Valerie.

Valerie is doing great. Her English is improving all the time. She’s been taking dance and gymnastics classes in addition to her continued homeschooling and piano lessons. Olga is homeschooling Valerie and volunteering at a local gymnastics school teaching a Rhythmic Gymnastics class. My mother has had problems with her lungs for a few years; over a week ago she had to go to the hospital and is still there. She’s quite weak and is slowly recovering. Your prayers are appreciated.

Stoneworks is sending teams to Russia and Estonia, and we’re trying to put together a team to run a youth camp in Montenegro (anyone want to help?). I’ve been involved in board meetings; speaking at churches, schools and Sunday school classes; and meeting with mission teams and ministry partners. We recently hosted Yura Belonozhkin when he was in Athens visiting. Vladimir and Marijana Cizmanski from Montenegro are also here, and it’s been great to have time with them. I will attend an Estonian ministry conference next week, and we continue to make plans for the summer. Another big project may be starting up: we are looking at land for a camp in Montenegro and meeting with potential supporters here in the States.

The Lord continues to remind us: let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and give praise to your Father in heaven. He is the author and perfecter of our faith, the beginning and the end, the foundation and the capstone. We are thankful for the abundant life He has given us, and He is the source of every good thing. Soli Deo Gloria. To Him alone be the Glory.

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 —

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.

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