Val’s 11th!

Each year near to her birthday we take a picture of Valerie in the same dress, one of Olga’s. I got this idea from Life magazine years ago. It’s fun to watch her grow up:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4th Birthday:

Val - Birthday - Dress

4th Birthday

5th Birthday:

Val-5th Continue reading

Recital –

We’ve been busy working at dacha (news about that soon), and on short notice we came into the city for Valerie’s piano recital. She’s been studying with a really great teacher and has a talent for the piano.

We’re just about to move into the very busy time of the summer. I will make a quick trip to Estonia next week (meeting with the leaderships of Sunbeam) and then go to Finland and Norway for a men’s conference with the Arctic Men’s Fellowship. Olga will lead a team to Moldova starting June 18. In July I’ll drive to Montenegro and then work my way north, with ministry stops Serbia, Romania and Ukraine. I’ll be traveling with my friend and Stoneworks board member Glenn Cole. We’ll also welcome teams in Russia, Estonia and Montenegro.

And here is Val:

Valerie’s Baptism

Valerie Cantrell was baptized yesterday at Camp Elama, north of St. Petersburg, Russia. Sergei Tovstopyat and I performed the baptism, and we had a ‘cloud of witnesses’.

Valerie has been asking to be baptized for a while. After talking with her about what it means, we all felt the time was right. She has committed herself to following Jesus, living by the Spirit and is VERY happy to join the family of God.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Need for Balance

There is a gate on the lane leading to the little cabin where we stay in Finland. One of Valerie’s chores, assigned a couple of days ago, is to open the gate when we come and go. She enjoys it, and she’s almost a perfect counterweight for the counterweight . . . .

She actually gets some air time:

Familiana: at Koppero

Val took this, Holy Lake

We just returned from a nice visit to Finland. A friend has a small log cabin that we can visit just about any time we want. (Thank you, Juhani!) We’ve been going there for quite a few years now. The weather was great – cool and sunny – though the leaves aren’t out yet.

The cabin is called Koppero, the Finnish word for ‘Hovel’. It has no running water but it has a lot of heart.

In addition to some good family time at Koppero, we also visited our friend Riitta. She owns a Finnish estate, Hovinkartano, on the same lake. It’s always good to get caught up with her.

Visiting Finland feels like visiting an old friend. We really like it there. I was able to get some work done in a make-shift office thanks to modern wireless internet technology.

And Valerie made a friend:

When Val asked ‘can I kiss him?’ many thoughts ran through my mind. The primary being, ‘if Olga were standing here I’d probably say no, but since it’s just Daddy here I’ll say yes’.

Now we start to move into the very busy part of the year. Soon I’ll be in Montenegro with a mission team, then we’ll welcome teams in Russia and Estonia. In between we’ll be at dacha (a summer house in Russia). I’m helping coordinate several projects in various countries (visit the Stoneworks Ministry Map to see where we work), so there is always something interesting happening. You can see updates at the Stoneworks site.

Here are a few more pictures:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Postcard from Russia – Pilgrims

I’ve just returned from a very quick trip to Estonia. Since I’m going to the States at the end of this month I needed to leave my car in Estonia (it has Estonian plates and shouldn’t be in Russia while I’m away). While there, I’ll have some body work done on the car; here in Russia a couple of guys got into a fight when I was at a stop light and they dented my car as they were shoving each other around. Ahhh, life in the city .  .  .

Valerie is losing teeth! We’ve been learning the old song, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” The picture above is of a Skype call we had a couple of days ago. Valerie and Olga are doing well. Last week saw the first ever home-school conference in Russia. It was very encouraging and helpful. We’re learning how to navigate both the Russian and American laws regarding homeschooling. Everything is good.

Please pray for the escalating crisis in Ukraine.  Many Russian Christians are concerned about the direction their country is going. This could become a very significant point of conflict. Emotions and stakes are high.

When I entered Russia yesterday, I was taken aside and questioned by the border guards. They asked why I was visiting Russia, what other countries I’ve visited, etc. This has never happened to me before, and I’m sure it happened because of the tensions between Russia and the EU & USA regarding Crimea. The USA is threatening to limit visas for some Russians. We may very well face a ‘visa war’ which could affect my visa. The next few weeks will show us a lot, and there could be changes ahead.

Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned several times in the Bible. They were kicked out of their home in Rome because they were Jews, met the Apostle Paul in Corinth (they, like him, were tent makers), traveled with Paul to Ephesus, met Apollos in Ephesus and then ended up back in Rome with a home church. Paul greets them warmly in his letters.

I take comfort from following what little we know of their lives: even when political events cause us to be displaced, God uses everything for His glory. Followers of Jesus are pilgrims passing through this world; our home is in Him.

Valerie on the Pi-a-ner

Valerie is taking piano lessons:

This is the piano that Valerie’s great-grandfather Orest learned on over 80 years ago. Valerie’s teacher, Olga, is very good and, even though she’s just beginning, it’s been quite fun to watch Valerie, learning to read, write and play music. She’s recently been asking to play my mandolin, too.


The past two days have seen very significant milestones in our lives, and the transitions have been smooth and joyful as we move from one phase to the next. Now is a time of rejoicing and looking to the future.

We thank the Lord for His guidance and love as we turn the page on two significant parts of our lives:

First, we are VERY happy to announce that our adoption is final. Valerie is now officially a Cantrell! We received the final court order today.

Exactly two years ago, on December 28, we picked up Valerie from the orphanage.

When she came to live with us, she was three and a half years old and spoke just three words. For the past two years, Valerie has been under our guardianship but still a ward of the state.

No longer! She is now Valerie Evelyn Cantrell, a member of her forever family.

We are so very thankful for the many prayers and other support that people have given us over the years as we’ve dealt with lost pregnancies and infertility. It’s great to be a part of the body of Christ and receive blessings from God through His people.

Also, there are changes at MIR. Twelve years ago I moved to Russia as part of a team to open a Russian charity named MIR. Through this work I met my wife and have been blessed with abundant life.

For the past twelve years I’ve been the president and director of MIR. About four years ago I stepped down from the day-to-day leadership of MIR when I became the executive director of Stoneworks International, and a couple of years ago MIR started a transition toward having fully Russian leadership.

Last night we had a MIR board meeting and finished that transition. I have resigned my position at MIR and no longer have any official tie to the organization.

Sergei & Kristina Tovstopyat

The new chairman and director is my good friend Sergei Tovstopyat. Sergei has been on staff with MIR for a few years, and he’s been the Executive Director since September. You can read about Sergei here.

We’ve agree that I’ll be the ‘grand-dad’ and continue to advise and help as much as is needed, but Sergei now is the leader and carries the responsibility for the direction of MIR. I happily hand over this role to Sergei. He’s a good man who loves the Lord and is laying his life down for the gospel.

Many people deserve thanks for their years of service to MIR: Mark Browne was the visionary who started the process, and founding board members were Alexander Kotenkov, Maria Mikhaylova, Dimitry Rozet, Mikhail Moshkov, David Hulley and Dan Wilson. Other board members have included Lyle Thomas, Zhenya Koltakoff, Larry Heller and Arkady Bizyanov.

In my role at Stoneworks, I’ll continue to support MIR in every way I can.

I’m very glad that MIR will continue beyond me as Olga and I look forward to the next chapter in our lives.

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.)