Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Russia by Gregory

I have had very little time to spend with my computer this trip, which is a good thing, I’m sure, as it means I have been busy with what we really come here to Russia to do, which is to encourage and share that precious gospel. Since my last update we have visited Ekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, a dividing line between Europe and Asia. We had a truly blessed visit in Ekaterinburg with many of the brothers and sisters that were part of Pastor Dennis Hilman’s congregation when he lived there.

Leona and Gregory with the children baptized

At our Sunday service in Ekaterinburg, Pastor Dennis baptized Yurij and Yulia Gonin’s children (I and Leona Matson stood as God-parents) and I also stood as a witness (Godparent) to Konstantin Rib’s baptism. I have had a close relationship with Konstantin (Kostya) and his family for the last ten years, and though Kostya has always faithfully attended our services and helped us in our work, he has been quietly distant in spiritual matters, but now the Lord has suddenly touched Kostya’s heart to seek a closer relationship with the Lord through a deeper repentance and through baptism. I felt very privileged to be part of Kostya’s baptism when he and his family told me that I am a person they trust and love very much, and that they wanted me to stand as a witness for Kostya because they know I will continue to pray for and encourage them along this oft rocky road of faith.

Konstantin's Baptism

We also visited Gagarka and the Christians there. Marina, a young mother of 5, who heard we would be holding services in Gagarka, came to us from another village. She had been carrying a deep burden of sin and guilt and fear of God’s judgment on her heart all winter and so after service I found a quiet spot to sit with Marina, along with sister Svetlana Fedorova who helped me to minister to her, and there we listened to Marina’s tearful confession.

It was with thankfulness and joy that I was able to explain the gospel to Marina and to tell her how the Lord had heard her prayers and sent me from across the seas from the opposite side of the world to sit beside her here in this tiny Russian village home, and to lay healing hands upon her and bless her with the forgiveness of sins in Jesus name and precious shed blood. Afterwards I gathered our group together to pray for Marina and to bless her once more. Now Marina wants to be baptized along with all her 5 children, so I presented a New Testament bible to her and asked her to read it over the next months and to prepare her heart and by God’s grace, I will come to her village in the winter and we will baptize her and her children then.

Svetlana, Marina, and Gregory

I also want to write about Katya, a young English teacher who I met through another friend in Ekaterinburg. Katya is an Orthodox Christian and so when the Lord opened opportunity for me to speak to her about matters of faith, she wanted to know which God we believed in... and when I returned the question to her, she told me she believed in Jesus Christ, which I found so encouraging, as so many Orthodox Christians will say they believe in God, but not often do they say “I believe in Jesus Christ”.

Katya (with flowers) and Crew!

I spent that first evening quietly discussing faith with Katya while others visited around us. Katya agreed with me that it was no coincidence that we met. She told me how only yesterday she had written in her journal how she “Needed to read the bible!”. (Katya had tried to read the bible in years past, but found it difficult to understand.) I invited Katya to our service the next day and she came.

I presented her with a Russian version of the New Testament, then she stayed with our group late into the evening and again she was with us on our last evening in that city. It was obvious to all of us that the Lord was opening Katya’s heart and expanding her view of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Katya sang with us and prayed with us and confessed her sin and need of Jesus. Before we left her that last evening, I gathered our group around her to lay hands upon her and pray for her, and to bless her, when she asked, with the forgiveness of all her sins.

We flew from Ekaterinburg to St. Petersburg on Monday. We left our luggage, with the gracious help of Pastor Leif Camp, in the offices of the beautiful St. Mary’s Ingrian Lutheran Church which is located in the very centre of St. Petersburg, and spent the day sight-seeing in that breathtakingly beautiful place. A young sister, Maria Lubova, who moved from Udmurtia to St. Pete last year, spent the day with us and we prayed with her and encouraged her along this way, then we traveled by bus to Kingisepp, where I am writing this update from. Here in Kingisepp many long-time friends are gathering with us to sing and pray and be encouraged in God’s Word. We will spend another day or so here before continuing on to Rzhev, the last destination in our trip before Moscow and home.

Church in St. Petersburg

There are many other things I want to write about, but I don’t have time. The young people traveling with us are all doing so well. It’s a bit difficult for them sometimes because of the language barrier, but they are expanding in their outreach.. learning to talk without language.. or with that international language called “Love” :)…

Debbie at the Winter Palace - St. Petersburg

New Additional note to explain an issue in the above report.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support and the encouraging notes and replies to my updates.. I just wanted to answer a question that has come up a couple of times from some of you concerning why we didn't baptize Marina (read above) right away that day. We did want to do that and discussed it together, but we had little time and the fact that Marina's children were not with us, but back home their own village played into it as well. When I encouraged Marina to read the bible, it didn't have anything to do with making her "ready" for baptism, but only for her to learn more deeply about her Jesus.. By God's grace, we will be back in the winter and it will be a wonderful celebration for Marina and all her children.. Please do keep Marina in prayer, though, as she is faced with some real struggles.

Now we are preparing to leave for St. Petersburg and then on to Rzhev this evening. We have had a wonderful visit with the Christians here in Kingisepp. I wish our visits weren't so short...

Much love and grace to you all,


Some additional pictures!

Kostya, Dasha & Nona!

Queen Leona, St. Petersburg

Anya Kuzmakova - My very good friend and fellow missionary

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Russia by Jaclyn!

Our Russian team has just lost two of our members. Our Russian translators, Anna and Svetlana had to return to work yesterday. It was such a huge blessing to have them along and we pray they might be able to join us on another trip in the future. We are now in Kingisepp and will be here for a few days. Now I'll let Jaclyn tell you about the trip with a few of her favourite pictures.The pictures here focus mainly on our time in Yekanerinburgand the village of Gargarka.

It's always sad to leave behind new friends! Here are Maxim, Lena and Maxim seeing us off at the train station. The people in Russia are definitely the best part of traveling here.

Here is another good friend we met! Debbie, Brian, and Thomas with Misha, who helped us with translation and lots of other logistical planning in Yekanterinburg. Our time in Yekanerinburg was blessed by all his help.

It's great to have a chance to connect with kids! Here is Leona playing on the jungle gym with the children in Gagarka. Later we sang a song and told these kids a story from the Bible. Most of the families in this village are Muslim.

  Here are some of the kids we were able to connect with! Ina and her friend in Gagarka.

Here is Brian teaching the children in Gagarka how to do pull ups. The building behind him is the school. We were able to visit a bit with one of the teachers who was there. Pray that perhaps this will open doors to speak to the kids there in the future.

Please continue to pray for our trip. We have one more week here before we fly home. God's Peace to all!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Russia by Debbie

The next few posts will be pictures and comments from the mission team members. This post is by Debbie Rokala. The focus of her pictures is our first stop in Russia: the Tula region.

It's always helful to know at least some of the local language when in the mission field. Here are Leona, Brian, and Jaclyn practising some Russian after breakfast.

Pastor Vitaly and his wife Galina made breakfast and opened their home and hearts to us every morning and drove us around to the places we needed to be while we were in the Tula region.   

 While at Vitaly’s, his granddaughter Nastya became our cute little friend! She was such a little sweetheart and she loved to just chat up a storm even if we never seemed to answer in a language she understood.

Leona saying goodbye to Nastya--As well as to some good new and old friends--just be for we left Tula region.

Here are Sveta, Brian, and Anna making bracelets on the train  to pass the time and to hand out to the people we meet.  We also taught the youth at the youth camp to make these friendship bracelets. We then reminded everyone of the importance of our friendship with Jesus as well as our friendships with our brothers and sisters in Christ!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Greetings from Russia!

This was our youth camp in Gurez Pudga,Udmurtia

It is early morning in Izhevsk, the capital city of beautiful, green Udmurtia, Russia. The apartment is still quiet and asleep.. except for me who rose up early so that I might find a bit of time to edit some photos and to write my very first update since arriving to Russia two weeks ago. We have all been so very busy, especially me, and have had next to no time for computers. In the last two weeks we have met with so many wonderful Christians, encouraging them and being encouraged by them, but also the Lord has given us much opportunity to share His gospel with those outside of faith. It is really amazing to see how the Lord works in the hearts of the hearers, bringing healing and joy to those who are already His own, but also, with wonder, opening the eyes and hearts of new believers.

Vlad, Marta, Taisaiand Sergie - This was Marta and Taisai first time in a Christian camp like this. They were filled with wonder and amazement the fellowship and gospel they found there!

Thomas with a young friend named, Nikita

The youth traveling with us are simply wonderful. All three of them, Thomas, Jaclyn and Debbie, began this journey with quiet and reserved hearts, but after two weeks here in Russia where people are so open and accepting, they are emerging, coming into their own, talking and laughing and ministering to people around them. Serving in the mission field is always a two way street for our hearts, meaning the more we give, the more we receive. It is truly a joy to see the Lord not only working through these youth, but working in them, opening their hearts to the wonder and love that surrounds His gospel presence.

Svetlana and Anna are Christians friends who are interpreting for us

Everything has been going very well so far, though things got a bit chaotic when we mistakenly arrived a day early on our host’s doorstep in the night. They had planned to host us in two apartments, but one apartment was not ready that evening as they weren’t expecting us until the next night, so some of us ended up finding a piece of floor to sleep on. I certainly felt silly about missing a day and arriving early, but our host, Diana Chetvertnykh, was so gracious and glad to see us that our chaos went unnoticed.

Student friends who we met last winter in the university came to be with us at the Volga River Picnic. It was simply wonderful to see them again and to share the gospel together!

I did have a rather stressful day earlier in the trip when a captain and another official from the Mari El Immigration Department pulled me from the middle of a church meeting to interrogate me for a couple of hours, making me write a confession that I was in Russia preaching the gospel. I really don’t know why these fellows sought me out on this particular trip or even how they knew where I was in that small Lutheran mission church. At first my interrogation didn’t go too badly. The officers seemed frustrated and even a bit embarrassed that there was nothing really criminal surrounding my presence there in Russia. I told them about how Jesus’ own disciples had been brought before the officials in ancient times and for what?.. for teaching truth and honesty and love! Sister Anna Kyzmakova who was helping me with interpretation, boldly reminded the officers that today we might have to answer to their boss, but there will come a time when they will have to answer to ours!

And so my interrogation went and just when I thought they might let me go, one of them suddenly noticed that my visa was marked as a tourist visa. Whey they saw that, they ordered me to show up at the immigration office the next day to explain why I was in Russia doing religious work on a tourist visa! At the immigration office the next day, the Lord gave me much more opportunity to preach the gospel to those officials and to their director. In the end, knowing I needed to compromise, I agreed to get a religious visa the next time I came to Mari El, they fined me the minimum fine they could, which was 2000 rubles (about 75 dollars). Before we left, the young captain took me aside privately to tell me how he hoped I had not been offended, and so he and I talked and shared our lives for some time together and now, by God’s grace, we will share more in the future, but this time as friends. God is truly amazing!

Our group and friends in the 1000 year old city, Kazan

I am not going to go into much more detail in this update even though I have much to write about, but instead will add some photos (portraits which I love to take) with faces and captions that will tell a better story of our journey here.

Please know that we feel your prayers and love. I have no doubt that much of our success is due to your intercession on our behalf.

Our dear brother and sister, Maxim and Oksana were married!

Me with some young friends, Misha and Milana:)...

Jaclyn with Anatoly, the father of Esa, who many of you met at convention in the summer.

Dennis Preaching Sunday Morning at the Youth Camp - Anna Interpreting

Beginning to gather for the Volga River Picnic in Cheboksary, the capital city of Chuvashia!

Me with Anna and Tanya!

Brian with Andrei

In Russia,

With Jesus, Gregory and all!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Russian team!

Privet! Greetings from Russia.

Our team has been here now for just a week, but it has seemed like much longer. As always in Russia, we been on the move quite a bit. Since arriving, we've been to three different areas and today we will travel to yet another city. We have been on the move in planes, cars, buses, vans, subways, and trains! We ask for your prayers as we continue.

The day after we arrived, we visited some friends in an assisted living facility. We sang songs, shared from our hearts, listened to their stories, and prayed together. As we were leaving, one lady told us, "I can never express the joy you have brought us by coming today. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

Yesterday, we attended a picnic on the Volga River. We only have a very short time in this area and we wanted to see as many people as possible, so we planned a picnic and invited everyone! I enjoy learning and listening to Russian, but it was definitely a treat to speak English with the many university English students and teachers who came to the picnic.

In the next week we will be attending a wedding, helping with a youth camp, and meeting up with Dennis Hilman among other things! We ask for your continued prayers as we travel!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Please be in prayer for the team of missionaries that are on their way to Russia!

Keep an eye on this blog for updates, the first of which we expect this week!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

News from the field.

The below email was received very recently from one of the indigenous pastors that the Foreign Mission works with.  Similar emails are often received from around the world.  Occasionally one is posted here so that we can remember our Christian friends in prayer.....   The names have been withheld for safety reasons.

Dear in Christ,

Since there is no democracy, no human right, religious freedom in many things, the ethic group people  of Shan, Kachin,Karen and Moon people holding the arms and fight with Burma army since for along time. But there is no peace, poverty, damaging, killing and raping is in apart Burma.

We were expecting the cease fire and peace  for  inland country for the people.  But more worse and worsen. Now for fighting  killing and by force labors, raping on women. killing on the civilian., and drought of famine and poverty, no good education for the Children, No health care for good hospital, corruption is full in every offices .

For the western countries have been sanction and ban to Myanmar economic, no work, no job and no salary for people.
They are forcing and trying to propagate to Buddhist ism  , for Christian the way is very narrow. Please pray with us by sending faithfully for our staff and workers of ALC. . God bless.

In Him, and God's peace,


ALC of Myanmar