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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Thank the Lord for the Internet

The Internet is a remarkable tool which makes missionary life much easier and bearable. Because of this technology we can do so many things that just a few short years ago where so much more difficult, if not impossible. This blog is a good example. It is an excellent way to keep our supporters updated about the work we do here.

Internet phone services are also wonderful tools. We use Skype Internet phone service. Yesterday, on Christmas day we were able to make 4 phone calls to America from our computer. The connection was very clear and the total cost for over an hour of conversation with our family in three different states was about $1.20.

Internet chatting is nice also. Every day we are able to chat with our families in America. This goes a long way toward alleviating the loneliness of family separation. We also feel connected to America as we are able to read the news daily on the Internet. We actually have a high speed internet connection which is sent to our apartment via a wireless connection from a tower in the city.

We remember 1994-96 when we served our first term in Russia. Email technology was new. Our computer had a DOS email program. All of the phone lines in Russia were analog and party (shared) lines! We had an auto-dialer for the email program and it would often dial the connection 100 times or more before it connected. Often it would not connect for days. When another person would pick up their phone on our shared connection, our connection would crash and we would have to start the whole process over again. This happened continually. We often spent 4-5 hours just trying to collect a few emails.
In 1995-96 we didn't even have a phone in our apartment. We would have to take a tram across the city in the sub-zero weather, to an apartment we rented as an office, to use that telephone. At that time we were living in the city of Dzerzhinsk. The office of our Internet service was in Nizhny Novgorod, 30 miles away. If we had problems with the service providers software we had to take our laptop (A Toshiba with a 360 processor) on the train to Nizhny and then across Nizhny to the office, the total trip would take about 5 hours. Life here is not as conveinent as in Ameria, but the Internet has certainly helped things.

Automobile Fund Update

As many of you know, we are raising funds to purchase a much needed vehicle (see the post below titled "Ministry Update October 23). Our stated goal is $20,000.00 though we may be able to purchase a vehicle for closer to $15,000.

When we left America on November 30th we had close to $8000.00 in our automobile fund, all of which had been raised in 3 short months. We now have nearly $9000 so our goal is becoming reachable. We want to ask you to pray with us for that goal to be met and consider a possible gift to the fund if the Lord should speak to you.

Thanks for all you do to help keep us serving in Russia.

Mike and Karen

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Greetings from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia!

Christmas Greetings from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia!

We pray that this season will be full of Joy, Hope and Peace as you celebrate the birth of our Savior and the New Year.

We will be celebrating the holidays here in Russia. This will be the first Christmas that we have not shared with our families in our 31 years of marriage. We miss our family especially at this time of year. But we are happy to be serving the people of Russia.

We do have a Christmas tree and are enjoying listening to some Christmas music. One side note is that in almost every retail store we have been in recently we have heard American Christmas music playing!

Below, you will find several new posts telling about life here.

God Bless you during the holiday season

Michael & Karen McDonald

Clothing Distribution

Here are some photos of families who have received packages of clothing which were sent by the NNE Foursquare churches. These clothing packages have been a real blessing to families who daily struggle to clothe and feed their children. Many of these families, because of the choices they make as believers, work for wages far less than they might otherwise. As members of the Body of Christ, you have blessed Russian families during the Holiday Season.

The clothing is being distributed to Christian families, non-believers and orphanages.

Thank you to all individuals and churches who have sent clothing. We still have 6-8 packages in process and will distribute them as they arrive.

We especially want to thank Ginger and David Wheat who headed up a clothing drive from Harvest Christian Fellowship, Manchester, and who paid for much of the postage for over 25 boxes of clothing! Thanks Ginger and David.

Winter is here!

It is finally winter here. After some unusually warm weather in the high 30s and 40s it has at last turned to real winter weather. We are experiencing temperatures in the high teens and twenties. The ground is frozen and covered in snow. The Volga and Oka rivers have still not frozen over which is unusual.

The nights are really long here now. On December 22 daylight was at 8:30 AM and it was dark by 4:00 PM

Yesterday we took a 30 minute bus ride outside of town to the new MegaMall. It’s true, we now have a large western style shopping mall right outside of town. There is a food court, an IKEA furniture store, an OBI which is similar to a Home Depot, and a supermarket called Ashan, which is similar to a Super Wal-Mart. Along with this there are the usual clothing, and shoes stores, etc. The mall even has a small indoor ice skating rink!

Russia is changing rapidly. New malls and other western conveniences are popping up around the country. Yet within ½ a mile of this new mall with it’s several thousand parking spaces, you will find small Russian villages with no indoor bathrooms, and perhaps being heated by wood. We are amazed that Russians can afford to shop at the mall as the prices in general were higher than prices for the same type items in America. We have been shocked at the continuing high prices for clothing and other consumer goods here. In general here we pay less rent and utilities but almost everything else is more expensive than in America. This obviously leaves many families scraping to make ends meet.

We hope to get a few photos of the mall soon to post on this blog.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Fall Foursquare Russia Conference

While Karen and I were in America the Fall Foursquare Leadership Conference was held near Sochi, Russia. Nick Tsaryov and his wife Ira, our church planters in Nizhny Novgorod were able to attend. Here is a report from Jeff Roper:

At the annual Foursquare Russia conference, held at the end of October in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea, leaders from across Russia gathered representing the 15 Foursquare Churches in Russia.

Key note speakers at this conference were Ap and Anita Verwayen of Holland, Jeff and Debbie Roper, Regional Coordinators for Eastern Europe, and Slava Naniyants, national leader of Foursquare Russia.

The three day event was marked by powerful ministry times and wonderful fellowship. Even though Russia is a vast country comprising 9 time zones, the unity and fellowship of the Foursquare church is vibrant and growing.

The Foursquare Church of Russia is now developing resources and strategies to further equip local pastors and leaders, effectively evangelize and disciple converts, plant churches, reach out to those in bondage to drugs and alcohol through rehabilitation centers, and starting a training center for the purpose of equipping future leaders.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Back to Russia

Hello from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia!

We are now back online as it took a week to get our internet connection up and running again.

We arrived back in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday night December 1 at 11:30 PM. It was a long trip of nearly 30 hours and we were really relieved to finally arrive. One really cool thing was that due to our new residency status we were able to go through the "citizens" line at the airport. This made getting through customs a bit easier and we also did not need to fill out the usual customs forms required by foreigners. We also did not need to register with the city officials and get the stamp on our visas! This is pretty neat and certainly is a time saver. Registering and getting the stamp in the past could takes several trips to multiple offices over several days. One last thing, we also did not need to get a new aids test, another benefit of being a resident.

We are still dealing with a bit of jet lag. We find that the jet lag is much worse coming from America to Russia rather than Russia to America. We both also picked up colds on the plane ride. Despite the jet lag and colds we have plunged back into language study, having had three lessons so far. The lessons have mostly been review of previous material and our tired brains have been stretched to the maximum.

Tomorrow (Sunday the 10th of December) we will be meeting with our church planters from Zavolzha, Eduard and Vadim. We have a planning session to prepare for our concert outreach next month. We will be hosting a small team from the First Nations Bible Institute, a Foursquare Bible school in Los Angeles. Randy and Cheryl Barnetson will be leading the team and Cheryl will be doing several concerts in this area. The team will also be speaking in churches and schools. Please pray with us for this team. It is illegal to evangelize in either schools or public theaters. We will need both wisdom and favor to use the gifts of the team in creative ways as we and they seek to share the Gospel with the Russian people and work toward establishing a new church in Zavolzha.

It is unusually warm in Russia right now. The temperature has been in the low 40s most of the week. The snow has melted and everything is muddy, grey and drab. This is kind of depressing and we are looking forward to some snow to cover over the mud and trash.

Here are a couple of views from our living room window

Prayer Request!

Mike broke a tooth this week and will need to visit a dentist soon. Pray that we will find a competent dentist that can take care of the problem without a lot of hassle, pain or cost.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Heading Home Soon

Today is Monday November 27.

We are heading back to Russia Thursday afternoon. We will be spending the next few days packing and re-packing things trying to fit in as much as we can into our luggage. We have only a few more days in which to see our children and grandchildren. Those moments are precious as we know it will probably be a year or more before we see them again. We are very happy to be going back to Russia despite the separation from family and friends.

Yesterday we spoke at "The Blessed of the Lord" church in Woburn, MA. This congregation, led by Pastor Betty Jacovides, is one of our most faithful supporters. We have been friends for over ten years and always enjoy the opportunity to visit the church and share what the Lord is doing.

Last Sunday, November 19 we were in Charlestown, NH speaking at Life Fellowship Foursquare Church. This vibrant growing congregation is led by Pastors Dave and Cindy Grasso. The church has made the decision to become a part of our support team, contributing toward our ministry monthly, and they have collected hats, mittens and scarves which they will be sending to us for distribution to the needy in Russia. We had a wonderful time speaking and afterwards sharing a meal with the missions group in the church.
We will be very busy over the next month as we adjust to the time change, re-start our language study, begin a young marrieds Bible study, meet with our church planters and plan a week of outreach in January.
Thanks to everyone who embraced us and blessed us on this trip to America. We would not be able to do the work we are doing in Russia without your help.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mid November Update

It's Monday November 13 and we are back in our home in Lowell after a long weekend.

We started out Friday afternoon by driving to Concord NH where attended the Northern New England Foursquare Churches Leadership Conference. We had a great time visiting with friends that we have met while on this adventure and the conference was refreshing and encouraging for us. We were able to speak with one couple and give them some counsel as they pursue their desire to serve as missionaries. The conference ran from Friday evening through Saturday afternoon. The worship was great, the speakers were inspiring and the fellowship was good.

On Saturday afternoon we left Concord NH heading to Alton Maine. We had a nearly four hour drive and arrived in Alton at about 10:00 PM. We were hosted in Alton by Pastors Jim and Robin Tardy, of River of God Foursquare church. On Sunday morning we shared with the congregation the good things that have been happening in Russia. We were surprised and happy to meet several young people and couples from Bulgaria in the congregation. One young woman., named Petya, is a dynamic Christian who has worked alongside her father in Bulgaria to plant churches among the Gypsy, Roma people. She and her father have planted nearly 40 churches in Bulgaria! We hope to help Petya as she has a desire to became part of the Foursquare movement and continue planting churches in Bulgaria.

After the church service we joined the congregation in sharing a meal as we answered questions about ministry in Russia. After a long dinner and conversation we packed our car and headed down the road to Bath Maine. The drive to Bath was through torrential rains and took nearly 2 1/2 hours.

That evening in Bath we spoke at The Bath Foursquare church, pastored by Charles and Avis Nance. Bath Foursquare was one of our earliest supporters and the first church to send us a box of clothing for distribution in Russia. The night service was a lot of fun and the congregation enjoyed hearing about the work in Russia. Bath Foursquare is a great church with a heart for missions.

This week we will speak at 3 home groups and next Sunday, November 19 we will be at the Charlestown NH Foursquare church.

Karen and I enjoy sharing the story about our work in Russia, but at times we wonder if we are effective and does what we are sharing have any impact upon people. Well, this week we received news that one teenage girl was impacted enough that she has changed the direction of her life! On Mechanicsburg PA. We spoke at the Good News Free Methodist church. We shared our 5 minute video update, and a three minute summary. That brief bit of time caused this young woman to question the direction of her life and her future career choices. Her parents, were thrilled when she spoke with them saying that she thought that she might have a calling to missionary work. This is exciting and gratifying to us.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Russian Health Issues and Pollution

There have been several interesting articles concerning Russia on the internet recently. One article posted on named three Russian cities as among the ten most polluted cities in the world. One of the cities, Dzerzhinsk, is where Karen and I lived with our children in 1994-96. Dzerzhinsk is only about 30 miles from where we currently live. At that time we would often wake up in the morning, look out our window and see a chemical haze hanging in the air. We still visit Dzerzhinsk on a regular basis to speak at the church we planted there in the 90s. In fact many chemical dumps, chemical waste incinerators and dumping sites exist all thourghout the area in which we live.

Here is what the MSNBC article said:

"42-year life expectancy
According to the report, the 300,000 people in Dzherzhinsk, a chemical weapons manufacturing site during the Cold War era, have a life expectancy about “half that of the richest nations.” The life expectancy for men in the city is about 42 years and about 47 for women."

The link to read the full article is

Here is another article describing the pollution in Dzerzhinsk and the surrounding area:

and this is from an article at:

"Dzerzhinsk leads the Nizhny oblast in problematic pregnancies, with more miscarriages and anemia, and complications during childbirth. The infant mortality rate stands at 20.3 per thousand, and that the death rate is 2.4 times the birthrate. The WHO has found human milk in Dzerzhinsk mothers to be highly toxic, with high levels of PCBs. It's so bad that they even called for the reduction of breast feeding.

A few steps have even been taken to improve peoples' health. Up until the mid-90s, two villages in the shadow of one of Dzerzhinsk's largest factories -- plastic producing Kaprolaktan -- drank from wells, despite the toxic sludge within a stone's throw. Now their water is piped in. But even today, some locals will go fishing in the shadow of the factory, a few hundred feet from a canal filled with red-brown sludge that carries ethyl-benzene, phenantrene, isomeric acid and other goodies from the Sintez factory into the Oka river.

Cows graze right next to the 50 hectare White Sea, so called because of the huge amounts of polyvinyl chloride and ammonia left over from cyanide production at Kaprolaktan that give the water a white glow. In the same area, levels of mercury and PCBs -- highly toxic compounds believed to be carcinogenic and now banned in the US -- multiplied standard levels by hundreds to thousands of times. DDT has been found exceeding acceptable limits by up to 21,000 times. Here the stench is also unbearable. And Levashov estimates there are up to 60 such waste dumps, although not all as dramatic."

As you might imagine, living 30 miles from one of the most polluted places on the face of the earth, and ministering there, can be potentially hazardous to your health. Much of the drinking water for our city comes from the river were the chemical plants pour the waste materials. Much of the produce we eat is grown in soil heavily comtaminated with PCBs, dioxins, DDT and heavey metals As you read this and think about us, the believers and other residents of this area , please pray for our health and safety.

Mike and Karen

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

On the Road Again - Part 2

On Sunday October 15 we traveled from Charlestown New Hampshire to South Royalton Vermont. That morning we spoke at "The Journey", South Royalton Foursquare Church, pastored by Dave and Anna Wright.

An Early Morning Scene
The Connecticut River, crossing a bridge from New Hampshire into Vermont

A view from our car, Route 91 North heading toward South Royalton, Vermont

"The Journey"

Foursquare Church, South Royalton Vermont

On the Road Again - Part 1

We have been busy the last few weeks visiting churches every weekend. We had a great time in Skowhegan, Maine were pastors Jeff and Laura Gurney and their congregation hosted us. The Skowhegan Foursquare Church is one of our earliest supporters and faithfully give each month to keep us on the field.

The Kennebeck River runs through Skowhegan and the entire area was beautiful as the fall foliage was near it's peak.

On the road to Skowhegan Maine

Kennebeck River Skowhegan Maine

Skowhegan Maine Foursquare Church

Central Maine Christian Center

The following week we visted Charlestown, New Hampshire where we attended and participated in a missions conference Friday night and all day Saturday. On Sunday morning we left Charlestown, New Hampshire for South Royalton Vermont were we spoke in the morning service at the South Royalton Foursquare Church.

On our way to Charlestown, New Hampshire we passed through Walpole, New Hampshire. This is the building where the Walpole Foursquare Church meets.

We saw this sign in a yard on a side street in Charlestown, New Hampshire

We stayed in this beautiful home while in Charlestown, New Hampshire

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Live Web Cam

If you ever want to see a live view of Nizhny Novgorod, follow this link.

This is from a web cam located on the fourth floor of a bank in Nizhny Novgorod. It is live 24/7. The view is of Gorky Square. We live about 15 minutes walk from here. Timewise Nizhny Novgorod is 8 hours ahead of New England, except for a brief period when daylight savings time starts before it does in New England.

While you are watching please take a moment and pray for Nizhny Novgorod and the surrounding area. Pray for:

  • Hearts open to the Gospel
  • Supernatural encounters with Christ among the people of Russia
  • Laborers for the work in the area
  • Sufficient funds for the work of church planting
  • Health and safety for the missionaries serving in Nizhny Novgorod
  • Complete political freedom for the church in Russia

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


We have been in the U.S. for a little over a month. We are enjoying seeing our family and friends and meeting some new friends, but we are actually getting anxious to get back to Russia. Russia is our now home and we miss it. I (Mike) have been enjoying being able to watch football on TV!
We will be speaking in churches every Sunday from now until we leave on November 30th. We will be attending and particpating in a Missions Conference in Charlestown NH. We are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with our extended family.

As many of our readers know we have been praying for finances to purchase a 4 wheel drive vehicle for more than a year. When we arrived in the U.S. we had no money set aside for a vehicle. Since we have been in America we have received over $4500.00 toward the purchase of a vehicle! We are thankful for this, and continue to pray for the rest of the needed funds.

Our goal is $20,000 With this we can purchase a reasonably good quality Russian made vehicle large enough to carry 5-6 people and equipment, and pay for the registration and insurance for one year. We can purchase a smaller Russian made vehicle for about $15,000 Car prices in Russia have risen about 12% to 15% over the last year due to inflation and a drop in the exchange rate for the dollar.

We will make our final decision on the purchased based upon timing and money available. We could also possibly purchase a used imported vehicle such as a Nissan or Honda. They are more reliable than Russian made but expensive, starting in the $15,000 range. The new imported vehicles are prohibitively expensive due to high import taxes in Russia. For example a Nissan X Terra which would work well for us, lists for about $21,000 in America and $35,000 in Russia.

This is an UAZ Patriot a Russian made 4 wheel drive SUV that sells for about $18,500. It seats six and has a lot of storage space for equipment.

To the right is an UAZ Hunter which sell for about $15,000. Not as comfortable as the Patriot but has the same seating and storage capacity.

This is a Chevy/Niva which seats four and sells for about $15,000. It is smaller than either UAZ model but probably more comfortable than the UAZ Hunter. It is nor as heavy duty as either of the UAZ models. It is the only vehicle of the three that has air conditioning. Few Russian made vehicles feature air conditioning. Despite being so far north, Russian summer can be brutally hot.

Pray with us as we seek the rest of the needed finances. A vehicle will help us in ministry in Russia as our opportunities have increased and we need to travel more.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Barbed Wire & Babushkas

I just finished a really good book called, Barbed Wire & Babushkas, A River Odyssey Across Siberia. The book is written by Paul Grogan and published by Virgin Books. You can easily purchase it at or Barnes & Noble

The book details the kyak trip taken by Grogan and his friend down the length of the Amur River, a journey of nearly 4.400 KM and the first source to sea descent of the river.

The book offers a really interesting view of Russian life and culture from a Westerners point of view. Having lived in Russia for four years now I was entertained by the hilarious descriptions this British author offered of his near 4 month trip. The encounters with Russian people were so much like our day to day life. Stern officialdom and harshness, but once you are past that and get to know people you find that Russians are warm, funny, generous and helpful. Grogan was often surprised and sometimes overwhelmed by his encounters with a myriad of peoples on this trip.

I recommend this book for anyone wanting to gain a bit of insight into Russian life and culture.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Ministry Update

We are currently in the United States. We are home to visit our supporting churches and to make some new friends. We will also enjoy spending time with Karen's parents and our children and grandchildren. We will be in Northern New England for 3 months, returning to Russia on December 1.

Good News! Our son is home from his 1 year deployment doing convoy duty from Kuwait into Iraq.

Before we left for America on September 1 we met with Vadim and Eduard, our church planters in Zavolzha. We made plans for future evangelism, were able to help them with some finances for materials, gave them all of our remaining tracts, and spent time just having some fun. Pray for these guys as they work to plant a church in a city of 50,000 needy people.

Vadim and Eduard introduced us to a friend of theirs named Sardis. He is an Armenian national living in Russia. He is a fun guy, excited and eager to share his faith. He seems to be a natural evangelist and has a great burden to see churches planted in the hundreds of small villages which don't have a single church. We spent some time getting to know him and we are praying about the direction our relationship might go. Please pray for us to have wisdom as we seek God's will for the future.

Here is a picture of Sardis and me in our apartment

More Photos

Here are a few more photos from the village
This picture, which looks almost like an Indian Teepee is actually a new A framed outhouse, which we helped complete while we were in the village. The A frame design helps shed ice and snow during the long Russian winter. It will be pretty cold though!

This is Nick and I sitting by the fire one evening. We were heating water for showers, Unfortunatly I forgot to get a picture of the outdoor shower stall.

Here are the girls playing after breakfast. We brought along an Uno card game and taught the girsl how to play. They loved it!

This is little Anya, walking with Karen to the forest to gather mushrooms.

Here is Anya sitting on the porch with her grandfather

More photos II

Here are some more photos of our week in the village:

These two photos show lunch preparations lunch one day.

Mushroom picking and gathering berries in the forest is a summer pastime and tradition. It also provides many Russian families with needed foods for the winter. Here are a few photos showing mushroom and berry gathering.

The first photo shows Nick and the girls headed for the forest.

Here are the girls gathering mushrooms.

Here is Nick, resting after picking mushrooms for an hour.

Nicks 83 year old father would gather a huge basket of mushrooms everyday. This photo shows him vleaning the mushrooms in preparation for canning them.

Here is a photo of Karen mashing wild blueberries and sugar together in a large bowl. The blueberries are for homemade blueberry jam.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

As part of our language studies we are trying to spend more time in an all Russian language environment without a translator. We just returned from a week in a Russian village were we lspent the week speaking as much Russian as possible, and getting a deeper appreciation of Russian life and culture.

Here are a few photos to show you a bit about Russian village life in the summer.

This is the Garden: Full of potatoes and other vegetables. A garden is the main source of food for many Russian villagers.

Here is the house we stayed in
It consists of a large entryway, a large kithcen area and a living room with two vwry small bedrooms. The house has no running water, but is heated with both gas and wood

This is Anya, and her cat and the next picture is Karen and a new freind

As mentioned there was no running water in the home. This is the well from which much of our water came from.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hot Water Today!

We have hot water today!

This might seem to an odd thing to be happy about, but we have had only cold water for the last ten days. In most Russian apartment buildings the hot water comes from a central heater which is controled by the apartment complex. In the summer the hot water is often shut off, sometimes for maintenance on the heating units and pipes and sometimes just because it is summer and why would you need hot water when it is hot outside? So, we have had our hot water shut off and on about 5 times so far this summer. Being without hot water makes us really grateful when we do have it. We are both looking forward to a long, warm shower today.
Here is a picture showing how we heat our water for dishes and bathing when we don't have hot water available. The cold water in our apartment is like ice water! it is impossible to shower in it. We plug in this big coil water heater and heat the water with it. It takes about ten minutes to heat this tub of water.


Recently we visited the city of Vladimir and the smaller town of Suzdal, as a part of our language and cultural studies. Both places were founded in the 900's and were major religious and cultural centers in early Russia. Both towns were conquered when the Tatars from the southeast, invaded northern Russia and subjugated it for several hundered years. Vladimir is now a large Russian industrial city, but still has many well preserved historical and cultural sites. Suzdal is in many ways a good picture of ancient Russia, retaining the small town feel and look. The town has numerous churches and monastaries some of which are nearly 1000 years old.
Suzdal Churches

We really enjoyed our brief visit and appreciated gaining some more cultural insight. We thought that you might enjoy a few photos from the trip.

Here are some Silver and Gold covered New Testaments

These are beautiful, but our thought was that if the Church had invested their time and money into teaching people to read, instead of making God's Word into an expensive piece of art then the whole history of Russia may have been different.

Cathedral inside of a Monastary