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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ministry in Dzerzhinsk

Recently we were invited to Dzerzhinsk, the city where we church planting in 1994-96. The church was having an ordination service for the young pastor who has been laboring there. Pastor Lonya Vlasyuk is married to Olga, the young woman who was our friend and primary interpreter in 1994-96. They have pastored the church for the last few years without the benefit of formal ordination. We were pleased to be a part of the service which formally recognized the gifting and callings on these two young people's lives.
Ordination Service

The gentleman in the middle is an African missionary to Russia

This church, like many Russian Protestant churches is very small. The congregation numbers about 12 adults. Protestants are a despised minority in this country. They are treated as outcasts, members of cults or mostly just ignored and marginalized. Despite the many obstacles they face, Russian Christian leaders are faithful to preach the Gospel, reach out to their communities and plant new churches. A large part of the strategy of Foursquare Missions in Russia is to come alongside Russian pastors, provide mentoring and help and encourage them as they seek to reach their country with the Gospel.

This is Karen with Katya, the recently adopted daughter of Lonya and Olga

Katya is a lucky little girl. Most unwanted children in Russia are aborted. The average Russian woman has more than 5 abortions in her lifetime. Those children who are not aborted but are placed in an orphanage are rarely adopted. There is a stigma in Russia which prevents Russian families from adopting babies or older children. Lonya and Olga took a courageous step when they adopted this little girl.

An English Party

June 1 is the official last day of school in Russia. As in America, toward the end of the school year, Russian schools plan special programs to celebrate the things the students have learned. Our language teacher, Sveta, has two young girls, Katya and Natasha. Both girls have been studying English since the second grade. We were invited to attend the end of year program at their school which was called An English Party.
All the young pupils participated in skits which featured the English grammar and stories they had learned through the year. It was a lot of fun and we felt privileged to be asked to attend and participate in this family's life.
Above Picture: Katya Kuzmenava

Sveta Kuzmenava and Daughters

As you read this article and enjoy the photos please take time to pray for the children of Russia. Our city has about 500,000 people below the age of 16. There are about 20 churches here where young people could hear the Gospel. There are few Christian books available, hardly any Christian TV programming and radio. We estimate that less than 500 children in our city attend a church where the Gospel is preached clearly. Please pray that the Lord of the harvest will send laborers into the harvest.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Recently, Pastor Jack Hayford, the President of the Foursquare Church spoke to a group of leaders about the importance of Integrity. This is such a vital need and the word given was so important and well given, we have decided to link it to our web page. To read this article click on the following link.,1.html

Mike and Karen
Nizhny Novgorod

Monday, May 15, 2006

Picnic on the Volga River

Yesterday we received a phone call from Pastor Nick, asking us if we would like to join his family for a walk along the river. Of course we said yes, so about an hour later, he arrived with Irina, his wife and their youngest daughter, Anya. We packed ourselves into his trusty little Oka automobile and headed to the river, which is about a 10 minute drive from our apartment. When we arrived at the river bank we saw that Nick’s son, Igor and another daughter, Masha, had walked to the river so that we could ride in the car.

We spent about ½ an hour walking and talking, and then Nick chose a place to build a fire and have a cookout, Russian style. Most of us ran around picking up trash and litter while Igor gathered firewood and started a small fire. We roasted hot dogs (chicken dogs, not my favorite) on sticks over the fire and ate them with bread, apples and oranges. We had some warmed home-made fruit juice to drink. The whole time we were chatting with one another, using all the English and Russian we knew, trying to understand and be understood. It was nice to see this well adjusted Russian family spend a Sunday afternoon together, and to be invited to be a part of their family time.

The afternoon was delightful. The weather was warm and sunny and we enjoyed watching the boats passing up the Volga River.

The only thing that marred the afternoon were the quantities of trash that littered (covered) the entire riverside. Nizhny Novgorod is a very dirty city, and the riverbank is no exception. The embankments look almost like a landfill in places. Many Russians will drop their trash and litter wherever they are. It doesn’t matter if there is a trash container nearby, they will still throw their trash on the ground. To us this reflects some of the deep spiritual sickness which grips this country. Why would you trash the place where you live? It seems to be a symptom of a deeper sense of hopelessness and despair. Added to this was the thought that nothing belongs to you, so why take care of it, which was the result of 75 years of communism and centuries of serfdom. We long to see this spiritual despair turned into new life through Christ. Only a living relationship with God can cause the changes that are needed here. The Gospel message of hope and life is desperately needed here. Pray with us for more laborers in the harvest.

Picture below

Trash along the river bank

Monastary on the Volga River

Above the monastary is the apartment building where we used to live

In the far distance you can see the

Bridge over the Volga river

The Case of the Missing Documents

It has been only one month since we were last in Tallinn, Estonia, but visa renewal issues necessitated our going again. Tallinn is a logical choice for us as it is only 24 hours away by train and probably the closest foreign consulate to where we live. Finally, we have returned home to Nizhny Novgorod.

Picture above: Karen in our compartment on the train

We had hoped to be in Tallinn only for about 7 days, but as things turned out, we were there for 18 days, including travel. After arriving in Tallinn we had to wait for some vital documents to be sent to us by DHL currier from our sponsoring organization in Nizhny Novgorod. This should have taken 3 days. Imagine our surprise when we see on the internet tracking site that the documents which were supposed to be delivered that morning had apparently gone from Helsinki, Finland to Central America! As we followed the tracking information for the next several days it seemed that they went back to Brussels, Belgium, and then to Venezuela; from Venezuela to Madrid, Spain and finally back to Helsinki, Finland where after being missing for several days they were flown by helicopter to Tallinn, Estonia. This took an additional 5 days so we had to wait an extra week to apply for our visas. Finally, with documents in hand, we submitted them to the consulate and two days later received the visas.

When we arrived home and spoke with our friend who works for DHL here in Nizhny Novgorod, she shared with us how amazing this episode with the documents was from her perspective as an employee. She had sent a whole sack of parcels to Tallinn from Nizhny together with our documents. She then followed the progress of the shipment in her internal DHL network. Everything that she had sent was delivered to its destination in less than 3 days except for our documents. Apparently what had happened was that when the shipment was re-sorted in Brussels, our parcel was mislaid by human error and effectively ‘lost’, never actually leaving Brussels. The scanned information from our parcel was then flying back and forth across the Atlantic, but the parcel itself was sitting in obscurity in Brussels, Belgium. Our friend, Natasha, told us that when that happens it is nearly impossible to find a lost parcel because DHL employees are so overworked they can rarely get away from their computer screens. All validation of a parcel is done by what is seen on the computer and if that is erroneous…well, “tough luck!” (Not her exact words).

God knew of our need, however, and brought the parcel to someone’s notice so that it could continue its journey on to Tallinn.

We enjoyed being in Tallinn. It is a lovely, medieval city with loads of history. After living in Russia for over two years the cleanliness and orderliness of Tallinn was very relaxing and soothing. Despite this, we were anxious to get back to Nizhny Novgorod. We missed our friends and the work that is being established here.
Street Musician in Tallinn