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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pre-Christmas Update

Wow, it's Sunday night December 23 and it is only only 3 degrees F here tonight!

We have finally turned the corner on long winter nights. Today the sun came up at 8:30 AM and it was dark by 3:45 PM. From here on out we gain about 6 minutes of daylight every day. Only 3 more months to spring!

Speaking of spring, Cornerstone Church will begin a building project at the village land they purchased in the fall. The plan is to build a two story wood home to house a larger rehab center and then later possibly build a brick home. The church has decided to take a monthly building fund offering to help with the costs. If you would be interested in investing financially in this vital work which disciples new believers please let us know via email at

Today we saw 5 people pray to receive Christ at church, and we also saw one of the guys graduate from the first three months of rehab. The church is continuing to grow with new conversions every week. Attendance is over 125 each week now which is almost 3 times what attendance was last year at this time. This Sunday Pastor Dmitry announced that we will be going to two services after the New Years holidays. Tomorrow Karen and I will meet with Dmitry to just share a meal and talk about ministry plans for next year.

This new growth is being contested by the enemy. this week we found out that one of the rehab leaders, a good friend of ours and a great guy, had slipped back into drug use. If you think of it pray for this (unnamed) brother. Pray that he will repent quickly and be restored back into relationship with the Lord and the church.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Leadership Retreat

It's Monday evening December 17, and we are packed for an overnight retreat for leaders of Cornerstone Church. As we teach at the rehab center and are part of the church leadership we were invited.

We are looking forward to the fun and the relationship building. As we will be without a translator it will also help to stretch our language skills. Every time we go away our language teacher tells us that our language has improved.

We will probably have some fun, go the banya and while together talk about plans for next year. The church is growing rapidly. Since February it has grown from 50+ people to 125+ people on Sunday. Most of the growth is through conversion and discipleship.

Hopefully we will get a few good photographs and post them here later this week.

Mike and Karen

Friday, December 07, 2007

Trip to Siberia

On Tuesday evening the 4th we returned from a 10 day trip to Siberia. We were in the city of Novosibirsk, the largest city in Siberia and one of the 5 largest cities in Russia.

Our purpose in Siberia was to attend the regional leaders’ conference of the Association of Cornerstone Churches of Russia. The attendance at the conference was strong, at nearly 1000 people. As with most of Cornerstones’ conferences at least half of the attendees are former drug addicts, convicts and homeless people who have had their lives transformed by the good news of the Gospel.

We made the trip to Novosibirsk by train, with our friend and pastor, Dmitry Zaborski. The trip took over 44 hours, which is a long time to ride the train. We enjoyed our time, however, as Karen and I were together and we were with a good friend.

Here is Karen on the train playing a hand held game

Upon arriving in Novosibirsk we were given a one room apartment to stay in and then the next morning we where whisked off to a large boarding house on the edge of town for a pre-conference day with senior pastors and leaders. The day was spent just having fun, talking, worshiping and praying together, and eating. We arrived back at our apartment after midnight.

Young Russian Pastors
This is what young Russian pastors and old missionaries
do for relaxation

The next three days were spent in conference meetings. At each session there was wonderful praise and worship, with a world class worship leader and band. The main speaker for the conference was actually a pastor/missionary from Norway who spoke in English so we had the privilege of hearing preaching in English, a rare treat for us. The teaching and preaching was excellent and directed toward those in leadership in local churches and drug rehab centers.

Another feature of the conference was a Missions video showing a recent exploratory trip to China by leaders of the Cornerstone Movement. They are moving slowly but deliberately toward becoming a missionary sending church. They have plans to have missionaries planting the first trans-national church in China within two years. This is an amazing feat for a movement less than 8 years old! They are outward focused and determined to reach not only Russia, but other countries with the Gospel.

At the Conference
Worship Dance
Eating dinner with our friends
These chickens and a turkey were actually in the restaurant to give it a village ambiance. Where's the board of health?!!

Our return trip to Nizhny Novgorod was enjoyable as we were in the company of ten of our friends who had attended the conference. The long trip was made pleasurable with good conversation, lots of laughter, playing chess and eating meals together during the 44 hour return trip.

View from the train

While in Novosibirsk we received several invitations to visit other cities to teach new believers and input into the lives of local leaders. Because most of the pastors and leaders are still in their 20s, we are looked upon as spiritual parents by many of them. It is humbling and fulfilling to be able to speak into the lives of these dedicated young men and women. Whether they realize it or not they teach us much more than we teach them.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Karen Goes To The Banya

Wow! Are we ever glad to have a Russian made jeep! Recently we were asked to help transport 2 new drug rehabilitants to a center located 70 kilometers from the city. It was an adventure we will not soon forget.

Once we had crossed the Volga and passed beyond the city limits of Bor we drove for what seemed forever in uninhabited country. It had gotten dark out and as I (Karen) was cruising along through the falling snow and pine forest at about 50 MPH, suddenly, one of the guys in the back seat leans forward and barks, “Karen, stop! Stop!” We’d been traveling endlessly with almost no other signs of habitation and I couldn’t understand why I was to suddenly stop, but I did. Thank goodness. The paved road came to an abrupt end. How Ivan could tell we had reached that point in the trip I have no idea because as far as I could see there were no landmarks. Where the road ended, a 2 rut track into the forest began.

We bounced along for about 4 kilometers and there before us was a ravine, un-crossable except for some rickety wooden boards lying across a one lane bridge made of rotting logs with nothing on either side to keep our wheels from slipping off. We could only see the shaky boards in front of us and the darkness dropping off on either side of our car.

“Go, go forward!” Ivan told us. With my heart in my mouth, unable to even breathe, I let out the clutch and slowly rolled out onto this contraption totally convinced that we were going to die that night. Wonder of wonders, we made it across and yet all I could think about was that we were going to have to come back the same way.

Continuing along the dirt track we finally came to the rehabilitation center, a log home in a small village in the middle of nowhere. The only modern amenity in this place was electricity. They heated with wood, cooked with bottled propane and used an out house with no seat, just a hole in the floor, for the bathroom. Bathing was accomplished in - the BANYA!

When we arrived a big pot of soup was cooking so that we could all eat together and have some fellowship time. After supper we chatted and sang a few songs and then it was time for the Sunday evening banya, the traditional Russian steam bath. The girls asked me please to join them. There are times in the life of a missionary that you just can’t say no, however much your insides are screaming in rebellion. Though Michael has gone numerous times, I have never gone to a banya. All of my natural reserve, shyness, insecurity, call it what you want, made me go weak in the knees as I smiled and said, “thank you, I will.”

The girls got a towel and a robe for me and we changed into this before we went to the banya which is in a separate log hut, away from the house. It was about 30˚ outside with a dusting of snow on the ground and I was dressed only in a short sleeved, cotton summer bathrobe and rubber flip flops. We walked in the darkness for what seemed like a ¼ of a mile. I was shaking so hard from the cold I thought my bones would break out through my skin. We stepped through the door of the banya quickly so as to not let the heat out. Inside it was deliciously warm and moist and inviting, but I found out this was just the relaxing/cooling room.

The girls quickly shed what few garments they were wearing and I knew that I had to do the same. This was not a self confidence booster as I was with 2 buff, perky, 20’s something young women and ‘here comes the old granny.’

Off to the right was a half height door that we had to bend and go through in order to get into the steam room. Inside, the heat was intense and as I looked around this rough wooden room, lit by one dim bare bulb one of the girls threw a ladle full of water onto the rocks in an iron wood stove which was blazing away. The steam and atmosphere hit me like a physical assault. My lungs felt like they were seizing and I instantly started to sweat like I have never sweated in my whole life. Hot flashes are nothing compared to what I was experiencing. To make the experience more surreal, one of the girls started smacking herself with wet birch branches while the other girl started smacking me. This is to increase the health and longevity they explained and I wanted to ask them how this coincided with the fact that the average life span in Russia was under 60 years. But I didn’t.

We steamed and beat ourselves for about 10 minutes, threw ice water all over our bodies as I screamed in shock and then we went back out to the outer room to “cool off.” This process is repeated several times. At some point, someone from the house brought tea and left it in the outer room for us to enjoy during one of our cool-offs.

The girls were wishing that there was enough snow on the ground to go out and roll in, but I was gratefully and silently thanking God for the dry crusty grass that was everywhere. The last time through this process is when they actually use soap and shampoo and rinse off with buckets of warm water which just drains down through the floor boards. Then with a wet head and wrapped only in the cotton summer robe and flip flops we trooped back to the house to get fully dressed. After the extreme heat of the banya, the walk back felt delightfully cool and invigorating like a freshening breeze on a hot summer day. Before beginning the long drive home we drank more tea and sang a few more worship songs together.

Something tells me that before this winter is over, I may yet get my chance to “roll in the snow.”

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Our New BAZ 21310 NIVA

Well we finally have it, our new car!

Here we are at the dealership after we had just put the license plate on the car.

Earlier this week we made a visit to a local dealer and found the car which we wanted to buy. It had the 1.8 liter motor we wanted and was in metallic blue, one of our preferred colors. We made a down payment that day and then began the process of official paperwork and financial transactions that we had to complete before we could take possession of the car.

On Saturday the 20th, we got up early to complete everything that we needed to do, including exchanging U.S. dollars for Russian rubles, and then we went to the dealership, made the payment in cash and signed all the registration and insurance papers. All this took about 3 hours, but when it was done we drove away in our new car!

We really like the car, but it is definitely a Russian made vehicle. It is light weight and much of the interior is plastic. There is no power steering, which takes some serious adjustment, and it is much noisier than a Western or Japanese car. Being Russian made, it will be easier and less expensive to repair and to insure. All in all we are thrilled to have our own vehicle.

We want to send a great big THANK YOU to everyone who gave and prayed for this vehicle. Another big THANK YOU goes to our friend, teacher and helper Sveta Kuzmentseva and her husband Sergei. Without their help we could not have done all the things needed to purchase this car.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Another Rehab Success Story

With My Friend Oleg,

Oleg is another rehab center success story. Oleg is from Moscow. His brother became a believer there and began attending church. He became concerned about Oleg and his drug addiction problems, shared the Gospel with him and told him about the rehab center here in Nizhny Novgorod. Oleg came to the Center last winter, graduated from both three month programs and then served several months on staff.

Karen and I were privileged to be a small part of those who taught, discipled and mentored this young man. Oleg is now moving back to Moscow to join his family. He has a wife and a young son. He has hopes to enter Bible school and eventually enter the ministry.

This is another wonderful testimony of the grace and mercy of God. A family was rescued and reunited. The power of the Gospel has changed another life. The ministry of the rehab center is changing peoples lives on a daily basis. Please pray with us for the needed funds to open another center and provide a permanent location for this ministry.

Ministry and Pollution - Dzerzhinsk Russia

Outside of the "Chemical Palace"
Dzerzhinsk, Russia
The city auditorium, so named because of the
chemical plants of the Dzerzhinsk region

Our family lived in the city of Dzerzhinsk, Russia for 19 months in 1994-96. We knew then that the city was considered highly polluted. The city is nicknamed "The Chemical City" because of the local chemical manufacturing plants in the area. We noticed a lot of unusual illnesses and even most of the pigeons had birth defects! It still surprises us, however, when we see that the city is still listed as one of the ten top polluted cites in the world.

Here are a couple of interesting links about the city and it's pollution problems.

Even today we live only about 30 miles away and Nizhny Novgorod draws most of it's drinking water from the Oka river, which contains pollutants from the city of Dzerzhinsk. The drug rehab that we teach at is actually located within the territory of Dzerzhinsk and they use local well water for all of their drinking and bathing needs.

So, when you think of us and those we minister to, pray for our health and protection from the pollution in this area. Also pray for us as Karen and I have actually been talking about the possibility of moving back to Dzerzhinsk and opening a rehab center. We have friends in the city administration and we will be asking them to consider donating a building to be repaired and used as a rehab center. Obviously we will need to take into account the pollution issues as we consider this possible move.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rehab Center Growth Crisis

This week I taught at the rehab center operated by Cornerstone Church. I am in the middle of teaching a series on “New Life in Christ”. It is gratifying to teach at the center. Every week we see the dramatic changes that are happening in these young men and women as they come to Christ and begin the walk of discipleship.

It is always interesting to me when I hear about the impact that our teaching and relationships have in these brother’s and sister’s lives. Two of the staff told how our friendship had impacted them and how they appreciate the time we spend with them discussing personal issues and helping to mentor them as they serve the Lord. It is important to remember that the simple things we do and the little things we say can have such a large and enduring impact upon people.

The center is going through a crisis. The drug addiction problem in Russia is immense and Nizhny Novgorod has a large drug sub-culture. As news of the center and its’ success in helping addicts gain their freedom becomes known more and more people want to enter the program. Last week more than 25 people asked to be placed in the center.

This is a good problem but unfortunately the center just doesn’t have any more available space. The center is housed in a small village house on the edge of the city. The house consists of 4 small rooms and has no indoor plumbing or running water. The largest of the four rooms is about 15’ x 15’ and the other three rooms are about 7’ x 10’. The church decided that 20 people was the maximum number of people who could live at the center, but recently the staff said that they would all be willing to sleep on the floor if 25 people would be allowed!

The Rehab Center
A small house with no indoor plumbing

So now, there are 25 people living together in this small house! Another issue is that this house, which is currently being used rent free, is for sale. When the house is sold the center will need a new location.

Dinner at the Center
8 People sleep in this small room
the largest room at the center

Karen and I are praying for the provision of $15,000. With this amount we could purchase another village house and do some basic furnishing. We would then open a separate center which could house some of the overflow as well as new rehabilitants who are entering the program. Please pray with us for the following:

  • Continued success for the center as it effectively works with the addicted
  • A new location – rent free – which will meet the needs of the current center
  • Finances to purchase another location to open an additional center - $10,000 - $15,000 needed
  • Plans to open a regional center in the city of Kristalny Goose, about 300 miles from Nizhny Novgorod.

If you or your church would be interested giving a financial gift toward the opening of a new center please contact us via email at

Rehab Success Story!

Below is a photo of our friends Alexei and Olga with their son. Eight months ago Alexei was a drug addict who had made a real mess of his life. He and Olga were not married but had been living together for several years and had one child together. Alexei was tired of the drug life and when he heard about the rehab center he decided to give it a try.

Over the next few months he gave his life to Christ and began the road to recovery. His mother and father also became believers. Alexei is now drug free, a radiant believer and back to work.

When I first met Alexei he had questions about his relationship with Olga. She was not a believer. I encouraged Alexei to begin praying about the situation. I suggested that the Lord would probably want him to legally marry Olga and provide a family and home for his son. He seemed torn by this but agreed to pray.

About six weeks later Alexei came to me and said that the Lord clearly spoke to him that he was to marry Olga! Olga began attending our home group and in a short while, on a Sunday morning at church, she made a public confession of faith. The next month Olga was water baptized and shortly thereafter the couple married. They will be attending our home group for married couples this fall.

Alexei, Olga and their son
at church after a prayer for the new marriage

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday In Nizhny Novgorod

It's Sunday evening and I wanted to do a quick post.

Church was a lot of fun today. Because of my travels I haven't been to a Sunday service in three weeks. I was warmly greeted by many people and everyone asked how Karen was and when she would be back.

One interesting side effect of being a little bit better in the language is that a lot of people think that I understand more than I do. They then feel freer to try and speak to me, and assume that I understand them. This forces me to listen really closely and to speak much more than before. All in all it's a good thing.

There were about 90 people in church today, an all time high. The church continues to grow and the attendance shows it. This is unusual in the summer in Russia, as so many people often spend the entire summer away from the city.

The church is also growing by conversion. Today eight people prayed a prayer of repentance at the close of the service. The drug rehab work is flourishing also. More than a dozen people have graduated this summer from the first three months of the program. Today 3 people entered the program, and all of them will probably become followers and disciples of Jesus over the next 3 months. Karen and I will have the privilege of teaching them over those months.

The rehab work here is having a big impact for the Kingdom of God. We have a need for $10,000 to $15,000 to purchase a small village home for a permanent center. If you would be interested in helping with this please email us at

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Two Weddings and a Conference

I recently returned from an extended trip visiting Kristalny Goose and then on to Novorossiysk, a city in southern Russia on the coast of the Black Sea. In Kristalny Goose I attended the wedding of Sasha and Ksusha Lukmanov, friends of ours, whom we walked through pre-marital counseling this summer. The wedding was a lot of fun and Ksusha was a very beautiful bride.

Here is a picture of the newlyweds

The day after the wedding I made my way to Moscow and then went by train, for 36 hours to Novorossiysk. The purpose of the Novorossiysk trip was to attend a conference of indigenous Russian leaders gathering for fellowship and teaching, and to visit several brothers from Nizhny Novgorod who are now staffing a rehabilitation center outside of Novorossiysk.

Me, with Pastor Sergei
Sergei is the Apostolic leader of the
Cornerstone Churchplanting movement
and a good friend

Here is another good friend!

The conference was good, featuring the teaching of several Russian church leaders. We also had free time to swim and sight-see every day. There was a conference picnic where we had a cookout and played volleyball. The time was both beneficial and fun for all involved. Pastors and leaders from as far away as Siberia attended.

One of the conference meetings
The conference was held in a tent on the grounds
of the local drug rehab center

A conference picnic was held here
on the shore of the Black Sea
It was close to 100 degrees outside every day of the conference

We swam in the warm waters of the Black Sea every day

I also attended the wedding of the pastor's daughter while in Novorossiysk. It was well over 100 degrees the day of the wedding
Ira and Dmitry

After 10 days in Novorossiysk I took a very hot and tiring 45 hour train ride back to Nizhny Novgorod. I am happy to say that I traveled over 2000 miles for 15 days without the help of a translator. I stayed with Russian families, road trains and buses, was shaken down for a bribe (which I didn't pay) and crossed an international border. It was a good and fun experience and I made a number of new friends and contacts. This trip was an experience I will treasure for a long time.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Leaving On a Slow Train...

It is Saturday afternoon August 4, and in about two hours I leave for an extended trip. The first leg of the journey will be by train and bus as I travel to the town of Crystal Goose, about 300 kilometers south of Nizhny Novgorod. I will be attending the wedding of Sasha Lukmanov and his beautiful bride Ksusha. Karen and I had the privilege of leading them through pre-marital counseling this spring.

After the wedding I will take another bus to the city of Vladimir. I will overnight in Vladimir and from there I will take a train to Moscow. From Moscow I take a 36 hour train trip to Novorossiysk.

I will be attending a conference of pastor and drug rehab leaders for several days and then I will visit the church and rehab center in Novorossiysk. There will also be some time just to hang out with some young Russian pastors and have fun together. Several of us will return to Nizhny Novgorod on a hot, slow train in August. Despite that the relationship opportunities are great and I am looking forward to much language practice as I will be without a translator for most of the trip.

I will post several stories and some photos when I return on August 18. As you read this post I would ask that you pray for our safety on this trip. Traveling in Russia without a translator and by myself is intimidating.

If you have Skype phone service on your computer, you can send me an text message at +79601794984 . I won’t be able to respond to Skype but it’s worth a try.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Theology Book Printed and Delivered

We have finally taken delivery of 1000 copies of the book, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. The pastors who have received copies so far are thrilled with the book. They say it is a much needed resource for the Russian church. At the Russian national Foursquare Conference this fall we will distribute these books to churches and pastors. Thank you to Foursquare Missions and all who helped with this project. It was a great team effort which will bear fruit far into the future.

Foundations of Pentecostal Theology
Russian Edition
Copies of the book awaiting distribution

Russian Missionaries Commissioned

On Sunday the 29th of July, Cornerstone Church commissioned two young brothers to go to the city of Novorossiysk, where they will begin a drug rehab with another church. We were able to present these guys with a guitar for leading worship at the new center. The guitar was a gift from a brother at Grace Capital Church, Concord NH, one of our supporting churches. A house group from GCC took the responsibility to send the guitar to Russia…thanks everyone! The guitar is a blessing to the people of Russia.

Yury (with the glasses) and Ivan are former addicts themselves, having come to Christ less than a year ago. Karen and I have had the privilege of being a part of teaching and discipling these guys for the last seven months. They graduated from the local rehab center and have been working as staff members there, helping others find Christ and gain victory over their addictions. They are both friends and really great guys who are radically committed to serving Christ.

This is an amazing story of God’s grace as these guys have gone from a life of crime and addiction to new believers then leaders and missionaries in less than one year! Pray for them as they begin this new work. Over the next year we will see dozens of people come to faith through the work these brothers do.

Yury - Me - Ivan

With their new Guitar

Pastor Dmitry praying for these new missionaries

Drug Rehab Center - Siberia - Achinsk, Russia

Drug Addiction Rehab Center
Located outside of Achinsk, Russia
Standing with a several pastors
and brothers who are currently in the program

The Game Room
This center is large and they have a lot of space
notice the ongoing remodeling work
The Women's Dorm
The Dining Hall
The Kitchen
The large garden
In an effort to be as self-supporting as possible
The center grows much of it's own food

My Siberian Girlfriend :-)

Center for Homeless People - Siberia - Achinsk, Russia

The Center for Homeless People
This building was gutted, without a roof, plumbing
or floor when it was purchased
Repair work underway
New Bathroom
Men's Dorm
Four Russian Pastor, my friends

Prison Rehab Center - Siberia - Achinsk, Russia

Rehab Center for former prisoners
Pastor of the Center (middle)
One of the dorms
A New Arrival - just released from prison
Dining Hall

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Leadership Camp

Part of my trip to Siberia (see entry below) included attendance at a camp for pastors and leaders. The camp was attended by about 75 people and lasted two days. We enjoyed teaching sessions, recreational activities, the Banya for men (in a tent in 90 degree weather), and swimming in the local lake.

Here are some photos from the camp.

Main Meeting Hall

Worship Time
Pastor Sergei-far left
Lead Pastor of the Cornerstone movement

Waiting for Lunch

I shared the floor, four thin mattresses
and four blankets with five guys

One of the Cabins

The Outhouse

My Best Friend at Camp