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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Two Housegroups

Revealing God in marriage

We recently completed our last home group gathering with couples learning Biblical principles for marriage relationship. We celebrated the time we have spent together by sharing communion. It was a beautiful time of renewal where the shed blood of Jesus cleansed the past, and it became a time of new beginnings for each of the couples.

Two weeks before we finished our times together we had the opportunity to meet alone with one couple. As we talked and fellowshipped together I (Karen) voiced a thought that Michael and I had been thinking about. We had been watching one of the couples for some weeks and noticed that this particular couple had a great potential to become mentors to other couples with struggling marriages. When our thought was expressed to them, this couple was momentarily silenced by astonishment and exchanged a significant look with each other. They had been talking together about that very thing. They told God that they would do nothing about seeking this ministry unless it was confirmed to them by someone else. We, of course, had no idea they were thinking this. When we communicated to them our belief that they would make good mentors they took that as a very solemn sign from God that they needed to take this seriously. They already have some couples who are looking to them as examples and they realize that this is a very significant ministry that God may be opening up for them.

What is the quintessence of a woman’s heart?

With the wrapping up of the house group, Karen was approached by 2 young women who wanted to know if she would be willing to lead a home group only for women that would explore what the Bible has to say about that which make us uniquely female. What makes a woman’s heart beat? And so, she began a new Bible study for young women.

During the 2nd session one of the young women shyly shared that she was moved by Karen praying to God as her father. She said that she had heard of that concept, but had never done it herself. After personal contemplation she decided that she, herself, would pray to God and address him as father. The woman shared how when she did pray this way she experienced a monumental shift in her relationship to God, now as her father, and she felt a deep tenderness flow into her heart that she had never received from her earthly father. She said that much of the hurt from her past due to the lack of expressed affection from her own dad had been healed.

Please pray that Karen would have wisdom as she endeavors to help each of the young women discover the nature and depth of the Father’s heart for their own life.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Automobile Victory Update!

We Have Reached Our Goal!

We are excited because we are now only $2650.00$1800.00

$1750.00 $0.00 away from being able to purchase a vehicle! Since we mailed our last monthly newsletter and posted the article in the sidebar of this page, we have received a total of









towards our needed $2650.00

A big thank you to all of our friends who have contributed toward this purchase. If anyone would like to make a contribution toward the final amount please send a check to our home church "Harvest" or "The Harvest Community" and mail it to

PO Box 4878
Manchester, NH

Please include a note saying that the funds are for the "vehicle purchase".

Any gift received over the initial purchase price will be used to purchase a set of "snow" tires, a roof rack and possibly some other upgrades. We will plan to make the purchase in July and will update this story then.

If you give, it would be great to receive an email from you letting us know so we can track the funds as they are sent. You can send an email to

Thanks You So Much!

Mike and Karen

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Banya - Now You Are A Real Russian Man

Life in Russia is fun, tiring, satisfying and always full of challenges. If you live in Russia for very long one of the challenges you will certainly face is THE BANYA. What is a banya? A banya is a Russian steam room or sauna. Our Russian friends tell me that the banya is really not a sauna, but I am not sure what the difference is, so, think sauna. For Russians, the banya is a way of life. Not to participate means missing out on a huge part of Russian culture and a great opportunity to bond with the people to whom we are called to minister. To be Russian is to go to the banya and if you want to really experience the banya you need to go with a group of friends.

The banya is usually separate for men and women, but in a private home it could be the whole family. In this case, towels or sheets can be provided by the host, for modesty’s sake, but they might not be, so I would not “do banya” in a mixed group. In the secular culture the banya can include some vodka drinking. The Christian community has rejected this tradition. Their banyas are segregated by sexes and no one drinks alcohol. Still, most missionaries never “do banya.”

All the American missionaries that I have ever talked to regarding this part of the culture recoil and resist going. Why don’t we go? Fear and inhibition are probably the main reason. In the banya you are naked, completely naked. There is something very intimidating to the average American male about sitting around in a room, buck naked, with a bunch of guys and just talking! Every missionary I have spoken with has told me, “no way am I going to do that.” I have been hesitant myself, but all of the guys at the rehab have been pressing me to banya with them. How can I be a mentor and a friend and refuse their offer?

This week a group of churches, each of which runs drug rehab centers, asked me to speak to them at a conference. When I received a copy of the schedule there was a three hour block of time for the banya, so I made the choice to fully enter into my friends’ lives and do it. We were out in the country at a small house, which was being used as the conference center. At the rear of the property was the banya, built close to a stream. As we all walked through the mud toward the banya I noticed that twenty yards away, also along the edge of the stream was the outhouse! Gross! The next trip to America I think I will get checked for parasites. Oh well, no stopping now!

The "Conference Center"
The Banya

I walk up to the banya door, open it, and am immediately greeted with the site of a bunch of naked guys. Before the story goes any further, let me say that our friend and language teacher, Sveta, had talked privately with pastor Dmitry on my behalf telling him that Americans are very modest and don’t like being naked in groups. Dmitry said “no problem, tell Michael to bring a bathing suit, it’s OK,” so I was prepared.

I am not sure which is more intimidating, being naked in a room full of other naked people or being the only guy in a bathing suit in a room full of naked men. No matter, everyone is happy that I have joined them and they are all speaking to me in Russian as I try my best to understand and respond. Pastor Dmitry comes in a few minutes after me and to my surprise he is also wearing a bathing suit. I am so pleased and really touched by this, not because I am now not the only guy who is not naked, but because I am sure that Dmitry is wearing his bathing suit only to make me feel more comfortable.

Dmitry greets me and says, “Michael, davai”, which means “Michael, let’s go.” We step into the steam room and it is so hot it is difficult to describe. It is so hot I can’t wear my glasses because the metal frames quickly became too hot to touch and burn my head. Inside the room are 8-9 naked men sitting on the two rows of benches. As I sit down to enjoy the heat, the guy on the bench above begins to drip sweat all over me! More wood is added to the furnace and the heat goes up even more. The wooden bench is so hot I am squirming and I have a bathing suit on! Talk about “buns of steel,” these guys have them! So here I sit, talking with all my naked friends while being steamed liked a Maine lobster. I also notice a unique collection of tattoos on these guys, in places I would never see in a church service!

After about 5 minutes, I need to go into the other room and cool off. We do this a few times, back and forth, steaming and cooling. In winter, you can go outside and roll in the snow to cool off. In the summer you want to be near a stream or a lake if possible.

Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying it. Part of the banya experience is to beat yourself or to have someone else beat you with small branches from birch or evergreen trees. It is supposed to cleanse you and help your circulation. So on the third trip into the room Dmitry tells me to lie on a bench and he will beat me. The bench is blisteringly hot, even with a towel on it. The air is so hot I can hardly breathe for fear of scorching my lungs and here I lie while a guy beats me with a tree branch! After a few minutes I need to leave again because of the heat.

Dmitry stays in for a few minutes longer while I sit and cool down a bit. When he comes out of the steam room he says again, “Michael, davai,” and leads me out of the banya and down the muddy path to the stream. I go down a few steps into the icy, murky, brown water and Dmitry stands over me with a bucket drenching me with the stuff! While screeching from the shock of the icy water all I can think about is the overflowing outhouse twenty yards away!

Back we go the banya cooling room and we sit and talk, and drink tea, and talk, and drink water, and talk. I tell the group, “Today I am a Russian man,” and they all say, “Da (yes) Michael you are a real Russian man.” After about ½ an hour I drip dry and cool off. The guys begin getting dressed one by one and go off to other things. The overall experience was fun if a bit intimidating. It was a great way to bond and become more a part of the young men’s lives and culture. I will definitely “do banya” again. Hopefully the next time we won’t be so close to an outhouse.

Another View of the Conference Center

30 Young Christian Leaders stayed here for two days enjoying fellowship and teaching

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Wonderful Gift

It's 11:00 PM and we just returned from a visit to the drug rehab center outside of town. These young women and men have so many questions about faith in Christ! It is a real joy to be able to teach them every week and to watch the changes taking place in their lives. We were both overwhelmed tonight as we saw them worshipping God with their entire being during the praise and worship time.

Tonight we were teaching on the subject "The Power of the Blood of Jesus". At one point, while we where answering questions we were talking about the forgiveness of Christ. I felt the Holy Spirit lead me to deal with the seriousness of sin and the depth of Christ' forgiveness by using abortion as an example.

Whenever you speak to a group of Russian people you can be pretty sure that several of them have been involved in abortion. Such was the case tonight. After the meeting two people, a young man and a young woman came to us and asked that we pray for them. The young man had had a girlfriend whom he encouraged to abort two of his children and the young woman had had at least one abortion. They both knew that they had repented and that their sin had been dealt with, but they wanted to tell us as a public confession and ask us to pray for the effects of the abortions. Of course we did so asking God to bring a complete sense of forgiveness and turn what the enemy meant to be destructive into an example of the grace and mercy of God. We were all close to tears during the prayer time.

Afterwards we were given a Christian postcard by the group. On the back they had written the thanks to us for being their teachers and their desire that we continue to teach them and encourage them in their new faith. This is one of the most meaningful gifts we have ever received.

It is a privilege to be here, teaching the Word of God to these young people whom were so close to death and destruction. Thank you so much for your prayers, encouragement and support. Without it we could not be here today.