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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Family News

On the 26th of June Karen made an emergency trip home. She is at her parent’s home in Massachusetts were she will be helping with the care for her 90 year old dad. As I write this newsletter her mother is in the hospital also. After consulting with our supervisor and home church pastor we made the decision that Karen should go home for at least a month to help her brother provide care for her parents.

I will be traveling for 10 days from July 2nd until July11. As a result there will be no updates on the blog until the middle of July. I will be attending a conference for pastors and drug rehabilitation leaders. The conference is in the city of Achinsk, in Siberia, about 2000 miles from Nizhny Novgorod.

This is the first time I have attended a conference without a translator. This is not because my language skills are so great, but it is due to how gracious our Russian friends are. They are very patient with us, repeating things for us and speaking slowly and simply so we understand. Pastor Dmitry is always telling people "when you talk to Michael. talk slowly, and he will understand you." I am looking forward to spending 10 days with only Russian language speakers, but am at the same time feeling a bit stressed as it will greatly stretch my language abilities.

I will have limited email access during the trip, and as a result will be slow in returning emails.

Ministry Dreams

I spent most of the day on Thursday with Dmitry Zaborski, Pastor of Cornerstone Church. We purchased some airline tickets for a conference we will both be attending and afterwards went to his apartment where Lena, his wife had prepared a wonderful lunch for us. Afterwards some friends came over and we had tea and candies while enjoying fellowship. In the late afternoon we went to the drug rehab center together. Dmitry taught on the subject of being a Biblical Christian. It was an encouraging pleasure to be able to understand quite a bit of the message.

While spending time together we talked about dreams for the future. Dmitry and I discussed beginning another rehab work in Dzerzhinsk, the city where Karen and I church planted 13 years ago. Dmitry asked if we would be willing to go there once a month to preach as part of a rotating ministry team. He also talked about his hopes to start another work in the town of Kostovo, about 30 miles in the opposite direction. Again he asked if we would be willing to be part of the ministry team and help with a new church plant during the coming year. We are so excited to be able to say, "Yes!" because we will now have a vehicle which makes this possible.

We are also praying for $15,000.00 with which we would purchase a small village style home in the country. This home would be used as a rehab center and developed into a permanent facility for working with addicts. $15,000.00 would get us a three or four room log home with no running water or indoor plumbing on a nearly 1/2 acre lot. This would be adequate for beginning a rehab center and it would be upgraded as funds allow.

Funds are not the primary issue of ministry in Russia, faith is. Dmitry is a young man of tremendous faith. He dreams, plans, takes action and the funding always follows. We have seen many Russian leaders crippled by the belief that they need lots of money before they can begin to do anything. Dmitry believes and acts upon his belief that God will provide the necessary funds if you do what He asks you to do.

We both believe that we should ask God to allow us to plant churches in every city in this region. Part of doing this will be opening regional rehab centers which evangelize drug addicts and their families. The drug sub-culture in Russia is responsive to the preaching of the gospel. Once addicts are set free from their addictions many of them become radical evangelists, reaching out to their friends and family.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday In Russia

We had a great time at church today. The worship was wonderful. The place was packed with about 70 people squeezing into a hall which seats 50. The church is growing every week. This is unusual in Russia during the summer because people here have gardens which they work in every weekend. They do so in order to grow food for the winter. Usually church attendance here drops by as much as 50% during the summer months.

Today Pastor Dmitry preached a really good message about spiritual growth. After the message Dmitry gave a call to repentance and 4 people asked for prayer to receive Christ and repent of their sins. Each person who prayed received a New Testament and an invitation to a house group and a New Believers class.

In Russian churches it is traditional to pray for those who have a birthday. The names are often announced and the people come forward so the pastor and congregation can pray for them. Well, I surprised Karen today by letting Pastor Dmitry know ahead of time that Wednesday will be her birthday. We were listening to the usual announcements and Karen realized that her name had been mentioned as a person having a birthday, much to her surprise. It was fun to watch her go to the platform and have Pastor Dmitry acknowledge her birthday. Our friend Volodya, one of the rehab leaders also had a birthday, so they were both prayed for by Dmitry and the congregation. Afterwards Lena, Pastor Dmitry's wife presented Karen with a bouquet of Roses for her birthday.

This is Oleg. We met him 3 months ago when he entered the drug rehabilitation program run by Cornerstone Church. We have watched him as He accepted Christ, became drug free and started growing spiritually. Today at church we celebrated his three month graduation from the first course of the rehab program.

After church Karen and I went out for lunch at Rostiks, a local fried chicken restaurant chain which is actually owned by KFC.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Another Week of Ministry

It is Friday evening and we just returned from teaching at the drug rehab center which is operated by Cornerstone Church, here in Nizhny Novgorod. We spent 1 ½ hours teaching and answering questions today and then shared a meal with the folks at the rehab. We were teaching on having a life which is surrendered completely to Christ. It is always fun and inspiring to watch these new believers taking notes and listening intently to what is being taught.

Because it is summer and the weather has been pretty nice we taught in the outdoor pavilion, which is a fancy name for a tarpaulin & camouflage net covered, dirt floored summer lean-to which is used for meals and services at the rehab center.

Michael Teaching

Below is Danara deeply engaged in worship, who graduated from her first three months and is now 1 month into the second part of the course. We enjoy seeing her worship God with her whole being. Every other week she lives at the center, mentoring the women who are still in their first three months of rehabilitation. We spent some time with Danara answering her questions after the teaching time.

After dinner, which was a delicious soup, black bread and tea we sat and talked with Alexei. Alexei is about 8 months old in Christ and is one of the senior leaders and serving on staff with the rehab center. His salary is just a little over $100 a month and the food he eats at the center. Alexei is a smart, serious but fun young man who really wants to serve Christ.

We talked for about 30 minutes as he questioned us about marriage relationships, how to support his family as a responsible Christian man while still having an active ministry, and other questions. We both enjoy the teaching opportunities, but the really valuable times are when people like Alexei and Danara speak with us one on one and we have a direct input into their lives. Danara wants to begin attending Karen’s Bible study for single women, and Alexei was excited to hear that we will start a mentoring class for young married couples this fall.

This week we have translated some marriage materials for our fall course and given pre-marriage counseling to a young pastor and his fiancée. Karen held a Bible study for single young women. Together we met with Pastor Dmitry and his wife over lunch to plan work for the fall, dream about several more rehabilitation centers and talked about the possibilities of sending church planting teams to other cities. Today we taught at the drug rehab center, and tomorrow we mentor 3 young pre-married couples.

Your generous support and prayers allow us to work here, impacting the lives of these new believers. Every month the center graduates 2-5 people and 2-5 more people enroll, come to Christ and begin their Christian journey. Thank you for enabling us to speak into the lives of the precious young men and women.

Photo Story from May

Pastor Jeff Roper, Our supervisor, during a visit in May -
a meeting at the Drug rehab center

From Left to right: Pastor Slava Naniyants Russian National Leader, Jeff Roper Foursquare Regional Leader, Pastor Dmitry Zaborski of Cornerstone Church, Znehya Senior director of the Drug rehabilitation Center, Claudia Naniyants Foursquare Russia, Michael

Sunset on the Volga River - Nizhny Novgorod

Group photo from a visit to the Social Center for Homeless People
operated by Cornerstone Church

Pastor Dmitry, Pastor Jeff, Pastor Slava
visiting a local Orthodox monastery

At the Monastery

Our friend, Pastor Dmitry Zaborski - 29 years old.
He has planted three churches, started 4 Drug rehabilitation centers and several centers for homeless people. He has seen hundreds come to Christ through his ministry. He dreams of planting churches and opening rehabilitation center in every city in Russia.
We are privileged to be working alongside this young man

Photos from our Home

What do missionaries do in their free time?
Karen planted these flower boxes
for our bedroom balcony

Biner, one of our cats
enjoying the sunshine on the balcony

Mishka, watching the traffic from our living room window

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Care Packages

As part of a project to help out fellow missionary bloggers, we have been asked to write an article about “Care Packages” and post it on our blog.

We, like most missionaries love to receive mail and packages from the U.S. The contents are not as important as the knowledge that someone is thinking about us and cares enough to send something. Whenever we receive a package we feel more connected to the churches and friends that are a part of our support team. We also are reminded that we are not alone in what we do and that we have a group of people in America who remember us and are praying for us.

Here are some ideas of things we always like to receive and packing suggestions. Just so you know, some of the items on the list are available here in Russia but the prices are very high. Ground coffee or coffee beans for example cost from $15 to $25 per pound and none of it is as good as what we can get from America.

Things we like to receive:

  • French Roast Coffee Beans – In America we buy BJ’S brand from BJ’S warehouse it is very good and not expensive. Most any brand will do.
  • Patriot’s Football Games on DVD – There is no American Football on TV here.
  • Cereal – Rice Krispies, Cherrios, Chex, Shredded Wheat
  • Splenda – No calorie sweetener
  • Maple Syrup
  • Marshmallows – These also make good packing in their original bags or in smaller zip-lock bags
  • Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • Hot Sauce
  • Any “Mexican” spices – we really like packs of salsa spices to make our own salsa.
  • Roasted cashews – they are four time the cost here as in America
  • Cheese packets from Macaroni and cheese – Please don’t send the macaroni as it is too heavy and very inexpensive here.
  • Muffin and cornbread mixes – impossible to get here.
  • Graham crackers
  • Kraft Parmesan/Romano cheese
  • Haynes brand grey athletic socks
  • A few magazines – these are heavy, but can occasionally be used as packing material; out of date is fine because it’s all new to us J
  • Readers Digest condensed books
  • A hard copy of Strong’s Concordance
  • Deodorant – Degree for Men and Lady Speed Stick for Women – Deodorant costs $5 -$9 each here for 2.5 ounces
  • BJ’S brand or comparable disposable triple blade razors - & Venus – Ladies disposable razor blades – very expensive here
  • DVDs – Any good movies or TV Series though email us first and ask if we have what you’re thinking of sending. Any PBS series would be enjoyed.
  • We have
    • Lost - Season 1-2
    • 24 – Seasons 1-5
    • Monk - Seasons 1-4
    • Columbo – Season 2
    • Waltons- Season 1
    • Murder She Wrote – Season 1
  • Brown sugar or powdered sugar– American style brown sugar and powdered sugar is not available here.
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, Hershey’s Mint Chocolate or plain choc. Chips
  • Baking powder
  • Unsweetened baking chocolate
  • HP #56 and #57 Printer cartridges
  • MP3 sermons are appreciated as well as Christian Music CD’s
  • News letters or bulletins from your church – We just enjoy seeing what’s happening at home

Packing and Mailing:

  • Boxes can be sent by ground mail – they take 6-12 weeks and are less expensive than airmail.
  • Tape shut securely
  • Do not include letters as they make a package first class mail
  • Pack the box tightly with no air spaces
  • Packages 10 pounds and under are appreciated as they make it much easier to carry home from the Post Office
  • Some items can be removed from their original packaging and sent in Ziploc bags if it saves space or weight – if we need the directions please don’t forget to include them!
  • Clearly label the package – Our mailing address can be printed off of our monthly newsletter if needed
  • Don’t send much in the way of liquids – if you do, triple bag them in zip-lock bags to avoid breakage and spills.
  • If you send clothing for us to distribute – please make sure it is good quality usable – we need socks, mittens and hats for our homeless ministry. Clothing can be expensive to send, please be aware of this before you gather a large amount.
  • If in doubt about something you are thinking of sending, send us an email first and we can let you know if it is really needed or useful. It would be a shame to spend money for postage on items that are not useful.


Today is a national holiday here. It is Russia day, so many people have the day off and are enjoying public celebrations or family time. It has been about two weeks since we have posted anything. One reason is that we have been busy, and another reason is because I loaned out my laptop to a friend, Sasha, who had a need to use it.

Sasha works for Agape, a Christian organization located here in Nizhny Novgorod where among other things he works in book publishing. About six weeks ago while playing soccer Sasha had a terrible accident. He was hanging off the soccer goal and it fell over and crushed his face! He had severe facial injuries and may lose all sight in one eye. Much of the damage has been repaired though he just had another operation. So, while he sits in the hospital, he needed a laptop to do some work. As Karen and I each have a laptop I loaned mine to Sasha for about 10 days. That slowed down my computing a bit, but helped a friend in need.

Keep your eyes open and over the next few days we will catch up on the news with several new posts.