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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Russian Wedding - Picnic

Karen and I are back in Russia. We had been in the Boston area for several weeks due to the death of Karen's Dad.

Yesterday (Saturday) we were part of the after wedding celebration of our friends Vanya and Sveta. We went to the edge of town and had an all day cookout/picnic Russian style.

Vanya & Sveta

Vanya is a former drug addict who entered rehab about two years ago. He and Sveta dated 3 years ago, but split up because of his drug addiction. After coming to Christ and getting his life in order he went back to Sveta and led her to Christ. Today he is clean, drug free and a businessman. He and Sveta are members of Cornerstone Church, which is the church Karen and I serve. It is a wonderful thing for us to see this young couple as they begin this new phase of their lives. Drug abuse had nearly destroyed this young man, but because of the power of the Gospel he is now free, married to the love of his life, and pursuing a life with meaning.

Dancing for Everyone
Vanya is a trained Ballroom dancer

As you look at some of the accompanying photos keep in mind that nearly everyone in the photos is a former drug addict.

Cooking Shashleek
(Russian Shish Kabob)

Karen and other ladies preparing salads for the picnic

Old Man at the Well
That's me getting water from a well for cooking

Karen & me with our friend Zhana
Zhana is a recovering addict who hopes to attend
Missionary training School this fall

Kids at the Well
The parents of these children are former addicts
The kids now have a normal happy family life.
It is because of changes like this that Karen and I work in Russia

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Crash & Burn in Lakeland

Here is a sad article from Charisma writer Lee Grady concerning the mess in Lakeland.

You will need to copy and paste this address into your browser.

Next week we will be back in Russia and will write more about the work there.

Michael & Karen

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Lakeland Revival

I have been reading a lot both pro and con on the "Lakeland Revival" and Todd Bentley. I thought that this article was interesting article. I Visited the Lakeland Revival

Let me know your thoughts.

I can't judge what I haven't seen but I think that the American church is too busy seeking signs. I think if a church wants to have "revival" perhaps they should close down the Sunday service once a month and visit a homeless shelter, drug rehab center, crack house or somewhere else where hurting people hang out.

The Prophet Isaiah said it well

Isa 58:6-11

6 "Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Testimony - Gospel Booklets and Evangelism

Our landlady is a single mother named Margarita. She lives in a small town about 1 hour from Nizhny Novgorod and we rent the apartment that she owns in Nizhny. She is a believer so one day I asked her how she had come to faith in Christ. This is what she told me.

I was a young teenage girl with few thoughts about God. In the Soviet Union we were taught in school that God and Jesus were myths and only old or crazy people believed in them. One day after I spent some time rowing a small boat on the river, I came to shore and began to walk home. On my way home I saw a man and he approached me. He seemed friendly. As I was from a small town, I knew that he was a stranger. He gave me a small booklet and told me that it was about Jesus and how Jesus loved me. I took the book from him and continued on my way home.

At home I read this small book and for the first time heard about Jesus Christ and how God sent His Son to die for my sins. I didn't understand everything, but I prayed the prayer that was written in the book. That day I trusted Jesus for my salvation.

Years later the Communist government collapsed and churches began to open in Russia. I heard of a Jewish Messianic Church in Nizhny Novgorod and I went there (Margarita is 1/2 Jewish on her mother's side). That day the pastor spoke to me about Jesus. I publicly repented and became a part of this church. To this day I have no idea who the man was who gave me the booklet. He must have been an itinerant evangelist who traveled throughout the Soviet Union, preaching the gospel despite facing a long prison sentence from the atheist government.

I love this story! It tells how God was active in the Soviet Union, despite the severe persecution of believers. It tells of the bravery of individuals who risked everything to share the Gospel! I prayed for years for the people of the Soviet Union. Karen and I supported several different ministries which smuggled evangelistic literature and we personally mailed Gospel booklets into the Soviet Union. It was this type of literature that Margarita received more than 25 years ago! When I first heard her story I had to ask myself, did we help provide the Gospel booklet that Margarita received that day.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Building a Home for Drug Addicts

Karen and I work with Cornerstone Church, an indigenous Russian church located in Nizhny Novgorod. A large part of the work of this church is the evangelization and rehabilitation of drug addicts. Last fall the church was able to purchase two small old village houses on a plot of land about 50 kilometers outside the city. One house had to be destroyed. The other house is barely livable. Despite this about 10 young men live there, work there and are being set free from drugs and finding a new relationship with Jesus Christ.

The plan for this property is to build two new homes for the drug rehab center. One home is currently in progress. This is not typical American construction. The house is a simple framed of square logs, sealed with caulking and nailed together. The second floor was recently added and the roof is now going on. The hope is to have the house sealed and livable by the time cold weather sets in.

The entire project has been a cash as you go project. The church members and friends have contributed the money to purchase the land and begin this building. The church has received several gifts from America, but the bulk of the money is from average Russian Christians who believe in this work.

Here are a few photos from a recent visit.

The Road into the Village

The House Going Up

View of the Countryside from the Second Floor
View of the Village
in this picture is planted on a hill
across a ravine near the rehab center.
We eventually hope to purchase this land

Our Friend Sergei
Senior Leader of the rehab. Sergei is looking out the window of the older home.
The house is wrapped in plastic to keep the wind and rain out. Sergei will go to Missionary Training School this fall.
Early next year we will be working with him as he starts a new church and rehab center.

Sharing A Meal At the End of the Day