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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Testimony From Russia

Last month we were in Sochi, Russia for a conference of Russian Foursquare leaders. It was a great time of fellowship, fun and relaxation. While in Sochi we met Pastor Sergei Achkasov from the Ark of Salvation church, which meets in the town of Klimovsk, a suburb south of Moscow.

Sergei became a believer at the age of 9 through the ministry of Earl Poysti a Russia who lives in America. Pastor Earl is a radio evangelist who preached for many years via radio broadcasts which reached through the "Iron Curtain. Sergei listened to his broadcasts on a short-wave radio from age 9 when he had no opportunity to go to church or receive spiritual teaching. He would retell everything he heard on the radio to his friends and neighbors. As a young teen Sergei was thrown out of his home by his non-believing parents, but he persisted in his faith. Five years later the family reconciled and today Sergei's parents are believers. Sergei is a classical musician and is a graduate of the Moscow Music Conservatory.

In 1991 Sergei came in contact with believers from Sweden. He went to Bible School in Upsalla Sweden and then returned to Russia were he was part of a team which planted several churches, including one in our home city of Nizhny Novgorod. Today Sergei is pastor of the church in Klimovsk, and also travels as a musician and evangelist. He has a ministry which crosses the barrier between Russian Pentecostals and Russian Charismatics. In Russia there are some big differences between the two groups and not always a lot of cooperation.

We loved hearing Sergei's testimony because for years Karen and I prayed for kids in Russia, and we financially supported the radio broadcasts which Sergei listened to as a child! We were thrilled to hear how the Lord had used these broadcasts, answered our prayers and how Sergei had come to faith as a small boy. Only heaven will reveal all of the people that are influenced by the things we do in this life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ministry Trip - Chelyabinsk Russia

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of ministering in Chelyabinsk Russia which about 1000 miles east of Nizhny Novgorod. To get to Chelyabinsk I took a 30 hour train trip. Karen did not accompany me on the trip as she was busy collecting documents for our new application for permanent residency.

I arrived in Chelyabinsk on Friday afternoon and was greeted by Pastor Sasha, pastor of Cornerstone Church. Sasha, his wife Olga and a small team came to Chelyabinsk 5 years ago. Since that time they have planted a growing church of about 80 people and opened 3 drug and alcohol rehab centers. I had been invited to Chelyabinsk by Sasha to preach for their 5th anniversary celebration.

Pastors Sasha & Olga

Celebration Service
The trip was a lot of fun. We had services Friday night and Saturday morning. Pastor Sergei Nepomnashihk was the speaker. On Saturday evening there was a praise and celebration service and on Sunday afternoon I was the guest speaker.

Graduates from the Chelyabinsk Rehab Center
Testifying During the Saturday Service

I also had the great joy to speak in a Russian Foursquare Church near Chelyabinsk in the small town of Argyush. This church is very small, but actually has it's own building, and as far as I know it is the only "Foursquare" church building in all of Russia. Pastor Oleg, the pastor is an associate pastor of the Word of God church in Chelyabinsk and every week he drives the 100 kilometers to Argyush to minister. Word of God church is registered under the Foursquare Association of churches in Russia.

Foursquare Church Building
Argyush, Russia

The Sign Says
God is Light!
On Monday I was able to teach at two of the three church rehab centers. I love being with these young men and women as they learn about new life in Christ and break free from their addictions.

One of the Chelyabinsk Rehab Centers
Men and Women in Rehab
Brothers in the Second Rehab Center
I am constantly amazed by the dedication and perseverance of the young pastors that I know in Russia. These men and women are working in difficult situations with very little help. They have great faith and are some of the most gifted men and women I have ever met. Karen and I count it a great privilege to work alongside them.

Pastor Sasha and wis wife have invited Karen and I to visit Chelyabinsk again in the spring. We hope to minister to the married couples in a seminar and to teach in all the rehab centers. We love working and living in Russia.

A Young Couple to Whom I Ministered
Please pray with us for healing in their marriage.

Here are 3 short video clips from the conference

Monday, October 27, 2008

Headed to America

Today we are wrapping up things here and packing for our trip to America. We leave in about 18 hours. We have submitted out paperwork for permanent residency in Russia. We hope to receive our residency permission when we return to Russia in April 2009.
We have mixed feelings about our trip to America. Of course we want to see our family and friends. We have a grandchild whom we have never seen. We need to visit our supporting churches and build some new relationships also. However five months is a long time to be away from our work, our friends and our life here.
We love Russia. We love living here, we love doing what we do, and we love our friends here. Last night we went out for dinner after church with our young pastor, his wife and several others. Karen and I kept looking at each other and saying "we will really miss these guys over the next 5 months". I guess that is what missionary life is all about. To be successful you need to become a part of the culture to which you minister. Russia is our home.
Yesterday we had a great service at church. The preaching was really good. It probably helped that I now understand about 80% of what s preached in Russia. We enjoyed being n church after travelling for 3 weeks. We were prayed over for our trip to America. We saw 2 new guys graduate from the rehab program, one from the first course and one from the second course. Attendance was at an all time high at 175 people.
The best thing that happened was during the call for public repentance eight people came forward for prayer! This church is growing and we are so blessed to be a part of it as we serve here.
Well, tomorrow America - land of unlimited internet!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Bunch of Naked Guys at the Holiday Inn - Chelyabinsk Russia

Yes, it's another banya story!

For those of you not familiar with Russian life and culture here is some background. Russia has a sauna or steam bath which is called the banya. It is a bit different from a sauna in that a sauna has "dry" steam and a banya has "wet" steam. You have to experience it to understand. The banya is a big deal in Russian culture. In the banya you relax. ave fun. and real relationships are built. It was when I began attending the banya, something which many American missionaries will not do, that I really found my place with my Russian brothers.

Last week I was in Chelyabinsk Russia for a ministry trip. I was preaching at two churches and teaching at several rehab centers. One church was celebrating their 5th anniversary. On the night of the celebration all of the guys went out after the service to a local banya. I was the only American there. I was surprised when we drove up to a Holiday Inn! This is the only Holiday Inn that I have seen in Russia.

Inside was a large banya, a swimming pool with a slide, a pool table and a long row of tables were we sat, snacked and chatted. In the nude of course. In a Russian banya you are naked, buck naked, though because this banya was at a Holiday Inn we were provided with optional towels for covering. This was a good thing as several times there were women from the hotel staff who came into the banya to discuss things with the person who organized the banya! In Russia this is not unusual. It is also not unusual to have a cleaning lady cleaning the public restroom, even in McDonald's while you are at the urinal!

Anyway, about 25 guys went to the banya, we chatted, snacked, swam, steamed, and repeated the whole process for 3 hours. It was a great for renewing and strengthening relationships. I personally really love the banya, I am hoping to find one in the Boston area when we are home during the winter. I had an awesome time in Chelyabinsk, and will post more stories and photos soon.

Come and visit us someday and I will personally introduce you to the joys of the Russian banya.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sochi Russia

We are in Sochi, Russia attending the Russian Foursquare Church National Leadership Conference.

We are having a great time of fellowship while meeting with pastors and leaders, hearing their hearts and stratigizing together about the future of Foursquare in Russia. Tonight we will distribute The following books to pastors and leaders in order to help resource them:
  • Doing What Jesus Did
  • Foundations of Pentecostal Theology
  • Praying Effectively for Non-believers
  • Enjoying Your Journey With God
We are happy to have had a part in the publishing of these books as we worked with our friends at Agape Books in Nizhny Novgorod.

I hope to have a few photos to post tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

We Are Home, and Off Again!

We arrived in Nizhny Novgorod last night at 11:30 PM. Today we have done laundry, banking and visa applications. Tonight after being home for 24 hours we board an overnight train to Moscow and then a plane to Sochi, Russia.

Sochi is in southern Russia on the Black Sea. We will attend the annual Foursquare Russia Leaders conference. It should be a great time of fellowship, teaching and talking about the future (no I didn't use the phrase "Vision Casting") .

We are hoping to post at least one update during the next week. However in the past our internet access has been limited while in Sochi.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

One More Post From Spain

This is the second post of the day. Here are a few photos from some sightseeing we did with fellow missionaries.

Sunset in Spain

Spanish Castle
More than 500 years Old

Spanish Countryside
Bullfighting Ring in City Center

Welcome to Toledo - Spain not Ohio

Our last day in Spain was spent in the old city of Toledo. Toledo is an ancient fortress and has been inhabited since the stone age. There are Roman ruins around the town. Islam ruled here for centuries and the locals drove them out in the middle ages. The entire area is an archaeological treasure.

Toledo was the religious and political capital of Spain during the 1400s-1500s. From Toledo the Spaniards went out to the conquest of mexico, Central and South America. Toledo was the center of the Spanish Counter-reformation. If Toledo and the Spanish had welcomed the Reformation the history of the entire world would have been much different. Toledo and all of Spain expelled their Jewish population in 1493. Into Toledo flowed the plunder from the New World conquest. Toledo is a beautiful old world city and is a center of history for the last 1000 years.

Tomorrow we fly out of Spain and to Frankfurt Germany. From Frankfurt we catch a flight to our hometown, Nizhny Novgorod were we will arrive at 11:00 PM local time.

The Cathedral in Toledo
This Cathedral is Magnificent

Four Photos showing a Panorama view of the City

Here is a video from the same location

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Photos from the Madrid Missions Conference

Here are a few photos taken while we were in Madrid attending the Foursquare Europe Missionary Conference.

The Ever-present fast food from America

A Spanish Palace
In Front of an old Spanish Palace

Karen in the Palace Gardens
A Touch of New England in downtown Madrid

Another Fountain

Foursquare Missionaries during a break

Rehab Center, Nizhny Novgorod Russia

Here is another video taken while I was teaching at the drug rehab center operated by Cornerstone Church. This video was taken 2 weeks ago

Friday, October 03, 2008

Flamenco Dance

We are in Madrid Spain for the European Foursquare Missionary retreat. Last night we had a fun evening going into Madrid for dinner which featured real Spanish Flamenco dancing.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Madrid Spain - Conference

We are outside of Madrid Spain attending the Foursquare Europe Missionary conference. The weather is warm and sunny. The fellowship is great. In four years this is the first time we have done this. All of us from Europe, about 40 missionaries are enjoying getting to know each other better. This is a real treat for all of us.

We haven't shot many photos. Above is one of Karen and Adam Hartel, missionary to Norway, as they lead worship.

Below is a shot of coffee break and a few of our Foursquare missionaries.