Strengthening the Church through Education

Seeing the big picture

DSCN1395As you know, we serve here in a supportive role. Our teammates have shared some great praises that we thought might interest you and let you see a glimpse of how our helping with the children frees them to minister.DAVE RESOURCE

The Christian Resource Center, a project that will provide Christian reading material to believers and provide materials for theological and leadership development in our region, has finally been opened after many challenges and setbacks. Dave and Martina are encouraged by the excitement from individuals making use of the resources both for group and personal study.Here I am!  I was happy to hear that everyone understood what I had said, not only the words, but the ideas as well!  A huge THANK YOU to my amazing teacher, Irina, who helped me prepare.
While the boys are at school, Martina is able to do some discipleship and English practice with young ladies from her church. As in North America the college age students need mentors to come along side them during a time when they are trying to figure out the “adult” world. For International Women’s Day, Martina had a special outreach to encourage the women, the topic was live a life of joy through Christ.LEIF AND JAME

Leif and Jami, parents to our youngest students, have compassionately reached out to several neighbors opening opportunities for sharing God’s Word individually and in their home group.
Both Dave and Leif have been asked to be involved in a program beginning to be utilized by the church leadership in this area called Training National Trainers. They want to develop and help train current and future church leaders, pastors, and missionaries.

TNTRecently the Lord has also been bringing many new people to English club which Leif and Dave direct and Art and I help with. The Christmas holiday opened opportunities for discussions about the birth of Christ; we hope that Easter will allow opportunity to speak of His death and resurrection. Please pray for the Holy Spirit’s working in hearts and that the unbelievers would not be intimidated by our meeting in a “church.”

We have opportunities to minister to several other missionary families also serving in this area. Lisa is teaching English to Cristina twice a week. Her parents are working with our team on a church plant. Two other missionary families asked us to consider working with their high school students. The one mom came over to borrow curriculum from our school resources. Repeatedly saying while she was there what a blessing it was to have them.

Please pray for wisdom for Art and I to know how to use our time wisely, to be able to teach effectively, and to balance providing education for so many different grade levels.
The Lord is at work at this critical time in Russian history. While we are allowed to live and share in this spiritually needy place, we want to be effective. We also are facing a need to find additional support at this time as we have recently communicated. If you can help at this time it is appreciated, likewise your prayers for this need are requested.

Olympic outreach

DSC04771Sochi, Russia and the winter Olympics are big news right now.  We were actually closer to it when we lived in Ukraine studying language than we are now here in Ulan-Ude.  Maybe you have been following the news about Ukraine as well.

We ask you on the part of our SEND teammates ministering there and dear Ukrainian friends we connected with during the 2 years we lived there that you pray for them.  What started as peaceful protests have now turned violent, and are spreading throughout the nation. Things are intense and people’s hearts are in turmoil. Please pray:

Teammates and friends here in Ulan-Ude are watching the Olympics offered free on Russian sites and showing on monitors in many cafes. Our pastor decided to make the most of the interest and event by having an Olympic outreach. DSC05120 The youth from 2 churches invited friends and came together about a month ago to try out some games and see how well it would go over.  A couple of weeks ago Pastor came over and asked us if we would help with pre-school children so parents and older kids could play the games.  He was hoping for about 100 people.  The day turned out rather blustery with the temperature around -9F.  Only a small number of people turned out, but we made the most of it. DSC05111 Since the two youngest children stayed with their moms, Art and I were asked to participate in the games on different teams.  For 3 hours we competed in different events like broom hockey,DSC04934DSC04827

“bobsledding,”DSC05043 and team skiing.  We weren’t the only ones trying to have some winter fun.  Cars/vehicles were pulling “sleds” around the open field.  Others were cross country skiing.  Several took note of our larger group laughing and cheering.  This Saturday will be another Olympic outreach.DSC04802  Please pray that many will respond and attend.  The church and youth have been inviting many of their unsaved friends and family.  Pray for our pastor as he tries to encourage and model evangelism to the community through creative outreach.  

We have recently arrived back in Ulan-Ude after a very full and seemingly short month in the United States for Christmas.   We won’t include all the details but want to note a few of the events that shaped time with family and friends.DSC06933

We started the time with our highest earthly priority, our family.  Since we had not been home for Christmas with our now adult children for the past five years, we set aside time for just family.  Our three daughters, Lisa and I travel to Dauphin Island, Alabama, for what we hoped to be a warm time.  The weather was nice for the first two days then cold rain settled in for the following days.   It was a great time to listen to them, talk some, play games together, walk on the beach, eat fresh tangerines straight from the tree, and simply be a family.  One funny note:  Art had his first “senior moment,” not mentally, when he was able to get a discounted price at the estuarium on the island, since they allow visitors over 50 two dollars off admission.   Good times.DSC06684

Then back to Indiana for Christmas with Lisa’s family.  Normal presents and food and celebrations were in order.  However, for Olivia, the day after Christmas brought a few extra special presents.  Olivia’s special friend, Daniel, arrived in Indianapolis.  That evening at an Italian restaurant, with Art and Lisa’s blessing, he presented her with an engagement ring.  Of course she enthusiastically accepted. Although they will still need to wait until they finish college next year, we look forward to adding Daniel Underwood to our family.DSC07021

After a time with both sides of our extended families, we took Daniel back to his home in New York State, so that we could meet his family and get to know him better.  It was a good time topped off by a visit to Niagara Falls.

We then planned to travel across Ontario back to Michigan stopping to visit the parents of our teammates along the way.  Those plans took a detour along the QEW, Canadian Highway, as we were part of a 60 car pileup due to wintry conditions.   We were hit from behind, rendering our friend’s minivan undriveable. Miraculously in the entire event, no one was seriously injured, even though a large truck carrying around 400 gallons of chlorine slid to a stop only 50 feet from our vehicle.  Our friend Marv Brubacher graciously arranged to get us off the road.  Along with Pep, a man from their church, they weathered the storm, drove an hour and a half, loaded our things, took us home and helped us make arrangements for the care of the minivan.  Kay, Marv’s wife, had Christmas dinner ready and waiting when we pulled into the driveway.  We enjoyed the time not only with the Brubachers but also with the Davises, who are our teammate Martina Brubacher’s parents.  We delivered presents from our teammates. Strangely the hand written letters from their grandsons outweighed the Russian chocolates, which came through the wintry collision no worse for wear.DSC07162

Next day, Marv drove us seven hours across the border and all the way to Indiana, where we met up with our beloved Mexican missionary friends the Sandovals.  Marv return home immediately to avoid a major winter storm.  The storm came in full force, cancelling plane flights and shutting down road travel.  This was a blessing in disguise because it gave us several additional days with our daughters before Anna’s rescheduled flight to Colorado.DSC07212

Then teary goodbyes, plane rides in different directions, and without further drama we arrived back in Ulan-Ude.  We did however lose Saturday as we crossed the International Date Line, right now I would like it back. Our teammates graciously had prepared our apartment with basic necessities for us.  The following day they helped us move all of our things from several storage locations, back into one place.   Whew! As we caught our breath from our vacation we are back at work this week teaching the missionary children and sharing our lives with the Russian around us.  We hope your holidays were blessed and your coming year is filled with God’s rich grace.

DSC05695If you ever wondered if your prayers make a difference, be assured we believe they do!   This past month has been very busy with preparing for Send Russia’s area conference, traveling to Thailand for the conference—a little fun, a scary moment—then more preparing for our trip home for Christmas.   Let me break it down.20131122-kdz-7372

November was time for our whole team across Russia to get together for reports and planning.  Because it was cost efficient, and let’s face it warmer, to meet in Thailand rather than some place in Siberia, we all met together south of Bangkok at a missions facility.  It was beautiful and the times of worship and testimony together were fantastic.  It was also a good time to see friends from Tambov where we worked this past summer.20131122-kdz-7431

After the work week, we stayed for a time to relax with some of our teammates.  IMG_1713We had a great time in the waves, traveling about on scooters, and monkey-ing around.   We had the added blessing of having Anna with us as well as her friend Katy, who had come to do the children’s program for the MKs. IMG_1557 We enjoyed the time with them and are grateful to all who provided support for them to attend.DSC05904

Here is the scary part and the part that assures me that people pray for us.  Anna and Katy needed to fly sooner than we did, so the four of us traveled to Bangkok ahead of the rest of the Russia team.   We traveled by commercial van into the city.  As we came into heavy traffic, our van stopped quickly to avoid hitting the car in front of us—not so for the truck behind us carrying metal pipes on a rack.  DSC06366The sudden stop threw the metal through our back window and into the back of Katy and Anna’s seat, pulling the seat from the floor.  Praise the Lord for suitcases and just the right angle of impact, and our guardian angels working overtime.  The girls were unharmed except for minor bruises and cuts.  Anna did have to lose a piece of her skirt to get free from the seat, but that wasn’t much.   The whole thing left us thoughtful and thankful for what God spared us from.   The next day Thanksgiving meant a lot more to us as well.DSC06303

Today we are ready to fly to America to have our first Christmas together in five years.  If you think of us in the next few days, or anytime really, please send up a quick prayer for God to shower His traveling mercies upon us.  I don’t take them for granted as much now.

Finding a New Normal

If you ask someone how they are doing here in “Russia you will often hear “normalna” which is not hard to translate.   We have been redefining our own normal the past several weeks.  Here are a few highlights.

We started school Oct 15.  It may seem late, but our students had not returned from Canada until just a few days before.  Since one of our families is in the US for this school year, we currently have four students–two full time and two part-time.  The need to support our teammates so that their ministries can be effective is still a vital priority even with the decreased number of students.Image

With our school responsibilities lighter, Lisa and I have other ministries to apply our efforts.   We started working with the Sunday school at church.  We help once a month; Lisa does an English lesson, and Art has been teaching a crafts like macramé and balloon animals.   The children enjoy the interactions, even if our Russian still is not perfect.  Recently we had a focus on the family day, each family was to bring three pictures of their family.  A few did not know we have four adult children until they saw our family photo.Image

Art has been meeting with a young Russian man with whom he exchanges English help for Russian help.  The lessons are becoming an important part of the week and the improvement in Art’s Russian is noticeable although once again far from perfect.

Once again this year we are helping in English Club two Sunday afternoons per month.  Art helps lead singing in English and Lisa works with the beginning students to help them get the building blocks of English.   Although many of the people who come are believers, the intent is to offer conversational English as a drawing card for evangelism.  Several unbelievers have recently begun to come to the club, one Buryat young lady brought her unsaved friend even though she has not trusted Christ at this point.Image

We are beginning to adjust to the new apartment but are still not completely feeling like it is home. We are thankful that God had a place for us and still has a good plan.  The current apartment is about twice the size of the last one, so Lisa and I have to make sure we go to the same room to talk or else we cannot be sure we have been heard.  We will see how this all plays out but for now at least we are not on the streets.

We know that we really are not to get too comfortable here anyway, not just in Russia, but in this world which is not our home.  One day we will all have to get adjusted to a new NORMALNA, but I do not think it will be a struggle.   God Bless you all.

                     

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The last little while has been crazy for us.   It should probably start a little Dickens-ish   “It was the best of time it was the worst of time”   So I will attempt to explain things in a concise manner.

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Praise the Lord we received our five year visas and because of that have much more freedom.   In that process we needed to reregister because our past visa was invalidated by the new one.  We needed the help of our landlady to do that.  She helped us register for the next five years, and the time in the government office went well.   But as soon as we finished, she told us that our rent would be going up 20% above the already high rate we were paying.  She was not willing to negotiate, so our field leadership asked us to move to a SEND owned apartment where our teammates live since they are away for this year.   Pray for our former landlady; she doesn’t have a clue about Christianity although we have tried to share with her.

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We packed up our things and moved.  Sounds so simple now, but it really is different because in Russia you take everything that belongs to you including the kitchen sink. Art dismantled all the cabinets and wrapped them in plastic to keep them safe and together for the next time they are needed.  We made arrangements for a truck and got help from friends.   Some of the guys are part of our church’s drug rehabilitation center.  All who helped were greatly appreciated.

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Recently,  we also started helping with Sunday school at church.   We are doing a craft once a month as well as other small things that help us use and build our language skills.  Lisa taught a lesson in both Russian and English about being fishers of men.

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Art taught a craft wrapping pens with knots to make a pattern.   The children appreciated it, and we enjoy being involved.  We just need to make sure we keep it limited to once a month as school will soon be starting.

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We can see God’s timing in all of this, but it has been a stressful September.   Thanks for all who have prayed for us and have encouraged us along the way.

One little commercial, we are still needing help with support for Anna coming to help with our Russian conference.  She has sent out letters, and we are asking people to help her raise $1800 for the flights and other expenses.  The tickets are bought so we know she is coming, but we still need to cover the expense.    If you can help with this, contributions can be sent to: SEND International, PO Box 513, Farmington, MI  48332  with a memo  Russia General account (#29539) with “Russia conference”.   Please do not put Anna’s or our name on the check if you want a tax receipt.    If you include a separate note saying this is for Anna they will let us know.

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A Hoosier in Khuzhir

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Our team had the opportunity to serve in a small village this past week. We worked on constructing a workshop that will be used to help establish a church-run, drug rehabilitation center  located very near the Mongolian border. We all packed into three vans with tents, food supplies, construction tools, kids and for us a dog; then traveled twelve hours over roads that at times resembled cow paths, literally, and at other times were riverbeds because of the rain that was falling. Due to the weather, the team stayed in the town of Zakamensk the first night. Lisa and I stayed at the church with Ebony our faithful dog.

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Next day after breakfast and a time of devotions with the team, we traveled to the village to begin our project. Delayed by rain and incomplete communication, we discovered the building was not as far along as we thought.

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Holes for foundations needed to be completed; due to the tools we had available the last few centimeters of the holes had to be dug using a tin can and a spud. Russian shovels are shaped differently than those in the US and getting dirt out of deep holes is a challenge. We finished digging what was needed and poured cement in the holes for pillars to hold a large wooden beam that functions as a foundation. Leveling and squaring up the foundation was next.

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Art had fun notching the beams to join them together. Lisa was kept very busy feeding the team; thankfully she prepared much ahead of time because getting food supplies for 20 people would have been very difficult in the remote place.

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The neighbor stopped by to put in his helpful advice, which is all he offered. We hope more neighbors will stop by to allow Alexea and Max the chance to present Jesus to them.  This Buryat village has no known Christian believers. This building project is intended to be an outreach of the Zakamensk church.

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Rain delayed work, but we swished through the mud and managed to get all four walls standing before our departure.

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There are plans to put on a truss rafter roof which is new to the Russians working on the project.

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The rain subsided giving us  a beautiful day to travel home. We stopped along the way to take pictures. The one drawback was that where the scenery was most beautiful, Buddhists had built a shrine and the trees were covered with prayer clothes

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Still it was a great time and the Lord used skills he had built in us beforehand to bless the small church in that area.

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