Strengthening the Church through Education

DSC07614Summer is usually thought of as a time for vacations.  The kids are out of school so parents take them on family trips, the warmer weather invites people to spend more time outside, and families get together for reunions.  For us as teachers it is an opportunity for a change of routine and to charge our “batteries.”

What do missionaries do?  Often times summer provides more ministry opportunities like running youth and family camps, outdoor evangelistic meetings or sport events, construction projects to help build churches, and yes, taking vacations.

Sometimes those in ministry have a hard time justifying that it is ok to take a vacation-I do. But the Lord blessed us with a unique opportunity to be with our own MKs combined with chances to do church presentations and ministry updates about Ulan-Ude.

The Lord provided an awesome opportunity for us to take a cruise with our son whom we hadn’t seen for 2 years.  Six years ago he enlisted with the Navy which limited our communication and visits severely.  This year he finishes his active duty and will be transitioning back to civilian life.  The ship, U.S.S. Howard that he had been deployed on for the last 7 months invited a limited number of family members of the sailors to live and experience life at sea for a week.  Jonathan worked hard to make sure we had our applications in early for consideration.  He wasn’t able to tell us until last minute exact details so we flew to the U.S. first to spend time with our daughters and to begin visiting our ministry partners.DSC07839

Shortly after arriving in Indiana, Lisa received an unwanted surprise, an infected tooth.  Not having been home for a while and not planning to be home for long made getting her help a challenge.  We managed to get her in to see the last dentist we had used, he gave a prescription for antibiotics but the problem remained.  We then needed to find more urgent care as the pain was unmanageable for Lisa, who never complains about pain.  The second dentist suggested a root canal or extraction of the tooth but with the infection this wasn’t possible.  With relief still out of sight, we went to church with Lisa’s parents planning to present our ministry during the service.  Lisa’s pain made it a hard decision what to do , the pastor was understanding and rearranged the order of service to allow Art to share right away.   With the stress of the tooth drama unfolding, Art shared of our work with MK’s in the predominately Buddhist area of Russia.  After the meeting, we still sought help but still had to wait.   We traveled back to northern Indiana and finally found a dentist who could begin the root canal procedure and offer relief.DSC07643

Just a day after the procedure, we began a trip to Minnesota to visit our new friends and their families from the work team that we had met last summer in western Russia.   Indiana friends allowed us to use their Cadillac for a smooth ride.  However, about three hours down the road, the car began to vibrate; and we thought the tires might have a problem.  It turned out to be a rubber flange which we took care of quickly.DSC07665

A brief stop on the way allowed us a visit with missionary friends we met while in Ukraine. They are awaiting the arrival of their sixth child and are in the States for a while during the unrest in Ukraine.  We had an enjoyable evening and morning with them before continuing to Minn.DSC07678

Arriving in Minnesota, we had a delightful time reuniting with Pete and meeting his family for the first time. DSC07686 Pete and Trish hosted us and organized an open house for us to have personal time to connect with most of the construction team.  We were greatly encouraged from the time.

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Before leaving Minnesota, we were also able to connect with our teammates from western Russia, the Hutchcrafts, whose church had sent the group of men.DSC07684

Then quickly back to Indianapolis to fly to our Navy adventure. Details, yet to come.

Is It Summer Already?

DSCN1633We have just completed of our fourth teaching year in Ulan-Ude.  Every year has been different.  A recap:

Year 1 started November 1st, 2010 with two 5th graders and two 3rd graders (3 boys and one girl) and homeschooling our youngest daughter.

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Year 2 we started earlier, in September 2011, added two more boys, but also unfortunately lost two students. Anna was entering her senior year and was joined by a couple of other high school missionary students for science and literature.

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Year 3 couldn’t be started until October 2012 when we returned from home service. We started out with 5 boys from grades seven to second.  After Christmas break, they welcomed the part-time attendance of two pre-kindergartners—both GIRLS!  It was a stretch for Art and me to juggle the different grade levels with the added challenge of teaching a non-English speaking student.

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Year 4 also started in October, this time after our students returned from home service.  Sadly not all of our students were able to return.  Now we were evenly matched at 2 boys and 2 girls although the girls were still part-time.

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But God knew of course what was going to be best in the big picture, for this school year was to be disrupted from the start by various things:  Just a week before it started, Art and I had to move.

In November we had the privilege of a “field trip” to Thailand.  Nathan produced an excellent notebook with pictures, research articles, and summaries of his personal experiences—and he is only a 3rd grader!

DSCN1634An excerpt: If someone asked me, “Should I visit Thailand?” I would say, “Of course!”  I would explain to them how warm the weather was.  It’s so warm you can swim everyday, even at night. Another thing that is great is that a lot of people ride motorbikes. If you don’t have one of your own, it is easy to rent one. It is better than riding in the car because you can feel the breeze. You can go anywhere on a motorbike, but my favourite place to stop was a smoothie stand called Cowboy Wing 5. They had the best strawberry smoothies in the universe. You will also notice al the different kinds of animals and insects from the largest elephant to the tiniest mosquito. My favourite mammals were the lemur-monkeys. I don’t want to tell you too much because I want you to find out for yourself how great Thailand is. If I could, I would go back again!

 

 

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Friday, May 23, 2014, we successfully finished our fourth school year and managed to complete all course goals despite the interrupted schedule. The students love having an end of school party to eat and play games together.  The Lord blessed us with a gorgeous day to utilize the playground outside our apartment.

 

We thought it would be fun to share some of our students’ creativity with you.DSCN1619

Matthew 2nd grade wrote this paragraph: “One Thursday, three blind mice were playing tag. They were using electro-reception to find each other. Two of them also had heat sensors. The mice happily played for 3 hours. Then one poor mouse ran out the door, and was suddenly eaten by a cat!”

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Anneka Kndgtn. wrote the following: “I am riding on the horse.  The horse flicked her tail. We shall give her hay.”

 

P1860440  Our team here in Buryatia recently took part in our yearly team project.   This time we went to Zaragraevo to help with the house of our Russian church planters.  The house will be used for the family as well as church meetings and possibly a drug rehab center. P1860452  This is a project Lisa and I have been a part of for a while along with other teammates at individual times; however, it was amazing to see how much we could accomplish in three work days with many hands working together.P1860471

We insolated walls and floors, repaired fences, built enclosures for water tanks, picked up trash, and even poured concrete to help move this project along.  The village has been difficult to penetrate with the gospel, but our hope is to soon see a core body of believers large enough to begin meeting regularly for services.DSC07545

We also had the chance for a little fun and games.  DSCN1544We played a game called Kube which is basically throwing sticks at blocks of wood to knock them down and some strategy to keep it fun.  I had a funny Russian blunder which gave us all a laugh.  We wanted a name for our team.  I suggested Championes, but in Russian that is the word for mushrooms so my team became the mushrooms.  We won, so it was ok.

Lisa and I slept in a tent although others thought it a bit cold for that. We enjoyed the freshness in the air in the mornings.

DSC07584When the team finished its time, there were still a couple of unfinished items  I thought needed to be done so Lisa and I returned on our day off the following Wednesday.  I climbed on the roof to install a tank for solar water heating.  You probably know that I don’t like heights, but if you didn’t, now you do.  We got it working just in time for the government’s yearly water heating shut down.  Our missionaries will have a warm shower instead of an ice cold option.DSC07585

One final thought just to remind us that we are in Siberia. It snowed enough to cover the ground—May  19thDSC07458Looking forward to a warm time in the States in just a few weeks especially to be with our son whom we have not seen for the past two years, family, friends  and with churches as we continue to work on our support which is better, but still lacks being at 100 %.

 

DSC07427Easter has come and gone but the celebration of the resurrection is a part of the Christian life every day.  We have been celebrating life with teammates and Russians in these past few weeks.

We have had our students over for more personal time in the past little while.  Lisa and I have offered to give each of the families on the team a couple’s day out.DSC07384  We have been taking their children for a day and/or an overnight one day each month.  So, we had the boys one night and made fresh rolls and lasagna. The girls came just before Easter so we decorated eggs.  Each time has been fun.DSC07413

We have been busy at church with the Sunday school ministries.  Lisa has a lesson and craft the last week of each month , and Art had a craft this month. DSC07394 It has been a great chance to serve the church as we still grow in our language skills.GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Hospitality has also been a great part of our lives, lately having both teammates and Russians in our home has provided for new insight and great fellowship.DSC07407

With the Easter holiday, choir has also been a central part of our participation in church ministry. This week we sang at the Thursday night service, as they do here instead of Good Friday, as well as the Sunday Easter services, (Pos-ha in Russian.)  DSC07441Commonly, the greeting shared on this day is “Christ is risen!” followed by the response, “He is risen indeed!” That simple truth is the central difference between Christian faith and all religion. As I Corinthians 15 says–if Christ is not raised, our faith is in vain.  So even if Easter has come and gone, the truth of the Resurrection keeps us going every day of our lives.   Praise the Lord He is risen indeed!

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.

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