Strengthening the Church through Education

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One month ago we were writing a blog about spinning through our last days of the school year and through preparations for home service.  Life is still whirling dizzily.

 

Praise the Lord we arrived safely and smoothly to the U.S. all luggage in tow.  Waiting in the airport, Lisa’s mom and our future daughter-in-law greeted us. It was our first time to meet Cassie face to face.  Lisa’s dad drove up in the new/used camper they had purchased for housing during all the summer events and travels.  As Art opened the door to load our luggage, out popped a surprise! Our son Jonathan, with whom we had not spoken since his Christmas engagement because of his new job schedule, was hiding in the camper.  It was a loving welcome home and just the beginning of reunions with family and friends.

 

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We spent the rest of our arrival day, Sunday, May 3rd, with our son, Cassie, and Lisa’s family. Monday we rearranged and repacked our luggage for the first part of our tour of the U.S. Over the next two weeks the camper was to be our home as we traveled first to Florida to watch Olivia’s graduation from college, back to Indiana to celebrate Mother’s Day and to do the first church presentation, then off to Colorado to help Anna move back to Indiana .

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May 17th we finally pulled into the driveway of our Mentone house.  Our oldest daughter and her fiancé, Brandon, who works with the youth group at their church, had graciously organized a cleaning party to prepare the house for our arrival. Going to lunch with Elisabeth and Brandon that day rounded out the four corners of our family giving us at least one opportunity with each of our young adults.

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The last two weeks of May have been focused on wedding preparations and discussions.   We are currently back to living in the camper which is parked in Art’s brother’s yard in Michigan so that we can prepare for Olivia and Daniel’s wedding June 6th.DSC08840

Not only will that be a momentous occasion for the wedding couple it will be the first time all six of us will be together in the past four years. IMG_20150601_161115  IMG_20150601_161301

 

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Spinning in circles can be fun, especially if you are a missionary kid on a merry-go-round on your last day of school for the year.   Even the teacher took his turn. DSC08780

We had a good time playing together with the children then eating pizza before we said good-bye for the summer.

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We plan on a much bigger spin this Saturday and Sunday as we get on the plane and travel back to the States.   We would so much appreciate your prayers for safety as we travel and as we begin our home service.   We have so much to do this summer and are glad many have asked to see us.   We still have room for more personal times; please feel free to suggest a time, and we will do all we can to meet with you while we are home.

IMG_20140723_140053What is home assignment?  Instead of a ministry assignment on the field (in our case Ulan-Ude, Russia), during this period of time we will be fulfilling certain ministry requirements in the USA.  Of course, one part of this home assignment will be “rest and renewal.” Since we are very active in ministry and tend to keep the nose to the grindstone here, we are looking forward to a period of disengagement from life in Russia, so that we can reflect on the past and refocus on the future.

This summer will be especially filled with “family events.”  We anticipate not one, not two, but three weddings this summer.  Olivia and Daniel Underwood will be married in June.   Jonathan and Cassie Long will be married in September, and Elisabeth and Brandon Brown will also be married, at a date to be finalized soon.   We have no greater joy than knowing that they are walking with God.  We look forward to celebrating each of these special days.  Anna has plans for the summer–but not for her wedding.

Of course, we are looking forward to “reconnecting with family and friends.”  Certainly, one of the most difficult parts of being a missionary is separation from family and friends. We are very thankful for so many modern forms of communication that make it possible to remain somewhat connected, but there is no substitute for hours of face-to-face time!

A very important part of our time home will be spent “reporting to sending churches and supporters.”  We are responsible to those who have sent us out!  Lisa and I are thankful to each of our supporting churches and the many personal supporters who make it possible for us to live and serve in Russia.  While we try our very best to communicate effectively about our ministry activities while in Russia, we very much look forward to reporting and interacting in person about all that God is doing in Ulan-Ude.  People at home also need to hear about the difficulties and challenges that we face. This is best shared personally rather than in print.

We want to help “mobilize new missionaries” since mobilizing God’s people is a key component of SEND’s vision and more importantly God’s plan to reach the lost.   Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”  As God brings qualified people with a heart to reach the lost into our lives, we want to encourage them to serve Jesus in strategic roles.  Missions is a spiritual battle, and there is a desperate need for humble, serious-minded, godly people to enter that battle.

And, yes, missionaries often go on home assignment to “raise support” – this is the acceptable way of referring to the act of asking for more money!  Missionaries need more support for many different reasons.  Sometimes the cost of living in various parts of the world increases.  Sometimes faithful elderly supporters go home to be with the Lord.  Sometimes churches and individuals cease supporting for various reasons.  Personally, all these things have happened to us, but we are thankful to God that He has and will raise up new supporters.  We anticipate needing significant funds to return.  For us that is in the neighborhood of $1500 per month additional support.

DSC07624There are other reasons why missionaries go on home assignment.  We will spend time with our mission organization, reporting to them about our work and helping them where possible.  Summer time is the best time for us to go home from a school-year point of view but not for meeting up with people in the States that is why we are working now to connect and schedule. We certainly look forward to seeing many of you.

Time for planning

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If you are a regular follower of the Blog, you may need to go to the site to check out the new Summer 2015 page.   The page is a little bare right now,  but It will be filling up as we make contact with more and more of you. IMG_20141022_205646

If you would like a face-to-face time with us, please check if we are in your area as it fills in; then send us an email suggesting a date we could meet. In May, we will add a stateside phone number to call and schedule more detailed information.   As always the more the merrier for getting together as we try to make connections with both friends we know, and those we have yet to meet.

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We will be flying before you know it .

Our plans for the summer, both personal and professional are very important. Please help us be wise stewards of our time, and plan ahead with us for an awesome summer.   We don’t want to miss anyone or anything God has for us this summer

White Party

IMGP0186Wednesday we had a White Party at English club. Why a “White” Party, you may ask? Well, this is White Month – it’s a holiday the Buryats celebrate. It starts with the holiday Sagaalgan, the New Year according to the lunar calendar and continues for a whole month. It’s a time of cleansing oneself from evil, impurity, bad karma and unluck. This is the first time I’ve celebrated the holiday, and it’s been meaningful to learn more about Buryat culture. However, this holiday has a lot of Buddhist rituals and traditions entwined throughout, which makes for a very dark and heavy time here. But, I want to share about what God did tonight at our White party. DSC09076We made pozi, a Buryat traditional dish, and everyone brought white food (white cookies, sour cream and cottage cheese, yogurt, etc). While we ate, everyone shared how they celebrate this holiday. Then, Art taught us how to make origami hearts, and we played a game. Nettie printed a picture with a verse (Is. 1:18) about God cleansing us from sin and making us white as snow. IMGP0182

However,wedidn’t really plan how to present it and didn’t plan how to share the Gospel with it. But nearing the end of our time, the conversation just happened! God brought us a Buryat girl who is a Christian and she shared her testimony and one girl opened up and asked some very good questions.IMGP0176

We had a great conversation about God and the Bible! This one girl expressed a desire to read the Bible and Renata gave one to her. We  are so excited to see how God is working!!! It wasn’t because we had a great plan or led a great discussion – it was all God!!! Please pray for God’s work to continue in the hearts of those who heard His truth. Please pray that they will know Jesus!!!!!

Let’s make a date

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Lisa and I have our official home service this summer. We plan to be home May 3 and return to Russia on October 23 .  Already the time is beginning to fill in with family events: graduations, weddings, and sweet times to enjoy our adult children and friends.

However, once again we will want to meet and connect with churches and individuals who support us financially and as faithful prayer partners.  Since you are reading, may we ask for your help.

   First, contact us and let us know when we can have time with you. The days of summer will come and go quickly, and we want time with each person who plays a part of this ministry.  Please get your request to us soon so we can plan a time with you.  We will be making contact with many of our prayer and financial supporters but want to make special priority for those desiring a time with us.

  Second, we need to expand our contacts.  We lose a few of our supporters each year as God promotes them to glory.  We will need new supporters who at this time are unknown to us to fill in the gaps.  The best way for that to happen is for those who already know and support us to help build new relationships.   So as you contact us, please have in mind a venue in which we could connect with others also:  Maybe a small group or Sunday school class, a picnic or dessert party, a time in the park or at the beach but with an opportunity to make new connections.   Then as the Lord leads, He can direct some to become new supporters.

  Third, we will have a significant amount of support to raise, approximately $1500 per month.  Not because we need a personal raise, but for a couple of good reasons.   As already mentioned we have lost some supporters through death, and we miss them personally, but that also causes a financial hole.  We must find new partners to fill those losses of support.   One other prominent reason is that current monies being used from generous one time donations to help stabilize our support needs will be gone in May.  God has used these one time gifts  to cover our support requirements this past term, but now the tank is about dry.

 The urgency to return fully supported in the fall effects not only our ministry but that of the whole team.  We look forward to telling you more about our summer plans and the ministry in Ulan-Ude, Russia, but for now  LET’S MAKE A DATE..

With all this in mind, please arrange a time to meet with us. We will do all we can to find time for you this summer.  It will be impossible to see everyone, but let us make you a priority.  Help make that happen by making contact soon.

Looking forward to this summer:  email us at blakera63@hotmail.com or call our home church Pleasant View Bible of Warsaw at  574-269-1562  or through SEND International  at 800- SEND- 808  and ask for Jill Hemingway, our coach. The important part is to make contact.

Here in Ulan-Ude, it is ushered in by fireworks bursting all over the city and carrying on until the next morning.DSC_0057

As we have explained previously, December 25 isn’t seen as Russia’s official Christmas Day, but the churches have adopted the practice of celebrating with the children and emphasizing family on a Sunday nearest the 25th. Our church chose the 28th. In preparation the Sunday school team began planning in November. Sadly those initial plans were waylaid for health struggles and other issues. Life is like that, and adaptations are made resulting sometimes in something even better than first planned.

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A suggestion the Lord brought to Lisa that was to compliment the original plan ended up more prominent in the second plan. Traditionally, our church gives out the names of each of the children and the congregation buys them gifts presented on the Sunday we celebrate. This year Lisa suggested helping the children focus on giving more than receiving by making some homemade gifts for each family or unit in the church. We started making cinnamon, applesauce ornaments with the older class, cards with the middle group, and gift boxes with the youngest children the end of November.IMG_20141207_120123

Skipping  S.S. the first week of December, our church celebrated the wedding of a couple whose testimonies of God’s grace are amazing. We spent the next couple of weeks painting and finishing projects. The favorite week was making candy cane cookies! We, of course, had to taste them; but only AFTER, we had formed all the dough:). Watching how the children participated more readily each week that we worked on the projects and how joyfully they handed them out on the 28th blessed and encouraged our hearts. Before the children handed the gifts out, the children’s choir sang and several families agreed to either sing, recite, play the piano, or do a skit, then Lisa read the legend of how the candy cane was made and a poem–yes, in Russian in front of the entire church!

Look at the Candy Cane                               Посмотрите на Леденец

What do you see?                                         Что вы видите?

Stripes that are red                                       Полосы, которые красны

Like the blood shed for me                           Как кровь, которую пролил за                                                                                                                                                меня Христос.

White is for my Savior                                   Белые – мой Спаситель

Who’s sinless and pure!                               Который безгрешен и чист!

“J” is for Jesus My Lord, that’s for sure!      “J” – это Иисус, мой Господь, это                                                                                                                                           точно!

Turn it around                                               Переверните его

And a staff you will see                                 И вы увидите посох,

Jesus my shepherd                                       Иисус Пастырь мой

Was born for me!                                          Родился для меня!

DSC08821Sharing about our Savior’s birth provides a golden opportunity for evangelism at English club. We had a great time singing and sharing the Christmas story. Bruce shared a chalk art of the nativity along with a Christmas cookie account of the birth of Christ.

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We sang the “Twelve Days of Christmas” with flare and made paper ornaments.

We hope the new year will have much fruit as we share our lives as well as  God’s truth with these precious young people.

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