Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ! Whether we do it on paper, verbalize or keep these thoughts to ourself, on New Years we all, I think, make some kind of resolutions. The New Year is too good of a natural delineation of time and events to be wasted on the everyday routine and, in and of itself, demands a sort of sanctification which arises with our solemn vows, resolutions, intentions, personal promises, goals or however else we want to describe those internal steelings of our will that we hope the New Year will bring. Having crossed, as we hope, the Rubicon we often find ourselves, very soon, far less steeled than we thought, less inclined to fulfill our good intentions than we had hoped or even thought ourselves to be. So it was with me.
As the New Year came and went I made a resolution to write an email update once a week. It is now the 20th of February and this will be the first newsletter of the year. I am appalled at my own lack of discipline in this regard. We appreciate and depend on your prayers and involvement in this ministry and I do not mean to abuse your commitment by not communicating with you. Please forgive me
So Now I'll try and go over the past two and a half months and let you know what has been going on. It has been an eventful period, full of excitement, averted tragedy, ministry, doors opened and the Kingdom advanced.
In the first part of December, Rebecca, the girls and I were planning on a little vacation to visit family in the US. We were planning on leaving December 2nd and being in the US for three weeks. On the morning of our flight we got to the airport and could not find our flight displayed on any of the departure screens. I went to information and they said that the flight had been changed to an hour and a half earlier and that we had missed check in and boarding. I was livid. I went upstairs to try and figure out a solution with the Aeroflot company representative, the whole time grumbling under my breath about how I'd like to travel just once without incident. My internal dialogue went something like, "God, this is not funny. All I want is to take a little vacation with my family, visit relatives we haven't seen for three years, why can't you just help me out here?!" The Aeroflot representative was less than sympathetic, fined us heavily for a ticket change for four days later and told me we would have to take our complaint up with the regional office in Krasnoyarsk. More grumbling in the direction of heaven on my part.
So we hauled ourselves and our luggage back to our friend's car, who was luckily still around to take us back to the city. We decided to grab some breakfast before going back to our friend's house where we planned on waiting for our flight. At breakfast Rebecca started having some contractions, pain and troubling signs. We rushed her to the prenatal clinic and they got her on an IV, did an ultrasound and said we were showing signs of preterm birth. They suggested attempting to stabilize things with some meds and then to get us into the hospital and get Rebecca a cerclage put in. It all happened so quickly, and I began to imagine us, flying somewhere over the Ural mountains when this would have started to happen. My grumbling turned to thanksgiving, suddenly happy the flight had been moved and we had not been notified. Give thanks in all things. There is a power in that, which i know I often forfeit because I walk in my own understanding and not in humility toward His word. Give thanks in all things.
I went to the Aeroflot regional office while Rebecca was in the hospital and they were much more understanding. They refunded us our full ticket price plus the fines we had to pay for ticket changes. We were thankful for that. Speaking of tickets I am still trying to get United Air to return at least a portion of our continental US tickets and have not had the same fortune. Please pray that they would be gracious towards us and refund us the money for the US portion of our trip.
Rebecca spent seven days in the hospital after the she got the cerclage. After that we went home to Takuchet. So we didn't get to go to the US, but we were thankful that we had been spared another tragedy.
Jordan and Janahlee, who had been living in the woods with the nomadic Evenki people since August, came out of the woods in early December and made there way down south to spend Christmas with us! They actually came a day or two before Christmas and spent over two weeks with us! It was a great time of reunion, fellowship, mutual encouragement, good food and just good old fashioned fun. We opened stockings on Christmas morning, sang Christmas carols and rejoiced that the Light of the World had come, and that the darkness had not overtaken Him. Nor ever will.
Please pray for Jordan and Janahlee as they seek guidance for their further work in the Evenki Region. They are praying for specific guidance on how their ministry is to look. This is a crucial crossroads for them and I would encourage everyone to pray for this wonderful family daily as they seek to do God's work and gulfill his will in the far north. You can read more specifically about their adventures, hardships and decisions that need to be made at their blog here: http://reindeertracks.blogspot.ru/?view=magazine
Another fun event that happened in December involved a car. Not a car wreck, just a car! I got a phone call from a guy who had seen in the news that we had wrecked our Delica mini van back in October and that we wanted to buy a new one. I explained that we had already been able to buy a new van and that everything was fine. He said that he had determined to give us a car and that he thought we could probably put two cars to use. A week or two later, a friend of mine brought the car up to the village, a 2001 Honda Odyssey! We were so amazed at both the condition of the vehicle and at the gift. So now we have two vehicles for ministry, the all terrain Delica beast, and the more urbane Odyssey. This summer when we built the garage for two cars, I was thinking about having somewhere to park a friends car, not needing the space tow park our two cars! This will prove very advantageous as you will shortly see.
While Janahlee and Jordan were still with us we did two large outreach efforts, one on the 7th of January and one on the 8th. The 7th is the traditional Russian Orthodox date for Christmas and we try to do an outreach event. The Church in Oseenavy Mees put together a full length theatrical production which we showed on the 7th in Oseenavy Mees and then again on the 8th in Takuchet. As always we had quite a few people show up from the village and this year we have even seen some of these people joining the fellowship on a consistent basis. Praise the Lord. Please pray that the believers, especially in Takuchet, would be convicted that making disciples is an essential part of being a disciple.
About this same time, on the 6th of January or so, a contractor friend of mine named Sasha Shahtaren (Sasha Sh. for short) showed up to help finish the orphanage. He had taken a look at our project in Novemebr during the big church conference and had noted things that had been done incorrectly and needed to be redone, as well as just some good advice on how to wrap things up in general. The orphanage project has kind of been at a stand still for the last two years, three different contractors taking it on to finish and really not getting much, if anything done. Very frustrating. Well Sasha Sh. came in like a whirlwind, organized the men in our church and attacked the project with a vengeance. There were quite a few mistakes that had been made and the crew spent a good month getting everything that had been done, redone in the correct way and making a lot of progress. We are now finally on, what I really do believe is the final stages of the orphanage project. Sasha Sh. estimate 6-8 weeks to get things completely finished, including all the cosmetic details, etc. Sasha Sh. estimates we need $15,000 to finish the construction side of the orphanage. Please pray for this big need. We hope to keep up our momentum and would like to recommence work in the first part of March so please keep this in your prayers.
Speaking of the orphanage, we have recently been contacted by two different candidates for people to run the orphanage. I believe that God is providing the workers right at the same time as we are finishing the project. This is very exciting, so please keep us in your prayers that God would give us wisdom and guidance in filling these positions.
After Janahlee and Jordan took off for the city on the 10th of January, the time on their visas running out, we were working on settling back into our normal ministry/work/life routine when once again things got shook up. On the 19th of January Rebecca had some serious contractions, tightening of the womb and cervical pain. We called our consulting doctor and our midwife and the suggested we needed medical help. We rushed Rebecca to the regional hospital in Boguchany, where they put her on an 8 hour IV and then flew her to the Prenatal Center in Krasnoyarsk. I got the girls around and had one of the brothers drive us down to the city to be near Rebecca. They put her on magnesium and some calming agent for her womb. She spent another 8 days in the Prenatal Center. Thankfully everything calmed down, the doctors sent us home with a firm recommendation of lots of rest. We began to think that this pregnancy had been kind of rough, so we decided to move Rebecca and the girls to the city to wait for the baby in close proximity to good medical care if the need arose. My mom, June, wanted to come and be near us and help, so she arrived in Krasnoyarsk on the 2nd of February. Rebecca, my mom and the girls will be staying in Krasnoyarsk until after the baby comes.
I spent a lot of time in December, and then Again in February going interviews, appearing on numerous TV and radio shows. I traveled to Moscow in the first week of February for a three day series of interviews, appearances, speeches, etc. Again, I do not exactly know what the reason for my recently found fame, but I see it as an open door that God has allowed me to enter into. I try to speak about the Lord and the message of the Gospel whenever I have the chance, to say things to prick interest and then on my YouTube channel I develop the ideas for people who are searching. Right now we have just over 24,000 subscribers on our youtube channel and I am trying to use that as a tool for spreading the ideas of the Kingdom. Thank you all for your long term commitment to our work. The reason we were "discovered" was because we were here to be discovered in the first place and your faithful prayers and support is what made that possible. Thousands of Russians are hearing a message they might not have otherwise heard, in the villages and now in the inter webs, thanks to you. Praise the Lord!
Invitations for teaching engagements have been piling up as well. In Late January I went and did two days of consulting work for two different farm projects, a Baptist based farm and a Pentecostal based church farm as well. The idea of using farming as a tool for village ministry is catching on. Praise the Lord. I also Did a three day conference at the end of January teaching on the topic of family. I have a series of 25 lessons on family, but in these small conferences I usually do about 8 to 10 hours of teaching. It is always a blessing to see people inspired to turn again to their own homes, to relay the ruined foundations and re-establish that "me and my house will serve the Lord." I have a large conference in March, as well as teaching opportunities in the Bible Colledge in Kansk, where I will speak on the topic of family and also village ministry. God continues to open many doors, and I believe here doors are not only doors for me to minister but also doors through which God will bring new partners into our ministry.
Like Volodya Y. Volodya saw the 17 second viral video of me laughing about the sanctions and got interested in this strange laughing American. He dug deeper and found that I was a pastor and a village missionary. He contacted me and asked if he could join our work. Now He has been with us for almost three months. We are studying the Bible together, he is learning the ups (has seen several births of goat kids) and downs (the other day one of our does failed to deliver and died) of farming and of the village life and ministry in general. Volodya wants to learn everything he can in the next year or two and then start a similar village ministry. Pray that God would continue to give Volodya a teachable spirit and encourage him through the ups and downs of the learning curve.
That brings us, more or less, up to date! As I said in the beginning of the letter, it has been an eventful time, several scares, lots of joy, many opportunities to progress the Kingdom. Keep us in your prayers, keep Rebecca and the new baby in your prayers, pray for the orphanage project and for Jordan and Janahlee, pray that God would give me grace and courage to use the open doors to proclaim his truth boldly, either in the village or on national TV. Thank you for your part in this ministry!!