Dear Brothers and Sisters In Christ!
It has been a while since I last wrote, largely because the summer months are full of farm work and usually very little of what is considered "ministry."
Over the summer months we usually cut back on all church functions except Sunday Services and Wednesday night Prayer Meeting. But all the hay has been put up (almost 50 ton, loose), the potatoes are in the root cellars of both of our churches buildings (267 buckets), a variety of pumpkins, squash, carrots, beets, jars of jam and various preserves all squirreled securely away for the coming long winter. The lambs and kids have grown up and the last harvest, the butchering, will happen in November, when it gets cold enough to safely keep the meat in a barrel outside. Rebecca is carding the wool with the girls and she will be spinning in the long winter evenings. Summer has turned to fall and will soon pull the white sheet of snow up, and snuggle into the deep sleep of winter. And we will kick it into high gear ministry mode!!!
But even though during the summer our "official" ministry work is toned down a bit, God still opens many doors for serving others and proclaiming His Kingdom.
During the summer months as we plowed and planted and harrowed and put up hay and wood, sheared sheep and washed wool, God brought some 50 people, hitchhikers, reporters, farm volunteers and just seekers from as far away as Krasnodar (Black Sea), and St. Petersburg. Some of these people came to make documentaries about us, some of them came to learn about farming, all of them heard the Good News, that God is our Father through the work of Jesus and that He wants all of us to turn from idols and serve the living God! It's funny how none of our neighbors will listen any more. They shrug us off with quips about "our crazy American's" and yet people from all over Russia show up, almost every week, to listen to what God has to say through us. We had three boys live with us all summer,
two boys lived with us for about two months and one boy lived with us for a month. This has become a kind of tradition with us, taking in boys over the summer and working, living and encouraging them in their faith. One amazing thing that happened was a man from a few villages over, heard about us and came to talk with us.
He had recently lost his wife and was fighting depression and alcoholism. I talked to him about God's will for his life and he received the Lord. A few days later he brought a woman who had killed her husband in a drunken fight
with a knife and was suffering from shame and remorse. The court had ruled it self defense but she was tortured with guilt. We talked about the just requirements of God's law, that mans slayers do not enter the Kingdom, but that Christ took the punishment for our sins and suffered as a murderer, as a their, in our place. She also accepted the Lord. I was able to get these two connected with the local church in their town, a church we had helped plant years ago. Praise the Lord! We've had a couple of new people coming to church meetings in Takuchet and Oseenavy Mees.
The church body in Oseenavy Mees is always such an encouragement, and I have no doubt that they will continue to grow and to "reproduce", giving birth to spiritual children as the Lord adds to the number of those who believe. But for what ever reason Takuchet has been hard in that way. We have people who come consistently but only a few who really show signs of real spiritual life. It's not for me to judge, but please pray for the believers in Takuchet, that they would experience God in a way that is beyond their comprehension, and carry the message of Christ to the rest of the town.
As is, our little group in Takuchet is very friendly, and if nothing else, very consistent. That is a blessing. May God explode their hearts!!! Mid summer we had a big outreach in the town of Chunoyar.
We used the new church building that was built largely due to help from our supporters, thank you!!!! Musicians came from the big city (Krasnoyarsk) and we had a great time. We had three car loads of people go from Oseenavy Mees and Takuchet to the event. There were non believers who heard the word preached and believers who were reminded that the Gospel is our bread, and sharing the gospel our food
. In the 20th chapter of John
, Jesus calls out to his disciples in the boat, "Children, do you have any food?" What a strange question. You'd think you would ask fishermen, "do you have any fish?", "what did you catch?" But Jesus asks, children, do you have any food? What do John and Peter reply? No Lord, we're starving. No Lord, we're professional fisherman, we have nets and a lake and we're starving. Not because we can't catch fish (that too) but because the food we catch doesn't satisfy. It doesn't last. Peter dives into the lake, Drags the net of miraculously caught fish up on the shore, but Jesus already has breakfast ready. He didn't need the colossal effort Peter was willing to exert. What does Jesus want? What does the risen Christ need?
Peter, do you love me? Do you love me? Do you really love me? Yes Lord, you know I do, you know all things!! Stop torturing me, I'll do anything for you, I'll drag a half ton of fish up on the shore, I'll swim, I'll run….Peter, do you love me? Do this one thing. This one little thing. Feed my sheep. So what is our food?
In the fourth chapter of John, Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman, I will give you water! And she replies, well give it to me then? And He says, go tell your husband about me! And that was the water. When a child asks for bread does a Good Father give a stone? NO! She asked for the living water to flow. She had met Christ. All she needed to do was to believe and to go and share. Period. Life changing experience. But she got bogged down for another half chapter in theological, social and philosophical discourse! So fishing is good, and getting water at the well is good, and potatoes are necessary, and work is unescapable, but our food, our real food, is Christ and he is always present when we are seeking out a lamb, a lost sheep, and giving him the living water, sharing with her the bread of life. Child, do you have food? Feed my sheep. Are you hungry? Feed my sheep!
So we are also thinking about how we can "feed more sheep." The last couple of months we've really been doing a lot of soul searching as to the direction God is taking us and our ministry. I'd like to share with you a letter I wrote to my pastor as well as to some key councilors in our lives. Here it is:
Some Thoughts on Changing the Look and Feel of Our Ministry
First of all we have always wanted to plant new churches and open new ministries, to get a church started in all of the 27 villages of the Boguchany region. We also have always known that the long term future of village missions in Russia has to lay on the shoulders of Russians. That's why 4 years ago we moved to Takuchet and started the two farming experiments, one with cows in OM and one with goats in Tak. As you know our hope was to find a model for "tent making" that could theoretically support a farmer/missionary/pastor. We also started the RPTC in hopes of recruiting people interested in rural ministry.
Well four and a half years later we have a definite model that works, and a laundry list of requirements for success for a farm/mission endeavor. We realized the extent of the financial investments in starting a farm from scratch, even in Russia, as well as the realities of marketing product, etc.
We also found out how very few people are interested in full time village ministry, especially when that means working with your hands. So we have come to some realizations.
1). Starting a church in every village is beyond the scope of the currently available recruits in Christian Russia. To reach the rural areas we should think in terms of strategically placing pastor/missionaries to be able to reach 3-4 villages at a time. This also makes sense if these teams are also going to be starting farms, the capital investment being substantial, allowing a pastor to reach 3-4 villages as opposed to 1. So the idea is to place pastors with their farms in locations where the "investment" of both very scarce human resources, and less scarce financial resources can do 3-4 times more than previously envisioned.
2). We are famous now! Funny, but this is a reality. I have almost 17,000 followers on Russian Facebook and over 32,000 subscribers on YouTube. Crazy as this is it has given us an unprecedented platform for sharing our ideas and for recruiting. I've gotten more response in the last 12 months from Russian Christians who want to go to the villages, who want to farm and open churches, than I have in the last 11 years of ministry in the Boguchany region combined. I've gotten encouraging letters about people who were encouraged to start rural ministries just by seeing us online, as well as people wanting to come and learn. Lots of people want to come out for a week or a weekend to "absorb" the idea, a few mention longer term internships (among non believers I have a list of over 100 people interested in coming to intern with us just for the farm side of things). However almost all of these believers already have a place their church is wanting to send them. No one, so far, seems interested in coming to the Boguchany region to start something here.
3). Takuchet is not an appropriate set up for exampling the model of ministry we have developed. We could of course build another building to house students (long term, live in, additions to the family have not been so wonderful for us), increase the size of the farm to support the increased personnel, start a church in Oktobersky to bring the number of churches we oversee up to the desired 3, but aside from all that, we are very far a away from, well, everything. We'd like to locate in such a way as to make ourselves available as an example to every and any potential recruit, even for a weekend or a week. We need to make ourselves available to serve the recruits where they can come, learn, and then go back and minister where God is leading them.
So we are praying and thinking about what this all means for us. Right now we are thinking that it probably means that we will be here in Takuchet and OM until we can find a replacement pastor to carry on the work and a family to work in the orphanage. After that we'd like to take a furlough in the US of about 6 months, to see supporters and family. After that we would then look where to set our next farm/church plant operation with the above considerations held in mind. It would most likely not be the Boguchany region, most likely somewhere closer to a city where national travel is more facilitated. We will not end up in a city, just try and make ourselves more available for people to learn. We'd still be doing village ministry, still be hoping to send missionaries to the Boguchany region, but also realizing our role as models and trainers for work all over Russia, wherever the workers can be found and to wherever they want to go.
So, that's what's on our minds. Nothing really to solid yet, a lot of details to pray about, a lot of things that need to come together first, but still, an idea.
What do you think? Love to hear prayerful feedback. Pray for us that God would guide us, that doors would open and close as He sees fit. We also really want to come home for a visit, but can not do that until we get a solid replacement pastor in place. Please pray for this need.
Mid way through summer a church from the city of Kemerova asked me to come be a keynote speaker at their missionary conference. I was unable to go then, because of the farm work, but I recorded a video and sent that. Last week I was invited by the largest meat packing company in Kemerova to go and sell our cheese as well as to speak, twice, at their open air farmers market. I was given two 40 min spots to lecture on topics of my choice. I spoke about the future of farming in Russia and about family values. In both lectures I was able to bring things back to the Gospel. I gave 4 interviews for TV and the press. Sowing seeds. The next day on Sunday I spoke in two large churches, encouraging the believers to realize that now is the time to seize the day, start family farms and village ministries, feed the nation with both temporal and eternal food. The response was encouraging, people touched and motivated. Please pray that the Lord of the Harvest would truly send laborers.
In closing, I've left some of the most exciting news for last. Our good friends, Dan and Joan Rulison, have made the decision to join our work on a full time basis. They will be doing mission advocacy in the US as well as traveling to Russia for semi long term trips to be involved in the work here. We are still praying for the Lord to show us how this new partnership will grow, so pray that God would guide us in this. And just send your thanks and blessings in the direction of the Rulison's. This has been something that has been in their hearts and ours for a long time. God is good to bring all things to completion!!!!
Sorry about the website being down! Our web hosting came up for renewal and I was in the middle of haying, by the time I got around to dealing with it, the host had deleted our whole site off the server. So I'll need to get it re-uploaded some time. I'm also building a Russian language version of our site. Pray for these technical projects to get done quickly, and not be a distraction.
Finally, I don't know if any of you have been following the news, but the Russian ruble has collapsed over the summer. ALthough this has caused a lot of hardships for our brothers and sisters in the Lord in Russia and is by no means a reason for any kind of celebration, it has provided us with a financial opportunity. Their are a few capital investment type projects I'd like to do in Takuchet. We need a new septic tank installed and it would be a major blessing to have a well, to not have to haul water. Drilling a well will now cost about $1200 as opposed to last years $2,500. The septic tank will now cost $500 as opposed to $1,000. This is a need, and an opportunity. If you feel led, we would be blessed.
As always, thank you for your support, your faithful prayers and uplifting of this work. God is doing something amazing in rural ministries, we are blessed to be a part of it, and we were here because we were sent by you. Thank you!
That God would give us clear vision for the future.
That God would provide a family for the orphanage.
That God would provide a pastor for our two churches so we can move on and come home for a much needed furlough.
That God would guide and bless the Rulisons as they join our work in a more full capacity.
That all the seeds God has allowed us to plant will sprout and bring a good harvest.
That God would continue to open doors for us to speak, and that we would continue to be bold and speak all the word of this Life, regardless of persons!!!
Again, thank you for your faithful prayers and support! God bless!!
Justus, Rebecca, Tirzah, Adara and baby Kirsten!!!Support Info
Currently our home church in Idaho handles all our tax deductible donations for us. Please send a check made out to Cabinet Mountain Calvary Chapel. Please attach a sticky note or a separate note, designating your donation for “Siberian Mission.” If you would like to give to a particular project, please designate that as well. Please do not make any notes on the check itself. Send your check to:
Cabinet Mountain Calvary Chapel
PO Box 461
Clark Fork, Idaho 83811Paypal