29 December 2006
22 November 2006
I've never been to Moldova. Until last week. You might ask why I went to Moldova? I went to encourage and support, which is one of my favorite reasons to visit a country!
Moldova is a country full of strong survivors. Although it would seem it is a rather forgotten country, as on maps it is always near the bottom corner...check it out sometime!
Lost Coin director Jennifer and I went to Moldova to participate in the first ever conference from an evangelical perspective on the issue of human traffiking and prostitution. Epidemically it would seem youn girls are being tricked, kidnapped and sold into prostitution from Moldova. The facts and figures showed that over half of the population was being forced into this form of slavery.
Just recently I finished reading a book called The Natashas. It is about this very issue, and although I would not recommend the book for the light of heart it was very powerful and challenging.
For me this all started with our visit in September to Greece and ministry to prostitutes in Athens with Lost Coin. And now as my heart is challenged it would seem that I am being constantly personally inspired to begin moving in the direction of helping, facilitating and whatnot. Who knows that it means really, but for now it means that I am able to help awareness about the issue.
The conference focused on the stories behind the issues, the bare economic facts and the call for evangelicals to be involved. The second day outlined the what to dos and how to start - just open your window and get busy with prevention awareness. How many youth leaders even think to warn their girls about the very real dangers in the country? How many are helping those truely at high risk? These were questions that challenged and helped Moldovan believers and non-believers to see how they could be involved.
I was priviledged to participate. I look forward with some trepidation to see what indeed God will do with me in this whole new field. But I know that His heart is broken over all these daughters of His in slavery.
When you have 25 youth leaders from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus all in the same room it can be crazy!
Just this past month our Perspektiva Training took place here in Moscow. Over the course of 8 intense days the students learned about writing a vision statement, putting together a team, listening to God's direction and a variety of other important lessons.
Living in various apartments, studying in a local seminary, eating 'home' cooked meals from our team members Lyba and Nastya meant that this Perspektiva had more of a relaxed atmosphere. But the key was not the external factors, but the internal connections it would seem.
Amazingly they were almost immediately a family. This group instantly connected and were already into deep dialogue and discussions before the end of the first day. How indeed should you get leaders involved in ministry? Should a teen be part of the leadership committee? Can you have valuable vision without experience? Etc!
Our team leader Lance said that in his opinion this really signified the growth of youth ministry in these countries, as the leaders were so one minded and like spirited that they instantly got along!
As a team we are excited to have all these students with us for 2 week periods over the next two years. We are indeed seeing the hand of God change youth ministry here at long last!
07 November 2006
There are a few people out there that just ooze an aura of fun - Maiya is one of those.
Everything she does has color and vibrancy.
And she loves youth!
This weekend I got to hang out with her a bit in her home away from home of St. Pete.
Over a salad and some tea we challenged each other on the issues of life, and discussed the psychoness of Russian drivers! Turns out that those in St. Pete are just as crazy as those in Moscow! Maiya just recently went through the mental frustrations of buying a Russian used car, getting technical documents, insurance and baptism by fire from the Road Police. But that is all a report for another day.
We had a great time and it was particularly rewarding to realize that she is going out and doing. She studied with our youth training course Perspektiva, and now is training others. And leading youth clubs! And supporting teenagers! And in general leading the life of a disciple.
Traveling is always more fun when done in twos! At least that is my opinion and the opinion of my Russian mobilization travel buddy Natasha K!
We just got back from a trip to St Petersburg where we were involved in a potential missionary training course. Around 25 potential Russian missionaries from all over participated in the 3 day seminars. We got to put on the face of short term trips!
Several of the students filled out applications hoping to follow God's call to the next place...where will that be? Our hope that as a result of our time there, they will hear the call and join us in Africa, Greece, Egypt, Vietnam...wherever!
27 October 2006
So to help this happen, I am going to start using a new e-mail account to keep this all in sync! It has calendars and random other goodies that will help me with work! You all can even get my calendar and schedule on-line if you so want! Wild, eh?
Go after firstname.lastname@example.org as that will be my new 'name', and know that when I write back to you it will most likely be from my home workstation as seen here!
26 October 2006
So what is the source of courage? I think it is the proper ranking of fears. If we fear ignobility more than looking foolish, we will be brave. If we fear our own corruption more than loneliness, we will be brave. If we fear divine disapproval more than human disapproval, we will be brave.
May the almighty God make us such people."
"Do you not fear Me?" says the Lord.
"Will you not tremble at My presence,
who have placed the sand
as the bound of the sea,
by a perpetual decree,
that it cannot pass beyond it?
And though its waves toss to and fro,
yet they cannot prevail;
Though they roar,
yet they cannot pass over it." Jeremiah 5:22
Exaltation comes neither from the east
nor from the west nor from the south.
But God is the Judge:
He puts down one, and exalts another.
He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise and
knowledge to those who have understanding.
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars.
See that you are not troubled.
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?
And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will.
The very hairs of your head are numbered.
Do not fear therefore...
You are of more value than many sparrows.
24 October 2006
This is the united front that we Mobilizers like to use as we lead, organize and arrange the various events for visiting groups. Here is Chris and I during the North Bridge week meshing plans and strategies for mobilizing. He was a total Godsend, and almost did my job better than me!
As you can see our team and North Bridge had lots of time to fellowship...and we are hoping that there will be more in the future!
23 October 2006
Why do I share this lovely experience with you?
Well it is funny for one, but also just to whet your appetite to hear about the adventures of our latest short term team - North Bridge.
Check out the site at www.northbridgerussia.blogspot.com
I'll write more later, but wanted to send you this little taste!
08 October 2006
I have this great colorful card sitting on my desk here in Moscow. For some reason, this card is classic in my mind, something that has depth of meaning like the changing of the leaves. Strange connection I know but still, it works for me. And right now we are in the height of Moscow fall. The leaves are turning their fanciful colors, and that makes me think about life and meaning. As does this card. So I thought I'd share them both with you...
"I have to disagree with the notion that we learn something new every day. I think I've had several days in a row where I haven't learned anything and even forgotten some things."
Thanks family for the card that reminds me that even life shouldn't be taken that seriously.
23 September 2006
The various thoughts that skitted through my mind while in Greece reflected these seemingly ecclectic ideas...
"In Thee O Lord I have taken refuge, let me never be ashamed..."
What does it mean to have a place of refuge? What does it mean to hide away in the Lord? A refuge is such a strong image, and such a balm on the heart and soul. What would it mean to have a place of refuge?
On the wall of Lost Coin's office is this quote...
"Intercessory prayer is spiritual definance of what is in the way of what God has promised. Intercession visualizes an alternative future to the one apparently fated by the momentum of current forces. Prayer infuses the air of a time yet to be into the suffocating atmosphere of the present."
Walter Wink from The Powers that Be
As I think through this quote, I am compelled and pushed to pray, to engage, to participate. So, on Monday nights a few of us from the Russian trip to Athens have dedicated to pray during the outreach of Lost Coin.
When I tried to think through the hurts of the many 'abandoned' we worked with in Athens, these verses kept coming to mind...
"Scorn has broken my heart
and left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none."
So what can be done for a broken and scorned heart? Who can be comforters? What does it mean to be a comforter and bearer of sympathy? Is it possible in the Holy Spirit that I can be one of these?
And in the end I am called back to the reminder...
"I will praise God's name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hoofs."
So what will be the next step in this adventure of obedience? I wonder...
12 September 2006
"...to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison,
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness." Isaiah 42:6-7
I have always treasured these words, and felt that somehow someday God would lead me into His work of freeing the captives.
When in Greece our team ministered with Lost Coin, who reach out to women trapped in prostitution. Even though prositution is legal in Greece, the majority of these women were kidnapped and traffiked into the trade. However they got to this point, they now have little recourse but to live lives in the dungeon.
God promises to free the captive and release those who sit in darkness from the dungeon! And through His miracles and daily events, He is doing just that!
I was priviledged to participate alongside courageous men and women who fight for truth and light. My prayer is that more and more will rise up to fight with them for His glory. I have been challenged to read, pray, inform and fight.
Who knows what the next step might hold?
It is the little things that sneak up on you it seems.
The bountiful dinner with a refugee family, the laughter amidst different languages, the satisfaction of feeding over 400 individuals for a day, seeing God's hand in the midst of battle...these are the things that sneak up on me.
I can't say that I went to Greece with the expectation of seeing God work any more than I see Him work here in Russia. I didn't expect to be met in any specific way by Him, but just to be continually upheld in His presence.
And yet. And yet - I was surprised.
For those of you who have left their home environments for any other place for a short time, you know how often surrealistic it seems. The sky is brighter, the sun is warmer (well let's face it, if you leave Russia then the sun is indeed warmer!) and everything takes on a special glow. I knew that might happen in Greece. Yet I was surprised and calmed to realize that it was just like any other place with its pluses and minuses.
And yet. And yet - I was surprised.
My eyes were opened.
"The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and spring within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
...so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it." Isaiah 41:17-20
I saw that God was working among those who are thirsty and parched, and that He was in the process of making rivers flow to them. What an amazing miracle! What a joy to behold! And how very amazing to be a participant!
We spent many hours with refugees and with prostitutes, both serving their needs and praying for their eternal lives. We spent hours encouraging those who work alongside the poor and needy daily. We spent time walking the streets and taking in the atmosphere. I can honestly say that this trip was a turning point in my life, and I was not even expecting it.
Isn't it amazing to see the little things sneak up on you?
28 August 2006
Tomorrow is the big day for the first modern Russian short term missions trip - and I am priviledged to be a part of the team! We head to Athens, Greece to serve with faithful ministers who work fulfilling daily needs of the poor and enslaved. What a challenge and blessing!
Our team is 6 strong - and we are expecting God to change and use us as we are open to His molding and shaping. If you are interested in keeping up with us - check out the site at http://g6russia.blogspot.com for the latest photos and stories from Athens!
I can hardly wait, even though I am honestly nervous and just waiting on Him for guidance!
You know the feeling of being a pioneer? It is rather risky and yet exhilerating!
Tomorrow is a new day for me, as I will be priviledged to participate in a short term Russian missions trip. We are headed to Athens, Greece to help those in poverty and slavery - both refugees and slaves. We are all holding tight to His calling, and looking ahead with anticipation to what will indeed happen!
If you want to be connected please check out the blog and we will attempt to add photos and stories so that you are with us throughout the trip. Thank you to each one that participated with us in making this a reality!
26 August 2006
For those of you who were part of the amazing car purchase of a few years ago, I'd like to brag to you that my little VW is part tank! This past camp not only was in the middle of a forest, but was also along one of the most impassable roads that I have yet to come upon. And no joke that the potholes were as big as the car, and the muddy waters came up to the windows! There were times that I thought that my little car would not make it through. I am here to say that even though it is a bit worse for wear, it is still alive and running.
25 August 2006
Remember back in childhood when you went to camp and it was like being cut off from civilization? Did you ever feel like it was just you against the elements?
Well I have to say that the most recent Russian camp experience for me was similar to that childhood experience. And it was rather cool actually!
My role is general helper, driver, translator and photographer. So I get to run around and take funny photos, and enjoy a behind the scenes look at what it takes to get a camp running.
This year we tried to include many new games, as well as old favorites like Safari - which you see above two of the 'wild elephants' from that game. Each year I am amazed by the energy and creativity of the team. I think they almost enjoy it more than the teens!
This year the team's focus was even more on reaching these teens with the wonderfully freeing story of God's love. We invited DJ Elf to preform his Christian hip hop daily and tell his testimony. Others daily shared about their lives with Christ, and talked about removing masks from their heart. During group time teens were invited to dialogue on probing questions about life, God and the true purpose of creation.
We were priviledged to see God's miracle among the lives of four teens - Serak, Olga, Andelina and Nastya. What an amazing thing to see - the change of a heart from death to life! Amazing and so wonderful that I can't even begin to discribe it! Praise Him!! As each of these new family members joined our team, we had the priviledge to pray for them and welcome them into a new life. God blessed us and gave us the joy of seeing immediate fruit from this camp ministry.
06 July 2006
I have to say that I look forward every year to our 'camp season'. I'm not sure why really, as I never liked outdoor camping and tents and all that. Yet each year I become a nut for our camps. This year it began with a camp in the small village of Gorodishi, two hours outside of Moscow.
Our team was a combined effort from Whittier Church in California, our Paradigma Church gang from Moscow and the local Gorodishi Children's Center.
I was there as a translator and craft conisseur - which is quickly becoming my new spiritual gift I believe. Being handy with a lanyard is really something that only the Holy Spirit can gift you with in my personal opinion!
The camp lasted only 5 days, but it seemed that the activities, discussions, sports, crafts and various evening events went on for weeks. The majority of the kids were 10-14 and seemed to love every minute of it. They usually during the summer just lollygag around (don't you love that word?) and do little of nothing but swim and roam the streets. This village has absolutely nothing in it, just houses and a few random roads. Literally there is nothing to do but roam and swim. The camp was for them a huge highlight, breaking up the boredom of living in a remote Russian village.
I would like to say though that for me there is always a special challenge at camp. This time it was the food. It is just that I am not a cutlet eater. You may ask what is a cutlet? And why is that such a big deal at camp? It is the main dish, along with potatoes, for every meal at any conference, seminar and camp in Russia. It is a bit like meatloaf, but without any of the spices or ketchup to cover the taste. Rather strange actually.I guess that most cooks here are judged by their cutlets. There is really no other explanation for the vast servings of such a random meat product. Most of our visiting Americans never thought twice about the cutlets, but when we had an ending Russian traditional picnic - the shashlik- the last night, they tasted the difference. I have to say that I am more of a shashlik fan.
But apart from the growth experience of the food the camp was a huge success. (And depending on how you look at it maybe not eating for a week is a good thing too? Growth and challenge and struggle and all that!)
What surprised me the most about the effects of the camp came the next day. We had stayed in town for another day, and were just walking around the village with some of the kids. They kept breaking into singing our rather silly camp songs. Now I am too inclinded to sing silly camp songs outside of the walls of camp, as I feel just that - silly. But yet there was something really touching about hearing songs about being God's sheep and sowing seeds and such from these kids. And they knew the motions as well!
It seems that camp is a lot of effort and expense and I always wonder if it is worth while. And yet, when I saw the energetic eyes of these abandoned kids I realized that they would never forget this camp. And they would have the truths that were taught to carry with them. Who knows what will come next?
We are planning to visit them often over the next year, and would love to have another camp next summer. Many of the older ones will come to our other camp outside of Moscow, Natisk.
All in all it was a wonderful experience and proved yet again that there is just something special about camp.
26 May 2006
If you have never traveled internationally I can highly recommend it! You will need to bring your sense of humor and a lot of time for waiting, thogh, so make sure to pack it in your carry-on!
Just recently most of our Moscow based team went to a conference in Holland. We took various modes of transportation (metro, bus, car, plane, train) to arrive at the final destination spot - the International Leadership Forum 2006 for International Teams.
Traveling as a team was a wonderful time to share all the inconveniences, joys, new challenges and thrills of translating airport signs, road signs in German, road maps with non-existent 'short-cuts' and money exchanges. So how much should a bag of licorice really cost?
Before I go into the wonderful experience, I have to ask - does anyone know why in international travel the traditional way of standing in line is thrown out the window for the seemingly more confusing way of bunching-up-to-one-another-horizontally? Just curious, and it is driving me a bit bonkers!
Our time in Holland was all about learning - opening our eyes to the ministry around the world. With representatives from literally around the world, we were priviledged to hear stories about the ministries taking place in their local areas. I was overwhelmed by the joy and excitement of answered prayer.
Not to mention that being in such an international environment, with believers from around the world, was a huge encouragement to our team. My roommate, Natasha Kazimirova, kept saying - "Can you believe we are in Holland? All these years never being able to leave, and now we are just walking about in Holland!"
The Russian delegation was challenged and motivated to continue the prayer for mobilizing Russians to go out as missionaries themselves. If others from poorer nations can do it, why can't such a resource rich country like Russia send out missionaries?
"We were capable and effective as a nation to send out people to develop communism and be its agents, to infiltrate and penetrate culture. Yet the Russian church of today says that they are not 'ready' to be sent out. What an irony!" commented senior pastor and missionary Simeon Borodin. That really struck me.
I was also very struck by the dedication to prayer. During sharing times, seminar sessions and in between there was a consistent laying aside of time by the whole delegation to pray. Along one way hanging up were the names of nations on fabric strips. Prayer over the countries they represented was done throughout the conference. When during part of the experience an overwhelming burden for Russia was felt, a few of us went over to pray and weep over this nation. What a testimony to my heart this ministry of prayer was.
Our team came back from the time enriched spiritually and more challenged to continue on despite the hardships. It was a great opportunity to be refreshed and invigorated. And even the airport lines weren't that bad!