October 31, 2008
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart… but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”
Our dear friends and family,
Thank you so much for your constant prayer and support of us over these past months. We have been busy trying to adapt to a new country, church and ministry. Phyllis and I thank and praise our Father for his love so clearly displayed in you, through each note or letter, phone call or package. Thank you.
This spring and summer have been a time of many challenges for us. We cannot deny the sense of loss that persists as we live here, in a land so like and yet so unlike the Russia that we love so. However, by God’s grace we are living and learning each day to rely upon Him in this as in all else. His grace is indeed sufficient. Always.
We are blessed to have found a good apartment, with a Christian landlady. In the time we have lived here, the children are slowly but surely befriending the multitude of babushki and dedushki in our apartment building. One dear old lady frequently checked on our progress in cleaning and fixing up the apartment. In parting she always gave us a heart-felt benediction of “well, clean with God, my dears!”
We also befriended a sweet old couple and saw them almost every day. Unfortunately, due to health problems, they moved to be with their son. Before moving, Baba Nina was trying to burn all of the flight records and other information they still had from Dedushka Misha’s Air Force years. As the children helped her, she would tell them how he often had to leave unexpectedly, how she never knew if he was coming home again as he bravely defended the borders of the USSR from American aircraft. Very sweet, loving old people. Very committed to their country. Very unaware that they were consorting with ‘the enemy’. Praise God that Phyllis and the children could be loving Christian neighbors first and foremost.
We were able to take part in a day camp held at the church this summer. Phyllis and I put in a lot of late nights using our computer for any and all needs. I took part in the music lessons, helped lead a group of teens, and generally made myself as useful as possible. Jaan, Raia, and Asya had a wonderful time in their group, and camp was the highlight of their day every single day that week. This was a great opportunity for us to really work closely with the youth at church, and it was a good time of ministering together.
Jaan at the day camp with friends from a very needy family.
I have continued to be in close contact with the youth. Between Bible studies, fellowship or prayer meetings, choir practice and just people dropping by, I am with them probably 4-6 times a week. (Unfortunately, Phyllis hasn’t been able to be quite so involved, but we are praying that this will become more possible.) I am finding that I need a great amount of wisdom in working with the youth. There are many needs--as in any church--with widely varying levels of spiritual maturity, several dominant personalities, etc. One complication is that I am given some of the responsibility of a youth leader, but have not been entrusted by the church with that position yet. I have often found myself praying for wisdom, clinging to this promise, “But if any one of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all freely and reproaches not, and it shall be given to him.” Knowing that you all are praying with me is a great encouragement and support!
As we get to know this body of believers more closely, we naturally see them as the unique gathering that they are, with their own history, strengths and weaknesses. This is an incredibly generous church, and people have reached out to us since we first arrived, sharing their time, their energy, clothes, groceries and garden-fresh fruits and vegetables. Yes, we’re the ‘missionaries,’ but we are still seen more as a young emigrant family needing help. We have long ago learned to accept such gifts gratefully and seek opportunities to share of what God gives us with others. Praise God for His loving encouragement of us through those whom we are seeking to serve!
Another aspect of ministering in this church that differs from what we had in Russia is the church leadership structure. For now, there is no official pastor and most decisions are made by the Council of Brothers, made up of several deacons and other men who take part in the ministry of the church. I have been asked to lend my voice as they struggle to work through the many material and spiritual challenges that any church has. There are many things that are not nailed down by any written church guidelines or statutes, many things that need to be worked through. Because of this, we clearly see our need for the Holy Spirit to guide us as we seek unity in leading the church. The Lord is teaching and stretching me in and through this, and I pray that He is using me to encourage and strengthen these dear devoted brothers of mine in their ministry.
Something demanding a lot of time (and peace-keeping talent) right now is the youth group’s preparation for an evening of evangelistic outreach on November 8th. A local music group wanted to be of use, and we want to take this opportunity to preach the Gospel and share how God has changed our lives. Being personally in charge of planning and organizing all this is something of a first for the youth, and there are many challenges.
Soon after that, we will be hosting a regional youth conference on November 15th. We will invite those who come on the 8th to also come attend this event at our church.
-Please be praying for unity and love among the youth as we prepare for these events.
-Pray with us for wisdom in working with the youth; taking part in the Deacon’s ministry; preaching and teaching, and taking every opportunity we have to minister to this church.
-Pray that we could get to know neighbors and young families particularly.
-Phyllis and I especially need your prayers that God in his grace would heal the hurt and loss of the last year, that he would continue to grow and nurture a true love for this place, this church as the home He has brought us to.
Once again, let me make it clear how much we treasure you all. We know that each one has their own challenges, their own family and church and ministry. The fact that we haven’t written does NOT mean that we take you for granted! We love you and are humbly grateful that God has blessed us with such friends.
Grace and Peace to each one of you,
Will and Phyllis (and Jaan, Raia, and Asya)