I have been happily busy helping to plan a visit from three Russian friends. My dear friends and neighbors, Helen and Genna Tcherkassov and their granddaughter, Veronika Sedova will arrive in Seattle July 9th and will return October 8th. Needless to say, Joyce and I are "talking" daily by e-mail as we anticipate their arrival. Helen and Genna opened their home, their hearts, and their family as they adopted us so lovingly. There is no doubt in my mind that God had prepared them for our visit to give us the guidance and the love He knew we would need to do His will in Khabarovsk. This wonderful friendship will last a life-time here and continue in eternity. I know I will write more about them in my next letters. Please pray for their safe journey here and continued good health and fellowship as they live with us for a while.
In this letter, I would like to focus on the continued ministry happening in Khabarovsk by missionaries in the midst of God's harvest there. Jan, Ari, and Sue have each written me about the blessings they have witnessed as a result of your gifts of love to the orphans and the homeless in the city.
"You know, God provides so many blessings for us in life that we often take things for granted; such as running water and electricity. Recently we hosted a clown team who had come from America to bring God's love to the children and adults of Khabarovsk. They had the experience of appreciating these simple blessings with me as we were one week without cold water, often with no water, and sometimes without power. Although the cold water did not return until after their departure, they found it a reason for praise and rejoicing when at last the hot water came. We celebrated by doing dishes, laundry, and filling containers for flushing the toilet. Now all is back on track and working. Praise the Lord!
Speaking of the clown team, they were a real blessing in the lives of over 2,000 children and adults from sixteen orphanages, four churches and three schools. They brought smiles and laughter to some lonely lives as they shared God's love in mime. There were young and old in all the crowds whose lives were touched in ways we cannot imagine. Questions came from some as they felt the touch of God in the lives of the clowns.
I felt truly blessed to have these people in my life as well. We shared God's love and life's sadness as we prayed together, played together, and laughed and cried together.
A scripture that describes the experience is Psalms 126:2-3, 'Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations that the Lord has done great things for them.'
We visited orphanages and delivered much needed clothing in four of them. We provided funding for food at two orphanages, provided seeds for the gardens at two others, provided some funding for summer camp repairs at another, and to another we took soccer balls and frisbees for summer fun. Praise the Lord!
Funding has now been received to help finish the plumbing projects on the shower in another orphanage. This will be happening in June while the children are away at summer camps.
I have also made contact with two more Russian churches that want to become involved in ministering to the orphans in distress. One is a non-denominational Church and the other is a Catholic Church. It is awesome how God is bringing the body of Christ together to work for His glory. After all, we all serve the same God; just in different buildings.
I know God is blessing you each time you lift up the needs of the children of Russia. I remember you all with joy in my heart and thank the Lord for your presence in this ministry. I am in awe as I experience His love and provisions for the children. I know that none of this is by my own hand but by His. He is the great provider that makes this all possible."
Jan and I worked together on the same team during the last nine months I spent in Khabarovsk. She made a one-year commitment as I did and then felt the Lord asking her to stay longer. She will be leaving the team in July to come home and raise funds to go back and continue to serve Him as He directs her.
"One of the scriptures that spoke to me this past year was Ephesians 1:11 which says, 'In Him we are chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.'"
Jan is sure she is in Russia because God chose her to be there. I know that God is using her in a mighty way as her heart is drawn to the children and to others who are hurting in a very personal way. Perhaps your church or a group of your friends would like to hear Jan's story while she is home If so, please contact me or write directly to Jan's e-mail email@example.com.
She will be happy to hear from you.
I mentioned Ari Arfaras several times in my letters, but I never really introduced you to her. Ari was a part of the CoMission Team the year before I became a member. During the time I was in Khabarovsk, Ari was home in the states fund-raising to come back as a full-time missionary to Khabarovsk. She is now back in the city and working as a full-time missionary with a team of American Methodists who are working with churches and Bible Study groups to help plant new churches and support existing ones.
Ari is working with both Pastor Uri's that I met and worked with while I was in Khabarovsk. One is the pastor of the only officially registered and recognized Methodist Church in the Far East of Russia. It is located in the village of Red River where Ura ministers to the residents and also to the orphans living nearby. Ari leads a weekly Bible Study there and is helping Ura with a vision to begin a training and resource center to be used to teach and train others to become God's messengers.
Pastor Ura of Red River and a friend named Fyoder are offering a correspondence course in Biblical studies. Ari has received donations from Americans to help fund this endeavor. God has supplied money to purchase several Bibles and other resource materials for Christian growth. Many familiar resource titles have already been translated into Russian and it is easier to purchase them now.
Please pray for this endeavor and if God places it on your heart to help Ari or to ask her more about this ministry, you can write her in Khabarovsk. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
She will appreciate your interest and tell you how to help.
Another missionary working with the Church-planting team in Khabarovsk is Sue Fuller. Sue was working for CoMission in the city when I joined the team in 1997. She had completed her year's time and stayed longer to help us settle in. Her love for God and her kindness to those of us who came made our adjustment to the Russian culture very pleasant. Sue also felt God calling her to be a full-time missionary and after some time at home to raise funds, she is back on the team in Khabarovsk. She and Ari are roommates as they were during their first year in CoMission. She is also reunited with her dear Russian friend and translator, Tanya. Sue arrived in the city about the same time the American Clown team came.
Sue and Ari have been involved with Pastor Ura's church in Khabarovsk and also have gone with Lena to minister to the infant orphans.
"Another week has passed in the adventures of Sue in Russia. It has been a good and busy one filled with lots of praises. Last Sunday Ari, Tanya and I worshiped with a tiny congregation in the northern part of Khabarovsk. I had gone to this Church only a couple of times when I was in Khabarovsk before. They have a new location and although they are small in number they are a very warm church and excited about the Lord!
During the worship, Pastor Ura announced that he felt like the Lord had been leading him all day to be praying for the missionaries. He asked Ari, myself and Jan to come up so they could pray for us. So often I ask the Lord how He is going to use me in the lives of the Russian people and here, this day, He was using them to minister to me!
We also visited the infant hospital/orphanage on Tuesday. We didn't get to hold the babies but we were able to go in and see them. Such sweet little faces. It was hard not to just walk over and pick them up, but I had a feeling I would have been scolded and I wasn't quite ready for that! We were told that we need to go through quite a few tests before we can hold the babies.
We were able to buy formula, baby food and some medicines to take with us that day. The money for these things is coming from people in America who have given money specifically for this purpose. The director seemed so thankful for these gifts. Please pray that the Lord will use these gifts not only to meet the immediate needs of the babies but also to show the directors and staff at the hospital about God's faithful provision."
As you can see, the Lord's work in Khabarovsk continues to be in good hands as God calls his servants to the Russian harvest field. Thank you all for being obedient to our Lord's command to "Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field." Matthew 9:38
I need to thank you again for your continued support for Ura's vision and the infant orphanages. In last month's letter I shared Ura's letter and part of what he said involved the homeless. He said that God was beginning to tell him specifically what was necessary to provide food for people living at the city's junkyard and on the streets.
Ari wrote that Ura has begun to feed the homeless in Khabarovsk. He has used gifts that God led you to share to purchase three military field kitchens. He has recruited workers and is going to the junkyard and to the streets to feed those who cannot feed themselves.
Ari went with Pastor Ura on one of the missions and was moved tremendously as she witnessed the awful living conditions of those who live at the junkyard. Even after seeing the poverty she has difficulty believing the tragedy of their lives. She wrote that Ura's wife, Jenna made and packed more than 40 lunches to be used in the ministry.
And so, we see Ura going forward with the vision God has given him to minister to the homeless. He continues to send Olga and Elena to the infant orphanage each day to hold the babies. He thanks all who have been led to help support this ministry. There is much to be done and this is only the beginning. It is exciting to learn how God works His will by using obedient servants. Your obedience in giving and Ura's obedience in serving will accomplish God's will for the most unfortunate in Khabarovsk.
Last month I asked you to pray about the vision to bring Ura to America. God has been relatively silent concerning the details of this vision since I have written, but I've learned that His timing is perfect and the waiting time forces me to place it all in His hands.
I have been led to ask Ura to pray about the time of his coming to America. I feel it will be in the year 2000, perhaps late Spring and early Summer, but I want to know where God is leading Ura before I go ahead with any more plans.
Please continue to pray about this vision and would you write me if you would be interested in having Ura visit your church, Bible study, or group while he is in America. The first stop in America from Russia will be the west coast. Planes fly to Anchorage, Seattle, and perhaps California. I do feel that God is directing me to find those that He is preparing to hear Ura's message while he is in America.
A friend asked me what Ura will do while he is here. I'm not sure what God has in mind, only that God will use him in some way to increase the faith of Americans and increase the American awareness of the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. I remember how amazed I was to learn how quickly many new Christians in Russia received deep understanding of God's Word and His will. I know how God used these dear people to increase my faith and trust in Him. I also believe that my vision for Ura to come and witness to America is somehow connected with Ura's vision for the church for 10,000 and for Ura's calling to share his tithe with American Christians.
I am beginning to realize that it is not so important for me to know why God is leading me to do particular things for Him. In fact, there is great freedom, excitement, joy, and peace in knowing that God is directing me and the results of my obedience will rest in His hands
I continue to believe that God is using me as a messenger to connect Ura with American Christians. Please pray about this vision and as God speaks to you, please write and share His message with me. I believe God wants to use many American Christians to accomplish His will concerning his servant, Pastor Ura.
Please continue to pray for the homeless and the orphans of Khabarovsk. As God leads you, please write us with the message God gives you concerning this work. If you are led to support these ministries in Khabarovsk you can do so by sending your check payable to Fishburn U.M.C. and tell us how God is directing the gift to be used.
I am happy to continue to tell the story of Khabarovsk, Russia and will be happy to visit you and/or speak with any church or group.
You can write me at:
Fishburn United Methodist Church
Attention: Charlene Reitz
1215 Fishburn Rd.
Hershey, PA 17033
Telephone: (717) 534-1087
In His Love,