I am writing from my home in Delaware and the view of the Delaware Bay from my windows is wonderful. I love the sea and the sound of the surf. Although the water is not as inviting as summer, it has its own wild beauty this time of year. The stones and shells that Helen gathered and placed around my home are still in tact. They remind me of the wonderful visit of my Russian friends. The memories here grow sweeter and sweeter.
I continue to receive e-mail from my American and Russian friends in Khabarovsk, Russia, and I would like to use most of this letter to bring you up-to-date concerning the work of the missionary team there.
Helen and Roger Spaulding arrived in Khabarovsk in October and have been busy since their arrival. They traveled to Karaganda, Kazakhstan with the team to learn about the formation and use of cell groups from the missionary team there.They traveled through Moscow and while there, they were able to meet with Bishop Ruediger Minor - the Methodist Bishop for Russia, Kazakhstan, and other areas of Eurasia. He met the team for dinner at the TGIF restaurant near Red Square. He shared his hopes and plans for this area of the world. Please keep the Bishop and all Christian leaders in your prayers as they do God's will in this unpredictable part of the world.
Helen wrote about her experiences as she visited the cell groups in Karaganda. The cells are groups that meet in homes during the week and come together on Sunday morning. These cell groups are led by Kasak nationals and the team from Khabarovsk were there as observers. (What a wonderful experience to be an.American missionary learning from Kasak nationals about building cell groups for church growth!) Our God is an awesome God!
Helen and Roger were able to share their testimonies and Helen shared her struggle of forgiving herself for not obeying God's call to the mission field as a young person. She told how God totally took away all guilt she had been carrying.
As she spoke, one of the ladies excitedly responded, "Now I know I can give my self-unforgiveness to Him, and that He can and will wipe out all my guilt!"
Helen wrote, "Praise the Lord! How wonderfully He works to bring about healing in those who seek Him!"
Please pray for the ministry of Helen and Roger as they work with the Khabarovsk team to establish Cell Churches there. Helen and Roger have also been called to work in orphanages, bringing the Word of God to the children and finding ways to help with medicines, food, clothing, and better living conditions for the orphans of Khabarovsk.
Tom and Ellen Tarver returned to join the Khabarovsk team in late September. Tom also traveled to Karaganda to study the Cell Churches there. Tom is a Methodist Pastor and has been appointed by Bishop Minor to represent the Far East of Russia in the Eurasia Methodist Conference. I'm sure Tom's visit with the Bishop was rewarding.
Tom and Ellen were serving in Khabarovsk, Russia when I joined the team there in 1997. They have been called to be long-term missionaries in Khabarovsk and Tom serves as team leader. They are in the process of adopting Tanya, a Russian orphan they met during their ministry to orphaned children several years ago. Tanya was able to come to America with the Tarvers before her adoption for medical help. She has become a part of their family and now the final work is being done to make this union permanent. Please pray for the work the Tarvers are doing to plant Cells and for the work that must be done to make Tanya truly their child.
Zach Mayo has been a part of the team in Khabarovsk for a long time, too. He had been on the team before my arrival in 1997 and was in the States raising funds to come back for long-term service during my time with the team. Zach has been back in Khabarovsk for some time now. One of Zach's ministries in Khabarovsk includes work with the orphans of the city.
In his June newsletter Zach wrote, "Recently at Orphanage No. 2, some of the four year-olds were clinging to my leg and saying, 'Papa!' These are children who equate any male as their father because they have no male figure who loves them and cares about them. I try to convince myself that I'm doing what God wants me to do, but it is hard to see a difference being made since the orphan problem is so great. Then I am reminded of Peter's words... 'Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in various forms.' (1 Peter 4:10) God shows me that making a difference is not dependent upon what we do, but on what God does!"
Zach regularly visits the orphanages in Khabarovsk with his guitar and his Yellow Lab, Aerial. He writes that Aerial has become the main attraction as he visits the kids.
"I hear, "Aerial, Aerial!" as I approach the orphanage and then I turn her loose. She races around the yard retrieving sticks, rocks and whatever the children throw! The director knows my name now and she seems to enjoy having the kids interact with Aerial. It has even opened the door for us to minister in this orphanage. I think the children may be disappointed if I only show up with my guitar to sing songs. Aerial is now the 'Queen of Orphanage No. 71'"
Please pray for Zach's ministry in Khabarovsk. May God continue to use his particular gifts to, "...serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in various forms" (1 Peter 4:10)
Sue Fuller has also been called to long-term missionary service in Khabarovsk, Russia. Sue was part of the team when I arrived in 1997 and her friendship and guidance made the early days of my time there calm and peaceful. She has been back in Khabarovsk since May and writes often about the ministries there. Sue, Ari, and Tanya visit the infant orphanage often and have bonded with the children there. Here is some of the latest news from Sue:
"Our work in the orphanages continues. We have been going weekly to the infant orphanage spending time holding and loving those babies. Some of them have been transferred to another orphanage very close to our apartment. This is good and bad. Good that it is so close, but bad because the director is not as open for us to come in and spend time with the babies. Please pray for an open door there. We have been able to see some of the kids, but the freedom just to hold and take care of whomever we want is not an option here...yet!
This orphanage is also very large. There are over 100 children here and there are not enough care givers. We have become very attached to some of the children and we want to protect them. Please pray for them and for wisdom for us to know what the Lord wants us to do in their lives."
I have written about Ari often. Ari was also called to Khabarovsk during the time that Tom, Ellen, Sue, and Zach served before. I have never met Ari because she was back in America raising funds to come back as a long-term missionary during my time there. But, we write often and our hearts connect as we feel God bring us together to fulfill His purpose for the orphan children of Khabarovsk.
October 3, 1999..."The babies with impetigo were looking much better last Tuesday. Thank you for your prayers for them. The babies are starting to smile and respond more and more each week. We also heard that another one of 'our babies' is going to be adopted!"
October, 24, 1999..."We were reunited with our babies last Tuesday! It was so good to get back to the infant hospital. We'd only missed a week, but it seemed much longer. When I'm tempted to question the benefit of holding and loving for the babies there, I hear stories that encourage me to keep at it. Sue and Tanya visited an orphanage this week for three to seven year olds. A new arrival just sat and rocked the whole time they were there - a sign that she'd never been touched. She was three years old and weighed about 18 pounds. It's enough to break your heart!"
November 20, 1999..."I got to see my babies after a three week absence! I even took their pictures with me to Kazakhstan because I knew that I'd miss them. They really don't receive much attention in the orphanage (there are not enough hands) and so, it's great to be able to hold them and cuddle with them. I doubt that they'll remember me, but I know that they've profoundly touched my life!
Please continue to pray for the infant's hospital. It really is getting harder and harder to tear ourselves away from those babies every Tuesday. It's a blessing to pray for each one as we hold them. We may not know how those prayers will be answered, but the Father does!"
Ari asks for your continued prayers for the orphans of the city.
Jack Stevenson is not an official member of the team in Khabarovsk but his heart is continually with them. Jack was part of the first mission team to Khabarovsk in 1993. God has also called Jack to minister to the needs of the orphans of the city. In his recent newsletter he gives thanks to God that He has provided the funds to continue to help the children in the orphanages of Khabarovsk. On his recent visit to Khabarovsk he was able to bring funds to provide formula and material to make bed sheets for the newborn to one year orphanage. In two other orphanages there were funds to provide eight bunk beds for each one. A couch and TV were purchased for a boy's section of another orphanage. He also helped to deliver shoes, socks, and clothing to four different orphanages and witness directors from other orphanages come and pick up clothes. Jack asks for continued prayers and support for the orphans of Khabarovsk.
And then there is my Russian friend Lena who continues to work with the infant orphans of Khabarovsk, her home city. Lena was the one to introduce the mission team to the infant orphans in the hospital system there. She has had some exciting experiences as God leads her to continue her ministry with the children in unusual ways.
Lena wrote to tell me that she is very busy now working for a non-profit adoption agency from Seattle, Washington. This agency will not charge outrageous amounts for adoptions which will encourage more Americans to adopt. Lena is very happy about being able to be a part of this agency. Her heart has been with the orphan children of Khabarovsk for a long time.
Lena has been translating for American couples who come to Khabarovsk to adopt orphans. As she works with this new agency, she will continue to be an interpreter and will also translate the papers the families will send for the adoption court. She meets the families who come and helps them find reasonable housing and food while they wait for the adoption process to be completed.
Recently Lena shared that she was busy writing translations for the American Embassy in Moscow, all part of her new responsibilities. And yet, she still finds time to stay involved with the needs of the orphans of Khabarovsk. Lena wrote me in October about a baby who was born with water on his brain. Listen to her heart as she tells me about him:
"Charlene, do you remember I wrote to you about the baby with the large head? He is so cute now!!! He has such big cheeks! He is trying to sit but his shoulders can't hold his head and it moves forward. Remember, his mother left him at the hospital because she couldn't take care of one more child, especially one with medical problems.
He is more healthy now and a family from Illinois is going to adopt him. Please give thanks to all people who worried about him and sent money for his care. Our efforts are not in vain!"
Lena tells me that the money she is receiving through the team in Khabarovsk from Americans is being used for formula, medicines, lotions, and bedding for babies in several orphanages. She wants me to thank all of you who are called to give to these babies. God is blessing this ministry in many ways through his servants in Khabarovsk.
And so, our prayers are continually needed for the needs of the orphans in Khabarovsk. I couldn't help but realize as I began to put this letter together how God has drawn the heart of every member of the team in Khabarovsk to the orphans of the city. Of course, I know this isn't a coincidence and that God is awesome, but His ways continue to amaze me and warm my heart. I know you feel the same.
The team working in Khabarovsk are all veteran missionaries who continue to serve God in the Russian Far East. They come from different parts of the United States to become a mighty force working to fulfill God's plan for the people of the city of Khabarovsk. Please continue to pray for this team as they seek God's will for their ministry there.
God continues to bless me in many ways that are hard to believe. Before closing, I want to share some of those blessings with you. The first involves a letter I received from a student at Texas Bible Institute in Columbus, Texas. Her name is Melody and she writes:
"I recently came across your web page. My heart was touched by the work that you and your friends are doing for the children of Russia. I am soon going to be a R.N., and have been called into the mission field. God gave me a vision two and one-half years ago that I would be opening up medical facilities around the world.
I shared your stories with my dorm at college and we are all ready to help your ministry. I have a heart and a desire to help children and to share the love of jesus with the people of Russia but I am not sure how to get involved. So, if you can, write me back with more information on your ministry.
With Love in Christ, Melody"
Needless to say, Melody's letter touched my heart, but the most amazing part of this story is that I don't have a web page. As soon as I read the letter, I knew that the letters Melody had read had come to her from Russia. I have a dear friend in Russia who has been publishing my letters on his web site ever since I began to write again in February. He shared with me that he believed the letters contained news that the world needed to hear and asked if I would allow him to include the letters on his web page. Imagine, a dorm in a Bible College in Texas being touched by letters written in America about Russia, sent to Russia and then sent back again by the web to Texas. Only God could have orchestrated this and only He knows where it all will lead.
It is so exciting to be in a position to watch God continue to make American/Russian connections in the most interesting ways.I have answered Melody's questions and have sent her letter concerning her desire to serve God in Russia, to various mission contacts. We will continue to correspond as God works this all out. Please keep Melody in your prayers. I have also connected Melody with my Russian friend who builds the web page. Their correspondence will be another way God will connect the world to fulfill his plans.
The last exciting news I will share in this letter is that God is continuing to show me that it is His will that Pastor Ura come to America in the summer of next year. Ura has been praying about the visit and God has given him the assurance that He is calling him to America to share his vision with Christians here.
The story is a newsletter of its own and I won't try to tell it now. But, I want to ask for intentional, fervent prayer about this mission.
First, please pray that it will be possible to obtain Visas for all whom God is leading to come to America. Ura has asked Andrey to come with him as an interpreter. Andrey is single and it is almost impossible for a young single Russian man to be approved by the American Consulate to visit our country now. The times are so hard in Russia that many young men are seeking ways to leave and find a better life somewhere else in the world. This causes the American Consulate to be very cautious about allowing them to visit our country.
Also, Ura is praying about bringing his family along when he comes. This will also complicate the VISA process as it is very difficult for whole families to obtain Visas for the same reasons. But, even as I ask for your prayers, I know that all of this rests in God's hands. Nothing is impossible for Him and as long as we are following His will, He will provide the way.
As plans continue to unfold, I will keep you informed. I plan to devote my next newsletter to this vision. However, it is not too early for you to become a prayer force for this adventure. Please pray about Ura's visit and let me know if you would like Ura to speak in your church or in your home while he is here. The tentative time for his visit will be the summer (June - ?) of next year. I will begin to build a schedule in earnest when the Visas are issued. So, please write me or e-mail me to get on the list of those who wish to share the blessings of Ura's visit.
As always, it is my pleasure to continue to tell the story of God's work in Khabarovsk. I am happy to visit you and/or speak with any church or group.
Please continue to keep God's people in your prayers as they live and work in Khabarovsk. Some of you may be moved to send a gift to be used in the orphanages or for Ura's vision to the homeless and the orphans of the city. If so, please make your checks payable to Fishburn UMC and tell us how God is directing the gift to be used.
In His Love,
Fishburn United Methodist Church
1215 Fishburn Road
Hershey, PA 17033