Friday, September 12, 2008

Coming Home

I have had limited access to the internet the last couple of days so I have not been able to update my blog. We wrapped up our teaching today and another good week. I am encouraged with what I see going on here in Krasnoyarsk and believe that God is at work in this region. There is definitely a future for biblical counseling in this area and there are several faithful people that I believe God is raising up to carry this on. I want to thank you for your prayers for strength and wisdom, God has been very gracious to the whole team here led by Dr. Wayne Vanderweir. I will be posting some additional pictures and updates on this blog when I return to Detroit. We leave in just a few hours for a 26 hour trip from Kranoyarsk to Moscow to Amsterdam and finally Detroit where I will arrive at 5:50 PM on Saturday.

Thankful for God's grace and the prayers of His people,


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Into High Gear at Krasnoyarsk

After a few adjustments and some much needed rest, we got into high gear at the Krasnoyarsk module today (Tuesday). It is being sponsored by Grace Church of Krasnoyarsk, a church of several hundred and the “mother church” of the region. For those of you who like geography, Krasnoyarsk is a relatively large city (nearly 900,000 according to the 1995 census) located in southern Siberia in the Krasnoyarsk region (which stretches from the Arctic circle in the north to Mongolia in the south). As I mentioned briefly in the previous blog, it is a beautiful area. Just south of the city is a mountain range that reminds me of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We spent some time in the mountains yesterday just relaxing and enjoy God’s “natural revelation”. We hiked about 5 km (uphill!!) to some spectacular rock formations or pillars as the locals call them. We also (on Sunday evening) drove to some stunning overlooks of a large river that flows through the area. With a couple of days off, coupled with strenuous exercise, I have finally rediscovered sleep. Thank you for your prayers as we are all feeling better and stronger. Slava Bogu.

We completed our first day with the Krasnoyarsk students, many of whom are locals involved in churches and various Christian ministries—and others who traveled hundreds of miles to attend. A bright group with lots of questions. Their hunger and insights (gained from the first module conducted back in March which Wayne taught alone) is a confirmation that God is at work here. There is a definite sense that the teaching going on is a good investment in the future here. Again I thank God for His kindness and mercy in allowing me to be a part of what God is doing.

Concerning the above-mentioned adjustments, the house where we all were originally staying was a bit cramped. A family of five suddenly invaded by four guests was a bit of a stretch for a small apartment with one bathroom. In order to spread out things, I agreed to move in with a family of three: Vadim, Ira, and their 14 year old son, Artyom. They know almost no English. Since I have a limited Russian vocabulary, I am getting stretched. But we are having a good time. Ira is a world class cook. Everything is really good. Her pancakes are legendary—especially when you pour sweetened condensed milk on top of them. At first, I thought they had killed the fatted calf for me. Now I realize that they are going to make me into a fatted calf if I keep this up. They are really spoiling me. They won’t even let me make my bed!! Vadim is a handy man who has done a nice job remodeling their tiny condominium. It looks a little more like an American home than most because it is so beautifully finished—and immaculately clean. Vadim loves to talk—so between my limited Russian and his pantomime, we are having some interesting conversations. Artyom (their son) is a bright young man with a good sense of humor. He loved the Trunk Monkey commercials on my computer. He desires one day to be a lawyer. They all seem to love the Lord and are quick to deflect praise to Him. Living standards in this part of the world are quite different from the USA. The typical home (i.e. condo or apartment) is around 500 sq. feet. But being here reminds me that we can learn to adapt and be content with less than the “wide open spaces” to which we Americans have become all too accustomed. It is good preparation for Ukraine. All in all, it has been a good day. Thank you again for your prayers. I feel that our time here has been well spent.

Finding strength through Christ and the prayers of my brothers and sisters,


Monday, September 8, 2008

Brief Update

Today was a day off and a chance to get some rest and relaxation. We (Wayne and Sue, Artyom our translator, and Rashid, our host) did did some hiking in the nearby mountains which are absolutely beautiful. We also met a hiker named Aysa with whom we had a chance to talk and invite her to Grace church. She seemed very interested. Tomorrow we begin our next session with the pastors from far eastern Russia. We are anticipating a turnout of at least 60. Please keep us in your prayers.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Journey to Siberia

I am writing this blog while sitting in an airport café in Novosibersk, Siberia. There has been no lack of excitement the last 24 hours. First, we wrapped up a great week with the pastors and Christian workers at Moscow Theological Seminary. They expressed their appreciation with kind words, hugs, and gifts. They really seem committed to taking this and running with it. One of them, Sergei, who is full-time with the Russian Baptist Union, informed us that he has been asked by the seminary to begin teaching what he is learning in the Biblical Counseling Training to area pastors on an ongoing basis! Others shared how it is impacting them personally and shaping the way they intend to do ministry in their churches and ministries. It is very apparent that God is at work in all of this. He has put this hunger and passion in their hearts. We are filled with joy for what he is doing and that he allowed us to be a part of this. But this was only the beginning

We left for the airport at 5:00 pm to catch a 9:00 pm flight to Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. The streets and highways around Moscow were like parking lot. What might normally take 45 minutes (if there was no traffic) took over three hours. We had been told that we had to make it to the gate by 8:40 pm or we would miss our flight. At 7:50 pm, we were still sitting in traffic inside the city limits of Moscow with little prospect of emerging from an endless line of traffic. We were praying diligently because the next flight would not leave until 1:40 am and there would have been a significant charge for re-booking. Suddenly things began to open. And then the excitement began. Our taxi driver suddenly morphed into Jeff Gordon, swerving in and out of traffic at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour. We narrowly missed hitting or sideswiping several vehicles. And our driver even got into a road rage encounter with another driver. When we arrived at the airport, everything was a blur. Do you remember the old Hertz commercials with OJ Simpson running through the airport? We did. Somehow we made it on to the plane. We praise God once again for amazing answer to prayer—including the fact that we are still alive! After taking off, we had a five hour flight to Krasnoyarsk (four time zones east of Moscow). Just as were about to land, we were re-directed to Novosibersk (500 miles west) where we waited nearly five hours until the weather cleared. We finally arrived in Krasnoyarsk around 4:00 pm (Krasnoyarsk time) on Saturday or nearly 13 hours after our flight had left Moscow. We are exactly 12 hours ahead of Detroit.

Needless to say we are very tired and our internal clocks are messed up. But inwardly we are being refreshed by Rashid and Svetlana and their three wonderful daughters, Dasha (17), Natasha (15), and Masha (11). They are feeding us well and we are enjoying their fellowship.

Tomorrow we will attend Grace Church where we will be teaching beginning on Tuesday. We are expecting anywhere from 55 to 70 to attend. Since Internet access is more limited here, this may be my last blog for a few days. Pray for our bodies to adapt and recharge so we will be refreshed and ready to teach on Tuesday. Pray also for our students and us, that God will prepare all of our hearts for the ministry of His life-changing Word.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Day 4

A beautiful day today in Moscow. Blue skies. Temperature in the upper 70's. And another full day of classes. More on key elements of ministering to people. Dealing with Idols of the heart. Case studies. And a biblical view of self image. A lively class with good interaction. It has been a real joy to participate in the training along with Wayne. It stirs my heart to be here and see how God is raising up people who are motivated to serve Christ effectively through the daily ministry of the Word in a variety of church and para-church contexts. I love the privilege of partnering with precious brothers and sisters with a common goal. I enjoy practicing Russian in my conversations as I am able to. So I thank God for letting me come here and using this trip as a further confirmation for our eventual move to Ukraine to serve in the Russian-speaking world.

It is hard to believe that tomorrow is our last day in Moscow. Tomorrow night, we fly from Moscow to Krasnoyarsk, Siberia--a trip of over 2,000 miles east of Moscow across 4 time zones. We leave at 9:00 PM tomorrow night and arrive in Krasnoyarsk at 6:30 AM, Saturday. I am not sure what Sunday will look like. We may preach, but won't be sure until we get there. On Monday, we take a breather and do a little rock climbing. Then back to teaching on Tuesday through Friday with pastors and leaders from the eastern side of Russia. And then we return to Detroit a week from this Saturday.

Thank you for your continued prayers. As you do, please pray for strength and the ability to deal withe the jet lag. Especially on Saturday morning.

God's promise for today: Psalm 62:5: Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

With appreciation for your prayers and interest in what God is doing in this part of His vineyard,


Training Pictures

Click the picture below for more photos...


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Day 3

Today was a relatively uneventful day. No lost luggage. No late night excursions to the airport. Just teaching and inter-acting with the students. Our group has grown to somewhere close to 50. They are a very sharp group and they ask excellent questions. They really have a passion for ministry--some in hard places. Some of them have begun to not only utilize their training in personal ministry, but are already training other Russians. One did some regional training in Far East Russia. So we rejoice in their commitment to being good stewards of the truth they are learning by passing it on to faithful men and women.

Speaking of commitment, I was overwhelmed with two of the students who took me to the airport to help me replace my lost registration card. Their incredible determination and perseverance really moved me. They really owned the cause. One of them said to me: "I know how much you want to devote yourself to focusing on teaching us. So we are here to help you so all of us will be able to benefit tomorrow." That and some times of intense praying really drew us together. A fresh reminder of the passion God has given us for His work in the Russian-speaking world.

The weather is warming up. Moving into the seventies--so it's really nice. Once again I thank you for all your prayers. Today I began teaching on Idols of the Heart which I will finish in the morning. Wayne is working through the key elements of counseling. God's power in answer to your prayers is very evident to us. Please continue to pray for all of us as Wayne and I continue teaching, Artyom interprets (he has the hardest job!) and Sue Vanderweir continues her incredible behind the scenes work to make everything go smooth.

Thankful for Christ's body around the world,


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Day 2

Day Two
Thank you for your prayers. It is closing in on midnight here so I need to get to bed. But I wanted to let everyone know that my luggage arrived today and I received my registration just an hour ago. Quite an ordeal. But suffice for now to say that the heart of the king is in the hand of THE LORD (Prov. 21:1). I also was overwhelmed by the help of two Russian friends who were determined to help me get this taken care of tonight. More on all that later.

This is a wonderful group of pastors and wives and others involved in various full-time ministries. Several of course serve in or near Moscow. Some came hundreds of miles for the training. There is a real passion to shepherd people and to equip others to do so. They are convinced of biblical counseling. The leader of Moscow Theological Seminary gave a ringing endorsement this morning and is thrilled for what is being taught this week. What a privilege to be here.

And best of all, Alexander Timofeev and his assistant Sergei came all the way from Kirovo-Chepetsk (where our Detroit Coalition has been involved for several years) for the training. So I am enjoying some special time of fellowship with them.

It has been a long day. But a good one. God's promises have been invaluable and His nearness looms large. Aslan is on the move. Thank you again for your prayers. Continue to pray for strength, clarity in teaching, and sensitivity to the needs of all the folks attending.

Slava Bogu (Praise the Lord),


Monday, September 1, 2008

Greetings from Russia

This first blog from Russia will be brief. We arrived today in Moscow via Amsterdam. This trip so far has provided a good opportunity to learn the importance of trusting in God's sovereignty. First, I had to wait a long time to de-plane and get through customs. Almost two hours. And when I went to get my baggage, I found out it had not arrived. So then another hour with the baggage claim people--and there I somehow misplaced my departure documents. Not to worry as I only need them to get out of the country. Perhaps God wants me to have a ministry in Russia after all--in prison. It is not a big deal actually except that I will have to spend some extra time reapplying, which means a three hour round trip to the customs area at Sheremetyeva Airport and less time to finish my preparation and get some much needed rest.

Kellie reminded me before I left that God uses tough times to prepare us for what lies ahead. That has proven useful to me to keep my focus on God's faithful working in my (our) lives. So do pray that God will not only help me grow in trusting him more and more, but will also give me the capacity to teach beyond my own strength and energy in a way that gives Him the glory. I find comfort in Paul's words: "...But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God..." (2 Cor. 1:9b).

Good to spend some time today with Wayne Vanderweir (and his wife Sue) with whom I will be teaching this week. I also have appreciated meeting some of the people here at Moscow Theological Seminary where we will begin teaching in a few hours. The facilities here, by the way, are very modern and clean.

Weather today a little chilly at 48 degrees. Since I have no clothes other than the polo shirt and pants I am wearing, I look forward to getting my suitcase!! Thank you for your prayers.

Laboring for Christ, resting in His promises on this Labor Day,


Thursday, August 28, 2008


Testimonies of Russian Pastors attending Biblical Counseling Training