If I remember correctly, the last update was at the tail end of our time in Pskov and looking forward to our time in St. Petersburg. We took an overnight train from Pskov to St. Pete, hopped on the metro (train) and walked straight into the Conference. The registration and everything seem somewhat chaotic, but everything worked out. (All I have to say to that is: “It’s Russia”). To be honest, when I heard about the Youth Conference, I imagined the American version and had similar expectations (with games, breakout sessions, lots of creavity). The first day of the Conference was pretty much a typical Russian Baptist church service: music, sermon, music, sermon, music, sermon..etc. Sidenote: [Forgive me if I already mentioned this but one church service in Pskov went for 5 hours, and I had no clue what was going on]. Even some of the people that we brought from Pskov thought the first day wasn’t too exciting. I just popped in my IPod and read my Bible to pass the time. Some of the young guys from Pskov wanted to go to McDonalds for lunch and invited me along in hopes of me paying for it. If you’ve been on missions trips, you understand.
There were a lot of Russian Americans at the Conference. It was probably half American Russians and half Russians. The problem is: being the token non-Russian speaker at the entire conference, I didn’t know if someone was from America or not. The good news is: there were many people that were involved with the Pskov ministry at the Conference: Russians from Boston and Philadelphia that we knew. I didn’t feel completely left in the dark.
The second day was better. During lunch, I was talking with one of the Russian guys from Boston and he were talking about me not knowing Russian. He told me that he just met a girl at the conference that lives in the States and works for Rosetta Stone (a famous language software company). He called her over and she said that she could get me the Russian software for free. She wouldn’t be helping her employer, but it would really help me haha. Maybe God wants me to learn Russian afterall.
If you have been keeping up with my updates, many of you are probably wandering what happened to Yulia at the Conference. She was mostly with Daniel, so the facts that I have are based on what he told me. When she first entered the santuary, she felt a peace. At first, the feeling made her feel uncomfortable because she hadn’t experienced that before, but soon she felt very at home. When the first song was played, she was immediately singing and singing from the heart. She was even singing louder than the people from Pskov. During the sermons, when the preacher would ask a question (rhetorical or not), she would answer outloud amongst a quiet crowd. Throughout the whole day she was asking Daniel about how to become a Christian (in Bible terms: how to repent).
During the last sermon on the first day, the preacher wanted to have a time to repent for anyone that was not a follower of Christ. He asked people to come to the front, but Yulia didn’t want to. Then the preacher asked if there was anyone else, to raise their hand. Yulia raised her hand and the preacher asked everyone to pray for those people with their hands raised. Yulia, being the wonderful person that she is, prayed for the OTHER people with their hands raised. After the service, there was of course some confusion on her side about what happened (on whether she repented or not). Daniel spent some time with her, talked with her about repentance and she repented (in the church, where she wanted to repent)!!
The next day, anyone who knew her could see a drastic difference in her attitude and countenance. Her smile alone was full of literal joy. It was pretty amazing. Between lunch and dinner on the second day, everyone at the conference went to different areas of St. Pete and passed out New Testaments on the street. Yulia was excited and passionate about giving people the Word of God. Even on the metro getting to the streets, she was talking to people. I wish you could have seen it with your own eyes. Daniel and I were just in shocked and stoked about this.
Pray for her. Her adjustment back home has been rough. Even though her Mom likes us and allowed her to go to the conference, she is not very happy about her new life in Christ. She doesn’t want Yulia to go to church, so she has to lie to her Mom in order to attend. This is somewhat puzzling to us. Yulia has decided to quit drinking and smoking and hanging out with the “Extended Drunk Group.” How could her Mom not like this new Yulia?
After the conference, we called the local pastor in St. Pete (Sasha) that was with us in Pskov, so we can help his church this week. He told us that he was leaving for his home country of Belarus for two weeks, but advised Daniel and I to go to a camp. His church works very closely with an orpanage and many of the kids are attending this camp for the month of August. The next morning, we packed our stuff and headed out to the Camp. The camp structure was pretty simple: 1) meals 2) sleep 3) free time. It was fun walking to the lake with the orpan kids on our shoulders and playing with them in the water. Not all the kids are orphans, but may have parents that are not involved personally and only give money. It was rewarding to love on them and receive love back from them.
Now we are spending our last couple days in St. Pete with Kostya and Andew, members of Sasha’s church (that were also involved in the Pskov ministry). I am ready to go home, but it has been a blessing to have the opportunity to spend four weeks overseas ministering and being ministered too. I thank God for providing the specific opportunities (such as meeting Yulia) that made this trip more than worthwhile. Thank you so much for your love and support in making this all possible. May God bless you in how you have blessed my life.
DEAR FAMILY AND FRIENDS,
I ARRIVED HOME FROM RUSSIA TONIGHT SAFE AND SOUND (?). THANK YOU, AGAIN, FOR YOUR PRAYER SUPPORT.
WE REALLY APPRECIATED IT! THE THREE TEAMS (CZECH, PSKOV AND PETROZAVODSK) REALLY WORKED HARD FOR OUR LORD.
MANY GREAT THINGS TOOK PLACE IN THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE TO WHOM WE WITNESSED.
I WILL PUT SOME PICTURES ON-LINE PLUS SEND OUT A NEWSLETTER ASAP.
HAVE A GREAT AUGUST WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS!
YOURS AND HIS,
DEAR FAMILY AND FRIENDS,
3 WEEKS AGO I FLEW TO PRAGUE AND I HAVE BEEN FLYING HIGH EVER SINCE, LEADING 3 TEAMS IN 3 LOCATIONS. GOD HAS MET OUR NEEDS ALL ALONG THE WAY. TONIGHT WE HAD THE OUTREACH PICNIC WE HAD PLANNED, TO HAVE A SPIRITUAL IMPACT ON SOME OF THE LIVES WE INTERACTED WITH THIS WEEK, ESPECIALLY AT THE SPORTS MINISTRY. 7 PEOPLE CAME AND WE HAD A GREAT TIME …. BBQ, VEGETABLES, COOKIES, ETC.; SINGING, A TESTIMONY, AND SHARING THE GOOD NEWS. EVERYONE HAD A GOOD TIME. THIS IS SEED PLANTING TIME. NOW SOME OF THE GROUP IS ON THE WAY TO THE LOCAL LAKE (AT 10:30 P.M.???) WITH GHENYA, AN 18 YEAR OLD WHO IS ATTRACTED TO OUR MESSAGE. WE HOPE AND PRAY THAT SOME OF THESE BOYS WILL ATTEND THE SERVICE TOMORROW. THE IMPORTANT THING IS THAT JULIAN, THE CHURCH PLANTER WE ARE WORKING WITH, IS ENCOURAGED. HE HAD SEEN NO RESULTS FOR MANY YEARS. GOD REALLY BLESSED US WITH OUTSTANDING WEATHER THIS WEEK. IT WAS HIGHLY UNUSUAL THAT THERE WAS NO RAIN FOR 4 STRAIGHT DAYS SO WE COULD DO OUR OUTDOOR MINISTRY OF PAINTING, BUILDING, AND SPORTS OUTREACH.
I AM PLANNING ON COMING BACK IN OCT. WITH SASHA (ST. PETE PASTOR…HE IS HERE WITH 4 OF HIS CHURCH MEMBERS) AND SOME OF HIS YOUNG PEOPLE TO CONTINUE THIS IMPACT ON THESE LIVES HERE. PRAY FOR GHENYA, SASHA (11 YEAR OLD WHO KEPT STAYING BY MY SIDE ALL EVENING), AND PASHA (16 YEAR OLD).
ON SUNDAY WE WORSHIP AND HAVE OUR TEAM DEBRIEF. THEN AFTER DINNER WE TAKE THE TRAIN BACK TO ST. PETE. IS IT REALLY AUG. 1? WHERE DID THE TIME GO?
I WILL BE HOME ON WED., AUGUST 5, LOOKING FORWARD TO A SALAD AT SOUPLANTATION!!!! AND, OF COURSE, BEING WITH MY WONDERFUL FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
PLANS FOR MY OCT. TRIP ARE ALREADY FORMING. YOUR CONTINUED PRAYER AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT ARE REALLY APPRECIATED.
THANK YOU FOR PRAYING FOR THE TEAMS AND ME THIS JULY. PRAYER MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE. TO GOD BE THE GLORY. THERE IS MUCH MORE TO BE DONE!
LOVE TO ALL,
Since my last update, we finished all the work that needed to be done in the courtyard and the American team has left. Life in Pskov is different without the Americans, especially since the only person I can really talk to is Daniel. On the good side, I feel more like a local. We know where things are and how to get there on the bus without any problem. When Daniel, Alexander (the church-planter) and I were leaving a village gathering\house church, a young guy walked up to the window of the car and said that he recognized us when we were walking around the downtown area the other day. I am not saying we are celebrities, but people are watching us and it makes us feel like we are citizens of Pskov.
Right after the American team left, Alexander had to spend some time catching up with things that he sacrificed while the American team was here. That meant that the first few days of our first week here, were not very eventful. Even though I wanted to be busy, I think we needed the rest and down time from all that Jim expected from us haha. During one of our “restful days” we tried to call some of friends and see if we could hang out for a bit. Sergei, from the “Drunk Group,” was available so we walked around the neighborhood and chatted. Then we found some other friends Mel and his wife. In about 10 minutes, Daniel and I found ourselves sitting in a wooden gazebo with like 15-20 people, which I will call the “Extended Drunk Group.” Most of the people I didn`t recognized, but they knew us from last summer. Over the course of the night, I asked Mel and his wife if it is okay if we had tea and talked about the Bible says regarding family and marriage (since they have a little girl named Karina). During that same night, we met a 17 yr. old girl named Yulia who found herself somehow the next night at Mel`s house while we were talking about the Bible. We had a good time, sharing stories, laughing and also learning more about the Bible. We talked for several hours. Hopefully we can see Mel and his wife before we leave.
Because of that meeting, Yulia invited us to her house to have tea. Of course we agreed. Instantly we had favor with her mom, who was a great host to us and felt comfortable asking questions about our lives and about the Bible. It seems that Yulia has some background in the Bible and is really understanding what we are trying to communicate. Her mom, on the other hand, has many friends from different denominations and there is some confusion from those influences. Additionally, she has never read the Bible, so her questions are very good and somewhat outside the box. We plan on talking more with them tonight about spiritual things.
This past week we had the priviledge of blessing people with our time and energy. The first person was Sasha, a guy who has been using drugs and heavily drinking his whole life but met Alexander a few years ago through Sasha`s Mom (who attends the Pskov Church). Alexander took him to the village churches and the different ministries he is involved with even though Sasha was not a Christian. Eventually, he decides to go to a Christian Rehab Center and finishes the entire program. We has been clean for about a year and a half and a Christian for about a year. A couple Sundays ago, 10 people were baptized at the Pskov Church and he was one of them. Well, the other day we worked all day and helped him put up wallpaper in his bedroom. While drinking tea around 6PM and resting from our work, I said “Good food, and good company.” He said that if you told him a year ago that 2 Christians from America would be in his kitchen, it wouldn`t believe it. It is powerful how much God can change a person.
We also had the priviledge of going to one of the village churches and spending the day building the future church (which will be partially living quarters). One of the ladies there is Sasha`s Mom! It was cool hearing her story and just how grateful she is that Sasha is a different person now. Since becoming a Christian, she said that every area of his life is improving, even his relationships at work.
Last Sunday, Daniel and I went with our host Dad, Nikolai (who is the assistant pastor at the Pskov Church) to a village church where he is the pastor. Nikolai gave us the privilege of delivering one of the sermons (in Russian Baptist churches, there are always multiple sermons). I say “us” because Daniel is translating while I preach. I keep telling him that he is the real preacher because it doesn`t matter what I say, but what he says. He seemed pretty nervous and it is hard translating Bible vocabulary especially in front of people, but I think God used it. Daniel is really growing from this trip. He is even helping me in our talks with Yulia and her mom. For being 17 years old, I think he is doing a great job with everything involved with this trip and not just translating.
A couple weeks ago, Daniel and I heard from people at church about this huge Youth Conference in St. Petersburg that is happening this weekend. We went to the train station last night around 2AM to get tickets. We almost were beat up by some young military personel for being Americans. [During the somewhat-recent battles between Georgia and Russia, the U.S. got involved and many people from Pskov died in those battles]. There are going to be six of us going to the conference: Daniel, myself, Sasha, Yulia, Rita (a girl from church), Igor (a guy from church who has a similar story as Sasha). I am excited about what God is going to do in each of their lives. They are going to see so many Christians and get great exposure to the Russian-Christian community and good teaching. I think it is going to mind-blowing to say that least, especially for Yulia, who is not a Christian yet.
I think that is most of the highlights of our time in Pskov (post-Jim). Tomorrow is our last full day in Pskov and then onto St. Petersburg. We will have about a week after the conference to help our friends in St. Petersburg that were apart of the Pskov team this summer. Thank you for your prayers. God is working and it is exciting to be joining Him in His work.
Greetings from India. After several days of work in the village we are finding our time in the air-conditioned big city quite refreshing. We have spent our rest-time eating such authentic Indian favorites as KFC and McDonald’s, purchasing genuine handi-crafts, and visiting with (and hopefully encouraging) other Americans who are working here. Last night we ate dinner with an Iranian refugee family who’s amazing story we will be excited to share with you when we return. Otherwise, I am getting a little anxious to return to the village, so with that I am looking forward to our return journey tomorrow morning. Please pray that we will continue to have good opportunities to proclaim the Gospel and encourage the Indian church to do the same. Ask that our communication be clear and that we will seize every opportunity to share.
Until next time, thanks for your prayer,
BG and the team.
We are back in Chandigarh after 3 days of staying in another town and working in a nearby village. The people in the villages are very welcoming and we’ve had more chai than you can imagine. Pastor D and his wife Baljit are some of the most hospitable people I have met and are so much fun to be spending time with and getting to know their family. The heat here is not something I can explain in words, lets just say we will come home with cleansed pores and a few pounds lighter. I wish I could say more but stories will have to wait until we come home, we don’t have much time with the internet. Oh… and someone should let Starbucks know that what they are serving is NOT chai.
Love you all, Mona and India Team
After two long days of travel we have finally arrived in Chandigarh. Getting used to a 12 and a half hour time difference has been as difficult as anticipated. I am looking forward to going out into the village tomorrow to begin our ministry.
Please pray for God’s strength as we go, and for sufficient rest when we sleep. Pray that God will use our preparation to bring glory to Him.
Thanks for sending us to India and for your continued support through prayer.
Greg and the team.
DEAR FAMILY AND FRIENDS,
JUST A QUICK UPDATE. TODAY WE DIVIDED INTO TWO TEAMS – ONE AT THE ORPHANAGE AND ONE AT A COURTYARD DOING SIMILAR THINGS. THE GOSPEL WAS PRESENTED AT THE CHILDREN’S MINISTRY AT THE ORPHANAGE WITH VERY POSITIVE RESULTS. WHILE WE WERE PAINTING AT THE COURYARD, I SHARED THE LORD WITH ALEXANDER, A RETIRED PLUMBER. HE HAD NEVER HEARD THE GOSPEL AND WANTED TO READ THE BOOKLET AND THINK MORE ABOUT IT. A SEED SOWN. THANKS FOR YOUR PRAYERS.
NOW, OFF TO THE SPORTS MINISTRY … BASEBALL, VOLLEYBALL AND FRISBEE WITH CHILDREN.
LOVE TO ALL,
It is Wednesday night and we are having a great time here in New Mixico. The Navajo people are great. The VBS is going well. The adult teaching is incredible. The Navajo adults are asking great questions about creation. The Navajo children are interacting with our church kids. The Holy spirit is working here in New Mixico. We have been working very hard with many contruction projects. We could stay a month and still have things to do. The church served us a great Navajo dinner that was awsome.
Keep us in Prayer!!!
Greetings from the Navajo Reservation! We have just finished playing an awesome game of volleyball with the Navajo people at the local rec center that they have in the middle of the housing projects. We had such a blast! If you can imagine playing volleyball with Geoff Tipton or Cris Andaverde you can guarantee some great laughs! The Navajo people are welcoming us with open arms now. We are looking forward to continuing on the rest of this week with construction and with VBS. The adults and youth in VBS are rocking out with the kids and Geoff, Tony, and myself have been teaching and have seen HUGE results with the youth (Tony) and the adults (Geoff and I).
Keep us in prayer as we continue to seek the Lord in this mission. Pray also for a few sick team members and also for Patty’s car. We are having it towed into a local city 45 min away to be looked at by the Ford dealership.
Kyle Olguin for the Team
Just wanted to let you know that we made it safe to Pskov (a little behind schedule). Our long flight across the Atlantic was delayed for over an hour, so we missed our сonnecting flight from Frankfurt to St. Petersburg. It was pretty crazy running around the airport trying to figure out how to reach Jim (who was waiting for us in St. Pete) and tell him that we were going to be 6 hours late. This also meant we made the 4 hour van ride from St. Pete to Pskov at night instead of during the day. We arrived in Pskov around 11PM went straight to bed and then get up and get ready for church.
There are actually several groups involved with Pskov this summer: California team, St. Pete team, Penza (Russian city) team, Latvia team and a Boston team. The other groups are all Russian speakers, so we are called “The Americans.” Because of all the guests, the service was extra long especially if every team speaks one message and sings two songs. After being here a day, it doesn’t seem I have been gone for a whole year because so many things are familiar. One of the most encouraging things from this past year was that my host mother’s (Natasha) mom repented and came to Christ (a few months ago). Natasha asked us over dinner at the home tonight to pray for her because she has cancer. She is scheduled to be baptized in about a week or so.
Our basic schedule is going to be similar to last summer: work during the day beautifying the courtyard area infront of the flats (apartments), then play sports with the local kids. After dinner, go back to the courtyard where the Russian groups will put on an outdoor service. While the service is going on, the Americans will mingle with the crowd and on lookers. It definitely will be a full schedule and should have no problem sleeping despite the sun shinning at 10 o’clock at night.
Thank you for your prayers. It is humbling having all the support I have and thank you for your encouragement as well.
1 Timothy 1:12
We have arrived in Flagstaff, AZ! Praise the Lord for safe travels so far. We will be staying the night here before we head out in the morning for another 4 hour trip to the Navajo Reservation. We had quite the trip leaving Madera at 7AM and arriving here at 7PM after many unplanned bathroom stops but ya gotta do what you gotta do!
Pray for us as we continue in our travels tomorrow morning and meet some of the Navajo people that we will be ministering to. A lot of our youth are getting really excited. It has been great to sneek in on their conversations and hear how they are so excited to tell people about Christ and do the work we are scheduled to do. Pray for us in those different areas.
Come back and check out the website every day as we will try to give you a glimpse into what is going on as Internet connections permit. Thank you all for the different ways you have helped support us by finances, your time, and most importantly, your prayers.
We, The New Mexico Team, would first like to say thank you for all of your prayers and support that you have given to us the past few months to allow us to go on this missions trip to the Navajo people. We are excited to see God use us as vessels for His Gospel to reach the nations, literally.
Pray for us as we drive 10 hours to Flagstaff, AZ tomorrow morning at 6AM and then onto Farmington, NM another 5 hours on Sunday. Pray that the Lord will guide us there safely and with our cars in good shape! Pray also for opportunities at gas stations and rest stops to share the Gospel with those we come into contact with and make visual God’s love in the way we treat each other as a team. Our youth are excited to have the chance to share even before we get to New Mexico.
Letters from the mission field:
“It seems like each year we have to start our letter with the words “persecution worsened in (our country)”. It never gets better, and with the ‘End Time’ perspective in mind we actually need to get ready for more persecution to come. So, it went worse this past spring again. Police started to actively search and expose home churches all over (our country), some believers were arrested and imprisoned for 2 weeks, others were imposed fines in the amount of $1,500 (huge amount for ordinary people) – our government’s new strategy of dealing with active Christians. The gatherings of believers outside of registered church buildings became almost impossible to hide and to justify before police when exposed. “Are you sure you want to do camps this year?”-we were asked by others warningly; “Will you do camps?”- we are being asked by children hopefully. We had to ask that question ourselves and God, consider the risk and possible consequences in case of exposure by police. We felt that we needed to trust more the One who has protected us over past several years. So, by faith we are making step into this camp season, relying on the mercy of God. It became clear to us that this year we have to change our strategy and the forms of the camps.”
Under great pressure and persecution our leaders in this Muslim country are reporting THEY WERE ABLE TO AVOID arrest and fines as they divided into smaller groups and moved around. Recently the government offered their agents a bonus if they found Christians meeting and it made our camp leaders get more creative. They never said, “we can’t run camps this summer. They just said we will have to be more creative and trust God more.
Christian Camping is still one of the best ways to reach young people with the gospel. Leaders we have trained in 10 countries are reporting that many have come to Christ this summer and even with the difficult financial situation God has blessed with wonderful results. Our leaders constantly ask us to thank YOU, our supporters and prayer partners for your help.
As we write this letter we are on the way to Ukraine where we will work in nine different camps.
Bob and Sharon Hilts