Michael on September 1st, 2013

2015-val-bday-005In November of 2000, I (Mike) moved to Russia to help establish a Russian Charity named MIR.  A little over a year later I married Olga.  In 2011, we welcomed a three year old Russian girl named Valerie into our home. Over the years, God has led us and blessed us in many ways.

We have a home in St. Petersburg, Russia and spend time in the USA, Finland, Montenegro and Estonia.  I have businesses in the USA and am the Executive Director of Stoneworks International, a mission organization with projects in Europe from the Barents Sea to the Balkans, so I travel a lot.

We hope you’ll wander around here, learn more about us, have some fun and see evidence of the goodness of God.

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Michael on October 10th, 2017

We live in the city center and are very thankful we get to see such a lovely city every day. People who live in the suburbs don’t see the old city nearly as much as we do. This video is a great view of our hometown –

 

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Michael on September 13th, 2017

With the help of donors from St. James United Methodist Church, we recently sponsored a leadership conference in Uganda, partnering with Pastor Sam Bahiirwa’s church. Three men from Church on the Rock, in Butembo, Congo traveled to lead the conference. It was a great success.

One of the pastors from Congo, Pastor Maskote, is a wood worker, and he also taught at a woodworking workshop we’ve sponsored.

Here are reports from Damiri Paluku (from Congo) and Sam:

From Damiri:

Hello Mike, I and Pastor Kivuya and Pastor Maskote Thank you.

We are very Grateful for each and every on that contributed by Praying and gave Finances for the Conférence in Fort Portal and made it possible for us to travel east and have a place to spend the night. May God bless each one of you and all your works.

You’ve played a Big role by enabling us to go share the word of God.

There is still a great need of Teaching. Pastors asked if we could plan to go there again. I pray that God will give us ways to specifically help Pastor Sam’s church. Both time we’ve gone there it has been for all différent churches. I think it is good sometimes to just focus on one specific church in order for Pastor Sam to benefit fully. We can still have a Teaching for leaders of many différent churches, but when we focus we can impact, in a sense that Pastor Sam can do a follow up.

Thanks once more for supporting and praying for us.

From Sam:

Am highly blessed and I feel very humble because the work you are doing here in Uganda mostly to help my calling.  It is true that I have nothing to give back to you, but let God do his will to you, only I pray blessings to you and say thank you.

I thank God for he led Pastor Damiri and others who came from Congo to teach our church and minister the word of God.

The conference started on 7th, Thursday morning the turnout was a bit low in morning because a few people came on 6th Wednesday and spend a night at church and people continue coming in the day time.

On the second day the number increased and was starting at 10am and closed at 5pm. And even these who spent the night at church were many.

The  conference was attended by Pastors and the their assistants, church elders, women leaders and other leaders of different departments in churches. The leaders came from other churches and even outside of our district.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Michael on July 7th, 2017

Each year near to her birthday we take a picture of Valerie in the same dress, one of Olga’s. I got this idea from Life magazine years ago. It’s fun to watch her grow up:

4th Birthday:

Val-4th

5th Birthday:

Val-5th

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Michael on June 19th, 2017

On my recent trip to Africa, I learned about a GREAT water filtration system. I think it would be very useful for our friends and partners in Africa and Europe.

The system is very simple and super effective. It is made by Sawyer International. They have several products, and the one we used is a portable filter that will remove dirt, bacteria and other contaminants. Here is a picture of the system the team gave to a Maasai village in Tanzania:

The water in the green bucket came from a pond they use to water their animals. The filter is attached to the grey hose. The water in the blue bucket is drinkable, REALLY good, very pure.

This system will filter water for a village for years. It is not chemical, so it doesn’t stop working or wear out. It needs to be ‘back-flushed’ (a really simple procedure) from time to time. It’s gravity fed, there are no moving parts or power source.

The filter will last 40 years and will filter hundreds of thousands of gallons. Everything fits in a small bag, and the locals need only supply the buckets. I learned how to train people in the use of the filter and have training supplies I can give to churches so they can train people.

At the Maasai village, I experienced a special joy watching the kids drink deeply of clear, fresh water — water that just a few minutes before was undrinkable. The filtered water is more pure than most bottled water in the USA. Reports are coming in of healthier villages now that they have safe water.

You can see a video and more info here. The cost for this system is about $40. I plan to take a few with me to Romania next month, and I’m sure we’ll find homes for many the next time I visit Africa. Let me know if you’d like to sponsor a village!

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Michael on June 19th, 2017

First, I give thanks to God for His amazing work. He is really great. He can do more than we can ask or imagine, and my time in Africa is a fulfillment of that truth. The Lord promises abundant life to His followers, and He has given me a very full and meaningful life. All the credit goes to Him. He’s a good Dad.

Bible School Graduates, in Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo (I’m in there somewhere)

Two years ago, I posted on Facebook, “I really want to go to Africa.” At the time, I had no idea how or if I would go to Africa. A year later, I was invited to speak at a September seminar in the Democratic Republic of Congo (which I’ll Congo from here on). While in Africa, I also met with Sam Bahiirwa, a Ugandan pastor with whom I had been corresponding. Last week I returned from my second trip, this time visiting Congo, Uganda and Tanzania.

In Congo and Uganda, I was part of a team with Mike Anticoli and Vin Lucien. Mike lived in Congo for several years and planted The Church on the Rock in Butembo. Vin was Mike’s pastor and primary support in the work. The church now has 14 daughter churches in Congo and Uganda.

I met Mike in Russia in 2000; he was a great help to me early on in my time here, and he performed our wedding. Mike’s ministry focuses on three things: Unity among believers, cross-denominationalism, and leading people to a living faith (as opposed to dry religious duty).  Mike is a church planter.

Damiri Paluku, bishop of the churches and a church planter himself, was our guide and translator. He has become a good friend.

We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda and spent a night there before heading to Kasese, where we went on Safari and rested from our travels. The next day we drove into Congo. The road is one of the roughest I’ve experienced. There are practically no paved roads in that part of Congo. The road is also known to be dangerous, with one section going through the bush where militants and bandits attack travelers.

Congo

In Butembo, I taught at a leadership conference, helped in an ordination ceremony, and participated in their Bible School graduation ceremonies. The church had asked me to teach on a Biblical Perspective on Money, and my teaching was both well-received and challenging to the culture. The conference was live on the radio and hundreds of thousands of people heard our sessions. I also spoke on how the Kingdom of God is completely different from the kingdom of this world.  I’ve been asked to continue teaching on money when I return.

The church in Butembo is in a difficult time. Mike Anticoli asked the conferees to list their top three daily anxieties, and the answer was Murder, Rape and Kidnapping. Those are the main daily anxieties.

Jeremie and Bethuel

The pastor of the church, Jeremie, was attacked just a couple of weeks before the conference. Gunmen broke into his house after midnight, demanding money. They knew he is a pastor and assumed he had money. They said they would kill him (“this machete has cut off many heads”). They woke up his children and brought them into the living room. Jeremie was force to lie down with a rifle pointed at his head. His wife begged them not to kill him, and they said, “God will give you another husband”. This with the children watching. This kind of experience is not uncommon. Congo is a hard place.

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Michael on May 25th, 2017

I’m finally able to post to the website. Our site was hacked and it took quite a while to clean up all the files and get things ship-shape.

Last Sunday after church we went for a walk in the Summer Garden here in St. Petersburg. Spring is finally (pretty much) here, and it was nice to get out and enjoy relative warmth. I took the picture above at one of the many fountains in the renovated garden.

On Saturday, I go to Africa for my second trip there. I will visit Uganda, Congo and Tanzania, where I’ll teach at a conference, preach at churches and continue building relationships with my new friends. I’ll have more news when I return.

Olga and Valerie will remain in Russia. We’ve opened up dacha and there is always a lot to do there. Homeschooling is winding down and we’re already looking forward to 4th grade. Valerie had a piano recital and a dance recital, both went very well.

So we move ahead, always looking to our loving father to guide the way.

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Michael on February 6th, 2017

My connections with Africa continue to grow. A few days ago, here in Russia, I met with Mike Anticoli, the director of the ministry I worked with in Congo. Once again, Mike invited me to go with him to Uganda and Congo, this time at the end of May. While specifics are still being worked out, the general plan is for us to speak at conferences in both countries. In Congo, I will speak on the topic “A Biblical Understanding of Money”.

While I was in the States, I spoke about my trip to Africa and the people I met, and our Sunday School class in Athens, GA was really touched in their hearts. They and others offered funds to help the ministry, particularly the work of Sam Bahiirwa, a pastor in the mountains of Uganda, near Fort Portal. A few weeks ago, we sent money to sponsor a leadership conference at Sam’s church. We also sent funds to buy wood-working tools and Bibles as well as send several orphans to school.

I just received an update from Damiri Paluku, the bishop of several churches in Congo. Damiri is a friend who traveled with me when I was there in September. Damiri traveled to Uganda from Congo and wrote the following report about the conference we sponsored (above center, Damiri is holding a microphone):

 

Hello Mike,

The conference has ended. We had a Great time in the Word and the Presence of God.

People came more than we planned, we had about 40 the first day, the number increased the second day and the third day more than 70 adults were present, the church was full of people . Read the rest of this entry »

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Michael on January 14th, 2017

Finally.

It’s been almost four years since we started the process of Olga becoming a US Citizen and we’ve just taken the final step: Olga received her US passport on Thursday.

Olga and Valerie go to Russia on Tuesday. I will go a little later, on the 30th. So, we’re packing, wrapping things up here in the States and preparing for life in Russia once again.

Olga continues to homeschool and do all manner of things around the house. Val is doing great, such a joy.

I’ve been teaching a series entitled A Biblical Attitude Toward Money. This is in preparation for my next trip to Congo. The church there has asked me to prepare a few teachings; in addition to teaching on Money, I’m also preparing sessions on Authority, Life After Death, and Knowing God’s Will.

I continue my work helping ministries in Europe, and focus on Uganda and Congo continues: just today I sent funds to Uganda in preparation for a conference we’re sponsoring; we’re also purchasing wood-working tools and Bibles as well helping orphans go to school.

This summer looks to be busy: we’ll send mission teams to Russia, Estonia, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova and Montenegro. We will also have interns in Romania, Montenegro, Belarus and Estonia. I will travel to several countries as usual; I’m still discerning where the Lord wants me this summer, but it seems that I’ll attend a men’s conference in Norway and be with mission teams in Estonia, Montenegro, Romania and Ukraine.

Our lives are full, abundant. And this is what Jesus promises: if we’ll just die to ourselves and let Him be our guide, then we’ll be fulfilled beyond imagining.

 

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Michael on December 22nd, 2016

Olga was granted US citizenship today! We started this process almost 4 years ago when we applied for her US green card. Now she is fully a citizen.  Hurrah!

The past 8 days have been a bit of a rollercoaster (as usual). Last week we weren’t even sure if Olga would have an interview before mid-January. The officers as USCIS were very helpful and made it possible for us to finish everything up today. Olga passed the tests with flying colors and took the Oath of Allegiance soon after.

It’s nice to have this behind us, though the last piece of the puzzle is getting Olga her US passport, which we hope to do early next year.

Michael on December 17th, 2016

 

We have good news — on Thursday December 22 Olga will interview for naturalization. It’s been a long slog as we’ve waited. Apparently our paperwork was set aside for some reason and was not being reviewed as we thought.

This week we were able to talk with an actual person, a supervisor at USCIS, who discovered that we’d been waiting far too long and immediately made space for Olga to interview.

If all goes as we hope, she will also take her oath of citizenship that day. We’re in the process of finalizing the packet of documents they request for the interview, and Olga is studying for the tests she’ll take: writing, speaking, civics.

We have tickets to fly to Russia on January 17, so it looks like we will be able to make that deadline. It will be a busy month between now and when we depart.

Prayers are appreciated — not prayers that Olga will get citizenship but that God’s will be done. We feel that He wants us to learn even more the necessity of not grasping to our own will but releasing our lives into His hands, walking like little kinds holding their father’s hand. If He wants Olga to be a citizen of the USA, then she will be a citizen. But, I believe He is far more interested in our willingness to abide in Him than in any particular outcome. All things work for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.