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Sunday, July 14, 2013

New Location

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Monday, February 11, 2013

10 Russian Myths About U.S. Adoptions

I repost this article from the Moscow times, an expat newspaper, to show what the government is trying to do to shape public opinion on this subject. While I was on my back for a week for the third time in three years recently, I had a massage therapist come and work on me daily. She once started spouting this kind of stuff to me, so I can attest that the propaganda is working.

10 Russian Myths About U.S. Adoptions | Opinion | The Moscow Times

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 report

This year saw some of the most dramatic and significant transformations in our ministry since coming to Russia in 2007. What our life and my ministry look like going into 2013 are radically different from when we started, but it's not because of any major surprises. It's actually panning out pretty much according to the vision (as I understood it) that God gave in 2006. What is that looking like?

My vision for citywide ministry and transformation became a part of my DNA while in ministry in Richmond, VA from 1997-2007. What changed when I came to Russia was my realization that building a team of citywide leaders from the top down was not the right approach. What God was leading me to do was use my background in counseling and coaching to invest in the personal transformation of people He would bring across my path: yes, leaders, but also simple Christians, and as many orphans as possible too.

This is what I did for our first 5 years: lead trainings that built on the curiosity factor for me as an American, a psychologist, and a trainer. Use these trainings as a means of building relationships, building people, and building trust. At the end of 5 years a good core of about 25 people had seen enough personal change in their lives that they wanted more. God was really good, for the stories of change were amazing and life-altering. Moreover, I didn't expect that there would be so many.

So I announced phase 2: would they be willing to form a group to build team while they continued to grow? Amazingly, almost all of these 25 have continued on over the last several months. As a result, I have shifted my focus from offering new trainings - in part since we have new leaders able to lead the trainings themselves - to investing in the personal growth of each of these new team members and into the development of the group as a group.

For comparison: I logged about 50 sessions of one-on-one mentoring/counseling over the course of the first 6 months of 2011, but 79 trainings and/or consultations with groups or ministries. This reflects my focus at the time on training as a relationship-building tool. Most individual sessions at that time were directly associated with those trainings.

For the last 6 months of 2012, however, the pattern is reversed: over 100 individual meetings (perhaps even a lot more I didn't even bother to record, as they are often spontaneous), and only 35 training sessions.

Until this past spring, I was the only one leading any training (with one exception on one occasion over the 5 years). Since April we have added 5 teacher/trainers who have taught 9 classes. As a result, our outreach to the community encompasses about 75 people currently being taught or ministered to in some way.

We have two people ministering full time: Inna Khan and Rustam (now Roman) Novikov. They are both very bright, eager, teachable, very well respected, and constantly growing themselves leaders. We only need seed money ($5000) to give him a transition until ministry activity can support him largely independently.

Our biggest event of the year was in May when we invited Dr. Ed Smith, founder and head of Theophostic Prayer Ministry to St. Petersburg. He led training for the community at large that our team organized, attracting about 200 in attendance. Then he led a three-day intensive for us and others from around Russia who had already been trained in this powerful form of ministry. Before this event, TPM was barely on the radar screen in Russia. Now it is becoming a recognizable ministry with growing influence.

In addition to the conference, I managed a translation project to get the basic workbook for TPM into Russian (almost 300 pages long!) which went into print early this year. I also had the basic seminar for Peacemaker Ministries translated into Russian, and led that event for the first time in Russia this year. Lastly, I partnered with Communion with God Ministries and had a series of 9 DVD courses translated into Russian. As you can imagine, this was a huge project! That's 11 courses in one year.

Our Orphans Reaching Orphans project has had some setbacks, with 3 people leaving the team, but the 4 of us remaining are re-grouping in 2013. Otherwise, our family ministry to orphan graduates continues. We are most closely working with 3 young people, whom we usually see at least once a week.

Our ministry facility is one of the biggest stories of 2012, so big in fact, that we made a whole video about it. God moved us as a family to a new apartment for New Year's 2012, giving us a new space for ministry, which immediately got used and increased ministry activity dramatically. Most amazing was the willingness of the Russians themselves (normally always looking for freebies) to participate in the big increase in our rent. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

St. Petersburg, 360

My friend Bill, who has lived here since the early 1990's likes to say, "St. Petersburg is real beautiful - if it's dark and you squint hard." Well, I found another view that makes it look good. This is an impressive project, taking panoramas of the city from various spots, all on the same day. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Freedoms in Russia in danger

I haven't figured out how to feel about the level of seriousness to take all of this, but this message from a Russian pastor here is more than worthy of attention and prayer. You decide.

Considering the general situation, evangelical Christians will be a perfect target. And those, who have connection to the West and the so-called detestable American sympathizers - BEWARE. Please, pray for our wisdom and courage under the unravelling situation. We knew these things would come. They are coming a little faster than we expected. I am praying for the safety of our kids in this police state. We are rapidly traveling back to the notoriously known thirtees. The same flavor, really, though a slightly different color. More brownish than red. No drastic changes at a time. But the notorious frog boiled alive in the water slowly heated. That is a perfect analogy under the circumstances.

THE SECOND PIECE OF THE PUZZLE We have also just read on Russia on-line news that each Russian citizen will be assigned a personal e-mail address for direct connection with the government. They try to represent it as a step toward more freedom and better manifestation of true democracy - after all we will be able to contact the government without having to stand in line or trying to break through a bunch of unconquerable obstacles. However, taken in context and especially in light of the general development and the flow of events in this country, we can see that it is but another tool for people to rat on each other like they did under Stalin, and also a way for the government to exercise tighter control of who is who and what he or she is doing. Fun, huh?

In light of all this we felt and wrote on FB that we were even more sure that we wanted to homeschool our girls to prevent them from political brainwashing. How great that homeschooling is legal here these days. We have actually just bought a book with all the laws on the matter....OK. Here is the punchline. I did write these exact words on FB, when all of a sudden….

THE THIRD PIECE OF THE PUZZLE, which made the picture almost complete. I called one of my daughers' teachers concerning some homeschooling logistics, yet, this is what I got from her: the Russian government is making a 6 day school week compulsory with kids being kept in school up to 4 pm, and is already passing a new law in its second reading about homeschooling becoming completely illegal in Russia. Yes, they are planning to ban it competely. Please, pray. They tried to do it before, but a major resonance on the part of the people in Russia, and worldwide made them relent and recoil.

Whoever is involved in advancing homeschooling in this country, please, contact and help us get in touch with people, who have any say in this matter, if you know such folks, and if you could help us to connect with them preferable in St. Pete, please, help us do so ASAP. We need good lawyers and also Christian schools principles in Pete, which might accept our kids while allowing us to teach them at home and have them come there for testing once in a while, whenever required.

THE PUZZLE COMPLETE. Taking this news in context of a couple of pieces of the puzzle everything becomes clearer, at least for those, who can read signs of times. Where else can your kids be best braiwashed? Bingo! In the public school system that has ALL of its SOVIET values, however disguised, shoved down your children's throat with no say on the parents’ part concerning what they are taught on a day to day basis. The water is slowly getting hotter for the notorious frog to boil to death slowly, slowly, slowly, without making any life-changing and earth-shattering jumps OUT. Now my first thought was - we are outta here. No way I am staying in this country, after all, we still have our visas for Europe and the US. But then the second thought immediately was - NO, NEVER, WHAT A FOOLISH NOTION! God did not call you to leave, Andre. You gotta remain and be here with the people, who He called you to lead, encourage, support, pray for and with. You need to serve them and suffer with them if needed. Keep your eternal perspective. I do believe, that together we will be able to do something. WE NEED YOUR PRAYERS AND SUPPORT more than ever.
You may be thinking that, as an American, things are bad enough in the US, but things could change faster here than there. You pray for us, and we will for you. Deal?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lyle: the video

One of my coaching students, also a student at the local Christian University, and also the wife of the pastor of the church we attend, made this video for her class on videography. I thought it was kinda cool as a study in what the Russians find noteworthy in describing a guy who came to live in their country.

У нас были две машины в Штатах, а здесь у нас нет машин вообще.
We had two cars in the States, but here I don't have even one.

Зато я могу километрами ходить каждый день и  к тому же это полезно.
But I walk up to several kilometers a day here, and that's good for me.

У нас был свой дом. Мы продали этот дом и практически все, что в нем находилось за один день.
We had our own home. We sold it in one day, and everything in it in just about a day.

Продали машины, дом. В Америке я получал за минуту 1,5 доллара, то есть 45 рублей, а здесь я ничего от вас не получаю,  кроме удовольствия!
In America I earned $1.5 a minute (that is 45 rubles), but here I get nothing from you but enjoyment in my work!

За 15 лет до нашего переезда в Россию, мы с женой знали уже, что Бог нас призывает в эту страну, но не понимали пока как, когда.
15 years before we moved here, my wife and I knew that God had called us to Russia, but we didn't understand how and when.

Прожив в России 2 года, я начал понимать, что борюсь здесь с определенным духом, я называю это духом сиротства.
After a couple of years living here, I started to understand that I was dealing with a certain spirit that I call an orphan spirit.

Сиротство – это не просто проблема определенных детей. Сиротство присутствует в любом народе, где есть проблемы в семье, где вообще не понимают ценность родительских отношений.
Orphanhood is not merely a problem of certain kids. It is a problem that any culture can have where there are dysfunctions in the family, where the value of parenting is not appreciated.

Часто меня спрашивают: «Откуда ты понял, что твое призвание ехать именно в Россию»?
People often ask me: How did you understand that your calling was to Russia?

 У меня был учитель в воскресной школе, он историк, он часто говорил, о том, как страдают люди в Советском Союзе.
 I had a Sunday school teacher who often talked about how people suffered in the Soviet Union for their faith.

 И что мы, в отличие от них не страдаем. Вот это и засело у меня в голове.
 And that we didn't suffer. That stuck in my head.

 Я вижу одно преимущество в русских людях, в том, что когда они понимают важность чего-то, они загораются этим и хотят изменяться и получать все больше навыков и знаний в данном вопросе.
 I see one advantage in Russians. That is that when they understand the importance of something, they burn with a desire to change and get the skills and knowledge they need for it.

 Они обучаемы. Здесь люди готовы глубоко вникать в суть вещей.
 They are teachable. They are ready to go to the very essence of something.

 Очень благодарен Богу за то, ч тоя твердо, без сомнений, верю, что я должен быть сдесь.
 I am tremendously grateful to God that I definitely, without doubt, know that I am supposed to be here.

 Конечно, не могу сказать, что здесь все обходится без проблем, но почему-то Бог благословляет.
 I can't say that we don't have problems here, but God seems to be blessing us.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ministry video

One of our churches was planning a missions fair this month, and they asked for a video, so it gave us an excuse to try to put something together. Professional quality was compromised by the rush, but it starts to tell a story that may help some of you get more what we are up to here. Let me know what you think of it....