What's a Blog? 

I think BLOG is an ugly word! It comes from the words WEB LOGIn other words, its a Web based Log, or Journal. And that's what this page is - a web based log of my thoughts, born out of Scripture, prayer, and just living life in Christ. 

Click on the green title line to read the entry                      


Russia 2016 Grads Retreat

As part of our Russia trip we conducted a Leadership Seminar for a dozen of our orphanage graduates at our Kostroma Dacha. Pastor Paula Koch and I decided to focus on “The Character of a Christian Leader.” We used the stories of Joseph (the Old Testament one), Moses, Esther, and Jesus to illustrate the character qualities of godly leaders.

With each biblical person we asked the grads to “act out” their story, and to list the leadership qualities they saw in each person’s life. Below you will see some of the scenes they acted out, and at the end you will see a list of 16 leadership characterists they learned. May God grant that we all have these characteristics as disciples of Jesus!

Click on the first picture below to begin. Can you quess the leadership quality expressed in each picture?


Russia 2016 Videos

Below of some of the short videos I shot on my iPhone during our May trip to Russia. Choose and enjoy!

1. On our flight to Russia via Paris I discovered Air France has something I’ve always wanted - a front camera which shows what the pilot sees on the screen on the seatback in front of you! So you can watch take off and landing. (After you take off the camera tilts down to show the ground below you!) Here is our landing at Paris. 

2. VLADIMIR is one of ths most historic, and most beautiful, cities in Russia. Its located about 120 miles east of Moscow. This is a short vista looking at the countryside from the back of the Dormition Cathedral (built 1158 AD) The young woman at the end is Alya, who Pat and I have sponsored since she was 10. She is now 23, and will be married in July. 

3. Russians really know how to celebrate EASTER! The week after Easter (when we were there) is called Bright Week, and there is a worship service every morning. During the service the congregation marches around the church proclaiming Christ is Risen to the world. Here is the Bright Thursday morning service at the Knyaginin Monastary Church in Vladimir. (Pardon the wind noise at the beginning.) Thanks to friend Natasha Makashina for taking us to this service!

4. SUSDAL is a town like our Williamsburg in Virginia a town that still lives in the 18th century. There we met up with Meesha, who had been raised in the Luhtonova Orphanage. He now has a job he loves caring for horses and taking tourists for horseback rides through Suzdal. He arranged for a carriage ride for us. Come along for the ride!

5.  SUZDAL has more than 30 beautful Cathedrals, some dating back to the 11th century.
     Here is a vista showing some of those churches along the Kamenka River.

6. Suzdal is known for its BELLS. Over years we got to know and love Yuri Yurovich, who was the bell ringer. He was nearly deaf by the time he died after decades of bell ringing. Yuri is gone, but the man in the tower is still ringing the bells. 

7. We conducted a LEADERSHIP RETREAT at for our Orphanage Graduates at our Kostoma Dacha. As part of that seminar the grads did a Trust Walk. No graduates were injured during this exerciseat least not seriously injured :-).

8. Russians are good at chessand at SOCCER! In between sessions at the Retreat a soccer game would break out..

9. Back to Russians and EASTER. Here orphanage gradaute Natasha tells us why Russian dye Easter Eggs red. 
    The translation is from Yana, who is part of our staff at the Kostroma Ministry Center.


I hope you enjoyed these videos. They were produced on the fly using the QUIK app on my iPhone.






Russia Trip - May 2016

I was in Russia from May 2-11, 2016. Pastor Paula Koch and I visited the primary ministry points of Orphan’s Tree in Vladimir, Ivanovo, and Kostroma, leading seminars in each region.  I am going again in October, taking a team of Pastors over the same route. Hey Pastor, would you like to do some ministry with Russian orphanage graduates with me?

Click on the first picture to enlarge it and click through to see some of the places were were at, 
and where we will be in October, 


Russia Trip 2015

It was a rather short trip… primarily to lead a Renewal Retreat for our wonderful Russian Staff. Two days in Vladimir, visiting Luhtonova Orphanage and some of its graduates, a three day retreat in the beautiful and history city of Suzdal, a quick stop in Ivanova to see the land where we are soon to build a new ministry center, then home through Moscow. 
But what a great time with some of the most loving and committed people I know. 

                                         Double click on the first pic, then use the arrows to go through them.

Collateral Blessings

Ludmilla’s Grave Luhtonova, Russia

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In times of war we talk about collateral damage, which means destruction of people or things who weren’t the intended target. In Missions we can use the term collateral blessings, which means benefit to people who weren’t our intended ministry target.

Our target group is older Russian orphans. Over the years we’ve found that many who weren’t our intended mission target group have been blessed. One such collateral blessing person was an Orphanage Director named Ludmilla.

It was out of desperation that Ludmilla began allowing Americans to visit her orphanage to minister to the 90 special needs orphans who lived there, preparing them for “life after the orphanage.”She was unable to provide the food, heat, cloth-ing, or educational supplies they needed. When I first visited her orphanage in 1998, she introduced herself by saying, “My name is Ludmilla. I’m an atheist.”         I responded, “My name is John, and I’m not.” Though she didn’t share our faith, she loved her kids enough to risk having us come and help them.

After several years of watching us work with her orphanage kids, she let me know that she had come to faith. Her initial words of testimony were rather strange. “Pastor John, I know you’ll be pleased to hear that I purchased a grave in the local Orthodox Church cemetery!” I knew what that meant. You can’t be buried in a Russian Orthodox Church cemetery unless you are a professing, baptized Orthodox Christian, which Ludmilla was informing me she had become.

Over the years I saw Ludmilla grow in her faith, and when I saw her for the last time in September she and I prayed together before I left, as we had done since her conversion.

Ludmilla passed away in January, 2015. In Russia they still bury people rather quickly after death. She died on a Saturday morning and her burial was on Sunday afternoon. It just didn’t give me enough time to attend, though I would have loved to have been there to honor the life of my sister in Christ.

About a month after her funeral a friend visited her orphanage and stopped by the cemetery to see her grave. They took a picture of the cross which marks her final resting place. The woman who once claimed to be an atheist is now buried under the sign of the cross, a symbol of her faith in Christ her Savior and Lord.

We went to her orphanage to work with older orphans.
Ludmilla was a collateral blessing.





Two Rows by the Sea

Do you remember the beheading on February 15th of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya?
As members of the Islamic State sliced away at their throats with knives—in the name of Allah - the 21 Christians refused to deny their faith and cried out to the Lord Jesus. 

The Coptic Christian Church of Egypt has now honored them with an icon called The 21 Martyrs. Here they kneel with eyes lifted up to Jesus, receiving their crowns of righteousness as they give their lives in honor of their King. I’ve been blessed meditating on this beautiful image.
May I be as faithful to my Lord as they were!


The poem below, titled Two Rows,  was written in their honor. 



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Two rows of men walked the shore of the sea,
On a day when the world’s tears would run free,
One a row of assassins, who thought they did right,
The other of innocents, sons of the light,

One holding knives in hands held high,
The other with hands empty, defenseless and tied,
One row of slits to conceal glaring-dead eyes,
The other with living eyes raised to the skies,

One row stood steady, pall-bearers of death,
The other knelt ready, welcoming heaven’s breath,
One row spewed wretched, contemptible threats,
The other spread God-given peace and rest.

A Question we ask now…Who fears the other?
The row in orange, watching paradise 
Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?

            ~Two Rows by the Sea İBible Society of Egypt



Thailand Trip 2015

Cool Shade 2

I was in Thailand from March 4-13 with three other men… two from King Street Church (Pastor Kyle Bushra and John Hetrick) and Pastor Chris Little from Mt. Pleasant UB Church. Our primary purpose was to develop a partnership beween our churches and Cool Shade of Life Church in Chiang Mai, a store-front Thai led church.
By the way, isn’t COOL SHADE OF LIFE a great name for a church in a tropical climate?


Three Pastors

This picture is from our trip last year. On the left is Pastor Chris Little, who returned on this trip.
We are with Pastor Ogaat, who leads the Cool Shade of Life Church. His passion is to train Thai Christians to plant churches in the unreached areas of northeast Thailand. 


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Our missionaries in Chiang Mai, Bryan and Emily Gerlach. They have been there a year learning the language and the Thai culture, and now hope to be working in partnership with Cool Shade of Life Church. 


Making Friends

One of the friends I made in Thailand.


Thai

Thailand is 96% Buddhist.
Over 140 years of Christian missionary work have resulted in less than 1% of the population knowing Christ.
But we believe God is at work in exciting ways there today, and we are excited to be a part of what God is doing!


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Above is the weather forecast for the week we were in Chiang Mai. 
As I was there, Pat was shoveling the snow off our driveway in Chambersburg. (Sorry Babe). 
A little bit more of winter was waiting for me when I returned. 



Thot of the Day

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I don’t want people to think more highly of me than they do of my Master. 

A Christian mindset, based on Luke 6:16
"Woe to you when all people speak well of you,
for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the false prophets.

If you love Him, then I believe you will love me, and I will be glad of that.

If you reject Him, I suspect you will reject me and think me foolish for following Him, and that is as it should be. I will not buy human favor by being unfaithful to my Master.



Stones of Remembrance

In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?” you should tell them… 
Joshua 4:6-7

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I once was kidding with Pat and said, “When I die, I’d like to be cremated… and my ashes scattered over Michelle Pfeiffer .”

To which she responded. “I can arrange for that to happen. Tomorrow.” 

Actually, I prefer burial in the ground with a good grave marker as my “stone of remembrance”. 

I was reading this morning in the Book of Joshua about Israel entering Canaan as the Jordan River opened before them. They were instructed to take 12 large stones from the middle of the river bed and set them up on the shore as “stones of remembrance.” 
In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them… 

Stones last a long time, which is why we do tombstones in granite, one of the most durable of materials.
Our tombstones are bookmarks in the earth proclaiming “I was here. Please don’t forget me.” Its also the living that desire them, so that their loved ones, who were so valuable to them, will not be quickly forgotten on earth. 

The tombstone becomes a gathering place to stand and remember.
A graveyard is filled with stones of remembrance.
But they don’t work very well. 
The reality is that the vast majority of humans will become part of the great unknown in three or four generations.

My grandchildren know little or nothing about my father, which is, I guess, my fault. But even if I pass on the information about him to them, how much further down the line of generations will it go? Not very far, I think. 

Of course, a belief in eternity, and a great coming reunion, puts things in a different perspective. 
Not only will my grandchildren hear about my father. They will meet him. 



Our Artists

I came across this video I did in 2009. Orphan’s Tree had sponsored an art competition among Russian orphanage graduates, with the winners gathered for a week long water color painting workshop led by Colorado Springs artist Penny Stewart. Then we took the entire group for a weekend in St, Petersburg, including a visit to the world renowned Hermitage Art Museum.
This video highlights the work of each of our 11 young artists.