Friday, January 06, 2017

Sudden departure

Dear Friends,

My resident permit in Russia (kind of like an American "green card") was cancelled and I was given an exit visa (good only for leaving the country). ☹

I have purchased tickets and will be leaving Khabarovsk on the 8th of January.  I'll go through Moscow and leave Russia on the 9th.

Tonya and the girls will be staying in Khabarovsk for the time being.

I'll be making application for a new visa when I am able.  Right now our plans are not very clear.  Please pray that I am able to return to Russia and pick up the work where I left off.

Please pray for us as we go through this new twist.  As you can imagine, we are in a bit of turmoil.


Friday, December 02, 2016

Christmas newsletter

Dear Friends,

we have just written letter of Christmas greetings and hope to get it in the mail very soon.  It does take a while for mail to make it from Russia to the States.

You can have a look at it, if you wish, at

~the Eshelman family.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Construction in the Cold

Dear Friends, 

Cecil was recently asked to baptize some people in a church whose pastor isn't ordained yet.  Cecil loves doing baptisms, so of course he said, "Yes."  It's a bit chilly outside, so their church rented a small pool and we held the baptisms there.

Before the baptism Cecil preached mini-sermon explaining what baptism is.  It's the first time he's ever used a pool table to hold sermon notes while preaching (what kind of a pulpit is that!).  Tonya helped with translation.

Construction of the rehab center continues.  The doors are in.  Good thing we've gotten the roof on.  We're putting on the siding.  Windows coming soon.

Snows have begun, so we sure hope to get some heat put in before things really get cold.  Once the wood stove gets installed, it will be warm inside!

Did you know that in Russia it is popular to eat ice cream in winter?  I (Cecil) thought that was weird, but at least the ice cream doesn't melt and drip on you.

Anyway, Vera and Diana enjoy both ice cream and electronics. 

Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Russia, but we held our own family Thanksgiving, and invited some friends over.  We even managed to find Turkey (parts) in the local grocery store!  So we managed to have Turkey for dinner.  And pumpkin pie!  We are thankful for all of God's provision this year.

Game night and movie night outreaches also continue every week.

Thank you for supporting the ministry.

Cecil, Tonya, Vera & Diana


Other weird and/or interesting links about Russia-

Don't try to contact me on linkedIn

A secret Nazi military base rediscovered in the Russian Artic

Afraid of Heights?

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Car Came Back

Dear Friends,

some good news!  Our Speed-the-Light car was found.  The police found it.  Thank you to the Khabarovsk police department!  It was undamaged, and started on the first try.  We're so glad to have our transportation back.  Praise the Lord.

Construction of the new center continues.  The roof is looking better.

We will need to put in doors and windows soon.  And siding on the walls.  And insulation.  And heat the house.  Then people can really live there.  Pray we get it all finished before the winter snows begin.

Game nights at Hope Center continue to provide a fun and entertaining point of contact with our orphanage graduates, as well as various other churched and un-churched youth.  They are being well attended, and there is a good atmosphere.  It seems the favorite game is Uno, but we have quite a variety. 

Our weekly Christian Movie nights at Hope Center continue as well.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support.

Cecil, Tonya, Vera and Diana Eshelman


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Passing the Test

Dear Friends,

life is so filled with ups and downs, good news and bad news.  Well, let's start with some good news.  For Cecil to keep his resident permit and live in Russia, he needed to pass a test of Russian language, government, and history.  Good news!  He passed the test.  It was a long test with many questions, and in the Russian language, but he managed to do it.  So the Russian government should let him renew his resident permit (once he submits all the papers, and it is a pile of papers).  Tomorrow afternoon we plan to submit the request for renewal.

Bad news.  Our car went missing.  Cecil was running some errands downtown.  When he walked back to where he thought he parked it, it wasn't there.  After searching for a while, we asked the police to help.  They haven't found it yet, either.  It has been listed as stolen.  So for now we're taking buses and taxis.

Construction continues at the ministry center we are building.  Hoping to put the roof on in the next few days.  It's been quite a bit of physical work for Cecil (carrying boards, driving nails, climbing ladders, etc).  It's not a big building, but it is a house.  Thankfully we've had some help from local volunteers.  Please pray we don't have rain until the roof is closed in.

We've had some things happen to slow down the work.  A fire in the neighboring field we ran to help put out.  Materials were stolen at night.  Etc.  So, please pray that the work is able to finish quickly to completion.

We helped host a three-day conference at Hope Center on how to minister to unreached people groups in the Russian Far East (it was held this month).  We had a variety of groups represented, and a variety of speakers.  This should help to coordinate and motivate evangelism and church planting.

(above) One of the speakers at the conference.

Now that summer vacation is over, our orphanage outreach has resumed.  We go once a week to three different orphans with LifeSkills and Bible training.  Orphanage workers have recognized the importance of teaching independent living skills to the orphans, and doors are open to us.

Please pray that our car is found, that construction proceeds smoothly, and that doors to ministry remain open.

Cecil, Tonya, Vera and Diana Eshelman

An interesting history moment:
Francis Scott Key (who penned the "Star Spangled Banner") wrote a detailed account of the Battle of Fort McHenry to Thomas Jefferson's cousin, John Randolph, October 5, 1814.
John Randolph was a U.S. Congressman from Virginia who went on to become a U.S. Senator, 1825-1828.  President Andrew Jackson appointed John Randolph as U.S. Minister to Russia, 1830.
Francis Scott Key shared his faith with John Randolph:

"May I always hear that you are following the guidance of that blessed Spirit that will 'lead you into all truth,' leaning on that Almighty arm that has been extended to deliver you, trusting only in the only Savior, and 'going on' in your way to Him 'rejoicing.'"

Rep. John Randolph wrote to Francis Scott Key, September 7, 1818 (Hugh A. Garland, The Life of John Randolph of Roanoke, New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1853, Vol. II, p. 99):

"I am at last reconciled to my God and have assurance of His pardon through faith in Christ, against which the very gates of hell cannot prevail. Fear hath been driven out by perfect love."

Monday, August 29, 2016

summer camps

Dear Friends,

in July a new law was issued in Russia.  It has considerably restricted religious freedoms.  For example, for sharing your faith and inviting someone to a place of worship, you may be fined up to $1,000.  The law itself is rather complex and hard to read.  It hasn't changed what the churches here are doing.  And it hasn't stopped us from sharing our faith. 

In July, we did something that we've never done before in Russia.  We went to two villages that don't have any churches and did Vacation Bible Schools.  It was obviously the highlight of our summer, and we hope the kids feel the same. 

In the villages the kids liked the VBS so much that they asked us to come back.  So a church group is now coming to the community center in one village every Saturday and doing a Bible School lesson and playing games with the kids.  Interestingly, this village has 86 foster children, but few after-school activities.  So we feel very blessed to be used by God to reach these kids with the Gospel.

The other small village where we did a VBS outreach is populated by a minority group called Nanian.  They are generally not open to outsiders.  But God has given us great favor and we had a super good time with the children for three days (and the parents attended the final evening presentation). 

(the ministry team below)

Please pray for God to give us wisdom on how to continue His work here. 

The construction on the new ministry center slowly continues.  God is answering prayers.  We're going up from the foundation, and we're putting in a floor.  Hope to start on the walls soon.

Please pray for us and the Lord's work here.  Better yet, come and visit us sometime!

Thank you for your support.

The Eshelman Family

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Dear Friends,

We've been making a little progress on the land we hope to build a rehab center on. 

With the culvert in place, we can now drive onto our land.  So far we've just planted a garden.  Please pray that we are able to start building before winter comes.

Life Skills lessons in one of the orphanages is going well.  The youth seem to enjoy cooking lessons more than anything else, but we do cover a variety of subjects.

Here we are making some soups and salads.

We use various games as part of our teaching.  Got to keep things interesting.

Sometimes our techniques make the supervisors wonder about us.

But as long as we can teach about important things, that's O.K. with us.

We also helped to coordinate a training for drug/alcohol rehab workers. 

It was attended by people from various churches that have interest in starting rehab centers or improving the ones they have. 
Some Teen Challenge instructors came from the States to lead the teaching.

Please remember to pray for us and the Lord's work in Russia.

The Eshelman Family

P.S.:  Other news on the web:

More than 30% of all deaths in Russia in 2012 were attributable to alcohol, according to WHO data crunched by the OECD. That’s by far the highest among the nations it tracked.
Russians live some of the shortest lives in any large economy. Life expectancy for a Russian man was roughly 65 years in 2012, compared to 76 years for the US and 74 for China.  (We can say that that our personal experiences here cause us to believe the statistics are accurate).

The Russian Orthodox Church did not attend a gathering of the Orthodox Churches in Crete

Russian track and field team banned from Rio Olympics

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Spring trips & conferneces

Dear Friends,

March was a month of conferences for the Eshelman family.  The Assemblies of God missions department put together a leadership training conference for missionaries who serve in Russia.  Bob taught "Four Faces of Leadership." We were encouraged and even challenged to keep working on our leadership skills, as we strive to become more like Jesus, the greatest leader of all times.  It was our first time in the Holy Land, and thinking about Jesus and His leading came very naturally.  It was very good to see our missionary colleges in AGWM who serve all over Russia.  Being somewhat remote from other workers in Russia, we don't get a chance to see them very often.

    On the way back to Khabarovsk, Tonya stayed in Moscow for four days to attend the conference "Russia Without Orphans," where she got a lot of new insights and practical connections for our orphanage ministry.  We plan to use it as we continue to increase the ministry.  ( )

    Three days after Tonya arrived from Moscow we took another trip.  Cecil was invited to preach at a pastors' conference in Sovietskaya Gavan (Soviet Harbor), a small town located on the shore of the Tatar Straight.  Twenty years ago it was a vibrant city, a naval base.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Soviet Harbor has been struggling both economically and spiritually.  Our friend Sergei, who recently became a pastor of a Pentecostal Church there, believes God can change the situation.  We were blessed to be a part of God's revival plans for the small town, preaching his redemption and hope.

That's us preaching in Sovietskaya Gavan at a pastor's conference.

We've been taking our ministry team to an orphanage and teaching children about important things in life.

We have lessons, and then play active games.

The Khabarovsk extension center for Kiev Theological Semiary (at Hope Center) is in session.

Here is Pastor White (from Morganton) teaching a class on change and conflict management.  All the students are already in ministry and are serious about their studies.  We're always looking for qualified instructors, so let us know if you feel God calling.

On Sunday he preached at two Russian churches.  One of the sisters at the second church was inspired by the sermon to write a short poem.  Tonya translated it into English, and here it is:
    He crushed all the powers of hell on the cross!
    He took all the cares for you not to worry,
    And this God Himself lives forever in you.
    Just praise Him!  To Him be the glory!

(it rhymes in Russian)

    Стояньем славы на кресте
    Он сокрушил все силы ада,
    И Этот Бог живет в тебе.
    Ему хвала и вся награда!

    Well, we don't have plans to travel for a while, except for Timothy, who plans to go to the States and study at a community college in Virginia.  He has tickets to fly on the 24th of April.  Please pray for his travel, and adjustment after arrival.  Wow, our kids are growing up!

    Shortly after Tim leaves, we plan to start working on construction of a small half-way house for young men who graduate from orphanages in Khabarovsk.  This will take a lot of our energy and attention.  We also hope to keep our other ministry (and personal lives) going at the same time.

O.K., so it just looks like a field next to a pipe outside the city.  Well, that's because it's just a field next to a pipe outside the city.  And it's less than half an acre.  But we have a dream.  The land was given to us for free (just lot's of paperwork).  Please pray as we start new construction on this project, that this land will soon have a rehab center built on it.  Prayer is powerful.

On Thursdays we show Christian movies at Hope Center; and Game nights every Tuesday continue...

In Russia, the game of chess is a serious matter.

Please pray for the students who have gathered for the Bible School, for the teacher who has traveled so far, for the orphan ministry, and for the new land that we plan to build on.

Cecil, Tonya, and the Eshelman kids

(on the Sea of Galillee during a break time at the conference)

 P.S.  a little Russian news -

One way to trash a Russian bus

Political news: