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:

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Happy Leap Year

Dear Friends,

Happy Leap Year.  It's been so busy this year that an extra day has been added.  Well, that's our explanation, anyway.

First, some family news.  Tonya's folks came from Siberia for a visit with us. 


 We took them for a walk on the overlook above the Amur River.

They watched their grandchildren while Cecil and Tonya went Stateside for Cecil's medical evaluation.  Cecil turned out to be basically healthy, although he has been told to take some more vitamins and other preventive medical stuff.  He should check back in several years.  We are glad for the good report. 

Our talented volunteer helpers kept the ministry going for the time we were gone.  Grandchildren and Grandparents seem to be doing fine as well. 

We started doing some cooking lessons at an orphanage in town.  They have a kitchen we are allowed to use, and the kids seem interested in learning to bake cookies.



And yes, we ate the cookies.

Game nights and movie nights continue.  Attendance is good.

We are getting back onto a regular schedule.  Trying to keep the homeschooling on track along with the other things.

Please pray for the students of our home-school to be self-motivated, and for the teachers to have a good attitude.

Your workers in the Russian Far East,
Cecil, Tonya, Timothy, Vera & Diana

P.S.  Russian air strikes in the news.

P.S. One way to win a road race in Russia

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year's and Christmas

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year's and Merry Christmas.

In Russia Christmas is celebrated on January 7th.  Our family celebrated an early Christmas on December 25th.  The usual: presents, music, food.

We had some friends over to our house.

We took some of the volunteer team and went to an orphanage to play games.

 A few days back the whole family took a day to cook and supply the homeless shelter with a late Thanksgiving meal.  Really it was more of a combination Thanksgiving and Christmas meal.  Actually, they didn't care what we called it, they enjoyed the food.  Afterwards, Cecil preached about Christmas.  So, maybe it was more of a Christmas meal.  Anyway, it was good.

Game Night outreaches at Hope Center have continued.  About half of those who attend are graduates from orphanages.  We also have folks from Christian youth groups and various churches who come.  One lady came because her son talked her into it.  Sometimes we don't know how they hear about us.  It's quite a mix.

Uno game (above) and Icebreaker (below).

Life Skills lessons for the orphans will take a holiday break.  We'll start them again sometime in the spring.

Cecil will be coming Stateside in mid January for a medical examination.  It will just be for a short while.  Please pray that all goes smoothly during the trip.  We hope to be back on station in Khabarovsk in February.  The kids will keep things going in Russia while the adults are gone.  So pray for them, too.

Here is an interesting historical fact:
Pennsylvania's founder William Penn had written to Czar Peter the Great of Russia, July 2, 1698, as Peter had visited Penn in England ten years earlier:

"Know, great Czar...'tis in this kingdom of England that God has visited and touched the hearts of a people, above forty years ago, by the holy light and grace of his Son and our Saviour Jesus worship God, who is a Spirit, in and by his own Spirit...
If thou wouldst rule well, thou must rule for God; and to do that, thou must be ruled by Him."

Cecil, Tonya, Timothy, Vera & Diana

In the News-

Russia plans to build a base on the Moon-

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ministry and Training

Dear Friends,

Thanksgivings greetings from the Eshelman Family. 

This week we happened to be involved with two conferences:  one we hosted and one we attended.  The first one was with good, old friends, Ilya and Janet Bantseev (Ilya pastors Tonya's home church in Novokuznetsk, and officiated our wedding so many years ago).  They presented at the conference on Global Teen Challenge for the pastors and rehabilitation leaders in Khabarovsk and surrounding areas, teaching on rehabilitation ministry, family and evangelism.  We had about 35 people in attendance, and it was a great time.

After taking the Bantseevs to the airport on Thanksgiving morning, we cooked a traditional Thanksgiving family meal.  We couldn't find a whole turkey, but we did manage to find parts of turkey.  So we cooked what was available. 

Tim and Turkey.

Some of our kids' friends joined us for the feast.  That's Vera with the pumpkin pie she made herself (in our kitchen).

The day after Thanksgiving, Cecil and Tonya left for a Shamanistic People Group Conference held near Vladivastok (about 12 hours on the train).  The conference was a gathering of ministries that reach out to minority groups of indigenous people in Eastern Russia.  Eastern Russia has a number of indigenous groups that continue to practice idol worship and worship nature gods (much like old native American Indian religions).  A lot of interesting subjects were raised:  contextualization of the Gospel, translation of the Bible into native languages, church planing methods, and more.

There were some powerful testimonies by people from minority groups.  Though we don't personally work closely with these ministries, we help support the work of others who focus on this.

One of the local churches has a ministry school (practical ministry training) where Cecil taught about Christian Family and Heritage.

The lessons were held at Hope Center.  After other teachers complete their classes, the students are will be sent out to do ministry for a term, and then will gather for more study.

Cecil was invited by a government official to speak at a conference for parents of foster children in a village.  He presented "Five Languages of Love" that explains methods of showing love to children so that they know that they are loved and valuable.  At the end of the conference the hosts asked the official where she had found such a high level psychologist to come and speak.  Well, this "high level psychologist" mostly took the ideas from a book (by the title "Five Languages of Love"), and presented it in a way understandable to Russians.  By the way, we recommend this book to any parent or children's worker.

We've had opportunity to go to an orphanage in Khabarovsk and play games with the children.  It is an informal time, but teaches healthy interaction.  It also allows the kids and workers to get to know us.  Hopefully this will open doors for more ministry in the future.

Tonya talking with the evening supervisors while the kids play games.

On another day we were allowed to do a cooking lesson with the kids.  Here we are making cookies.

We have some travel coming up, so we ask for prayer for the trip. 
Also, please pray for our ministry team to continue the work while we are on the road.

In Christ,
Cecil, Tonya, Timothy, Vera & Diana

Saturday, October 24, 2015

October Update

 Dear Friends,

greetings from Sunny Southern Siberia (well, actually the Russian Far East).  Winter is about to arrive, as you can see from the snow we got today.

Hope Center recently hosted another session of a Bible School

Our regular ministries, such as Game Nights and Movie Nights continue.  Here you can see our friend Vasiliy (who pastors a church in a Nanaian village), Tonya, and an orphanage graduate playing Alias (a Russian word association game). By the way, pastor Vasiliy brought cordial thanks from his village church to the Minnesota team for fixing their roof. This fall their church worshiped in a dry building. Good job Minnesota people, keep up your good works for Christ!

In October we we were blessed to see fruit of God's labor here. Like this little baby girl Anya. Her mother came to the unwed mothers center "Time of Change'' in February, renewed her walk with Christ and decided to keep the baby.  Anya was delivered in September and now is a beautiful and healthy baby. God healed both the mother and the child after a complicated c-section, glory to Him. Here you see Tonya enjoying holding Anya while her Mom is recovering.

This one-year-old baby girl, Evelena, is a different story.  She was born while her father, Vitaliy, was in prison, where he was touched and changed by God. A week ago he was released, decided to marry his girlfriend Olga (Evelena's Mom), took responsibility for the child and got a job. Vitaliy, Olga, and Evelena stopped at our place yesterday to see us and asked to help to officiate their church wedding. Please pray for Vitaliy to keep making right decisions as he keeps following the Lord. 

Please pray for us as we prepare to host a pastor's conference in November and to participate in a conference for missionaries who minister to Shamanistic people groups here. 

We also have made an agreement with an orphanage to conduct Bible based Life-Skills lessons.  Previously we have only been allowed to play games with the kids, but now the door is opening up a bit more.  Please pray for us as we start lessons this Sunday.

The Eshelman Family