Monday, August 03, 2015

Baptism, Shelters and Conferences

Dear Friends,

so much activity, so much to tell about what is happening in the Russian Far East.

First, the personal news.  Our youngest, Diana, was baptized last month.  This took place at a missions conference we attended.  Here she is giving her confession of faith before getting immersed by Omar (who is our friend, supervisor, and sometimes pastor).

Our other personal news is that Timothy (our son) was able to come and visit us for a few weeks this summer, and attend the conference.  Unfortunately, he can't stay with us forever, so he's back in the States now to continue his education.  He and his sisters had a great time talking, joking, arguing, teasing, and going for walks.

A young lady, Stacy, was with us for a short time this summer.  Of course, she got into ministry.  We weren't afraid to put her to work.  Here you can see her helping Cecil hang kitchen cabinets at the unwed mother's shelter that we partner with.

She also got to minister with the orphanage work, the homeless shelter, and with teenagers at church.

Here is one of the young moms and her newborn at the unwed mother's shelter.

The shelter, which is staffed by believers from local churches, helps the mothers to develop skills, find jobs, and keep their child.

We took Stacey out to the homeless shelter and put her musical talents to work.  We sure hope she comes back again!

We held a Bible camp in our house that Stacey (and our kids) helped with.  Some youngsters from the neighborhood and from church attended.

Tonya even taught her how to make Russian palmeni (palmini, or however it is spelled in English), along with a couple of neighbor girls.

This summer we also partnered with another ministry and got out to a village and did some children's outreach there.

Youngsters from the village participated in games (such as above, with the parachute), as well as Bible stories.  It's several hours drive from the city, and the kids had never touched a parachute before.  Their parents were grateful for the camp.  We are praying to get a church established here someday.

If you would like to come join in the fun and ministry and work going on in the Russian Far East, be sure to let us know.

In Christ,
the Eshelman clan

Some things only happen in Russia.  

Other strange things in Russia.

Some articles about Russia.

How to spot an American:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Orphan Conference

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Sunny Russia. 

We were privileged to be invited to the "Fourth Forum for Foster Families in the Far East" being hosted as a joint effort of NGOs and the Russian government (Ministry of Education).  A large number of various government and non-government organizations were represented, along with foster and adoptive families.  Hundreds of people were there (two hundred families were invited).  Overall, it was very encouraging and we commend the government authorities that hosted it.  They did a very good job hosting such a big event.

This is a photo from one of the small-group round-table discussion sessions.

Part of the forum as a round-table discussion of how to have a social partnership of government and business and social organizations to solve the problem of social orphans in Khabarovsk Krai.

Various viewpoints and suggestions were given by the various parties.  Most were trying to find ways to encourage adoption and foster families.  The Orthodox Priests were in favor of putting the girls in convents and the boys in Military Academies.  Tonya gave a brief explanation of the "Life Skills" program that we do. 

We were impressed by the number of people who attended.

After the conference one of the organizers mentioned to Tonya that there was a bit of nervousness when they found out that an American had been invited; but were later impressed because he was so polite.  Cecil laughed when he heard that.  "All I did was nod my head thoughtfully and keep my mouth shut."

Please pray for increased future partnership with government officials.

We were able to go into an orphanage on Easter and shared the Easter story.  When Tonya started the presentation, she asked the kids what Easter is, they weren't sure.  A few of them responded, "Our Priest's birthday!"  After that we told them the story of Jesus and the resurrection.  We were able pray with the kids and give them bags (pouches like in the picture below) that were sent by American children as gifts for Russian children as a sign of God's Love.

May 9th is "Victory Day" in Russia, celebrating the end of the "Second Great Patriotic War" (World War II) against Nazi Germany.  It's one of the biggest annual celebrations in Russia.  The effects of this war were significant all across Russia (and what at that time was the Soviet Union).  About forty times as many Russian soldiers died during the "Second Great Patriotic War" as did American.  Also, about 70% of the Wehrmacht dead are buried in Russia.

So a couple of Cecil's friends dragged him downtown to watch the parade.

They will have to do some road repair next week.  Those tanks can leave some tracks in the asphalt, and there were a bunch of tanks.

In Christ,

P.S. A story about a Russian soldier in WWII:

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Easter, It's Time For Spring

Dear Friends,

it's snowing today.  Quite beautiful outside, but frankly, I'm ready for springtime.  The Russian winter does not give into Spring so easily.

But Happy Easter!  American Easter is just over, in Russia it will be on the 12th (Orthodox calendar)

This last week we've been visiting orphanages with our ministry team and playing games with the kids (for spring break).  This gives a break for the teachers and kids, and gives us a good name among the staff.  Later we'll try to invite graduating orphans to Hope Center for game nights there.

Spelling isn't usually their strong point, so Russian scrabble was a challenge, but they sure tried.
Can you spell in Russian?

We had other word games as well.

And some games that don't need words.  We're blessed to have a team of Russians who help us with the work (such as Ina, above right, and some of our own children, such as Vera, above left). 

Life Skills lessons at Hope Center continue to go on.  Since the kids are not allowed in the kitchen at the orphanage, they seem to love working in our little kitchen at Hope Center.

Overall we're healthy and active.  We've been missing Timothy, since he stayed in the States to continue his education (prepare for college!).  Vera and Diana have had to take over some of his chores. 

Please pray for the next session of the seminary that meets at Hope Center.  It starts on the 13th of April.  That ministry is completely different than our orphan work.  The students, most of whom are already active in ministry, are working towards a fully accredited Masters Degree (M. Div.).   Please pray that all works out for our professors to come (visas, tickets, travel, etc.), for the students to be prepared, and for the lessons to be effective. 

We're excited that two churches outside of our city have become interested in the Life Skills program.  We won't be able to help them much, but they've gotten ideas from us and are thinking of starting their own programs.  Please pray for Diemitri from Komsomolsk and Katya from Nikoliviska as they try to get started in their own towns. 

On the home front:
Vera has become a fan of Tolkien's books (which are fictional), and so she celebrated Elvish New Years.  Lots of church friends were invited to bring their Elvish ears, and play elvish games (Bible charades, guessing games, etc.).  As a note: elves are not real, they are fairy tale creatures. 

Tonya plans to visit orphanages with an Easter program (using a set of Resurrection eggs) this coming week.  She's asking for prayer.  Please pray for open doors, good health, and a receptive audience.

God has given us much grace.  We're warm and healthy.  Our Speed-the-light van (named Rapture-Buggy) is doing great, even in the snow, although he is getting a bit old and maybe ready for retirement.  Our home is peaceful.  We just wish for many others to know our Lord and to find new life in His resurrection power.

We're hoping to get a printed newsletter out again.  Please pray for us to have inspiration in writing and time for printing & stuffing envelopes.

Cecil, Tonya, Vera & Diana

P.S.  George Orwell would be pleased.  His ideas have come alive.  I, myself, do not know much about this, but the article is interesting.

P.S.  The economy in Russia is slipping away and the middle class is losing ground.
  (This effects people we know.  It has become very hard for the orphan graduates we know to find good jobs).

Friday, January 23, 2015

Return to Russia

Dear Friends,

it's good to be back in Khabarovsk and over jet-lag.  We've been back for, let me count, twenty two days.  It feels like home.  Oh, it is home.

I love those winter ice carvings in the city square.  And look at the size of that snowball! 

People were glad to see us, and we were glad to seem therm again.  Ministry seems to continue to go forward even when we are not here.  It's good to know that God is at work, and we are the ones who join him.  

Tonya translated for a short-term missionary, an American evangelist, at the homeless shelter.  It was good to see that the Homeless ministry continues to touch the lives of the most needy among us.

Tonya also translated for part of a youth workers' seminar.  There was a rather good attendance.  This activity was organized by another ministry here, but held at Hope Center.  It is good to have cooperation between various organizations.

The Life-skills ministry is also active, but we are going to re-evaluate things and perhaps try a new approach.  No decisions have been made yet please pray for us to have wisdom.

We certainly miss having Timothy around.  He seems to be doing well, but please pray for him (and us) as we are now a world apart.

In Christ,
Cecil, Tonya, Vera, and Diana

Monday, January 19, 2015

Back in the Russian Far East

Dear Friends,

we're back home in Khabarovsk, in the Russian Far East.  It's colder here than in North Carolina, but we're getting adapted to it.  We spent New Year's Day somewhere on a plane since we left on December 31 and arrived on January 2nd.  Funny about that international date line.

Sorry we haven't written earlier.  Cecil's mom wrote a reminder that we should let people know where we are.  Thanks Mom!  We are also having problems with the internet, and have difficulty sending out email, and writing on blogs and such.

We've also been in touch with Timothy, who stayed State-side to continue his education and prepare for college.

We almost jumped into ministry right off the plane and helped host a conference about counseling children.  We weren't in charge, but were helping another ministry that works with children.  Tonya translated for parts of two days, we hosted the teacher in our home, we printed materials; the other folks could tell we obviously had jet lag, but it was fun.

Tonya took a chance to go on a two day evangelistic trip to a village. People are so hungry for the Lord here. The ministry opportunities seem to be endless.  Please pray for us as we are trying to discern which opportunities are right for us and which ones for the other believers to enter.

The orphan outreach team is doing well. Boy, they were glad to see us, and we were glad to see them. We're proud of how they kept things going while we were gone.  Many things changed while we were in the states and now we are trying to seek God`s direction regarding the new developments.

I can't seem to get my camera to talk with my computer.  Technical difficulties.  As soon as I can, we'll send some photos about these things.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support,
Cecil, Tonya, Vera & Diana

Monday, July 14, 2014

Final Ministry before departure

Dear Friends,

right now we're trying to get ready to head back to the States for the last of our three short itinerations.  Tickets are purchased, so we fly out on the 16th of July (very soon) to the States. 

We also have a guest - Steve Garman - who is visiting and doing short term ministry.  We took him to the homeless shelter today, and he spoke at the evening gathering (with Tonya translating).  In the short time he's been here he's also gotten involved with our other ministries.  We'll end up flying out before he does, but some other workers will take care of him while we are gone. 

Please be praying for us as we make this transition: for the time adjustment, to find a place to live in the States, and for us to raise the rest of our financial support by the end of the year.  We fly out the day after tomorrow.

Cecil, Tonya, Timothy, Vera, and Diana

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Railroad trip

 Dear Friends,

we're officially on vacation.  We've gone to Siberia.  It's the first place we thought of going to.  Isn't Siberia the first place you think of as a vacation spot?  Tonya's folks live in Novokuznetsk, Siberia, which is located in the heart of Russia.  So we're spending our vacation time with them.

When our friends in the local church here saw us, they immediately asked us to help with the youth ministry.  So Cecil did one of his sermons from science: Egbert.  Egbert (the egg) leaves his church and ends up finding himself trapped in the world (the bottle); kinda like the prodigal son.  When he finally turns back to God, the Lord sets him free.  The youth loved it, and hopefully learned something from it.

 That's Joseph Bantseev (the pastor's son) translating for me in front of the teen ministry.

In a day we'll catch a train back to Khabarovsk.  It's about half way across Russia, which means four days on the the express train.  It's not relaxing on the train, but you do see a lot of countryside.  Russia is big and beautiful.

Next month we will fly back to the States to itinerate and speak in churches.  If you'd like us to come and preach, tell about missions in Russia, or show you the Eggbert trick, let us know.  We've still got a number of open dates.

Please pray for us to figure out where to live (in North Carolina) this Fall, as well as the schooling situation for the kids.  Please also pray that all our financial support will be raised by the end of the year.

Another prayer request is that we can find a new leader for our Life Skills lessons while we are Stateside.  Our previous ministry leader has started a new ministry of caring to pregnant orphan girls, and it takes up all her time. 

Jesus taught us to pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send workers into the harvest field.  He sure was right when he said the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.

Cecil, Tonya, Timothy, Vera and Diana

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ministry preparation and such

Dear Friends,

the Bible school was in full swing (final test last week).  By Bible School we mean fully accredited, Master's level classes.  It's an extension of Kiev Theological Seminary and it taught in block sessions by visiting professors.  We're pretty excited about this.  While there are many Bible schools in Russia, this is the only accredited school outside of Moscow that we know of (and Moscow is almost 4,000 miles away).  All of the students here are already in some kind of ministry, and are eagerly wanting more training.

It's been a joy getting to spend time with the professors, who are staying in our home for the session.  Lessons are being taught at Hope Center.  Tonya and another translator shared the interpretation work.

After all the negative news that Russia has been getting, we're glad the teachers came to where the Lord as called them and weren't scared off by rumors of war.  Actually, the Ukraine is nowhere near us, and developments there haven't effected us.

One of our Bible School teachers also put on a seminar for children's ministry.  It was great.

Tonya also translated last month for a week-long seminar dealing with children, ministry and counseling that was taught by a visiting missionary.  It was also held at Hope Center.

And talking about translation:  Timothy spent a week translating for different seminar by a different speaker (from India) at a different location.  This seminar was held in a cafe that used to be a bar before a church took it over (can you tell from the photo that its not your typical church setting?).  Now this place is also a great hang-out place for my kids.

While all these events were going on, we had to move the Life Skills lessons to another location.  The only place we could find open was the local parks, so we went for a walk in the park.  So we held lessons out of doors.  Always a new adventure.

Please pray for the team of students planing to come to Khabarovsk and minister with us for a couple of weeks late this summer.

Please pray for us as we try to schedule churches and speaking events for the Fall and Winter.  We hope to finish up all the fundraising in one final trip.  If you know of a group that would like us to come and speak, please let us know.

As an informational note - here is a quote from Peter Deyneke Ministries' web site:

"The Russian Federation is the world’s largest country, extending across nine time zones and made up of 83 administrative districts. There are 162 different people groups in Russia speaking 135 different languages. Some 47% of these people groups are unreached by the gospel.
Almost 67% of the population identifies with the culturally strong but spiritually weak Russian Orthodox Church; millions belong to the church without believing in God. Recently, the government has become hostile towards evangelical Christians and persecution is on the rise. Islam is Russia’s fastest-growing religion.
The legacy of atheistic Communism in Russia has been the attempt to fill spiritual emptiness with wealth, addiction, sex, and other material pursuits. As a result, Russia now leads the nations in 17 different categories of human tragedy, including the suicides of children and teens, human trafficking, and the growth of HIV. Nearly a quarter of the world’s production of heroin is consumed in Russia."

The entire article can be found at

Cecil, Tonya, Timothy, Vera and Diana Eshelman


Russia's President Putin has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize

Russia prepares for invading the Ukraine

Last night we had snow.  We're ready for summer (or at least springtime).