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 Christ...to 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

Saturday, October 03, 2015

teams visiting

Dear Friends,

We've had more teams visit us this fall than ever before.  One team was meeting physical needs, such as giving reading glasses.

Here is a lady at the drug rehab in need of glasses.  She is testing her eyes by reading from a John 3:16 reading chart (in Russian).

They also did some Christian teaching.

Another team was meeting housing needs by doing work at the Christian Homeless Shelter.

This really helped the shelter to meet some pressing needs, such as repairing and painting beds.  The team also re-roofed a church (just in time for the Fall rains).

We really want to commend both teams.  It's a long way to come to be with us, they all worked hard, and it was work to build the Lord's Kingdom.

The Russian church invited the work team to their annual Harvest Festival.  A great time was had by all!

Other ministries(such as Movie nights and Game nights for orphans) continued while they were here, and are ongoing now.  Please pray for all our ministries. 

Please pray for us to have wisdom.  Cecil will need to return to the States sometime for a medical evaluation (not urgent, but important).  Our son, Timothy, will be returning to us in Russia while we work out a new educational plan for him.  All the various issues of life continue.

In Christ,
The Eshelman Family

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.  http://www.rferl.org/content/how-to-guide-russian-trolling-trolls/26919999.html

P.S.  The economy in Russia is slipping away and the middle class is losing ground.  http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-russia-vanishing-prosperity-20150405-story.html#page=1
  (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