We have now been in Russia just over four months. I won’t recap all of the events for you, but suffice it to say, if you’ve been keeping up with our website, emails and blog posts, you have somewhat of an idea of what’s been going on here in our lives.
Cristy and I both are made ever mindful of just how we are enabled to live here and do what we believe the Lord has called us to do. We are able to be here right now because our friends and family like many of you have had it laid upon your heart to support us financially. Without that support we could not be here right now.
So what exactly are you supporting? You may have wondered where your dollars go whenever you send them in to InterAct Ministries. I wanted to take just a moment to show you how your support helps to actually carry out the work of ministry here in St. Petersburg.
Living and Being
The first thing your support helps us to do is to just live and be here. Here in Russia we have to function with day-to-day living just like you do at home. We have an apartment that we rent. We have bills to pay for our electricity, telephone, internet, etc. We shop, buy food, cook, clean, wash clothes, etc. Since we don’t have a car we don’t fill up with gas and such, but we do daily walk to our destinations or take public transportation. We also have medical insurance for which we pay each month. So your support simply allows us to be here and live.
Paperwork and Administration
While that heading doesn’t sound very exciting, believe me, it is absolutely necessary, and perhaps what I’m about to tell you should have been put under the “Living and Being” heading, but there are some slight differences. First of all, we are here through InterAct Ministries, our mission organization. When churches want to send missionaries to other countries, especially countries like Russia, a structure of some kind is needed. Often a denomination will have a mission board. Our denomination, the PCA does, but when we began pursuing work in Russia, the PCA’s mission board did not come here. So we looked elsewhere. InterAct Ministries is the umbrella under which we function here. Just like every other organization out there the home office employees don’t work for free. They have to eat too! So, as is common, part of our monthly salary goes to paying membership dues. This is normal. All mission boards, whether independent or denominational, require some kind of membership fee. I’m happy to say that InterAct is on the very low end regarding the amount they require. Compared to most other organizations we are paying a lot less.
Also, under this heading let me spell out other things on this side of the pond. Each year we must obtain visas for all three of us. Those visas must be registered every six months here in the country. So every six months we have to exit the country and return. That’s the law here, and that’s what we must do. All of this costs money for transportation, lodging, meals etc.
Thus We Are “Freed” to Minister
So folks, to be honest, the vast majority of your donations simply go to meet our basic day-to-day needs. But it doesn’t stop there I promise you. It is not as if we are sitting at home day after day just living a vacation here. Let me explain. With the financial help we receive through our supporters we are freed from other cares to devote our time to ministry. Here are some examples.
- We are freed to devote a considerable amount of our time to studying the Russian language with hopes of being able to freely converse with people in this culture.
- We are freed to serve in the local church we have become associated with here to a deeper extent. I (Thomas) have already begun helping with a number of ministries within the church we attend here.
- We are freed to build and focus on relationships. Cristy has built a very strong friendship with Luda. I have continued to develop relationships within the church, with hopes of teaching in a local seminary as early as next year. Also Cristy continues to build relationships with other mother’s she meets almost daily in the park when she takes Isaiah for a walk.
- We are freed to work on projects with InterAct amongst the native Siberian peoples. I have begun working with InterAct Russian field director Jim Capaldo to put together an all-Tuvan hymnal. This is going to be a major project involving recording a CD, typesetting music, and having the hymnal printed.
- We are freed to volunteer and help others in this culture. Every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays I go to a all-Russian school and help with English lessons for students ages 6 through 17. This has been a good opportunity to develop relationships among these students and the teachers who are very glad that I come.
And these are just a few thing. Thus, your contributions enable us to say “yes” when the church asks us to help with this project or that. They allow us to say “what time do you want to meet?” when one of our new friends wants to meet and talk about the gospel. They allow us to say “How can we help?” when we see a need. Thus, life becomes our job. Every encounter an opportunity to connect with the people over here.
Our hopes is that this will only grow over time. Obviously we are still learning the language. Hopefully soon that will take a back seat as we grow in fluency and we will then be able to devote even more time to helping, serving and ministering.
So there you have it. That’s what we’re doing over here. There hasn’t been a dull moment since we arrived, and we’d invite you to come join us sometime if you ever are able to spend a week or so. Just let us know.