Hope to Russia Update – November 2011

Dear Partners in Ministry,

I ask your forgiveness for such a long absence in communication.  By now some of you might be thinking we’ve dropped off the face of the earth.  Quite the contrary, part of the problem has been that we’ve been so occupied that we are consistently forgetting to send out updates.  Please forgive this, and know that I will endeavor to do better.

There’s way too much to tell in detail, so what I’d like to do is give a brief rundown of what took place month-by-month.  I know some of this has already been covered in previous letters but I’d simply like to do a recap.

July

To pick up where the last letter left off, July gave us a very short break.  I returned from traveling out to Yakutia to meet with ministry partners there and begin plans for new ministry projects with the native Sakha church.  These projects include…

-Printing press for printing Christian literature

-The building of a church in the city of Yakutsk

-The start of small business ventures among Christians to help finance the work of gospel ministry

Cristy’s mom left, and in addition to local ministry opportunities I began planning for the arrival of our guests from the United States and a trip out to Tuva.

I was given the opportunity to speak to a group of local pastors in St. Petersburg concerning forming a fellowship called “Together for the Gospel” based upon the same idea between several pastors here in the United States (t4g.org).  The idea was received well, and plans were made to meet in August to discuss forming the group.

August

InterAct recruits, John and Katie Ferch arrived from the US at the beginning of the month along with their ten-month-old son Elijah for three weeks in Russia.  They were coming on their first vision trip to the country which would include about a week in St. Petersburg and and two weeks in Tuva.

The “Together for the Gospel” group met on August 6th with about 10 pastors forming the first meeting.  The meeting went extremely well and plans were made to meet monthly from here on out.  This is an extremely significant step toward unity and cooperation between a number of pastors from Presbyterian, Reformed and Baptist denominations.  Most churches from these denominations are very very small in Russia, mostly averaging between 15-30 people.  They are excited about working together.

On August 13th I left with the Ferches for about two weeks in Tuva.  The trip was challenging in many ways as travel out to Tuva from St. Petersburg is always physically demanding.  The trip was extremely good though.  During the trip I had the opportunity to meet with many of the indigenous church leaders out in Tuva and continue help strengthen our ministry partnership.  Specifically on the agenda was…

-The placement of new missionaries from InterAct

-Potential strategies for evangelizing in Russia

-Small business ventures for the support of gospel ministry

-Long-term team building and partnership with native pastors

I also had the opportunity to meet and talk with Vitaly Voinev, director of the Tuvan Bible Project, as he was in Tuva at that time.  He is currently back in the US in Dallas, Texas and I hope we have the opportunity to connect with him here soon.

After returning from Tuva we immediately began getting our things in order to return to the States.

September – November

On September 1st we returned to the United States and first spent a week in North Carolina with Cristy’s family to adjust.  I had the opportunity to speak and preach at Beacon Baptist church, Cristy’s old home church.  Upon returning to Clinton, Mississippi we immediately begin the long stretch of Isaiah’s doctor’s appointments.

The past three months have been filled with very little down time.  Here’s just a quick rundown of some of what we’ve been up to.

  • Cristy stays busy with Isaiah and Nadia.  We’ve had two situations with Isaiah.  The first was a broken femur bone that thankfully didn’t require surgery, and the second was a scare with a fever seizure.  Both had us in the emergency room, but thankfully none of the situations proved serious.  Each week there is physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.  All of this and just being a mother too.
  • Thomas has been on a number of trips.
    • September – Trip back up to North Carolina to meet with InterAct’s Field Leadership Team
    • October – Recruited at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago
    • October – The Russia field conference, also in Chicago
    • November – Portland, Oregon for Executive Leadership Team Meetings
    • November – Birmingham, Alabama, met with InterAct Recruiters Jim and Becky Hamilton
  • Thomas also has a number of other daily activities
    • Many many emails
    • Staying in contact with the current Russia team
    • Administrative and paperwork
    • Setting the field budget
    • Recruiting
    • Connecting with potential recruits
    • Planning the summer 2011 internship program
    • Calling and emailing Russian, Tuvan and Yakut ministry partners
    • Some fundraising

In all, we’ve found that we stay pretty well occupied.

Long Term Plans

When we left Russia in September, we had originally intended to return in January.  Unfortunately those plans have not worked out and we have been forced to make some changes for the following reasons.

  • Visa option no longer available
  • Isaiah’s health needs
  • Some good reasons to stay Stateside right now and focus on recruitment and development

With the above reasons here are our plans for 2011.

  • January – May, be in the States.  We plan to travel quite a bit during this time to focus on recruitment and development and connect with ministry partners on various ministry projects.  We will also be getting a minor surgery (possibly surgeries) done for Isaiah that will require some healing time and observation afterward.
  • June – August, we plan to return to Russia.  A three-month visa is relatively easy to obtain.  During this time our plan is to lead the summer internship program for new potential recruits.  We will also reconnect with our ministry partners in St. Petersburg.  Another goal during this time will be to hopefully secure a more permanent visa option.
  • September – December – We will be back in the States for most of this time.  Our hope is that if we have a more permanent visa option that we can return to the States and process the new visas.  Assuming all goes well, we hope sometime around November/December 2011 to return to Russia for about another 9-10 month stretch if the Lord wills.

Needs

We need your prayers.  Though we are “home” you would be surprised how hard it is to get down time.  With technology, even though we are here I’m still very much connected to the work in Russia on a day-to-day basis.  Pray we’d be able to stay organized and to also have some time to really rest.  You can also pray for…

  • Wisdom as parents
  • The Tuvan Bible Project
  • The pastors who continue to meet in St. Petersburg with “Together for the Gospel”
  • That God would raise up more missionaries for Russia

Support

The Lord has been gracious to us these past few months to keep our support rate up, but as always we continue to be in need of more supporters if you are able.  God has brought us new supporters and we have lost some too.  As we begin to look toward returning at the end of 2011 to St. Petersburg more permanently, one of the things that we are absolutely going to have to buy is going to be a vehicle in Russia.  One of our goals is to start raising support for this now.

Thanks

Thank you all for you support through prayers and financial gifts.  Please forgive the length of this letter, but I hope it was able to bring you up to speed on what is going on in our lives.

May God bless you all.

Pressing on,

The Slawsons

 

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