January 2011 Update

It’s been about a year now since I took on the job as Russia Field Director of InterAct Ministries.  It’s been a job that I really never envisioned myself doing.  For one, it’s involved a lot of administration and paperwork, two things I never thought I’d be good at. And I can’t say that I’m “good” at them per se even now, but by God’s grace I’ve learned to do some things I’ve never thought I could do.

Over the past year one of my jobs has been to figure out where our team in Russia was going in terms of ministry strategy and vision.  I wish I could say things were as simple as “just go and do it.”  But as you know, coordinating ministries in a foreign country involves a lot of factors.  But things are now finally beginning to settle into order.  Leadership transitions have taken place, a new ministry strategy has been put into place by our team, numerous technical difficulties have been ironed out, and we are starting to build some recruitment momentum.

In the midst of all of this, I was struck reading 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 this morning.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Sometimes administration, making phone calls, sending emails, writing reports, attending planning meetings, etc. can make one forget about this simple fact:  The gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives.  No strange words to the faithful, yet easy to take for granted sometimes in the midst of seemingly mundane tasks.  This is what we want for Russia.  This is the aim, goal and desire of every email we send, letter we write or phone call we make, that the venue for gospel ministry would be established, so that God would be glorified through the preaching of the word and the salvation of sinners.  That’s it.  That’s our hope.

We’ve come to a point now where we believe the labors of this past year have paid off.  The framework for missions to continue in Russia is now more established, and we are looking forward to focusing more on direct ministry activities.   I hope through this update you’ll be able to better understand where we hope to go and how you can pray for us.

Our lengthy stay in the U.S. was the result of a lot of different factors, most of which were out of our control.  The visa option that we had last year was not available to us again this year, thus we could not go back.  Providentially this worked out as Isaiah has been able to receive some extremely valuable treatment, and much of the work that I needed to do in the areas of administration and recruitment were actually best done here based out of the United States.  But, we’re starting to get a little “homesick.”

The plan is for us to return as a family this summer.  A three-month visa is relatively easy to get.  During this time we’ll be engaged in a whirlwind of activities including leading a summer team for six-weeks, participating in a conference, preaching, helping with a summer camp and just trying to catch up with all of our ministry partners.  Another major task will be hopefully finding another way to get back into the country on a more permanent visa.  I already have several positive leads right now, but none of them are definite.  This is a matter of prayer.  Even if all goes well and we are able to get new long-term visas, we will still have to return to the U.S. in the fall to get those processed before returning to Russia.

For the next couple of years, our hope is to be in Russia most of the year (8-9 months) and return to the U.S. once a year for Isaiah’s treatments (3-4 months).  During our time in the States my focus will be on recruitment and fundraising, and will also allow me to attend necessary planning meetings at the InterAct home office in Oregon.MICRO-ENTERPRISE IN TUVA
Traveling 5000 miles to Tuva now, there are some exciting updates in the work there.  As you’ve read in previous letters, one aspect of ministry that InterAct is involved with in Tuva is helping churches become financially self-sustaining by developing micro-businesses among believers.  Currently there are about 8 businesses in various stages of development.  But here is one very practical and encouraging example of how this is impacting the local church there.

In the town of Ak-Dovurak in Western Tuva, there’s a church plant pastored by Ayas Oorjak.  Ak-Dovurak is an extremely poor area region and jobs are scarce.  Most of the Christians in the church make just enough to survive. Even when people give offerings to the church, there is often too little to do anything with.  Several years ago one of InterAct’s missionaries began working with Ayas to develop an idea he had to make cement blocks.  The blocks are made using the local resources available, and are sold commercially to build various structures.  After about two years of development the business is beginning to turn a profit, such that Ayas has been able to not only feed his family, but also make some much-needed repairs on the church building.  In addition, the church has also been able to set aside money to purchase Bibles as well as buy the fuel to make an evangelism trip to distribute them!   Such ventures in the past would have required outside financing to accomplish, but are now being carried out with funds from the block business!

Through the generous donations of many people, over $100k was raised for the first phase of Bibles for Tuva.  InterAct hopes to purchase approximately 5000 Bibles that will be made available to Christians in Tuva to distribute to their neighbors and unreached areas of the republic.  The hope is that in the next few years another printing will be made and we can again further this project along.  But for right now, this number of Bibles will be sufficient to keep the Tuvan churches busy.
The official dates of the Bible’s release is set for August 6th and 7th.  Please pray that the final editing and printing of the Bible as well as the shipping all goes smoothly.  We basically have no control over these aspects.

I’ve recently heard that the pastor’s fellowship Together for the Gospel in St. Petersburg, is losing a little bit of steam, but am encouraged to hear that there’s still a lot of interest.  Just to remind you, this is a gathering of about 10 pastors from various Baptist, Presbyterian and Reformed Churches around the city that have come together for ministry and fellowship.  It is modeled after the fellowship by the same name here in the United States that well-known pastors such as John MacArthur, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan and John Piper have participated in.

I will be traveling by myself back to St. Petersburg March 18th – April 1st and am planning to meet with these men.  Please pray that their efforts to work together would not wane.  There is so much potential for encouraging gospel ministry when they cooperate.

So that you can be in prayer for us, here’s what we’ll be up to for the next few months.
2/3-2/5 – InterAct Board Meeting, Portland, Oregon2/6 – First Slavic Evangelical Baptist Church, Portland, Oregon2/9 – Meeting with Pastor Alexi Kolometsev, Vancouver, Washington2/10 – Ecola Bible College3/3 – 3/14 – Family trip to Pacific NW, recruitment and visit supporters3/18 – 4/1 – Thomas in Russia

We praise God that he has given us a faithful group of supporters, lifting us up in prayer and enabling us to serve through financial gifts.  We are always looking for new partners in ministry.  Our current support level is stable but still in need of increase.  We praise God as you are able to help, and we always appreciate any leads for potential new supporters.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20,21

Pressing on,The Slawsons
Donations can be sent to:
InterAct Ministries31000 SE Kelso Rd.Boring, OR 97009Please note “The Slawsons” in the memo line.

You can also give online by clicking here.

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