General Update

December Update

PROCLAIMING THE FAITH IN RUSSIA

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” – Romans 1:8

While we’re thankful we can continue much of our Russia ministry with InterAct from the home office in Oregon, nothing beats setting foot on Russian soil again.  I had the opportunity to visit again for three weeks at the end of September through October and introduce InterAct’s Executive Director Dale Smith and his wife Carol to Russia for the first time.

St. Petersburg: Serving with the Church in Exile
 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18

Worshipping with Uzbek believers in St. Petersburg (Dale & Carol Smith, center)

The Sunday we were in St. Petersburg I had the privilege of preaching at the Central Asian church that primarily serves immigrants from Uzbekistan.  I preached on Luke 9:50 “for whoever is not against you is for you” and spoke about the core essentials of the Christian faith. Most believers in this church are young Muslim converts and when I have the opportunity to preach I always try to cover some basic Christian doctrines.

After worship we had a time of fellowship.  I translated for Dale as we talked with some of the believers as they told us stories of the persecution of Christians in Uzbekistan. In Russia, though, the door is open to reach these Muslim immigrants, and this church is very active in evangelizing the Uzbek community of about 1 million people in St. Petersburg. Every time I’m around these amazing believers I cannot help but think of Matthew 16:18.  Satan would like nothing more than to destroy the church in Uzbekistan, but he cannot prevail.  The gospel is reaching the Uzbek people despite efforts to destroy the church in Uzbekistan!

Krasnoyarsk: God’s Grace is Hurting Lives
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

After our time in St. Petersburg we flew 5 hours East to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk to meet up with the rest of our team for our annual conference.  Our time together was a bit more constrained than usual, but a blessing nonetheless. Together we covered how our ministries have progressed, brainstormed, and made plans for the coming year.

We also had the opportunity to meet the pastor of a local church with whom we hope to partner.  Their church already has an active ministry to disabled children and we are hoping to work with them, in partnership with another organization here in Oregon (see below) to send missionaries to Russia to work through the church and minister to the disabled community.  Such a work would involve reaching out to families with special needs to minister to them in word and deed.  So often people in Russia are resistant to the gospel, but when it comes to them through suffering and difficulty, so much hardness is melted away.

Tuva: God’s Word Bearing Fruit
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18

After our time in Krasnoyarsk we traveled about 12 hours south over the Sayan Mountains to Tuva where we spent a week.  Tuva is a much different environment than the rest of Russia.  The infrastructure is less developed, and it’s one of the poorest regions of the country. Most people do not speak Russian well, but rather Tuvan. InterAct continues to work among Christians to develop small business ventures that help support the work of Christian ministry so that the church can be self-supporting.

Some of the highlights of the trip include connecting with Vitaly Ondar, the director of our partner organization Vzaimodestvie (pronounced vza-ee-mo-DAYST-vee-yeh, which translation “interaction” or “cooperation” in Russian).  Last year in partnership with Vzaimodestvie we saw the first ever printing of the entire Bible in Tuvan.  About 7000 copies were delivered to Tuva and over half of them have been given out to the churches for Christians to use, and in other areas evangelistically.  It was a blessing to sit in a worship service and see Tuvans holding their Tuvan Bibles and reading them! A number of people wanted us to thank all of those who contributed to and prayed for this project.

During our time in Tuva several times we heard the phrase “God brought you here just at the right time.” In several visits with different believers around the region we had the opportunity to minister to their marriages. Much like in the day of Paul, there are many mixed marriages where either a believer is married to an unbeliever or one or both spouses is a very young and immature Christian.  Many of these people were married during the days of the Soviet Union and then one spouse was saved later.  I will respect privacy by not using names, but the Lord opened up many opportunities to talk with these brothers and sisters and help see them strengthened in their relationships with their spouses and learn to bear with them in a loving way.

RETURNING HOME

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3,4

Fall means lots of rain in Oregon!

I was greatly encouraged by our time in Russia.  God is continuing to work and open doors there and further his kingdom.  We were able to put some plans into place and hope to see those carried out soon.

The night before our flight left Moscow to return to America I came down sick with a bad head cold and bronchitis, leaving me feeling pretty miserable.  I spent my first few days home in bed and going to the doctor, unable to kiss on my family!

About a week after I got back, just as I was starting to get well, I went with Cristy for her second ultrasound.  As most of you know already, we were deeply saddened to learn that we were miscarrying.  This is now the fourth time, and it has been hard, but God has sustained us.

THE MISSION FIELD IN PORTLAND

“and there they continued to preach the gospel.” – Acts 14:7

We are excited about two doors that are beginning to open for us here in Portland.

Russian Youth Crisis

As you may remember from past updates, there are over 200,000 Russian-speakers in the Portland area, many of which are professing Christians who came here shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed.  While there are many Russian churches around , there is a major crisis that has unfolded among the youth that have grown up here.  Many of them are children of two cultures and two languages, not fully belonging to either one.  Many of them have left the church, abandoned any interest in the faith, and sadly have gotten involved in crime and drugs.  Our heart goes out to these Russian youth and we have grown in our desire to reach out to them.  Providentially we’ve met several other faithful Russian young people who have this same desire.  They believe, like we do, that English-speaking “American” churches can best reach these youth, since all of them basically speak English fluently and prefer this as their primary language now.  Our family hopes to serve as a “bridge” to these youth as it were.  I will be meeting with another young Russian Christian in Tacoma, Washington in December to talk about how we might go about moving forward with this type of ministry.

The Elisha Foundation (TEF)

Greg Lucas’ book “Wrestling with an Angel” is a great Biblical resource for parents of special needs kids. Already in Russian, we hope to see this translated into other languages such as Tuvan and Sakha.

I’ve mentioned The Elisha Foundation in a previous update, and my excitement about what they’re doing only continues to grow.  We are currently building a relationship with them and our Russia field in hopes to see ministry developed in Russia to work with local churches and minister to the disabled community.  I’ve met several times with the director of  TEF to discuss this partnership and put several ideas on the table.  Some of the ideas include placing a full-time missionary couples in Russia, and having several Biblical books on disability translated into some of the other languages of Russia, such as Tuvan and Sakha.  God’s providence in bringing us here has been amazing to see.

SUPPORT

“for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” – Matthew 6:8b

Unfortunately I must report that our monthly support level has dropped significantly.  As it stands right now we are at about 80% of our support level. We are going to need to increase our regular monthly support if we are to continue this work.  Would you consider partnering with us in this ministry in 2013?  Here’s how:

Donate Online:

Donate by Mail:

if you prefer to give via mail, contributions can be sent to…

InterAct Ministries
31000 SE Kelso Rd.
Boring, OR 97009

Please make the check out to “InterAct Ministries” and indicate on a separate sheet of paper that the contribution is for “Thomas & Cristy Slawson”

Flying Again

Thank you all for praying for Thomas’ preaching yesterday.  We believe the Lord blessed despite Thomas not feeling 100%.  But often that is the Lord’s way, isn’t it.  When we are weak, He is strong.

Wednesday we are all heading to the airport, though in different directions.  Isaiah and are heading to California to spend a few days with a couple of dear friends of mine from college.  We are so thankful to have this extra time with them!

Thomas is heading to Chicago for Moody Bible College’s missions conference.  He and a colleague from InterAct will have a table with materials from InterAct to give to students for recruitment.  Thomas will also be speaking in a workshop.  Please pray for recruits for Tribe 49, the summer mission trip to Russia, and for recruits for all of InterAct’s fields (Western Canada, Alaska, Russia).

Friday Thomas will be flying to Oregon to attend a fundraising banquet for InterAct.  One aspect of the banquet is really exciting!  Raisa Ivanovna, perhaps the first Tuvan Christian in the history of that region, will be speaking via Skype to the people in attendance.  Originally we were hoping that she could attend in person, but thanks to the wonders of technology we have the next best thing.  Please pray that all said technology will work properly!

Saturday Thomas will meet us in California where we will visit with Central Valley Presbyterian Church for the following week.

Please pray for smooth travels.  We have more equipment then ever before to carry for Isaiah, so please pray for easy connections, helpful airline personnel and patient passengers!

Lastly, thank you for the great response to the mass email that I sent for updated email addresses.  If you didn’t get such an email, that means I don’t have an address for you at all.  If you would like to receive email updates, please click on “email us” in the right sidebar and email us so that we have your address.  Thanks!

Already Two Months Gone

We have already been in the States for two months, and I think we are finally getting our “Statelegs”. Between traveling to some of our supporting churches, seeing family and spending lots of hours in Doctors’ and Therapists’ offices our minds have been swirling. Thank you for your patience with us and your faithful support despite our lack of communication.

So here’s what’s been going on:

Isaiah has made a remarkable recovery from his surgery that took place the end of August. He does have some scars, of course, but nothing has held him back or changed his loving, playful personality. He’s been working very hard in therapy and has even begun learning how to walk with a walker! (If you would like to see him in action the very first time that he walked, check out Cristy’s post here.) We thank God for the therapists and equipment specialists who have made it possible for Isaiah to do so much in such a short amount of time by rushing their requests and working weekends to make his equipment.

And now the rest of the family. I realize that you really want to know about Isaiah right away. 🙂

Thomas has been working hard on several projects. He has preached in several churches, and he is scheduled to preach this weekend. Please pray for his preparation and faithful communication of the Word of God. He has also been planning the annual conference for InterAct’s missionaries in Russia and InterAct’s summer mission trip to Russia. He’s doing a great job, but try planning an event some 3000-5000 miles away from where you are and in another language, and you can imagine some of the headaches that he has endured. But he continues to press on and has made some great progress!

The summer trip, Tribe 49, excites us! Thomas is in the process of designing a special website for Tribe 49, but I will give you a few details here to whet your appetite. The trip will last for 8 weeks. The team will leave Atlanta, arriving in Moscow or St. Petersburg. For the first 3-4 weeks team members will get to have a little taste of learning the Russian language through an official institution, thus enabling them to learn some basic communication skills and earn some college credit. From St. Petersburg they will head to Tuva, and from Tuva they will go to Yakutia.

Tons of details are between those lines, and if you have any questions or are interested in going on the trip, please let us know!

Thank you for asking how you can specifically pray for us. I am working on making a special section on our blog for prayer requests, thanks to the suggestion of one of you! But until that section is up and running, which might take me a while considering my skills (or lack thereof) on the computer, I will endeavor to put some requests and praises in a post at least once a week.

Praise God with us…

~Isaiah’s progress after surgery; We can’t describe the feelings we have when we see him trying to walk on his own.

~Safety through our travels; Even in the one mishap, we suffered no lasting effects, and we can still drive our car!

~Times of fellowship with believers in our own language

Pray with us…

~Isaiah needs to learn a lot in the next 6 weeks. Please pray that God will open his mind and strengthen his body.

~Rest. Living in another culture is just plain exhausting. Coming home and running from one appointment to another has taken it’s toll on us as well. Please pray that we would be able to have some times of rest before going back to Russia.

~Children. We would love to have more children.

~Support. We are thankful for the faithful support that we have been receiving the past 2 1/2 years. We could not have learned Russian and done the work that we have done without you! We are in need of more support for our family. Last year we had to be on student visas, which doubled our ministry expenses and dipped into our account at InterAct. We are currently in need of an additional $1000/month of support.

~Projects. Thomas is currently working on several projects. I will list them here, and Lord willing, I will tell you more about them as they progress: Tuvan Bible Project (www.biblesfortuva.com), Tribe 49, Vans for Pastors, Native Pastor Support, Ice Cream Stand (sounds yummy, huh?)

Again, thank you for your support for us so that we can do the work that God has called us to do. Please let us know what we can do for you as well!