The Chastains October 2016 Newsletter

Greetings from Estonia.  Since our last newsletter, I (Charlie) have visited the Calais Jungle refugee camp in northern France again and Miki has just returned from the Greek island of Lesbos. 

The scale of the refugee crisis in Europe has obviously focused our efforts in the last year, so we thought it would be good to dedicate this update completely to that aspect of our work.  While in France, I made one short video which you can view here:  

Feel free to browse around and watch the other videos from France and Greece located there as well.  

Now, I’ll hand over the rest of the newsletter to Miki and her update from Greece.  

It has taken a few days for me to put together a brief update on my time in Lesbos, Greece.  As you can imagine, it is not easy to describe.  I have now learned that the only way to really understand any of it is by actually going there and seeing the situation first-hand.
    
Practically, the work is pretty basic – assisting in preparing and distributing lunch and dinner to 2 different refugee camps on the island, one with 1,000 residents, the other with around 3,500 residents.  This means a lot of repetition – from cutting peppers, potatoes and onions for 7 hours a day, to preparing 1,000 food boxes and bags assembly-line style, twice a day, every day.  There is also the process of distributing the meals to the refugees – either by serving people individually as they come through a line, or by distributing boxed meals tent by tent.  And of course, a lot of post-distribution time is spent scrubbing and mopping to prepare to do it all again the next day.  
    
The hardest part of the work to describe is the weight of urgency that covers each day with the knowledge that the majority of the residents – particularly in the smaller camp – are children under the age 12.  Until our group is able to get their meals prepared, packaged, and delivered, the people there will not eat.  If we find we did not order or prepare enough food, or if the oven glitches out mid-morning, or we are short on volunteers, or any number of other issues that may make the distribution late, the parents, grandparents and children will not eat until we work out our issues and get to them.

In the Camp
    
Due to their resiliency, even those children with unhealed wounds and burns still visible on their bodies from their recent journeys are filled with joy to see us arrive in the food truck, and usually want to play or help us distribute the meals around the camp.  One can almost forget the tragedy they have all come through – until in mid-play, a 5-year old boy jumps into your arms, wraps his arms around your neck, lays his head on your shoulder, closes his eyes, and for a few brief moments grows very still and quiet.  

In those few seconds, you can feel his little body relax and breathe deeply in the support of your arms (which are already shaking from your own exhaustion).  Despite your weariness, you think you could hold him for hours.  “Oh, right,” you think to yourself, “You’ve been through hell to get here. And you’re hungry.  Ok, let’s get this food over to your tent, where your mom or dad is certainly waiting.”

After a moment, you put the boy down, and give him one more hug.  Then you go over to the truck, grab as many boxes of food as you can manage to carry, and the distribution process begins. 
    
The residents in these camps are considered “extremely vulnerable” to risks of trafficking and abuse.  So it is our job twice a day to get in, get the meals distributed, and then get out as quickly as possible, in order to maintain general security and calm within the camp.  Generally, the people are happy and grateful to see you and to receive the food you are bringing.  However, there are days when the overall mood in the camp is low – maybe due to some deportations that have taken place that day, or because of the rain that is keeping them and their children inside their tents all day.  On those days, when issues of hopelessness and discouragement are most rampant, the people may seek to exert some sort of control over their situations, and may complain to the volunteers about the food, or about the team arriving late.  Some days go more smoothly than others.

Volunteers

Almost everyone involved in preparing and distributing the meals is working on a volunteer basis:

1.  There are those who, like myself, have independent sources of income and are able to pay for their own transportation, housing, and food in order to volunteer for a short period – generally 2-3 weeks.  The funds we pay for our housing and food goes directly towards the cost of buying the food needed for the refugees.

2.  There are other “long-term” volunteers who commit 4-6 months in Lesbos.  These individuals generally do not have another source of income, and so they work in Lesbos in exchange for housing and meals.  They do not receive any additional income for their work, and typically go several weeks without a day off (due to the urgency of the work, and the continual shortage of volunteer help). 

3.  The third group of volunteers is made up of refugees who are residing in the camps, and who have developed a relationship with the workers.  These volunteers are almost always young men who are either serving all day in the camp, or who are brought each morning to the food prep center around 8:30am, spend the day preparing and distributing meals, and then are taken back to the camp after the work is completed – usually around 9:00pm. 

Working each day side-by-side with these refugees, who may come from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, or any number of other locations, can of course present certain tensions.  But, if you are able to come in with a willingness to serve and to learn, these relationships can be among the most rewarding, humbling, and enlightening parts of the experience in Lesbos.

Unexpected Issues
    
With this work, there have been a few unexpected issues that I don’t remember experiencing with other types of work we have done – at least not in the same intensity.  For example, there is the physical, emotional and spiritual fatigue that I continue to experience, even after being home a few days now.  I am distracted frequently as my thoughts keep “going back” to the people and the images I experienced in Lesbos, and I am constantly picturing in my mind what the volunteers and refugees must be doing right now as I prepare meals for my children in my kitchen, or as I sit in my warm, comfortable chair writing out these thoughts.
    
I have been dreaming throughout every night about the people there, and about their circumstances.  And I am frequently and unexpectedly overwhelmed with waves of emotion, which seem to be triggered by the simplest things – i.e.:  tying my son’s shoe, washing breakfast dishes, or listening to my daughter describe her costume for an upcoming halloween party. 

Honestly, I believe there are times when both Charlie and myself almost wish we’d never learned the things we have learned.  It seems clear that things would be easier and simpler for us now if we had never traveled into these camps in Serbia, Greece and France. 
    
But we have been in those camps. We have seen and learned things that we can’t unsee and we can’t unlearn.  And in the end, we can each of us only answer for our own actions. 

We still do not fully understand what precisely we are to do with all of this we have seen and learned through this incredible and extremely difficult, complicated situation.  We know that feelings about these circumstances and these people are strong – and that there are many who simply do not feel we should be involved at all.  We also realize that this is not just a case of misunderstanding.  The reality is that people in these circumstances are hurting, and are grieving, and at times are very angry about what they and their families have experienced. 

So we appreciate your unfailing support and prayers as we continue to navigate our way through this season.  We know we are bound to make mistakes and missteps, and we appreciate your grace and patience as we are praying and waiting on the guidance for each step from Him Who never fails, Who never missteps, and Whose grace never ends.  He is still our Lord. 

Charlie is planning his next trip down to Greece in November, to help lead a large group who will be serving in Lesbos from our ministry partners in Düsseldorf, Germany.  We appreciate your keeping this trip in your prayers in these next few weeks.

Love and peace today,
Charlie, Miki, Isabel, Jasper and Celia

 

Ways to donate to this ministry:

By Check: Send a check to the following address, noting “Chastain/Russia 322” in the memo:

The Mission Society
6234 Crooked Creek Road
Norcross, GA 30092

By Credit/Debit Card: Go to:  https://themissionsociety.org/give
In the box noting:  “Give to a Missionary”, fill in the amount and 0322 for the “Four-digit Missionary ID#”

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Back to School, Again

This past month – as I turned 40, and also began reading assignments and participating in online chats with fellow students at Asbury Seminary – I have found myself wrestling to keep the moments of anxiety and panic at bay.

The experience of mid-life ponderings (i.e. “I guess it is true – one day, I too will breath my last breath in this body,” and “Why is my faith struggling so much with that reality?”) coinciding with the start of the 3-year Master’s program at Asbury (i.e. “OK, how do I sign-in to this ‘online student portal’ in order to get my assignments?”) has been, well, disorienting.

Of course, along with all of this is the continued search for the next steps forward in our “regular”, daily lives.

Questions revolving around our family: “How are our kids coping with the things they’ve seen in our work with orphans, or addicts, or refugees, particularly given the sharp contrast of that work with the thriving spirit of consumption raging in the society where they live and go to school?” “Should I be worried about the number of weeks that have passed since Charlie and I had a quiet meal together?” “How many weeks have passed since either of us had a decent conversation with our own parents in the States?”

Or our community: “Do the people of that congregation still want to work with us given the work we are doing to support artists, or refugees, or the people from that other church, or from that other country?”

I guess that maybe some of our concerns in this season have a different flavor than those of many of our friends and family living and working in other places. But I think that the substance of these questions we ask ourselves through the various phases of our journeys is the same. Essentially, we just want to know what the end of these path-choices we make will look like, for ourselves, and for the people we love. Of course, we almost never get the privilege of that information.

But, if we’re taking time for prayer and for listening, what we do get are the next few steps, or at least a sense of the direction in which we should be pressing forward. After all, our life is not just about the end, is it? Our life is the journey we get to take until we get to the end.

As I can tell right now, my next steps include seminary, a trip to St. Petersburg in September (pending new visa approval), work in Moria Camp in Lesbos in October, continued “pressing-in” towards the development of the Church and a center dedicated to prayer in this community, raising my kids, and loving and supporting my husband in his life and work. If you’d like to join me in Lesbos, please let me know. If you’d like to support a prayer center here in Estonia in any way, send me a note. If you’d like to help support the seminary costs, contact me and I can get you the information for that.

Thank you so much for walking with us in these things. In everything so many do and in all of the ways so many support us and love us, I think the richest part for which we feel most grateful is simply enjoying each other’s company along the way. 🙂

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The Chastains August 2016 Newsletter

Hello, dear friends!  As we write this update for you all, we are preparing to go back to school on September 1st, and are enjoying some cooler temperatures as Fall begins to make its arrival.

Refugee Ministry
Lesbos, Greece160415-moria-refugee-camp-jpo-529a_b5b449a62d4ebeff2483c3c3faf81b37.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000
In July, Charlie visited the Moria transit camp on the small Greek Island of Lesbos just off of the coast of Turkey.  This Island received almost 1 million refugees (crossing the sea in rubber rafts, dinghies, whatever floats) in 2015, and Moria was set up to help with the resulting humanitarian needs.  Charlie and two colleagues from The Mission Society assisted a partner organization in helping feed 3500 refugees each day.  The work was intense – and the team made frequent video updates via Facebook.  Please visit this site to see all of the videos for stories and practical ways in which you can help!

https://vimeo.com/album/4070715

Calais, France
Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to visit the refugee camp in the French port city of Calais.  Charlie was able to go into the make-shift camp, where he was able to see first-hand some of the incredibly difficult conditions and to meet with some of the local volunteers.  Currently there are just over 9,000 people in this camp, with the number expected to reach 10,000 by the end of the year.  Charlie made three short videos of his time in Calais – which you can watch here:

https://vimeo.com/album/4104330

While some security measures have been put in place, the Calais camp is not an officially recognized camp.  This means that all provisions for food, water, and sanitation are met by the refugees themselves, or through individual volunteers who come in every day.  Larger, humanitarian organizations are not generally permitted to work in a camp like Calais, without official recognition and invitation from the nation of France.

Conditions in the Calais camp include:
 – Human waste, trash, and large rats covering the grounds.
 – Extremely high risk of trafficking for women and children, particularly unaccompanied minors. 
 – Practically zero prospects for work or productivity day after day – breeding feelings of hopelessness, stagnation and boredom, leading to increased risk of violence and extremism.

In all of these camps, it is important to recognize and respect the position of the hosting nation.  However, all parties recognize that it is for the welfare of both the refugees and the surrounding community that the refugees’ basic needs for shelter, food, water, and sanitation be met. Practically, in Calais this means that a small number of portable toilets have been brought into the camp, local police are present, and small groups of volunteers are working throughout the grounds.  Additionally, these volunteers must be “portable”, meaning they must take all of their supplies in and out of the camp each day.

Future Work
In October, we will be spending time once again in in the Moria Camp on Lesbos, where we will volunteer with partner organizations and other TMS workers.  Charlie will likely go down for a few days early in the month to meet with teams and work on project logistics.  Miki will go down later in October with a small team of volunteers for about 10 days to assist with food preparation and distribution. 

Unlike Calais, Moria is an officially recognized refugee camp.  This means charitable organizations are invited to come into Moria and serve on a larger, more effective scale.  The people live in tents, but food (i.e. generally pasta) and basic sanitation facilities are provided.  Moria is heavily guarded with high, barbed fences and heavy police presence.  Residents are allowed to leave the camp only with specific permission, and so frustration and tension levels in this camp run high. 

So, how can you get involved? 
First, we ask sincerely for your prayers for these people and for the conditions inside all of these camps.  The deeper, more insidious issues of trauma, fear, isolation, and hopelessness in these communities must be addressed through prayer. 

Second, consider how you may be called to get involved practically in these communities.  If you would like to financially support the groups who are actively serving in these camps daily, please contact us and we can get you directly in touch with the appropriate individuals and groups for this type of support.

If you feel that you may be called to come and spend 10 days to several months volunteering yourself in one of these camps, please contact us.  We are happy to begin that conversation with you, and to help you seek out the resources and preparations necessary for you to fulfill that calling.

13139298_10154194671683147_1400104880774782567_nPrayer Ministry
Earlier this month, Miki went down to the little town of Viljandi, Estonia with a group of ladies, where they spent 2 days praying together for Estonia, Europe and the Church.  They also broke off individually and each completed an 8 mile (13.5 km) prayer walk around Viljandi Lake, for about 4 – 5 hours filled with walking, reading, praying, listening and worshiping.

These days of prayer were rich with healing, restoration, and new understanding of the promises we have in our Lord. Specifically, we each gained insight and peace regarding the visions and work we have been given.  Each of us was blessed with a deeper realization of the beauty and hope of God’s movement in Estonia, and His plan to continue the building and deepening of His Church here, a place which “shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”.  (Isaiah 56:7)

We also agreed that these ladies prayer walks and weekends are something we should begin to arrange regularly in this season.  We are hoping to hold our next prayer weekend in October, before the weather gets too cold.  We also have begun praying for a strengthening in relationships with the local community in Viljandi, and for a deepening in our own faith to continue to move forward, taking the steps we can discern as He opens up the path before us.

Miki also asks that you continue to keep the ladies’ prayer group in Tallinn in your thoughts and prayers, as we continue to meet monthly in each other’s homes, and to pray and wait on our Lord together.

Seminary Funding Update
As you know, in September Miki will also be going “back to school”, as she starts her first semester of the Master’s of Divinity program at Asbury Seminary.  We want to thank all of you who have committed to support her this first year through the Ministry Parters Program (MPP). Currently, she has raised a little more than half of her required portion of the tuition for the first year. 

Through MPP, Miki is required to raise a little less than 40% of the annual tuition cost, and the remaining balance will be covered by the MPP scholarship.  If you would like to be a part of this journey with Miki and our family through a tax-deductible gift, you can either:

–  Call Tammy Hogan in the Development office at Asbury Seminary (859-858-2238)

OR

–  Use the online form at https://myats.asburyseminary.edu/mpp, where you can select Miki’s name from the drop-down list, and indicate the specific amount and method of your contribution.

It is such a blessing to us be able to write and share with you all a little about the things we see happening around us here in Estonia and throughout Europe.  We thank you sincerely for your continued prayers and support, and invite you to be in touch with us, and to let us know how you are and some of the ways you feel the Lord speaking and ministering in your life these days!

With love and gratitude…

Charlie, Miki, Isabel, Jasper and Celia

 

Ways to donate to this ministry:

By Check: Send a check to the following address, noting “Chastain/Russia 322” in the memo:

The Mission Society
6234 Crooked Creek Road
Norcross, GA 30092

By Credit/Debit Card: Go to:  https://themissionsociety.org/give
In the box noting:  “Give to a Missionary”, fill in the amount and 0322 for the “Four-digit Missionary ID#”

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The Chastains July 2016 Newsletter

Dear friends,

As we write this update, we are grieving with our friends in France and throughout Europe for the tragedy that happened in Nice, France, as well as continuing to process all that Charlie and our colleagues have seen in their time spent working with refugees in Greece. 

 
The depth of this grief, as well as the intensity of the tragedy and loss that we are all witnessing is simply overwhelming.  The temptation to give into fear and hopelessness prowls around us in every moment these days. 

 

In the next weeks and months, we are praying for the unfailing peace of our Lord to fill these places and hearts in ways that transcend all understanding.  We are also praying for our own clarity as members of the body of Christ regarding His desire for our steps as we are learning to navigate these places.  We plan to continue our communications with all of you, and hope we can share more frequent opportunities for prayer and meaningful, thoughtful conversation with you as we are all finding our way.

 
This month we want to provide an update on Miki’s “next steps” as she transitions out of her sabbatical.

 

As we shared in our June newsletter, Miki has been accepted into the Master’s of Divinity program at Asbury Seminary, and is planning to begin her online studies in September.  We are so grateful that she has also received the Ministry Partner’s Program Scholarship with Asbury.  Through this scholarship, over half of her tuition will be covered, on the condition that she is able to raise the remaining balance through gifts and contributions.

 

Earning this Master’s Degree will naturally open more doors for Miki to be able to partner with European and Russian congregations and ministries through teaching, discipling and counseling. 

 
Miki’s primary purpose for seeking this degree, however, stems from our deepening relationships and service with people who, quite honestly, are not prepared to be involved with a formally established church.  Our hearts are increasingly broken for those who express a longing to know of their Father’s love for them, but whose work, heritage, or physical location makes walking into the doors of a church building too difficult, or even dangerous for them and their families. 

 
As we become more engaged with artists, victims of human trafficking, orphans, refugees, and others residing among the “fringe” of our society, we feel an increasing responsibility to strengthen our own theological and biblical education, as well as to deepen our spiritual intimacy with our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. 

 
Additionally, we are finding ourselves routinely serving people who are struggling with difficult emotional issues, often stemming from abuse and trauma.  Through her studies with Asbury Seminary, Miki will also deepen her education in the areas of counseling, pastoral care, and prayer ministry.

 
Each year, tuition is $17,250 for a full-time student in the Master’s of Divinity program at Asbury Seminary.  For the Ministry Partner’s Program, Miki is required to raise a little less than half of that total amount each year, and the remaining balance will be covered by the scholarship. 

 
As of the first of July, Miki has received commitments covering 35% of her goal for her first year.  Her hope is to have the balance fully committed by the end of summer, before the start of the first semester.  We need your help spreading the word!  

 
Please consider sharing this newsletter with friends and family, your Sunday School classes, small groups, etc.  Often churches allocate funds in their yearly budgets for education funding, which is not spent because recipients don’t come forward in the year.  Please consider asking your church if funds might be available for supporting Miki.   

 
To support Miki’s studies at Asbury Seminary, whether through a regular, monthly financial commitment, or through a one-time gift on her behalf, there are a couple of options (Note: all gifts are tax-deductible):

 

 

– You can use the online form for the Ministry Partner’s Program, which you can find at https://myats.asburyseminary.edu/mpp. On this form you can select Miki’s name from the drop-down list, and indicate the specific amount and method of your gift.

 
– You can give Tammy Hogan in the Development office at Asbury Seminary a call at 859-858-2238. She can assist you in setting up either a recurring or one-time payment directly to them.

 
Thank you sincerely for your continued support and prayers for the work and the Church here in Estonia and throughout Europe. We pray that the peace of our Lord will cover and keep you faithfully in these days.  Look for an update on Charlie’s visit to Greece in the next couple weeks, as well.  

 

 

Charlie, Miki, Isabel, Jasper and Celia

 

 

Ways to donate to this ministry:

By Check: Send a check to the following address, noting “Chastain/Russia 322” in the memo:

The Mission Society
6234 Crooked Creek Road
Norcross, GA 30092

By Credit/Debit Card: Go to:  https://themissionsociety.org/give
In the box noting:  “Give to a Missionary”, fill in the amount and 0322 for the “Four-digit Missionary ID#”

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Divine Appointments

There are times in life when multiple passions and paths intersect; when seemingly random individuals connect to create something wholly “more” than what could be accomplished alone.  When describing movements for the Kingdom of God, those of us who follow Jesus often describe moments such as this as “divine appointments”.  Miki and I want to share one such appointment with you now.  


In January 2015, I began working on an music album for Laura Llorens – an American songwriter who lives in Paris.  This was my second project with her, having produced her previous album in 2013.  The project stretched out over many months, as Laura was expecting her 2nd child in the middle of the process.  After she gave birth, we reconvened in the fall in Tallinn to finish up the rest of the album.  During those hectic sessions, one song that “blossomed” was a song called “Sweet Thing”.

Like many residents of Europe, Laura was very distressed by the refugee crisis taking place here in 2015.  She had also followed closely my family’s first trip to the Balkans to help refugees in-transit through Serbia.  All of the images and stories and television footage inspired her to write a song about the crisis – from the perspective of a mother fleeing war with her child.  

Its not hard to imagine that the recording of this song was very intense.  Every note, word and drum beat was carefully chosen in an effort to convey the emotion of what we in Europe were witnessing on our shores.

Furthermore, the personnel involved had a significant impact on the song.  While I generally prefer not to categorize or segregate music, Laura would, for the most part, be considered a “secular” artist – though she does follow Christ.  All the people involved in the album are Christians with very unique stories.

For example, Three of us on the record could be defined as “migrants”.  Laura is a “Wisconsinite” who is a permanent resident of France with her French husband and two beautiful children in Paris.  Our drummer, Gustavo Faliero, is a Brazilian missionary and pastor from Rio de Janeiro, who, at the time, was also working in Paris with his family.  And then there’s me and my family – a bunch of “South Georgians” living in Estonia.  

We all know how it feels to be outsiders in a foreign land. 

And the piano – truly the foundation of this particular song – was played by our Estonian friend Aivo Jakobs.  Aivo has his own migrant identity.  Many of the Jakobs family had to flee their homeland during the final years of the Soviet Union because of their faith in Jesus Christ.  As a result, Aivo spent years in America with his family waiting for the opportunity to return home.  He has a real understanding of the motivations underlying the current refugee crisis.

This gathering of musicians, to me, was a “divine appointment” to use our talents to help advocate on behalf of these “aliens” on our doorsteps.  

We’re humbled and blessed to be able to share the premier of the music video for “Sweet Thing” below.  The song begins with a traditional French children’s song about the wind, but changes to English once the main song starts.  Please check it out and share.  And special thanks to French artist Nols for the brilliant animation as well.  

As we’ve mentioned before, we understand the refugee crisis is a heated and difficult issue these days. But, it is important to remember that the Bible says that those of us who claim Christ as our Lord are all “aliens and strangers” in this world.  As we await to enter fully into our “citizenship in Heaven”, we are called to help those in peril – even our enemies.   We are to overcome evil with good.  I hope this music video encourages you to stand firm in our shared calling.  

I leave early Wednesday morning for Lesvos, Greece – a small island off the coast of Turkey – in an effort to serve the refugees there however I can.  Accompanying me this time are missionary friends coming from Spain and Ghana.  Who knows what divine appointments await us there.  We covet your prayers and support.


Blessings to you all, and enjoy “Sweet Thing” below by clicking on the image.   

Charlie  

 

Ways to donate to this ministry:

By Check: Send a check to the following address, noting “Chastain/Russia 322” in the memo:

The Mission Society
6234 Crooked Creek Road
Norcross, GA 30092

By Credit/Debit Card: Go to:  https://themissionsociety.org/give
In the box noting:  “Give to a Missionary”, fill in the amount and 0322 for the “Four-digit Missionary ID#”

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The Chastains June 2016 Newsletter

Many greetings from our family in Estonia!  Although we have had temperatures in the 50’s this week, Summer is beginning to show itself here.  The long days are setting in now as well, with the sun rising at 4:00am, setting around 10:30 in the evening.

Refugee Ministry

After much prayer and time spent waiting on the Lord, plans for Charlie’s next trip down to work in the refugee camps in southern Europe are beginning to take shape.  Many of you know of the emotional struggle through which Charlie has been working as he has processed the things he is seeing happening in the refugee camps, and as he is waiting on guidance from his Father on specifically how and where we are to become move involved.  We are so grateful, as it seems to be working out for a few men, friends and colleagues of ours, to join Charlie on his next journey south. 

We are looking at late June/early July for his trip.  The current plan is to go down by car, in order to carry some of the supplies we have collected for the camps.  Given the recent changes in the water and land routes for refugees into Europe, we are still considering specifically where the group will visit this trip. This issue has been very heavy in our hearts and prayers in these months, and we appreciate your continued love and support as we wait together to understand the details of the plans of the Father for our specific involvement.

Did you know that our work with the refugees has been documented in multiple news outlets?  For example, we’ve had articles in The Christian Post (http://www.christianpost.com/author/charlie-and-miki-chastain/) and The East-West Church Ministry Report (http://eastwestreport.org) in the last couple months.  Also please check out the latest issue of The Mission Society’s Unfinished magazine – which dedicates a good portion of the the issue to serving refugees throughout the world.  You can read it for free here:  https://www.themissionsociety.org/unfinished-magazine    

 

Music Ministry

As many of you know, these past 4 months have been very intensive with work for Charlie specifically in the areas of music production, teaching, and mentoring.  Last week, he completed an album with a Estonian Christian artist, who is also a worship leader in a local congregation. This was the second project on which he has worked with this young man.

By the end of June, Charlie hopes to wrap up production on two other Christian records.  One record is with a local Estonian group on Charlie’s non-profit Spark! label. The other is with the Methodist Church in Russia, for which recording actually began in Moscow several months ago. 

The intensity and intimacy of the process of recording and producing a record with artists naturally leads to long hours and heavy conversations about music and the inspirations behind art and creation – love, suffering, doubt, hope.  Please keep these sessions and relationships in your prayers.  We are designed for the very things many of us fear the most – intimacy, being vulnerable, honesty, community, and love.  We are so encouraged to see God using some of these projects for breaking down walls that separate us, for drawing us closer to one another, and pulling us closer to Himself.

 

Sabbatical and Prayer Ministry

This week, Miki is entering into her 4th month of this year’s season of sabbatical, which we wrote about in our last newsletter.  These months set aside for prayer and waiting on the Lord have proven to be more difficult than originally expected in many ways.  The process of stepping away even slightly from the normal responsibilities of the work she is doing here has been scary and humbling.  But it has become clear that the timing of this sabbatical aligns well within the ministry work of prayer here, as well as the period of transition we are experiencing in other areas of work and life.

Last weekend, Miki assisted in leading a prayer conference for the students at the Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary in Tallinn, and was blessed with the privilege of praying for students and teaching on holiness.  She was very encouraged and blessed with the time of instruction, learning, and praying together with the pastors and students.  If you’d like to read the transcript of her teaching, please look for it on her facebook page, called More than Enough – A Prayer Ministry.  (https://www.facebook.com/Aprayerministry/)

Along with sabbatical, Miki continues to facilitate regular prayer meetings with various groups and individuals.  She is also organizing a ladies’ prayer retreat to be held near the end of her sabbatical in August, in Viljandi, Estonia.  This retreat will be open for ladies desiring to get away for a couple of nights of prayer and restoration.  They will take a 2-hour train ride together to Viljandi, and will spend time there praying for Estonia and Europe.  They will also participate together in an 8-mile silent prayer walk around Viljandi Lake.  Please keep these weeks and months in your prayers, and thank you for your continued love and support for the deepening movement of prayer here in Estonia and Europe. 

 

Asbury Seminary Master’s of Divinity

This month, we are so blessed to share with you an amazing opportunity that has opened up for our family, and for the development of the work we are doing here.  Miki has recently been accepted into the Master’s of Divinity program at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky!  She will complete two-thirds of the degree online, while we continue to live and work full-time here in Europe. 

Our family will travel to Kentucky for 6-8 weeks during the next 3 Summers, beginning 2017, in order for Miki to complete the on-campus required courses.  We are hopeful that this time in the U.S. will also allow us to come and see many of you, and to be able to discuss and pray with you all about the things we see happening in Europe, and the work to which we feel called here. 

We also want to share with you an opportunity to partner with Miki in this program, through a scholarship Asbury has offered her, called the Ministry Partners Program.  Currently, tuition at Asbury Seminary is about $17,250/ year for a full-time student.  This scholarship is designed so that students partner with their church and with sponsoring individuals who commit to participate in the seminary education through prayer and giving.  Specifically, by finding partners to contribute a total of little less than half of the annual tuition, the remaining balance of Miki’s tuition will be covered by the scholarship.  

Many of you know that Miki has been taking classes in the undergraduate theology program at the Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary here in Tallinn.  She has desired to pursue this Master’s degree for a number of years, but did not imagine she would ever be able to, given our living and working in Europe, and the high cost of American seminary.  We feel that this an amazing opportunity for development of the ministry here, as she is working more and more in prayer counseling, pastoral care, and discipleship training.  Additionally, her earning the Master’s of Divinity degree will open up new doors and opportunities for ministry and possibly even ordination in the distant future. 

Recently, we have felt a strong conviction that we should be careful to not limit our efforts in ministry to pursuing only those things that we feel we can pull off on our own.  We are not designed to work in complete independence, separated from one another in our own wisdom and strength!  We believe that by working more in areas of ministry that are dependent on the support and love of others around us, we will see a greater renewal of growth and unity in the Church, as well as a deepening in the faith of the community of followers of Jesus Christ.

We also want to be careful not to create a sense of guilt or burden by letting you know of this scholarship.  We are so grateful for you all, and for all that you have done for us over these years, and continue to do for the Kingdom every day.  We are sending you all this information simply to let you know of the opportunity, and to invite those who feel led to join us in this new endeavor.  And feel free to pass the info on to your small groups and Sunday School classes.  

If you feel you would like to support Miki in this degree, you may either send an email to her at mikichastain@gmail.com, or go to the Asbury website for this scholarship:https://myats.asburyseminary.edu/mpp and let them know.

Thank you again for your support and for your great example of faith through your continued love and prayers. We would love to hear from you! Please send us a note and let us know how you are. 

Love and blessings,

Charlie, Miki, Isabel, Jasper and Celia

 

Ways to donate to this ministry:

By Check: Send a check to the following address, noting “Chastain/Russia 322” in the memo:

The Mission Society
6234 Crooked Creek Road
Norcross, GA 30092

By Credit/Debit Card: Go to:  https://themissionsociety.org/give
In the box noting:  “Give to a Missionary”, fill in the amount and 0322 for the “Four-digit Missionary ID#”

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Greetings from Tallinn! As we write this newsletter, first we want to say how thankful we are for all of you who have faithfully continued to support us through these years. In May, we will be celebrating our 7-year anniversary since our move to St. Petersburg, Russia in 2009!
 
In these years serving in St. Petersburg and Tallinn, we have seen God move in incredible and amazing ways. We have also endured some very difficult times, when we struggled to even know which way to step next. Through all of these days, God has used you again and again to encourage us, to help bring us direction and focus, and to draw us deeper and deeper into Him, in Whom we all have our life and breath.

As a part of the Mission Society structure, the 7th year of service includes a time of sabbatical. This sabbatical is designed as a period for backing away from regular responsibilities of ministry in order to commit more time with the Lord seeking renewal and healing from the first years of service. This period also includes time for re-focusing, and seeking the Lord’s guidance on whether and what types of changes He may desire for our service as missionaries moving forward.  During this time, we are regularly meeting with a trained coach and counselor who has experience working with cross-cultural workers, and who is helping us to process and to be accountable through this time of reflection, renewal, and re-focus.

Miki is almost 2 months into her sabbatical now, and has been able to spend many hours each week in prayer on her own and with others, as she has sought to humble herself before the Lord and to allow Him to show her the areas where she needs to have healing, and to perhaps take a change in course. Fortunately, because her work revolves so much around prayer, a few of the regular prayer meetings she leads easily fit in with this time of sabbatical, so she plans to maintain those responsibilities throughout.
 
One place of focus for Miki is regarding the prayer center, which has been such a major part of her vision for the work she has been doing in Russia, Estonia, and with ministries throughout Europe and Eurasia.  She recognizes that this project has not moved forward as she had hoped for various reasons over the years, and so she is considering whether at this time there are new steps she should take, or if there needs to be a change in direction for that project. We want to lay down our own desires and do only what the Lord is leading us to do, as we recognize that God sees and understands so much more than we can. So, we appreciate your prayers in this with us in this time.

Praise Report

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Last week, Miki was able to spend time with the Methodist Church of Võru, Estonia, where she assisted in the leadership of a prayer conference for the congregation there. This particular conference turned out to be very special for her, as they were joined by several members of the Methodist Church who had traveled into Estonia from Pskov, Russia.

The congregations of Pskov and Võru are both churches with which Miki has worked over the years in prayer ministry. The desire to see reconciliation and healing among the churches of the Russian and Estonian communities has been a big part of Miki’s heart for serving in this region. This time of fellowship, teaching, and prayer with brothers and sisters from a Russian Church and from an Estonian Church all together in one place was amazing, and we feel extremely blessed to have been a part of it. 

It is thru gatherings such as this that we are reminded that God’s timing is not our timing, and that our only task is to remain steadfast and faithful in the promises He has given!  

 

Another place in which we are continuing to seek the Lord’s guidance is in regard to the work we have done with the Syrian refugees in the Balkans region of Europe. Most of you are aware of the complications around this issue, and we have had to recognize those issues as we have sought to address this crisis in the ways we feel the Lord has been leading us.  So here’s an update on our refugee work from Charlie:

When we returned from the United States in February, the plan was for me to lead another team down to Serbia and Croatia to continue our work with the refugees in the camps there. Unfortunately, the situation on the ground in the Balkan countries has continued to change rather quickly. So Miki and I felt it was best to wait and see how these changes would affect support efforts there. Since then, the European Union has entered into an agreement with Turkey, which has significantly slowed the migration into Europe. Refugees who have braved the waters to make it into Europe are now being collected on the shores of Greece and are being sent back to Turkey. But for those who made the journey before the agreement went into effect, they find themselves in a sort of limbo.  Many borders throughout Europe have been closed, which has effectively stopped the inflow of refugees coming into European nations in recent weeks. There are still refugee camps in many of these countries and the numbers are still staggering. And many of these camps were built for transient aid, not long term – so the already squalid conditions are worsening. 

Now that the scene in the region has stabilized, I am once again planning a trip to go down, probably venturing into Greece as well as Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. 

Along with uncertainty on the status and locations of refugees coming into Europe, in recent weeks I have come to see that there are a couple of other issues, which have delayed my returning to the refugee work in the Balkans. The first is the music work that I have at the moment. I have had six different albums going at one time during this season. Four of them are Christian projects and two are secular. I found myself having a hard time saying no when people asked for for my help and I may have overbooked myself at this point. 

Second, and more importantly, is that I have to acknowledge that this work with refugees in the last year has affected me deeply.  During this time, I’ve often thought that I was just busy in this season.  But now I have to acknowledge that maybe I filled my calendar up because the work with refugees is so very emotionally draining. Since coming back from the USA, I really haven’t had any time to decompress. The conversations I had in the United States about refugees were very good, but many were very difficult. 

So now the idea of going back is very important to me but I do worry about how I will be emotionally after I return.

This is why Miki and I need your help with this work with refugees. It’s difficult to encounter families that resemble our own who are in crisis.  They simply made decisions to survive by fleeing terrible, dangerous situations.  It’s hard for me to leave them behind when it’s time to come back to Estonia. It’s hard not knowing what their future will look like. It’s hard knowing that some of them will be sent back to the same refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan that they left because the conditions were so bad.  It’s also very hard leaving the full-time aid workers down there.  

With all of the emotion and complication around this issue, we know that we do not have the big answers on how to best resolve this crisis. However, we feel that we need to do what we can to support the people who are serving in these camps, and to make ourselves present and available to the refugee families whom the Lord brings into our lives, as He provides.

I said early on that I did not feel like this refugee situation would be a temporary challenge. It is still clear that this will be a long term, continual effort. If you, your small group, your church, or your family would like to know more about how you can engage the situation alongside Miki and I, I do encourage you to get in touch with me. Also, look for an article in the next Unfinished Magazine (The Mission Society’s magazine) that talks about some of our work that we’ve done so far.

Here’s a link: https://www.themissionsociety.org/unfinished-magazine

Again, we appreciate your prayers as we and so many continue to navigate this difficult and sensitive issue. 
     
Music and Arts Work

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Since returning to Tallinn in February, this part of the work we are doing here has been very busy! Charlie has felt overwhelmed at times by the requests he has been receiving from various artists in Europe, who desire to work with him. 
    
He has started his newest Spark artist project with a young, Christian group from Estonia. The Spark project is the music label Charlie started 2 years ago, in which new artists who desire to grow in their craft and to become more established in the arts community agree to work under his mentorship for one year. During this year, Charlie provides assistance and guidance towards the production and release of a record of the artist’ music. In return, the artist agrees to book and perform 25 live concerts in the community. In this way, Charlie is encouraging new Christian artists to practice their craft, and to get their music out to the people around them in order that the message will be heard, and so that they will a greater impact on the community around them.
    
Charlie is also currently in process of completing 5 other projects with Estonian and Russian artists, and is considering new projects for this summer in Estonia and in Norway. 
    
As he stated earlier, with the other areas of ministry in which we are engaged, we recognize that there is a risk of him taking on more than he can or is supposed to be doing here. So, we appreciate your prayers for him as he is completing his current commitments, while maintaining focus and without becoming burned out or exhausted. 
    
We also ask for your continued prayers for wisdom and peace for him as he is making decisions on potential future projects, and on the steps that he and all of our family should take in the next weeks and months regarding the projects and opportunities for ministry into which the Lord is leading us.  The current plan is for Charlie to begin his sabbatical in August.  
Find us on Facebook!

If you are on Facebook, please find us there as we frequently send out short updates and photos that way. 

https://www.facebook.com/mikichastain
https://www.facebook.com/charliechastain

While you’re there, look for Miki’s ministry page, which she has set up for the prayer ministry called More than Enough – A Prayer Ministry. 

https://www.facebook.com/Aprayerministry/

Thank you all again for your love and prayers! We pray your Spring will continue to be filled with new life and peace in our Lord.

With Love,
The Chastains

 

Ways to donate to this ministry:

By Check: Send a check to the following address, noting “Chastain/Russia 322” in the memo:

The Mission Society
6234 Crooked Creek Road
Norcross, GA 30092

By Credit/Debit Card: Go to:  https://themissionsociety.org/give
In the box noting:  “Give to a Missionary”, fill in the amount and 0322 for the “Four-digit Missionary ID#”

 

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