Monthly Archives: August 2011

IMPORTANT NEWS: Text from The Chastains September 2011 Newsletter

(CLICK HERE 9-11 Newsletter for the .pdf version of the latest newsletter.   If you’re not on the newsletter list but would like to be, please send an email to charlie@actsofadvocacy.org.  We’ll be glad to include you on future messages!  Also, feel free to visit http://www.actsofadvocacy.org for more info on our lives in Russia)

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” Ecclesiastes 3:1

It recently occurred to me that in the past few days I have been avoiding sitting down to write this month’s newsletter. We have very exciting news to share about changes that are happening in our lives. However, as is often the case when change comes, along with our excitement we have been experiencing some times of anxiety, fear, and grief, and so this month we’d like to share with you about these things.

First, and most important to us, early this summer we learned that we are expecting our 3rd child next January! We are barely able to describe the sense of joy we feel with this news. In Russian culture, a 3rd child is considered a great sign of blessing from God upon a family, as so few families ever expect that they will be able to have 3 children. We have felt that great blessing in our home as we have begun to make preparations for our new addition.

With this news, however, has come other unexpected changes upon our family. First is the realization that Miki will not be able to maintain her work schedule for some time upon the baby’s arrival. Her not working will mean that she will not be able to maintain her work visa here in Russia. For this reason, after several weeks of prayer and contemplation about other available options, we have come to accept that we will no longer be able to live full-time in Russia after this year.

As we have been watching this door to living in St. Petersburg close, however – without even realizing it – it seems God has already been working on the next open door for us here in ministry.

You may recall that in April of this year, due to Russian visa requirements, we spent almost 4 weeks in Estonia, a post- Soviet country located just west of Russia, about a 2 hour drive from St. Petersburg. We were surprised during that month at how quickly we developed relationships with others in ministry there – many of whom we’d only just met. In fact, we felt such familiarity and comfort with the people we came to know there that we made plans before returning to Russia to go back to Estonia in the summer for a visit.

It was during our summer visit there in July (after we’d learned about the pregnancy and were considering our options), that the Lord began to reveal not only new relationships, but also open doors to ministry for us in Estonia. In that week, and in weeks since then, we have had the privilege of meeting brothers and sisters in ministry in Estonia with various groups, including the Methodist Church, Campus Crusade for Christ, and the Salvation Army. We have spent time with friends who are ministering in prisons in Estonia, others who are developing relationships with orphanages there – both of these ministries geared almost entirely toward Russians living in Estonia. Further, Charlie has had the opportunity to sit with Estonian christian musicians who are struggling to develop their art, which we learned is due mostly to the general opinion of Christianity in Estonia.

One of the many facts we came to know in meeting these people who’ve given their lives to serving in Christ Jesus in Estonia is that less than 5% of the population of Estonia considers themselves christian or has any affiliation with a church at all. We heard several different explanations for this fact, but it seems that the history of Estonia – more recently and specifically their time spent under the authority of the Soviet Union – has made it difficult for the people of Estonia to trust organizations that may seem to them to be coming into Estonia, seeking to impose rules or regulations. This suspicion and mistrust often extends to the church.

Finally, as we’ve spent these months seeking the Lord regarding whether, when, and to where we should be moving out of St. Petersburg, one additional factor has become apparent. In recent weeks and months, several close to us in ministry have begun to receive a lot of questions from local and national government authorities about their activities, relationships, and finances. Some are Russians whose ministries the authorities are threatening to close. Others are foreigners whose residency in Russia the authorities are threatening to end. Given some of the difficulties we’ve experienced with our own visas in recent years, we have to consider that this type of scrutiny may only continue to increase.

To be clear, we do not feel a personal threat to our own security here. However, the last thing we want is for our presence to impede on the efforts of others working here in ministry – particularly Russians who were born and raised in this area. For that reason, we have made a few changes regarding our internet/telephone communications, and have determined that this may be a factor in the timing of our being called out of Russia on a full-time basis.

So, as a result of these things – and several months of talking and praying – we have made the decision to move to Tallinn, Estonia at the end of September.

This has not been an easy decision. After committing so much of ourselves to St. Petersburg, Russia for more than 10 years, the decision to pull back at this time has left us feeling sad, and even a bit scared at times. We are having a hard time imagining what our lives are going to look like in upcoming months, and we understand that there are going to be difficulties along the way. But even in this, I offer praise to God that He has continued to bring us peace and joy in every day, as His blessing in our lives continues to overflow in ways we’d never imagined for ourselves coming into this ministry 10 years ago.

Now, all of this is certainly not to say that we will not be continuing ministry in St. Petersburg after our move. In fact, one of the major factors that initially drew us to Estonia is that it is less than half a day’s drive from St. Petersburg.

We find it very interesting now that for several months before the pregnancy came about, we had been feeling strongly that the Lord was calling us to step back a bit from our intensive, regular involvement with some of the ministries we know here in St. Petersburg. We had known that the time was coming for us to give up some of our leadership and responsibility in the ministries here to Russians we’ve come to know and with whom we’ve been working so closely these past 3 years.

But, at the same time, we have known – and our Russian brothers and sisters have confirmed – that we are not being called to simply shut the door to these relationships all together. We feel strongly that we are to continue to be involved here to a certain degree – more perhaps in the way of week-long trips to St. Petersburg, for example. We have been blessed with very rich relationships here, and all parties agree that our presence several times throughout the year for different activities is still needed and is in the will of God for our work here.

By living in Estonia, this type of transition – maintaining regular, though less-frequent contact and support by our presence here, but also backing off enough to give the Russians more room to go forward in these ministries in accordance with their own history, culture, spiritual needs, etc. – is very possible. We have been amazed in recent days upon realizing that God is using what we have only ever seen as challenges and set-backs to lead us into the very position that He desires for us and others serving here at this time.

In fact, we are already planning trips in upcoming months in order to continue our current work with Russian ministries in St. Petersburg, as well as a trip planned for October to the Russian seaport of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. Our residence in Estonia will actually make work in that area of Russia easier for us as Estonia is situated more closely to Kaliningrad than is St. Petersburg.

One of several unknowns coming along with this move for us is how many of you who have been supporting us over the years with your love, your time, your finances, and your prayers will react to this change in our circumstances. In this time of transition for ourselves, we expect that it may be a time of transition for some of you in the ministry here as well. We expect that there may be some who will decide to step away a bit from the work we’re doing here, but we also expect that there will be some of you who will decide that now is the time to get involved, perhaps in the way of regular prayer support, monthly financial support, or even a trip over to see the work we’re doing (no visa is required to visit Estonia, by the way!).

Also, we realize that many of you have also invested a great deal in the work that is being done here in St. Petersburg, and that you understandably will have several questions regarding specifics in our future involvement here. In upcoming weeks, we will continue to provide more details about specific changes that will come in our work with ministries here in St. Petersburg, in Estonia, and elsewhere in this area. We also ask that you will not hesitate to contact us with any questions you have in the mean time. We love to hear from you and want the opportunity to talk with you about any questions or concerns you may have.

We know that you pray for us, and we thank God for you. We pray that where ever all of our efforts to follow our God may lead us, we will all continue to be filled with His love for one another, and we will always be as one in Him, in the name of Jesus Christ.

Love to you, Charlie, Miki, Isabel, Jasper

WE STILL NEED YOUR HELP!

Our monthly support is still 10% under our current ministry needs. We invite you (or your Sunday school class, your Church, etc.) to consider partnering with us through The Mission Society by pledging $25, $50, $100 or more a month.

To make a donation 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

To make a donation by credit card or electronic debit: – go to our website: http://www.actsofadvocacy.org and click on “Give” to go to the Mission Society “donations” page.

To make a monthly pledge: Either contact us via email or phone (678-436-3016) so that we can send you the appropriate documentation, or go to our website: http://www.actsofadvocacy.org and click on “Give” to go to the Mission Society “donations” page.

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Healing in Repentance

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.  You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee!  You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!” … Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:15-18

I had not even been praying for healing.  I’d been praying for forgiveness.  The healing just came.

Recently, I agreed to a bit of a “challenge” I felt the Lord had offered up to me.  Honestly, when I first asked the Lord to lead me to deeper levels of repentance in my life, I didn’t really expect much to happen.  It’s a bit funny, I guess.  But even more so, now, I think it’s detestable.

I always knew, of course, that I had sin in my life.  I know, for example, that I struggle with things like pride and judgment on others – both in and out of the church.  I know that I struggle with gossip.  I know that I struggle with bitterness and resentment towards people who’ve hurt me or my loved ones over the years.  I know that I can act very disrespectful toward my husband.

But it seems that I’d justified myself in these areas by telling myself that “everyone struggles with these sins.”  I’ve been foolishly thinking that these sins in my life aren’t as “bad” as other sins – like stealing, or violence on others, or engaging in pornography, or using drugs, or other really “bad” sins.

You know, people who are engaged in THOSE kinds of sins should really be on their knees repenting to the Lord and begging His forgiveness.  But the kinds of sins that I engage in… – well, sure, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally ask God to help me with my pride, or with the tone I use with Charlie – but I don’t need to fall down broken and weeping in the church because of these sins, openly confessing and repenting to God for all of the pain and damage I’ve caused His children – right?

Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve to masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

Romans 6:16: “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”

Psalm 5:22: “The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast.”

Despite my arrogant doubting, however, as I have invited Him to go deeper in these weeks, the Lord has begun to do much.  He has gently allowed me to begin to FEEL some of the pain that I have caused His children – and Him – through my sin.  He’s allowed me to see that my sin has left others I love dearly less able to know God’s love for themselves.  He has shown me that often, the work He has done through me to further His kingdom, and to bring His children to freedom, has been partially offset by the sin I’ve allowed to control particular areas of my life.

And my heart has been broken.

Oh, God, how can You stand to hear my thoughts sometimes?  What a fool I am to dare to disregard my sin – the sin that separates me and others I’ve hurt from You.  All the while attempting to answer Your call to minister to the “others” who I’ve decided are “lost”.  Oh, God. How can I even turn my face up to You in prayer?  I’ve taken these blessings You’ve given, and I’ve used them to give myself a sense of authority over others who I’ve decided are less holy than I God have mercy.  God forgive me.

And on and on has been the breaking of my spirit in recent weeks, in Jesus’ name.

Romans 2:3-4 says, “So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?  Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (italics added by MC).

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Notice how carefully these verses are to indicate that the “kindness” and “sorrow” that leads us to repentance both come from God, not man.

Some other verses I’ve read recently on repentance:

“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7

“He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Peter 3:9

This is clearly a very important act in the eyes of our Lord, and in our walk with Him.  Why have we become so afraid to talk about – to practice – repentance?

However, it’s also important to mention that allowing the Lord to reveal to me a deeper level of the sin in my life did not bring about the feeling of freedom as I’d anticipated.  There definitely has been a new sense of freedom in my life, but I don’t compare it to the vision of the mighty lion running free in the wilderness.

It’s more like the freedom that comes to a watermelon after having been dropped from a 2nd story window.  The watermelon is a drippy, broken mess on the dirty ground.  In it’s own eyes, it is no longer of any use to anyone.  It’s insides are exposed and dirty for all of the world to see, and even if the right wind came along, it would have no way of even rolling itself to a safe haven.

But really, I’m beginning to wonder if it is not this level of broken, messy exposure that the Lord truly desires through our repentance.  First, in this state, we become much more acutely aware of the reality of our helplessness and reliance on our God for our life – for our survival – physically and spiritually.

Second, this new level of exposure, while quite painful, also seems to release old blocked pathways to some of the suffering we’ve experienced.  In fact, it seems that often it are these old wounds that have caused the sin in our life in the first place.

Through the days and weeks, as the Lord continued to reveal these deeper levels of sin in my life, I realized that something else very surprising also began happening.

It started kind of subtly. One evening, for example, after the kids were in bed, I found myself crying into my pillow about something painful that had been done to me years earlier – something I’d not thought about in years.

Then, I was in the shower a few days later getting ready for work, when I just began weeping about another old, old wound that I’d been carrying around for years.

Then it started happening almost every night.  I would lie in bed and just grieve over pain and insult I’d received years ago.  The stuff just started coming up – out of nowhere.

Finally, Charlie asked me one evening, “OK, what is going on with you?”  For a while, I honestly couldn’t tell him.

And then one day it occurred to me – has my acknowledgment of some of this old, dark sin in my life allowed the Lord room to finally do some healing in these areas that I’d written off as hopeless years ago?  Could that be what He means when He says that in repentance is our salvation?  I honestly had never imagined to take it so literally!

In Psalm 32:3-7, David said:

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”- and you forgave the guilt of my sin.  Therefore let every man who is godly pray to you while you may be found, surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.  You are my hiding place, you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.  (Italics and bold -MC)

Psalm 119:133 says, “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.”

There are so many reasons today to fall away from the Lord.  The temptation to “flee on our horses” in fear is so great with all that so many of us stand to lose in this world.

We have got to begin to acknowledge our sin before the Lord.  We can no longer walk around justifying the damage we are doing as “not that bad”.  His word says it – the sin in our lives rules over us.  We are slaves to it.  And if we continue to ignore it – and the pain in our lives that it medicates – it will overcome us as all we have in this world is stripped away.

Lord, create in us, Your Church, a more repentant spirit, so that we will be truly broken.  In our brokenness let Your healing come, for we know that when we are weak in You, oh Lord, then we are strong.  Praise to You alone, Mighty God.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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