“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…” Ephesians 1:18
We are so excited to announce the arrival of our 3rd child on February 8th, Miss Celia Lynn Chastain! Most of you know that she came a bit later than originally expected. But she is here now, healthy and growing wonderfully. Her delivery and our time at the hospital here in Tallinn was as good as we could have hoped for.
One of the greatest difficulties with these types of significant events as a missionary is the absence of family members who are in the states and unable to be with us. God has been faithful to bless us abundantly even in this, however, as we have been loved by dear friends here in Estonia who have given their time and love and food to us in these days. We had one friend visiting from the U.S. who spent a week with us cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and awaiting Celia’s arrival before returning to her work in Russia. Other families here in Estonia have blessed us with meals and baby clothes and toys. A precious sister called yesterday, saying she was finishing a meeting in Tallinn, and wanted to drop by. When she arrived I’d not even showered or brushed my teeth yet! What a delight for me when she grabbed Celia out of my arms, and announced to Isabel and Jasper, “Mommy is going to go take a shower now.” And we all know what a joy a peaceful moment in the shower is to a new mom!
In these months since we’ve moved to Estonia, Charlie and I have felt clearly a desire from the Lord for us to be still for a while. We have been presented with many opportunities for various types of ministry here, and for some time really weren’t clear on the specific direction God had for us in our new country.
In more recent weeks, however – particularly since coming home with Celia – Charlie and I are both feeling that it may be time to start moving forward in a more deliberate fashion into the work God has for us.
First, it’s important to address what may be an obvious question to many of you – as it has been for Charlie and I, really since we first realized last spring that we would be leaving Russia: What about your at-risk children’s ministry in St. Petersburg?
When we first came to St. Petersburg in 2001, we came with one goal: to work directly with the orphans and street children of St. Petersburg, Russia. Our calling here in the beginning was very clear. We brought in charitable aid for orphanages, provided activities and games for children and assisted orphanage staff in ways such as getting the kids outside or changing diapers or cleaning.
On that first trip in 2001, I honestly did not anticipate whether I would ever be back in Russia. I went to do my 2 weeks of “mission” work, and then go home. On that same trip I came to know several teenage girls living in an orphanage just south of St. Petersburg, one of whom was a short, blond, very quiet girl named Sveta. I remember meeting Sveta very well, because, despite her small frame and quiet demeanor, I remember finding myself intimidated by her. She was not the most popular or most aggressive of the girls there, and so really did not get much of anyone’s attention. But I will never forget how she silently stood out to me among that group of girls.
In the years since that first trip, Sveta has watched her sisters from that orphanage travel down many different paths. One sister, Anya, has had two miscarriages, is an alcoholic, and is living in an adult facility in the city. Another of her sisters, Olya, is sharing a room in a nursing home in exchange for a part of her monthly pension and for her services as a house keeper for the residents. Sveta’s closest friend from the orphanage, Tanya, passed away a few years ago due to complications resulting from abuse she’d received early in her life in the orphanage. (For more history on Sveta and Tanya, look back to our December 07, January 08 and August 09 newsletters)
While in St. Petersburg this past December, I visited Sveta one evening at her home with her two daughters. I took her fruit and Christmas gifts. She asked how my pregnancy was going, and asked how Isabel and Jasper were doing. She told me that she’d been visiting the Grace Center, a Russian-Orthodox ministry for orphan graduates that we’d come to know and helped introduce her to earlier last year. I asked her what she was needing, and she said she really wanted a table for her room that she’d seen at IKEA.
When Charlie was in St. Petersburg a few weeks ago, he went to see Sveta one afternoon and to take her to IKEA to buy the table she needed. She gave him gifts she’d bought for Isabel and Jasper and Celia to bring to us in Estonia.
We recently received a photo from the Grace Center of the holiday party they had in January, which our support helped provide. Sveta and her children were in the photo.
Some other relationships we’ve seen develop in these past 10 years: The founder of the Grace Center, it turns out, is also old friends with another Russian-Orthodox sister who runs a summer camp for street children each year, who we also support.
When I visited Sveta in December, she’d just moved to a new flat, located less than 1 block from the Methodist Church Charlie and I attended while we lived in St. Petersburg. This church was the first to invite me to hold a prayer conference for Russian pastors. This is also the same church who introduced me to the pastor and his wife from Pskov who came to spend time with us here in Tallinn last fall for prayer ministry. (I am working on a trip to Pskov for prayer ministry with the women’s group of that church this spring.)
One of the attendees of that first prayer meeting at our church last spring is the pastor of a group of musicians who has sought Charlie’s expertise in audio production for almost 10 years now, as well as his counsel as a brother in Christ in these past few years living in Russia. Through this group of musicians, Charlie has been introduced to other Christian artists both in St. Petersburg and Estonia – many of whom regularly work in orphan ministry in this region.
And I could go on. This is just a short account of the wonderful web of brothers and sisters seeking to follow the Lord, which we have watched grow around us through the Lord’s gracious leading and blessing. Additionally has been the wonder of meeting believer after believer from Russia and Estonia who also is involved in ministry to orphans and street children.
So why am I sharing all of this seemingly random information about these different individuals we’ve come to know over the years here? Charlie and I have come to see that, almost without our realizing it, God has vastly expanded what was originally a very short-sighted view of His calling for us here in Eastern Europe. We can see much more clearly now that our service of the orphans and street children of St. Petersburg, Russia absolutely can not be fulfilled according to God’s will unless we step out to serve with His children here who have given their lives to ministry in Christ Jesus. We are one people in Him. We are brothers and sisters. We are His church. And if we truly want to see a great movement from the Lord in this place for the children of Russia, we believe we must step back from the little pieces we feel we can control, and trust Him to do greater works as we seek to work together in service to one another.
So our work in St. Petersburg continues – and in many cases is thriving now that the Russian leaders we love and support know that we trust them and their judgement in their ministry efforts. It has been hard to let go of so much control, but the benefits have completely overwhelmed that initial anxiety. As you read this newsletter, Charlie is traveling to St. Petersburg for a short trip to continue our support and encouragement of those ministries there, and to plan activities for the summer and fall – of which a few of you will be directly involved!
In addition to the work in Russia, the orphanage, prayer and music ministries that we’ve expanded into Eastern Europe are moving forward. I, along with some sisters from Tallinn, will soon be visiting a rehab center in the Estonian countryside as a possible location for future intensive prayer gatherings. We’re also planning visits to Pskov and Kaliningrad for the near future. Charlie has just completed work on two music projects here in Tallinn: one from Andrus Lukas, a well-respected worship leader in Estonia, and another from Reverend B. and Daniel, a Estonian-Norwegian Christian music duo. In late March, Charlie will travel to Paris, France to consult with a Christian arts community there that is seeking to build a recording studio for their work. In August, Charlie will be leading music workshops during a 4-day event coordinated by the Eurasian United Methodist Church to encourage growth of Christian arts and music in Russia.
As you can see, we’re trying to embrace the opportunities that God is presenting to us. Our prayer is that, through our continued support of these seemingly unrelated efforts, God will continue to reveal His plan and purpose for the Russian and Eastern European church – and that as they continue to seek Him in greater measure that their involvement with at-risk children will continue to increase.
We are planning a trip to the U.S. in April with the hopes of sitting with you who support us here with your love, prayers, money and time. We want to take time to share with you specifically and clearly the ministry opportunities into which we feel the Lord’s guidance here in Estonia, Russia and throughout Eastern Europe. Of course we’d love to find a weekend to come and see as many people as possible. But we’d also love to visit with the church missions committee or your small group meeting during the week as we feel that a more intimate setting may make it easier for you to ask questions and to get a good understanding of specifically what we are doing here.
Please contact us through email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or via skype – charliechastain – in order to make plans for us to get together in April! We will continue to send out our newsletters, of course. But with the new baby and all that is going on, we have come to know that sometimes sitting over a cup of coffee is worth so much more than what we can write on paper!
Love and peace to you in Christ!
Miki and Charlie Chastain
WE STILL NEED YOUR HELP!
Our monthly support is still 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 TMS “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 TMS “donations” page.