Many warm greetings this July! We are writing to you this month while sitting in a little apartment near Denovici, Montenegro, where we are spending 10 days on family vacation.
Our journey to this point in our 5-week European trip started when we left Tallinn in our 10-year old Volvo station wagon on June 10. As we were preparing for our journey, a friend in Tallinn commented, “I believe your trip across Europe is going to be ‘epic’!” Well, it turns out so far that she wasn’t far off.
It took 2 and half days of driving, one night sleeping in a tent in Latvia, and another night sleeping in a Methodist rehab center in Poland to make it to Germany. There we visited Berlin for a couple of days, and then spent 5 days in Hamburg staying with the European Regional Consultants of the Mission Society sharing, planning, and praying together. In Hamburg, Charlie was invited to lead worship and Miki was invited to preach at the Sunday worship service of the International Methodist Church of Hamburg. The church there is quite multi-cultural, ministering to folks from all over Europe, as well as to the refugee community that has settled there, primarily from various African nations. The time of visiting, and in worship and ministry with this group was rich and life-giving for all of us.
We then spent several days with the Mosaik Church Community in Düsseldorf, Germany. The relationship with this congregation began primarily through their shared passion for the arts, and their ministry in the artistic community of that region. This group is called to reach out to some of those who often have felt the most alienated by the more “traditional” forms of worship in the Church. We were very blessed during this trip to get to spend many hours catching up, eating, listening, and praying with these folks about the normal struggles and pains that come as we seek to build community as believers and followers of the Lord Jesus. Miki was also invited to share as guest speaker during their Sunday service, and was moved to tears while sharing as she considered all of the work and suffering, which these brothers and sisters are walking through in order to share the love of Christ with others. While some of these days were a bit difficult, the time there was enriching and filled with the perfect love of Christ in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
After Germany, we spent 2 days staying with the precious family of another young Christian artist in Paris, France, with whom Charlie produced a record in 2013. We also managed to get out and see the Eiffel Tower and some other beautiful sights of Paris. Our time there was short, but rich with fellowship, laughter, and prayer together.
After France, our plan was to drive south through Austria, Hungary and Croatia towards Montenegro for some days of beach and rest together. A few hours after we left Paris, our car began acting up, just a bit jumpy shifting gears. So we decided that once we arrived in Montenegro we would find a mechanic to take a look at it.
We stopped to rest for 2 nights in the northern Alps of Austria at an amazing missionary guest house, which is supported by the Scripture Union Ministry out of England. During the next leg of our journey, we were driving through the hills of Hungary, when the Volvo suddenly popped out of gear, and broke down just before we reached the next hill top. Charlie tried and tried to get it back into gear and just up to the next crossroad, but with no success. Our unexpected 3-day adventure in Hungary had begun.
All of the events and details of those days in Hungary are too many for this update. The outpouring of the love of God through complete strangers, most of whom shared no common language with us, was overwhelming. Through a series of different situations – including a folk music festival in the town leaving all hotels fully booked, the meeting of the mechanic whose widowed mother insisted we stay with her instead of camping in our tent, our children eating and eating from the bushes in her garden full of raspberries and cherries, Charlie’s connection with a touring rock band from Budapest, and the tears we all shed with our hostess when we finally loaded back into the Volvo to continue our journey south – we experienced grace, and blessing, and humility in the hands of the Father like we have never known before.
Our car actually broke down a second time after this first experience, this time for a computer malfunction which sent the engine into “safety mode”, which basically means, it shut down. This second repair resulted in a hotel stay in central Croatia before we were able to finish our journey. As you can imagine, that last day of travel was quite stressful, as we were basically just waiting for the car to break down again! But, praise to the Lord, we made it all the way with no more glitches, and are now 4 days into our time of rest and relaxation here in beautiful Montenegro – our first real, family “vacation” since moving to Russia over 5 years ago!
At this point we ask for your prayers for the remainder of our trip, as well as for continuing struggles in this region of the world. Originally our plan was to visit with two more churches on the journey back to Tallinn, one in Romania and another in Ukraine. In the Western part of Ukraine there had been no fighting at all until just a few days ago, when we learned the pro-separatists attacked a Ukrainian military base just a few minutes walk from the church we were planning to visit. So, of course, we have cancelled our visit to this region at this time.
We thank God for His amazing grace to keep us safe throughout this journey, but are grieving along with our brothers and sisters who are working so diligently in Ukraine throughout this time. The church we were planning to visit there has lost a lot of support and many visitors in these past months from the West as a result of the conflict. So, to add to the greater stress of ministering during a time of armed conflict and suffering in their country, they are also feeling quite isolated from the rest of the Body of Christ. The primary reason we wanted to see them was so that we could pray with them, and encourage them. So we ask that each of you continue to reach out to those who you know are working and serving in that region – to let them know that you are praying for them and supporting them in the work they are called to do.
We also ask that you remember us in your prayers as we are depending on our car to carry us safely back through the 3-day journey to Tallinn next week!
We love you and thank God for your love and support of us in the work we are called to do here. We also want to encourage any of you who may feel like would like to come and see us, to see the work we are doing in Europe and Russia – and to meet some of the precious folks with whom we work here – please let us know!
Blessings and Peace,
Charlie, Miki, Isabel, Jasper and Celia
While we’ve seen an uptick in project funding, we still need considerable assistance with our ongoing support. If you’ve ever considered supporting this ministry and have yet to do so – now would be a great time to start! If you are a current supporter, consider telling others about this vital work – and ask them to join as well. Thanks!
Ways to donate to this ministry:
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 debit:
Go to our website: http://www.actsofadvocacy.org and clickon “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.