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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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#”