River of Joy base from the road

River of Joy base from the road
Picnic Patio goes to work

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Welcome Visitors

This Spring/Summer perhaps the biggest project we finished was the
Beit Shalom (House of Peace) Guest Cabin. This cute little cabin is outfitted
as if it were a fine, howbeit small, hotel room to sleep one or two people.

The name came from a small "Shalom" plaque my friend Dr. Yuliya Vyaltseva brought us from Jerusalem. We have mounted it above the entry door. Our hope is that everyone who stays with us has a peaceful and joyful stay.   "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." John 14:27

Before (when it was a woodshed)

Our first visitors at Beit Shalom were 
Rich and Sherrel Richmond of  Newport Oregon

Rich had done his share of yacht racing and was a successful real estate
broker with Sherrel's able assistance when God called them to Ukraine 14
years ago. They have now held dozens of children's camps and created many
other evangelistic events as, "The Least of These."

Their Mission statement is as follows:

Teaching children to associate unconditional love with Jesus Christ, so they will seek Him the rest of their lives.

In the beginning The Least of These ministry focused on orphaned children in Ukraine. About six years ago God called The Least of These to minister to the Tatar people in the Belogorsk Region in addition to the orphan children in Crimea.  Through evangelistic children's programs and camps we are reaching the lost and forgotten children for Christ.  We have successfully partnered with local churches, seminaries, and Bible schools enabling nationals to minister to nationals.

It seems fitting that the first children's camp other than our own River of Joy camp to be held at River of Joy in Crimea were the first to use Beit Shalom.

The Least of These was also the first camp to make use of
our new picnic area on the west side of River Road 6.

The Richmond's used the cabin for leadership huddles and morning prayer.
Perhaps the peace surrounding the cabin inspired them. The camp was successful
and the Richmond's gave the cabin a five star rating.

River of Joy Camp followed TLOT camp. It saw the arrival of Christine and Julia Reed. You might say they were acting as advance scouts for a huge family that we believe will be relocating from Beaumont California to Ukraine to serve with us at River of Joy Crimea. Of course Christine and Julia stayed at Beit Shalom.

Christine and John Reed were mother and father to six children
when they began adopting orphan children from Russia and Ukraine.
Now they have 15 children! To read more about the Reeds
visit this article in their home town newspaper.


After bringing in some nice gifts, playing with Sasha, the 18 year old orphan from Donetsk I plan to write about in my next post...who is here with me still, many questions, visits around the neighborhood and a quick visit to the coast, Christine and Julia had to leave us. We are looking forward with joy to future vsits and to meeting more of their awesome family.

Visit their Blog by clicking here: http://smilesandtrials.blogspot.com/
Christine, Julia and Alexander (Sasha)

The Reed family

The Beit Shalom guest cabin has a calling both to be a blessing and to bring people who are themselves a blessing in for a visit. We felt what I can only say was a tug on our heart from the Lord to invite a special lady of joy from Kherson. Natalia Safonova was to be our next Beit Shalom visitor though she didn't know it yet.

Natalia had called us several times.. She was always so up, so joyful she seemed to be a river of joy herself. We had just been through some personality struggles here and if God was calling her in to reverse that curse the timing was perfect.

Before I called her I spoke with a mutual friend and found out she could not even
afford train or bus fare. We got her agreement and sent ticket money North.

When Natalia walked into Beit Shalom she said she had found heaven. By the time she left ten days later her ministry to our local female believers had renewed our house church and the spiritual life of our group had made giant strides.

Natalia's own story holds the secret of her infectious joy. After the former Soviet Union fell the economy followed it down. Natalia's big apartment house was one of the victims. It got to be so run down it was to be torn down. Everyone was given another place to live except somehow Natalia was forgotten in the relocation. She became a street person. During her homelessness she was touched by the plight of the homeless. She got her documents in order finally and though she still does not have a real place to live, she has a shell of a room. When she meets other homeless people she had come to know she takes them in. Now her apartment shell is a home of the homeless. She sleeps five people in a tiny two room flat, two of them in her own room with her. Of course her food is almost constantly borscht or porridge and bread but she has a powerful ministry to the homeless. She has learned to know their spiritual, psychological and emotional needs first hand. God has given her extraordinary joy. During my week-long stay in the hospital she was my first to reply helper. I was not easy as I am not at all used to pain or sickness. She was ready to give it up several times but she hung in on God's instructions. She says God REALLY loves me. As I write this she is in the village visiting the ladies from our home church. She is back for her second stay at Beit Shalom. Soon she will leave to go back to Kharkov where she will go to court to get new living quarters
no doubt for her AND her homeless guests.


An amazing symbol of renewal came when we were having home church.
Galya, a sister who had repented during a series of  lessons in the
very room I now call home 8 years ago said she wanted to be
baptized. She had come in from a far away town, 
not really knowing why.

Suddenly we all knew why.

It is late in the season. Burulcha is running low
but clear. Galya has been obedient. Baptism is
a symbol of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. 
More than that it is a matter of obedience.
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' 
will enter the kingdom of heaven; 
but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." 
Mathew 7:21 NASB
Our next visitor at Beit Shalom was Dr. Wilson Turner.
Wil is a former YWAM professor at School of the Nations
in Hawaii. He graduated MIT and worked for Hewlett Packard as 
an electrical engineer before that. Prior to coming to Ukraine
he lived in the wilds of Oregon. He is nearly 80 years old, 
the son of a pioneer family and is serving the Lord in Ukraine 
as an apologetic specialist lecturer in the scientific community.
That basically means he shows the scientific reasons
why evolution is not a reasonable explanation 
for our existence, but God is.

Wil was here looking at our problem with the well pump in the top well. 
His thought that the underwater well valve was stuck turned out to be right.
I am happy to say that I enjoyed a nice shower this morning
thanks to that diagnosis and to Sasha, the agile
18 year old who went down the well to press the
button that unstuck it.
Our next Beit Shalom resident was that 18 year old
who climbed down the well, 
Alexander (Sasha) Romanchenko.

Sasha is a remarkable young man. He was raised almost entirely in a Schola Internat. That is a Ukraine state-run orphan school. Children who graduate from such schools have the equivalent of a 6th grade education. Sasha and his younger brother and sister were born to alcoholic parents. They used to send the children begging for drinking money. Sasha became the care-giver to his two younger siblings early on. Eventually their parents got so abusive the three children ran away from home. Sasha remembers spending that winter in a zemlinika. That is an underground dugout shelter hiding place the children made to keep warm. They scrounged firewood and used a hollow log for a chimney.  Later they all were admitted into a Schola Internat. Sasha developed a dislike for the worldly lifestyle.
He went to church at a young lady's invitation. There he repented and learned more about our Savior's love. He is still a babe in Christ but he is enthusiastic and seems to be sincerely committed to the Lord.

During the first month of his stay at River of Joy
Beit Shalom guest cabin was busy.
Sasha slept in one of our simple tents. 

He slept well there.

Julia Reed pitched in from the beginning of her stay with us. 

Some old pipes we had laying around 
helped Sasha to build a horizontal bar for his workout.
He is quite an athlete. He can do tricks on the horizontal bar
that I didn't know existed. Later, on a mission to buy a part 
for our well pump, he rode a bike to Belogorsk,
20 hard kilometers from here, in just 40 minutes!

One very rainy Sunday Sasha decided to help
control the runoff. He used my jacket
as he worked...hard. He worked like an American! 

I have never seen anyone else here work so fast.

And the runoff was handled. Sasha got it done in record time in the rain. Now we have an underground drain pipe that takes runoff rain water down to the garden. during his time with us Sasha improved the path between buildings, built a cabinet for a propane tank, built a pretty cool dog house and ran many errands. In general he made himself useful.

Sasha also had a good time with Julia playing water games in the heat, swam in Burulcha creek, visited the top of our cliff, went to town and helped me shop for building material, in the process thoroughly enjoying himself, and visited Sudak with Christine and Julia and I...his first seaside visit. He began to chat with Rachel Reed on Skype, using Google translator (and my notebook). He bought an English learning course book and plans to concentrate on learning English now.

After the trip to Sudak Sasha wanted to go back to the sea.

Sasha checks out a Theodocia bas relief commemorating over 2500 years as
a Crimean port city. The Lord used this city to teach me how to be an effective missionary back in 1994...long story.

I don't know how strong Sasha's prayer life is but we were soon on our way to the sea again just as he wished.

Lena from Donetsk region (where Sasha hails from) called saying her church was doing a youth conference at Orgenikidza, a small beach town near Theodocia here in Crimea. She invited me and made it sound so attractive I thought it may even have something useful for me. I decided to go and take Sasha.

Sasha had a ball. He bought lots of souvenirs, went swimming in the sea every day. After a swim he brought me a medusa (jelly fish) to feel....yuk!  He was touched by the skits, messages and music at the youth conference. We stayed three days and two nights at a school being rented out for sleeping rooms. Of course that was too little time for Sasha but I had more than used up any money I had allocated to the excursion and was eager to get back home to a more comfortable bed. 

Then Sasha moved to the Beit Shalom guest cabin. He was honored.

Sasha has gone back to Donetsk on the train. Tomorrow he starts his second year at
cabinet makers technical school.