A letter from Ellen Smith in Russia
Dear friends and family,
Greetings in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!
We have been long silent and some of you may be wondering what has become of us since our return to the United States in August. Al and Emma returned on August 11, Meg on August 12, and I on August 23. I stayed on an extra 12 days to welcome a team from the Presbyterian Church of the Cross (PCOC) in Omaha, Nebraska, as they joined their partner in Gnozdovo in putting on a Vacation Bible School. It was wonderful to watch the joined team communicate across the language barrier, glean ideas from one another and enjoy the fellowship. By the time I returned to the States, Al and the girls had our apartment set up, ready for us to move in. We have taken some time to just be a family and get Emma settled in school — Lombardi Middle School (this is Green Bay, after all). We had not known what to expect from the transition to a very large public school, but Lombardi is a wonderful school and Emma is thriving.
In mid-September we began itineration by participating in Homecoming at our home church, MacPherson Presbyterian in Fayetteville, North Carolina. It was an honor and a privilege to be able to preach for such an occasion and a joy to be back among old and dear friends. Since that time, I have visited churches in Iowa and Kansas, stopping in Omaha to visit organizations offering transitional support to kids coming out of the foster system. I return to Russia next week for a couple of conferences, including one on ministry with kids coming out of the orphanage system. The visits to Omaha Home for Boys, Jacob’s House, CASA offices and the Nebraska Foster Youth Council were extremely valuable preparation for the upcoming meeting in Russia. Geri Clanton, from PCOC, who planned my schedule and accompanied me to these different institutions, will also join me for the conference in Russia.
Al and Emma joined me in Denver October 7–9 for the sixth annual Russian Mission Network meeting, hosted by Wellshire Presbyterian Church. Each year the meetings show the growth of this network. This year’s meeting was outstanding and we applaud the Wellshire team that put the program together. This year we had three Russian pastors present as well as the wife of one of the pastors and a staff member from the Narnia Center in Moscow. Wellshire provided space so that everyone gathered could hear from our Russian guests repeatedly. We had round tables on a number of vital issues and, for a second year, a best-practices panel from both the Russian side and the American side. Beginning last January, Dora Lodwick and I have been working on six modules of partnership training materials to help teams prepare for visits to their Russian partners. We were able to present a first draft at the end of the conference. We still have much work to do on the materials, but it was good to get feedback as we continue to edit and revise.
Al and I had the joy of seeing our eldest daughter, Allison, get married this past weekend to a fine young man, Drew Warn. The wedding was in Green Bay, with family coming from all over the country. Two of my brothers performed the ceremony, and Meg and Emma were Allison’s bridesmaids. It was a wonderful celebration!
Al and I are currently visiting Detroit Presbytery for the culmination of their month of missions. Each Sunday in October they welcome mission workers in their churches, with a mission breakfast on the last Saturday of the month. We were two of 28 mission workers who participated in this extraordinary event.
I depart for Russia November 2. Next weekend will see a conference for the Roma Mission Network in Kursk, Russia. From Kursk I will travel to Tula for a partner visit. Gary Payton will join me in Moscow mid-month for denominational visits. The Post-Orphanage Conference will be held in Smolensk November 19–20. I return to the States November 22. I ask for your prayers for these different events and for my family holding down the fort back in Wisconsin.
May the Lord be with each of you, this day and always.
Love and blessings,
Ellen (for Ellen and Al)
The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 195