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A letter from Ellen Smith in Germany

Christmas 2011


Dear friends and family!

С Рождеством Христовым и Новым Годом! Frohe Weihnachten und ein gutes Neues Jahr! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We send you greetings from Berlin, our new home.  We moved here at the end of July, after returning to the field from itineration. We spent a wild summer juggling groups in Russia and sorting through what we had stored in Moscow. Colleagues in Berlin found us an unfurnished apartment ahead of our arrival. We spent the first month in Berlin getting to know the inventory at IKEA and learning a lot about building kitchens. We are now comfortably settled and have enjoyed getting to know our community. We have found a church home at St. George’s Anglican Church. The congregation is friendly and welcoming, even expressing a strong interest in the Twinning Program. They have asked me to preach in January and give a presentation on the ministry in Russia.

We have taken this Advent season to step back and recover from a very busy fall, full of travel. I have had a trip to the United States for the Russian Mission Network meeting, plus trips to Russia for partner visits, the last followed by a trip to Turkey for a conference with fellow mission co-workers from Europe and Central Asia. Al also traveled to Russia for the 6th annual Roma Network meeting and on to Turkey. I now travel into Russia with a full agenda and have to stay focused, but that’s how I prefer it when I have to be away from Al and Emma. We have friends in Moscow who have welcomed me into their home while I am in Russia, and the partners and I are keeping in touch across the borders.   

Al speaks German, and Emma is rapidly picking up the language. People ask me about my German skills. As of yet they are nonexistent, but I have managed to find both English and Russian speakers in our local shops.   Still, I am pondering this issue. The little German I have picked up interferes with the Russian that is in my head. Perhaps if I study German in parallel with Russian, which I need to work on anyway, it will not be such a problem.

Our girls are all doing well. Emma is now attending a German public school taught in both English and German.  Emma is thriving in this new environment. She is in a Tae Kwon Do club and a drama club, as well as a photography class after school. She has made friends and found her niche. Our older girls are both in the States. Allison and her husband, Drew, continue to live in Sheboygan, Wis. Meg is now a junior at Hastings College, staying very busy with academics and extracurricular activities. She was able to spend a month in Ireland in the fall researching the architecture of an ancient church with an Irish Fellows grant.  

On the Russian front, the camp in Smolensk is nearly complete. They are busy with finishing work at this point. In August they submitted an application for a Thank Offering grant to help with the purchase of furniture, kitchen equipment, toilets, sinks and showers.  If the Thank Offering grant is approved, it will be possible to open the camp in May for a second Marriage Ministry conference and use it for a full summer schedule. There is a waiting list of churches in central Russia that would like to use the facilities for camps, youth conferences, women’s conferences, pastors’ conferences, etc. It is now a year-round facility, so a wide array of ministry is possible. It is very beautiful, built with much love and faith.

We look forward to 2012 with anticipation. I will be back in Russia often. If you are planning to bring a team over this year, we need to know your plans as early as possible so we can plan our travel too.  We hope to schedule the next post-orphanage conference for this fall and are beginning to talk about the 2012 Russian Mission Network meeting.

We ask for your prayers—for the Thank Offering proposal submitted by the Smolensk church, for our strength and stamina as we live into the new model of ministry, for discernment as Al explores ways to expand the Roma ministry westerly and develop new areas of ministry in Berlin. With the new pattern of mission funding, your contributions are even more important than in the past. If your church is already contributing to our DMS (Directed Mission Support) account, know that we are deeply grateful. If not, might you or your church consider making a contribution?

It has been a long time since we have sent out a hard-copy newsletter. We write often, but the letters go out by email. If you are not on our email list but would like to be, please send us an email at either ellen.smith@pcusa.org or al.smith@pcusa.org.

This letter is very late going out. If it does not reach you before Christmas or before the New Year, remember that we and many brothers and sisters in Christ in Russia will be celebrating Christmas on the 7th of January.

We wish you all the peace of Christ this day and in the coming year.

With love and blessings,

Ellen & Al

(Alan) The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 275
(Ellen) The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 285
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