A letter from Al Smith in Germany
August 23, 2011
Greetings from Berlin! We have now been in our new apartment for about four weeks, and, although there are still a few minor details to work out with the furniture, at least we’re not doing our dishes in the bathtub anymore. Emma started 9th grade at the John F. Kennedy School yesterday; never was a student happier to get back to school. We are slowly learning our way around the neighborhood, and working out the finer points of bicycling as a primary form of transportation. All in all we have been busy since our arrival.
Our ministry work took a back seat temporarily because of the move, but it continues. Ellen departs tomorrow for her first of many trips to Moscow, as all three of us get accustomed to this new model for her ministry. Meanwhile, I am exploring my new assignment. Officially, I am now the “Coordinator for Minority Outreach/Evangelism,” in partnership with the Berliner Missionswerk. Last week Ellen and I, together with my regional liaison, Burkhard Paetzold, met with Mr. Wolfgang Iskraut of Berliner Missionswerk to discuss ways we might work together. I am sure there will be many such meetings since this is a new position and no one knows exactly what it should look like. Sometimes I wish for the certainty that I used to have teaching math in the same classroom every day, but I am looking forward to the new challenges ahead.
Meanwhile, back in Russia, our brothers and sisters, both Roma and Russian, continue to work to bring the Good News to Roma communities there. I have been receiving updates all summer from our colleague Andrey Beskorovainiy regarding his work. His most recent email included photographs from the children’s camp he put on in June outside of his home city of Kursk. This is the second summer they have put on the camp—last summer they barely had 30 kids in camp, because Roma parents are typically reluctant to leave their children in the care of others. However, after the success of last year’s camp, he quickly had over 50 children sign up for this year’s camp. Despite constant rain that forced the camp, originally scheduled for 10 days, to close after only 4 days, Andrey regards the camp as a success: he writes that the kids helped and supported each other in spite of the weather, and that they were eager to pray in public.
Andrey and his staff were disappointed that the camp had to close early after all of their work in preparing for it, but it turned out that the early closure had a hidden benefit. After they returned to Kursk, they received a call requesting their assistance with an evangelization that was going on simultaneously in Tula, several hundred kilometers away. All disappointment vanished as they jumped in the van and set off for Tula. “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
In addition to evangelizations, summer camps, pastoring his own congregation, and farming to support his family, Andrey is also the main force behind the semiannual leadership conferences for leaders active in Roma ministry. May’s conference was dedicated to the theme “Bible, Sin and Salvation,” with guest lectures addressing that theme. As always, much time was also devoted to worship and praise, as well as planning for the coming months. The next conference will take place November 4–6, also in Kursk, and we ask for your prayers that this conference will be as successful as the May conference. I would also ask for your prayers for Andrey: although he is a man of immense strength and energy, the multiple demands on him have been wearing him down. He was briefly hospitalized this summer for exhaustion. Please pray that God will give him both strength and wisdom to pace himself.
As always, the Roma ministry is in need of your prayers, and if you feel so moved, your financial support. Contributions can be sent through the PC(USA) offices in Louisville, to ECO #E040061. Please specify “for Russian Roma” on the memo line of your check. With your help, our visions for the future of the ministry can become reality.
May God bless each of you in all of your endeavors.
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 203
The 2012 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 275