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Undiminished Anticipation and Great Expectancy

Holiday Greetings from Ellen and Al Smith, serving the people of Eastern Europe, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, based in Germany

Christmas 2017

 to Al Smith
Write to Ellen Smith

Individuals: Give online to E200406 for Alan and Ellen Smith’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507149 for Alan and Ellen Smith’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).


Dear Friends and Family,

Thanksgiving is only just past and the church year has only just ended with Christ the King Sunday. With the coming of Advent, we begin the new journey of the new church year with anticipation and preparation. Let us pause in these in between days, between Christ the King Sunday and the first Sunday of Advent, to express our heartfelt thanks for your prayers, your notes of encouragement, your friendship, your partnership in the ministry we have been called to and your financial support. A year ago, we were on the same verge of something new, with expectation and hope. This has been a hard year in many ways, but our hope remains undiminished, for our hope is in the Lord and He is steadfast. Let us enter the days of Advent with undiminished anticipation, with great expectancy for what the Lord has prepared for us in the new year.

Both of us travelled to Russia at the beginning of November, Ellen for a series of meeting with partners, and Al for the annual Roma leadership conference in Kursk. This year’s conference marked the tenth year that the conference has been held in Kursk, at the former Baptist seminary there. It is, in many ways, an ideal site, as there is not only space for presentations and worship, but also kitchen and dining facilities, as well as dormitory space. We have been very grateful to the Russian congregation of Grace Church for being willing to host this event, especially given that they have always charged a mere fraction of the going rate for their services.

Attendance at this year’s conference surpassed all previous years, with some attendees even coming from Belarus and Ukraine. A number of the attendees, including the featured speaker, came from Pentecostal, rather than Baptist, congregations. Our colleague, Andrey, has always maintained that interdenominational differences matter less than what we share in Christ, a point of view that is not always shared by other Christians in Russia (or elsewhere). Everyone involved displayed mutual respect and understanding, and our unity in Christ was plain for all to see.

Connecting is important. The annual Roma conference is important, because it brings people together from great distances, people who are engaged in often lonely ministry. We remember the reaction of our Russian colleagues when Al began working with the Roma—what for? They don’t ask that anymore. They have become aware of a vibrant Christian community with a profound witness.

Connections are important. Your brothers and sisters in Christ, Roma and Russian, invite you to come and visit and become connected. Ministry is often lonely everywhere. Coming together brings us out of that loneliness.

We are looking ahead to 2018, and we wonder about your plans. This year, Russia will host the World Cup. We experienced the preliminaries this past summer and are aware of the challenges because of added security. Added security is a good thing, but it can cumbersome. It will take more planning this summer and it would help us to know if and when you might be hoping to visit. The World Cup is not a reason not to come, but we might suggest that some times are better than others. We hope to see many of you.

From our house to yours, we send our warmest wishes for Advent blessings, Christmas joy and a good slide (Guten Rutsch) into the New Year.

With love in Christ,
Ellen & Al

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