Posts in Europe
Alan and Ellen Smith - April 2018 Update

In Their Weakness, the Lord’s Light Radiates
For the last 18 years, most of the ministry we have been involved with in Russia has been with small churches. The largest is a church of about 300 members but most are between 12 and 50 members. The 12-member churches are not a part of the partnership program, but they are a rich part of our lives. We have not yet connected American partners with them because the size of most Presbyterian churches could overwhelm them but remember the “not yet.”

I spend time reading about the small church movement and the simple church movement. I think I am drawn to these topics because of our rich experience with the small churches of Eastern Europe. I know the depth of fellowship, the courage and the inspiration of small churches struggling in an often-hostile environment. I need their witness. Their witness is a complex mixture of humility, courage, tenacity and grace.

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Alan and Ellen Smith - October 2017 Update

Dear friends,

After a very busy summer in Russia, Ellen and I are back in the U.S.A. for a couple of months of mission interpretation, combined with a bit of family time and the Russia Mission Network meeting in Pittsburgh at the end of September. Although we have been somewhat overtaken by events over the past few weeks, it is high time to tell you about this year’s Roma children’s camp.

All of the camping programs of our Russian partners have been affected by new legal stipulations. After several tragic mishaps that occurred last summer in secular camps, the state has become much more stringent in enforcing various safety, health and sanitation rules involving children’s camps. These rules can be very specific and sometimes unrealistic especially when the camp involves children staying in tents rather than in fixed cabins. 

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Alan and Ellen Smith - April 2017 Update

Dear friends and family,

People so often ask me what I “do” in Russia. It is a question that never ceases to perplex me, but I always answer in the same way, “I drink tea.” It is not the answer these same people want to hear and sometimes they even get irritated with me, but I can explain (and usually do). Our Russian partners don’t need me to “do.” They want me to visit often, but they generally won’t let me “do” anything. I am cared for at every turn, for Russians have a deep sense of hospitality. Often my visits start at a table over tea, followed by a ride in a car to another church and another pot of tea. And as we drink tea, we talk deeply and listen closely. They share what they are trying to accomplish, what obstacles they perceive, how Christ has led them through such challenges before, and the joys they have in the midst of real struggle.

They want to hear about my walk as well. Isolated during more than 70 years under the Soviet Union, they want to connect and connect deeply. I vividly remember a time when I was trying to organize a marriage seminar that they had asked for. 

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Alan and Ellen Smith (PCUSA) - December 2015 Update

Dear friends and family,

Our part of the world is much in the news these days. In the midst of troubled times, it is important to remember that Christ was born into times such as these and He remains our hope and our compass as we navigate our way. Ellen was in Russia when the airplane en route to St. Petersburg blew up over Egypt. She managed to get to Berlin for a week to explore the refugee crisis. More recently, France has also experienced grief and unrest. The rising levels of fear concern us and the dialogue about refugees has distressed us. People are fleeing violence, seeking refuge and hope. If Christ is within us, what should our response be?

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Alan and Ellen Smith (PCUSA) - November 2014 Update

Dear Friends and Family,

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ! After many weeks on the road, I am finally able to pause and reconnect. I have a lot of catching up to do. Our summer was intense to say the least. All three of us were in Russia for the month of July so that we could support the many groups that visited in spite of the media coverage of the Ukrainian crisis.

 

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Alan and Ellen Smith (PCUSA) - November 2013 Update

Dear Friends and Family,

Almost thirteen years ago, just after our arrival in Russia, I made a trip with Donald Marsden and other colleagues to the city of Surgut in western Siberia. It was March, the beginning of the end of their long winter but still cold and lots of snow on the ground. There are more than one hundred small, native people groups in Russia. Donald had seen the early efforts of missionaries in this region to reach the Khanti people and invited Harold Kurtz to share good missiology as a guide to their efforts.

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