As I said briefly last week, there’s too much from the last month in Russia to share in one Reaching to Russia edition. I’ll break this up into a few smaller pieces and invade your inbox with them over the next two weeks. As I leave for Russia and Ukraine again on August 16 I want to finish with these before I go back and continue some ministry that I know will generate many more stories, testimonies and evidences of God’s work through YouthReach International.
Big Lake, Russia, is a village of 250 or so people located about 370km from Krasnoyarsk, Russia, which is the next major city on the Trans Siberian Railway after Novosibirsk. The village is literally situated on a rise in the land not more than 1000 yards long which separates the “Big Lake” from the “Small Lake” on each side. The air is fresh. The mountains are stunning. The views are breathtaking. For those that have been to Novosibirsk, think Switzerland in comparison.
Our hosts were Ernst and Betsie Toerien as well as their precious 6 month old daughter Nadia. The Toeriens are South African which, until my trip there in November of 2009 and again in May of 2010, would have meant very little to me. From the bottom of the world to the top of the world is literally the path they followed to answer God’s call. To get home they layover in cities like Cairo, Doha and Tehran. Ernst has been serving in Russia since 1994 and has made this village his home for the last many years. It’s a special place for reasons beyond the beautiful scenery, wandering livestock and generally slow pace of village life.
It is most special because it is the last place of hope for the many young people Ernst and his team mentor. Literally, if he were not there then the kids he ministers to would have nowhere to go. Hopelessness would abound and death would be imminent. Children came to the camp (camp meaning they came to live in Ernst and Betsie’s home for two weeks as members of the family sharing meals, reading the Bible, praying, worshipping, working in the garden, taking walks, going swimming, climbing mountains…things that families do) from surrounding orphanages, state run shelters and the streets.
Our team of 13 took thousands of pictures but I think Tim Dunn’s catalog located here captures the gist of my words above. Pictures #70-82 are the actual kids that YouthReach International will very soon include in our orphan sponsorship program. You will hear more about this as the end of summer approaches but why wait till then. Go to www.youthreach.org, watch the YouthReach for a Thousand video. Begin praying now about how God might have you respond. To the many, many of you who already sponsor kids in Ukraine or Russia, I personally thank you. Having been there this summer and seen with my eyes what mentoring is bringing about in their lives, I am chocked full of stories detailing their growth relationally, emotionally, professionally and absolutely spiritually. I’ll share those with you more in the updates to come.
Keep the Toeriens in your prayers. Towards the end of our camp, Betsie and Nadia had to return to South Africa due to visa issues and won’t be back with Ernst again at Big Lakes until October. That’s a long time for a family to be separated. Until you decide how you might partner with us as a sponsor, be in prayer now for their family and their ministry. They are doing a work most worthy of our respect, support and intercession.
As I mentioned briefly in my last “miniscule update,” my mom broke her leg/hip on July 8. She has had surgery, graduated from in patient rehab and is now rehabbing at home with hopes of being mobile, healed and back to normal by Thanksgiving. She has also moved since July 8 from East Point, GA, to Lilburn, GA. That’s a God story within itself and I’ll get to that in a future update. If you would to email her or send her a card, let me know. I’ll give you her new address.
Back from Russia and so grateful to all who gave and prayed (and prayed and gave) to help us go and come back, we are,
The Browne Family
Director of Russian Operations
678-935-0220 x103 Direct
1911 Grayson Hwy, Ste 8-344
Grayson, GA 30017