New Ministry Opportunities & Our Evolving Roles

If you’re not aware of our medical saga which in 2013, began to impact our time of living on the field in Russia, you can get a good glimpse of it in the article, “Medical Malaise & Mission”The evolution of our field roles in Voronezh didn't come overnight, and certainly did not simply result from our medical issues.  In fact, it's been an obvious part of God's design for this ministry, evident and intentional from the beginning.

GennaWeb Gennadiy Petrov on a recent orphanage visit

For our last few years in Russia, politics and propoganda prevented us from directly participating with the team in activities in the orphanages.  Plenty of time is still spent in a support role with the team, but we see our most important ongoing role being in mentoring and leadership development.  And, having now relocated back to Texas, we don't see those roles diminishing.  In fact, we believe our distance has become an asset to the team.  Something we’d been trying to accomplish since the work began in Voronezh has finally come to pass.  Our Russian team and its leadership are taking ownership of the work like never before, and the fruit and momentum are exciting to see.

Gennadiy Petrov, with whom we’ve partnered since the late nineties, is now even more in the forefront of the work, and the team seems to be responding well to his leadership.  We’ve seen major spiritual growth in Gennadiy the past few years, as he has been discipled much more closely by the Baptist bishop in our region who pastors a new church plant Gennadiy is now attending with his wife and daughter.

We are very encouraged by the spiritual growth, not only with team leadership, but also among the 40+ volunteers that serve in the ministry.  The team is as busy as ever before, with You Are Not Alone club now in it’s thirteenth year.  They are also doing at least six orphan camps each year in addition to a camp for children with Down Syndrome and their families, and a camp for families who've fostered and adopted Russian children from the orphanage system.  The team is also continuing to bring the message of Hope through “Day of Joy” programs to the orphanages in the region throughout the year. 
 

Robert’s Role
 
A number of things have resulted from our being stateside much more, particularly during this past year.  As mentioned already, our Voronezh team leadership is making great strides and the work is building momentum.  Stateside, we have become covenant members of The Village Church Fort Worth, where we have received much of our teaching through podcasts while living in Russia, and where I have found restoration for my weary soul, now being able to worship in my heart language and fellowship with people from our own culture for the first time in almost a decade.  In the beginning of 2015 we began the leadership of a home group in our South Fort Worth community as part of our ministry with our church, through which God has added additional mission-minded young people to our mentoring role, some of whom are students at Southwestern Seminary, located just minutes from our home, and some of whom are preparing to deploy overseas. At the beginning of 2016 I also began to serve as an elder of The Village Church Fort Worth which has opened new areas in which to use my gifts.

 

So, in addition to our continued work administering the work in Voronezh, and our role in leadership development and mentoring opportunities God has given us on both sides of the ocean, I’ve now also returned to the role at East-West I held before we moved to Russia, that of equipping and leading teams to the field, as an Associate Area Director, DFW. 
 

Streets of Athens Refugees forced out of their homelands of the Middle East and Africa are eager to hear of a greater Hope.

What does that mean?  The official job summary is this.  I work with the DFW Area Director, providing leadership, direction, and strategy to mobilize and facilitate North American churches and individuals toward participation and partnership in Short-Term Mission Trips.  I’m assisting churches in the Fort Worth area with reaching their missions objectives by helping facilitate partnerships with church-planting projects in foreign fields.  Of course, some of the trips I'm leading involve the Russian field, but because of how our East-West mission focus has evolved while we’ve lived in Russia, many of the teams I’m leading are into areas of the world with restricted access to the gospel, focused on reaching the unreached.

Overlaying very well with this new role, Ann and I have both become involved this past year with ministry to the diaspora, involved both with our church in The North Hill refugee outreach, and World Relief, to enter into the lives of refugees being resettled in Fort Worth.  For so long, the missions world has struggled to figure out how to reach the unreached people of the 1040 Window.  Now, jihadists groups are making that even more challenging, while at the same time, driving people out of the 1040 Window and into our own neighborhoods where there is free access to the gospel. 

For a glimpse into God's heart for the refugee, seldom mentioned in Scripture apart from his heart for the orphan, check out my recent video, now gone viral, "Dyan Comes Home".  I shot and edited this video for The North Hill refugee outreach of our church, The Village Church Fort Worth.

Ann's Role

Much of the focus on our new roles revolves around my new assignment with East-West, shepherding short-term mission teams.  But, Ann's role is obviously shifting as well.  It is our hope that she will be able to join me on some of the short-term teams I'm leading, especially those that involve orphan outreach.  And of course, we will continue to work together in Voronezh, making several trips a year, as we continue our work there in leadership development.  Much of that work includes a key hospitality component of our lives in Russia which is definitely part of Ann's gifting.  Not to mention, her vital role in Russia of mentoring women on our team there.

In addition to her work with our local refugees, mentioned earlier, Ann is also very involved stateside in the work we are doing mentoring young people who are on mission, not only in our own community, but some who God is preparing to go to foreign fields.  She is also teaching preschoolers again in the Sunday School program of our church in Fort Worth, and for those of you who know her well, you know she is definitely in her element there.  And as you can imagine, Ann is an incredible grandmother, and that is by no means a role we take lightly.  Not only do we feel quite privileged to play a role in the nurturing of our grandsons, but we also cherish the role of helping support our kids in the ministry lives in which they're engaged here in their communities.

AnnNonnie Those who know Ann know how blessed our grandsons are to have her as their Nonnie.

So, as you can imagine, this is an exciting time for us, and we pray you are equally excited about continuing to partner with us, supplying the vital prayer and financial support we need to continue to run this race.  As always, the financial needs are substantially more than what normal contributions cover, and now with the extra travel demands of my added role with East-West, our support needs are greater still.  Please review our Financial Update page on this site for a better understanding of these needs and how you can be lifting them up in prayer.
 
2015, marked the twentieth anniversary of my first trip to Russia, and 2016 marked our twentieth year at East-West. We are excited to see how God is taking all He’s taught us in these first two decades of missions experience and leveraging it for His greater glory in the years ahead!  We see such rich opportunities for disciple-making, the call on all our lives, as we shepherd teams of younger missionaries into challenging areas of service, and mentor young believers, not only in Russia, but in our church, and on the college and seminary campuses in our stateside community.

Camp-Team-Waving Fall Orphan Camp 2014

Because the evolution of our roles, particularly in the context of the Russian field, is so closely tied to the growth and evolution of the Voronezh ministry team, I'm closing this article with a few links that will give you a much deeper look into the inner-workings of the Voronezh team.  And, for deeper and more personal insights on the team, please read our web-story, "Fruit-Bearing Fruit, Multi-Generational Discipleship."  I was just re-reading this article, and was once again overwhelmed with emotion, reflecting on what God has done.

Everyone loves pictures and videos, and I don't post near enough myself.  But, the team is continually posting photos and videos to the Russian social media sites which reflect the different facets of ministry in which the team is engaged.  Perusing these sites is a great way to get a current picture of what is going on in the various aspects of the ministry in Voronezh.  Of course the postings and comments are mostly all in Russian, but you're going there for the pictures remember!?!  Pictures form a universal language.  Here are some of the links to these Russian social media sites. 

You Are Not Alone Club

Camp Ministry

Gennadiy Petrov’s “Mercy Fund”