Sunday, July 22, 2012

We Made it to Ecuador

Pillmans in EcuadorWe praise the Lord that we are finally here in Ecuador! We could see God’s hand of blessing and protection at work in the trip down, even in little details like not getting charged for our second bags.  Nathanael did well, considering the long day of travel he had.
Nathanael in blanket
Since arriving in Cuenca, we have been enjoying reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. We have also been working on finding a car and a house or apartment to rent. In the meantime, we are living in a mission home owned by the bilingual school next to the church. It is a lovely place and we feel blessed to be able to stay here for the interim.

One of the new friends we have been able to meet is a young married couple who are new to the faith. We have been blessed by their hunger for God and hope to be able to continue to encourage their growth in the future. We have already been blessed by their relationship, as the man has graciously volunteered his time to drive us around Cuenca to look at cars and help us properly register our visas (a long process).

Keep us in prayer as we continue to adjust to our new surroundings. Patricia is striving to absorb as much Spanish as she can, while Nathanael continues to get used to the strange new surroundings. We thank God for each of you!

Love in Christ,

Justo, Tricia and Nathanael

Editor’s note:  You can read some specific prayer requests and praises for the Pillman’s here as well as see some more photos.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Barb Schierkolk’s Father Dies

Dear friends,

Barb's father, Rev. Lowell Sheldahl, passed away on Monday morning, July 16th, at about 5:30am surrounded by his wife, Jan, and his two daughters, Barb and Linda.  Barb's brother Mark had also been able to be with his father many times over the last couple weeks of his life.  Lowell was 75 years old.  Along with several other diseases Lowell had battled Parkinson's disease for the last fifteen years.  He was diagnosed with terminal cancer the end of April.  While we were surprised at how quickly he declined from the time we arrived to help out, Lowell had told us that he had prayed he would die while we were here in Oregon.  His heavenly Father granted that desire.

Lowell and Jan served as missionaries with the ALC and were called to Japan in 1962.  After 9 years they returned to the U.S. and Lowell served a church in Wisconsin.  God then called him to serve a parish in southern Australia.  His last two years in Australia were spent on an Aboriginal mission in tropical northern Australia which he remembers as a time of great spiritual impact in the community.  He returned to the U.S. in 1982.  After serving churches in Illinois and Indiana, Lowell joined the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and served his final congregation in Kelso, WA.  One interesting note is that Lowell's grandparents (Barb's great-grandparents) are buried at the cemetery connected with Salem Lutheran Church in Radcliffe, IA.

Lowell was always very encouraging and supportive of our missionary aspirations.  He and Jan willingly carried the burden of having their only grandchildren for 12 years outside of the United States.  We were all delighted with the arrival of two more dear grandchildren from Barb's brother and his wife.  He left us with many wonderful memories and a lasting legacy of love and service for His Savior and he will be greatly missed.

Thanks so much for all of your comforting and encouraging notes and for your prayers for all of our family as we walk through these days.

In Christ,

Todd and Barb Schierkolk

Editor’s note:  Lowell Sheldahl passed away on the Morning of July 16th.  Please keep Barb and her family in your prayers as they prepare for his funeral on August 2 at Trinity Covent Church in Salem, OR.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ukraine Update

One year ago, we said our goodbyes and began our adventure to Ukraine. It is hard to believe that it has already been a year. By God’s grace, we have met and come through various adventures and challenges. By God’s grace, we have experienced a wealth of blessings for which we are so thankful for. We are so humbled that God has called us here for this time in our lives. It truly is a privilege to serve Him.

Right now we are thankful to be hosting the EEMN English Language camp team here in Ukraine. Their purpose is to teach English, plant seeds of the Gospel, make friendships, and support the Youth Center’s local ministry. By God’s grace, this will happen over the course of their two weeks of camp. Please pray for all the students that come, that God’s Word would penetrate and make alive. Please pray also for the American team. Pray for strength as they will face jet lag, culture shock, spiritual warfare, and other issues that could prevent their work. For updates on the camps, click here.

I (Andy) am excited to share a number of ministry updates. Things are progressing very well for the Bible School. In a recent conversation with my co-worker Ole Magnus, he said with a knowing smile, “It’s almost as if God is in this.” And He is. We really believe this because doors are opening that only He could open. I mentioned before that in June, all the Bishops of the Lutheran Churches from the former ELCROS (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and other States) met in Odessa. There were about 10 Bishops in attendance representing their country, or region of Russia. We hosted them at the Youth Center for a presentation and meal. It was a wonderful time and they were very interested in the project. The day after the council ended, Pastor Alexander Gross told me the news: 1)The Bishops’ council decided to close their Seminary in St. Petersburg (though this will not be official until the General Synod meets in September); 2) All future seminary students will attend our Bible School in Odessa as a prerequisite for the new correspondence-based seminary course. This will open the door for us to receive students from all parts of the Russian-speaking world. As you can imagine, this is a big open door for our school and give us an opportunity to ground future leaders in the Word of God. Praise God for his guidance and open door. 

We continue to prepare for the start of the school this fall. Right now there are potentially 8 students. However, only a few of them have officially completed the registration process. Please pray that these young men and women would press on, and accept the challenge and opportunity to study the Bible for this year. 

It has become increasingly obvious to us that our time to move out to Petrodolina will be sooner rather than later. Our team is there. Our work is there. Please pray for housing for us.  We are hoping to find a house nearby the Youth Center property. This would be a blessing for our family, and we hope for our ministry as well.

Thank you for your prayers for us and this ministry. You are a vital part of this mission!

In Jesus' Love,
Andy and Monica, Moriah, Isaiah and Josiah

To read the rest of the Coyle’s newsletter, click here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finding Hope

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”  Is 43:1a

At this moment many of you are enjoying the sweet days of summer—planning vacations, enjoying week-end visits to the cabin, going to Family Camp and spending time with family. There is something wonderfully restoring in this time of year. Here in Brazil, even though we are going in the opposite direction weather wise (ever day is a little cooler than the last), we are seeking that same rest and relaxation form the Lord. Praise the Lord, it isn’t dependent on the sun shine or the thermometer, but on the work of the Holy Spirit!

Last month had more than it’s fair share of excitement here in the Miriam Home. In the June newsletter I told you about the Three Musketeers who arrived on our door step. Just two days later we had to Nicole to the hospital. She became stiff as a board and didn’t seem to see anything (her eyes were open, but didn’t focus, or follow objects). We were so afraid that it was something like meningitis, but the cause was simpler (but no prettier), she was going through a withdrawal crises. Her mother had been breast feeding her, and through her milked shared every drug and drink she had taken. Nicole was in the intensive care unit for three days, and in the weeks since she has become a different baby. She is showing her own little personality, playing with the other children, cuddling with the house moms, happy to eat and in just three weeks she has already grown. The one thing Nicole still doesn’t do easily is smile. She is a serious little girl - and in her short life time she has experienced plenty to be serious about! But we know that the joy of Lord is Nicole’s strength, and His Holy Spirit is reaching out to this young heart!

On the other end of the spectrum we have Daisy and Larissa. Both are 17 and are the oldest members of our family. Considering that these girls have been living in the Miriam Home for months now (for Daisy it is actually years, since she lived here before) because their families were unable or unwilling to care for them, they are doing pretty well. Larissa attends one of the best private schools in Campo Mourao, on a scholarship because of her grades. Daisy just received a two year contract to work with one of the biggest companies in the city and will be receiving on the job training in office work and administration.

Of course, it is difficult to be a teen-ager and not have problems. Larissa has set her own limits and bounders for years. She has been frustrated by the fact that while she is in the Miriam Home she is not allowed to date, that she has to share her room with two other girls and that they are responsible for cleaning the room every day.

Daisy’s problems are very different.  Daisy has a real love for the Lord and a desire to serve Him. Because of  extreme abuse as a child she also carries  a great deal of fear around. While she is very excited about her job  she has also been intimidated. A new job, surrounded by people she did not know, doing jobs she had never done before. What if they didn’t like her?  What if she couldn’t do what they wanted her to do? They are the same fears all of us face but for Daisy they were nearly crippling.

Another, old fear popped up when Daisy was told she would have to appear before the juvenile judge. Her maternal aunt was requesting custody,  now that may sound like a good thing but Daisy has lived with her aunt before and knows the woman’s intentions (she tried to involve Daisy in prostitution). Daisy knew the judge wouldn’t force her to go to her aunt, she also knew that Surai and Silvio (the administrator and director of the Miriam Home) were working with the judge on her behalf, but all that she knew was not stronger than the fear she felt.

It is natural that Larissa and Daisy, being the same age, are best buds in the house. Unfortunately, for a awhile instead of encouraging each other they were affirming the fear and frustration each was experiencing. For several weeks both began spiraling downward in depression, acting out in ways that put them in serious danger. Just three weeks ago the girls reached a point of crises and Praise the Lord, they decided to return to the hope of the Father. Day by day we see them opening up to talk and receive counseling. They are taking part  in activities in the Miriam Home and at church and are finding a true source of joy once again!

To read the rest of Jonni’s July newsletter, please click here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Update on Barb Schierkolk’s Father

We are currently on the West Coast with Barb's family . . . waiting.  We came out a couple weeks ago to help with Barb's father who is on hospice care.  We have had some wonderful moments with her father and family.  We thought he was leaving us twice in this last week.  But he is still here with us  . . . waiting and hoping for Jesus to take him soon.

The Lord called Barb's parents first to Japan as missionaries where Barb was born, and then to Australia.  Barb has often joked that if you look on the bottom of her foot you'll see a stamp that says "Made in Japan."  Her parents, Lowell and Jan, served their last couple of years on an Aboriginal mission in the northern tropics of Australia where Barb sensed God calling her to follow in her mom and dads' footsteps as a missionary.  It has been wonderful to share many memories of missionary days gone by with Lowell.  And soon he will get to see the Savior he told so many about in several parts of the world.

Thanks so much for your prayers for us and Barb's family in these days as we wait . . . with hope.

In Christ,

Todd and Barb Schierkolk