Dear praying friends,

I realize not all of you “follow” me on Facebook or my blog, or receive the Stoneworks newsletters (let me know if you want to sign up). Therefore, here is an update on what I’ve been up to for the past several months.

In the fall I received my residency permit, and then I got sick several times, so it’s hard to even remember what else was going on at that point. Well, except for a few tidbits…

The truth is that I’m married! But here’s a more explanatory version:

In late August 2010 I started dating a close friend from church, Andrei. This was a much-anticipated move and an answer to our prayers. We’ve been very encouraged by everyone’s positive response and support as we move forward.

Andrei is an elder at our church and teaches Philosophy, Religion, Cultural Studies, Politics, and other subjects in 3 local universities. He leads our small group at church and organizes lectures and excursions as a ministry to friends as well as local students.

In January 2011 we announced our engagement at church and the pastor exhorted married couples to invite us to their houses and impart wisdom. So it’s been a fun season of spending time with married couples in our church and gleaning from what they have to share.

Our wedding in St. Petersburg is planned for July 30th, 2011. But our civil ceremony has already taken place: we were legally married in a St. Petersburg wedding palace on April 17th, 2011. We still have a lot to do to prepare, but everything has gone smoothly so far. We make it a point to celebrate even “small” victories so that we can give thanks and glory to God. So we wanted to share with you that this step, at least, is complete.


Remember my year-long journey to receive a temporary residency permit? Well, a new last name means a new passport…which means, goodbye to those precious stamps in my current passport. I’m currently in the process of transferring everything. THIS week I hope to have everything more or less sorted out.

Andrei recently received his new passport in order to travel abroad. That’s one victory! Right now we are working on a visa for him in order to visit the U.S. this summer after our church ceremony. We are aware that he might be denied a visa. We’ll be sad if we don’t get to go, but we are also certain that our plans are in God’s hands.

Witnessing at the orphanage

When you’re a foreigner in Russia, you are often asked about your motives, especially if you are “voluntarily” staying in the country. This is a good excuse to talk about God, but it can also alienate people pretty quickly. Much easier to say you are studying or just checking out the nice architecture, right? I’m still learning how to be bold.

Volunteering at the orphanage is no exception. I often get “stuck” because I can’t take the kids to church with me, nor can I pass out literature or preach in the orphanage. I’m able to speak more freely with the staff when we spend time together, but there are limits there, too. So I often get to a point in conversations where I’m not sure where to go next with leading people to Christ.

With the kids: I tend to tutor them one-on-one, which is most helpful for them and works fine for me, too. Sometimes the kids tell me about their problems, although it’s more often that I overhear a conversation about their troubles. Lots of opportunities to talk about God, right? The problem is that the counselors are always listening, and I’m aware that 1) they are trusting me to do my work, which is to teach English and 2) my speaking about faith could be seen as proselytizing.

With the staff: One of the cafeteria ladies in the orphanage listens to a Christian radio station. Russian Orthodox, of course. One day while having a little lunch, I asked her about the radio station and she offered to turn it down. However, I made it clear that I was a Christian and didn’t mind it playing in the background. This little old lady went on to say how starved she is for spiritual mentoring, that going to the church and hearing the priest’s sermon just isn’t enough. I agreed about the need and mentioned the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But of course her need relates to human contact as well. And what can I do? I thought of maybe giving her a book, but that’s still not the same as having an actual person to hold you accountable. I believe in miracles, but from my experience it’s hard to invite a Russian Orthodox believer to a church outside of their confession. At worst, they are taught that we are the enemy and an evil cult. At best, they might simply be confused by our worship “style.” It seems that I am in need of more boldness, or ministry ideas, or both.

I’ve tutored one of the counselors, Galina, for probably 4 years now. She is a (minimally-practicing) Muslim and you may remember my mentioning her before. She went to the U.S. last summer and now has several Christian families in the States that she keeps in touch with. Recently, she was offered the opportunity to translate for a British missionary team this summer. She’s worried about her vocabulary, so now we are focusing primarily on Christian terminology. I’m not sure if the job will work out for her, but it’s exciting to have a legitimate reason to talk about Christ at our lessons. I’ve actually been able to lay out the Gospel for her. At the first lesson about Christianity, we read through the Apostles’ Creed together to get an outline and some basic terminology. She was amazed about the “eternal life” part. “This is what you believe?” I assured her it was. May the Truth speak to her heart!

The Orthodox Church: I accidentally showed up at the orphanage when they were celebrating Russian Orthodox Christmas back in January. The Sunday school from a local Orthodox church had put together a few skits as well as a musical program. The priest said a few words to the children at the orphanage and said he was glad to see their efforts to grow spiritually.

I thought…this is why I haven’t invited my church to do an outreach there recently. The Orthodox Church has it “covered.” There is always a holiday of some sort in the orphanage, and the kids are just plain overwhelmed by the volume of visitors. I don’t agree with the Orthodox doctrine, but I don’t know if I want to compete with them in terms of special events. So this is another “dilemma” that I struggle with.

And yet, there is so much spiritual hunger, that I doubt it’s possible to love too much; to encourage all of the kids and staff to an excess. I believe that I’m meant to continue ministering there.

If you would like to pray for a specific child or adult at Orphanage #8, please let me know!

The end of an era

I had been visiting the orphanage out in Kolpino as well for the past 7 school years. You may remember that the atmosphere there was always troubling and I struggled with whether or not to keep going and if I was bearing any fruit.

This fall, my dad and I made one visit, but the counselor has a new group and there really wasn’t a group eligible for English lessons. There’s a new director and there just didn’t seem to be an open door.

So I stopped going.

A woman from Kolpino found me online and it turns out that she’s a Christian too and had been visiting the orphanage until recently, but the new director does not allow her to visit now. Is the door closed now, or will God provide some another way? I have no ideas at this point. Maybe the kids will meet Christians at camp this summer; maybe next school year will be different. Meanwhile, I am in touch with several of them online, so I can at least keep track of birthdays and check on how they’re doing.


Seasons in our church calendar come and go. I’m still involved in both worship and Sunday school at the moment. We’ve seen the arrival of 3 new babies this year, and look forward to 3-4 weddings this summer.

One interesting development is that our church is getting a little more “international.” We’ve been joined by another American missionary, as well as a student from Cameroon. I love to see everyone reaching out and helping them feel at “home.” Another family (ethnically Russian) has joined us from Uzbekistan. The husband is studying at seminary and has preached a few times at church, as well as testified about the persecuted church in Uzbekistan. There are lots of Uzbek workers in Russia and we were given some Christian literature (Bibles, etc.) in the Uzbek language that we can hand out if the opportunity arises.

We also talked about missions at Sunday school recently. A church member who had served in another part of Russia shared with the kids about her experience, and then we chose specific countries to pray for. It was great to see the kids becoming aware of the mission field.

Well, those are the main areas that I can think of to share about this time. Here are some more specific prayer needs:

This week: my new passport and transferring my registration

Month ahead:

-finishing up orphanage ministry for this year

-finding an apartment to rent; moving in (me)

-visa to the U.S. for Andrei

May/June/July: wedding planning

Again, let me know if you’d like to pray for a specific child or adult in the orphanage, and I will send you a name! Thank you for your faithfulness!


Elizabeth (Hulley) Sukhovskaya