On The Ground

As we approach St Petersburg by air, we near the end of our 24 hour journey getting here. As expected, it was a journey that was filled with the unexpected

Packing decisions continued right to the point of departure. Decisions had to be made on what items were more critical than others to make weight limits and to stay within the capacity of our luggage. Several trips to the scale were made with the “Big Green Monster”, the duffel bag carrying a lot of the donated supplies, a kickball, and a playground parachute for the kids at the VBS camp in Vyborg. But finally, on Thursday morning, Alyssa was at our front door to drive us to Minneapolis–there was no more time to work on the trip planning or anything else in our lives that seemingly mattered; it was time to go!

As we reached Minneapolis, our first unexpected challenge occurred when Alyssa’s sister texted that Alyssa had forgotten a bag of necessary medications on her bed. While we shared the immediate sense of dread and hopelessness she felt we all started thinking of the possibilities to overcome this setback. Long story short, Alyssa’s dad drove the bag of medications up to Minneapolis, an exchange occurred at the curb in front of the airport, and this event would not even have had to have been mentioned except it provides a great illustration of how all things are possible with God. (For Alyssa’s dad to drop whatever he was doing to play the “hero” and answer to prayers for a solution to this problem was also a great illustration of why we celebrate Fathers Day and is also a great analogy of how our Father in heaven solved the “problem” of our sin!)

I could also give you details of dealing with Dan drawing blood after hitting his head on a low-hanging luggage compartment door as we left the plane in Brussels, Belgium, or realizing that because of the hour delay in departing Newark, we may not have had a chance to make it to our connecting flight to St Petersburg. But as I write this, St Petersburg is coming into view, and we will soon be with the rest of the team.

Thank you, Lord, for a safe journey! We look forward to meeting more members of your family of believers and in doing your work!

50.8599° N, 4.4741° E

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Russia – Anticipation

John 20:21 – So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

A suitcase of school supplies

A suitcase full of school supplies

We are only a couple days from boarding our planes that will take us to Russia! Our flights leave on July 18th and we will arrive in Russia on July 19th. These last days have been filled with packing two weeks of clothing and supplies into a little carry-on……but we have done it! We are bringing with us notebooks and crayons and other school supplies to give to the children in Russia, whom we are so excited to meet! Please pray that our flights over go well and that God will prepare us for the journey ahead.

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Notes from the Edge of the World Rev. Matthew Heise (October 2013)

The Lutheran Church-Missouri (October 2013)

The Lutheran Church-Missouri (October 2013)


Above: The path through the woods to the seminary

Above: The path through the woods to the seminary


The Fork in the Road   When I first began teaching at the Ingrian Lutheran Seminary ten years ago, my biggest fear was in not knowing when to get off the bus. Honestly. I needed to take a 45-minute bus ride from St. Petersburg into the countryside, and I was always afraid I that would get off at the wrong stop and have to ask for directions. As you all know, men don’t ask for directions! And plus, I would be asking for directions in Russian. With my American accent. In the countryside. Where people are naturally suspicious, let alone towards one asking for a Lutheran seminary in an Orthodox country!

So I was always relieved when I saw the fork in the road. The previous theological educator, Rev. Douglas Reinders, had coached me to recognize it when I saw it. So as that great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “When you see the fork in the road—take it!” And so I did, making my way up the hill and through the woods and onto the seminary campus.

Now after ten years of teaching at the seminary, I have come to another fork in the road, metaphorically speaking. After much prayer and contemplation, I have decided to leave the Office of International Mission of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Suffice it to say, I am completely at peace with my decision and really believe that the Lord is leading me onto different paths now.

Above: Mural painted by a Russian German Lutheran —his memory of the removal of the cross from a Lutheran village church—Communists hold a sign that says, “Religion is the opiate of the people.”

Above: Mural painted by a Russian German Lutheran —his memory of the removal of the cross from a Lutheran village church—Communists hold a sign that says, “Religion is the opiate of the people.”

     What will I do? Future Plans    I will be finishing my work overseas and coming home at the end of the calendar year. And the next step? —Beginning the writing of my dissertation. Some of you are aware that I have made great progress in researching my topic which is entitled “My Brother’s Keeper: How American Lutherans Attempted to Keep the Russian Lutheran Church Alive: 1921-1937.”  I have been blessed with access to previously secret documents that tell stories of the great faith of Russian Lutherans in a very dark time.  I believe that this is a history whose time has come— it should be told. But until I return to America, I will still keep you updated on the missions with which we are engaged. (You didn’t think you could get rid of me that easily, did you)? Then I will write a concluding newsletter in January 2014.

I cannot begin to thank those of you who have shared this journey of missions and faith with me for the past twelve years, but there will still be time to do that in the next few newsletters. Meanwhile, please do not send any more support for me as I am sufficiently funded until the end of my time on the field.


New Class at the Ingrian Lutheran Seminary

Above: Students and staff in the dining hall

Above: Students and staff in the dining hall


In my Introduction to the New Testament class, we had the privilege of using a new Lutheran Heritage Foundation (LHF) translation, F.F. Bruce’s classic The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? I have long searched for good translations to explain how we received our Bible and now thanks to LHF, have been able to put one to good use.

Prayer Requests:

So many people hurting physically. Please keep in your prayers Pastor Alexey Shepelov and Cousin Shawn Nunnink, both people of great Christian faith who are real fighters. Please also pray for peace and comfort to our cleaning lady, Olga Olegovna, whose husband Anatoly passed away this past week. You may remember Anatoly from my newsletters as the one with whom I would have conversations about the weather. Anatoly was always disappointed when it wasn’t colder, even if it was already -10 Fahrenheit!! I just know that the Lord greeted him with a brisk heavenly snowstorm, much to his delight! Rest in His peace, Brother Anatoly.

Please also pray for safe travels to Moscow, Tbilisi, and on to Mongolia in November.

Thank the Lord with me for the great opportunity I have had these past twelve years to serve Him in His Mission overseas.

Posted in General | Comments Off on Notes from the Edge of the World Rev. Matthew Heise (October 2013)

Notes from the Edge of the World Rev. Matthew Heise (Sept, 2013)


Missionary for The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod  September 2013

Missionary for The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod September 2013

Above: The hills of Armazi, off to the left.

Above: The hills of Armazi, off to the left

What Cain hath wrought- Murder and Brutality in the Past It almost seemed eerily appropriate that as I reached the summit of the mountain, the wind began to howl and blow fiercely, as if wanting to add my number to the victims whose lives ended so tragically up there. The citadel and temple ruins here date back to about the 6th century B.C., when pagan Iberian tribes roamed the area not too far from Mtskheta, Georgia. The Scythians passed through here, as did Julius Caesar’s son-in-law, General Pompey, who controlled the citadel for a time. The area was known as Armazi, most likely a word connected to pagan forerunners of the Iranians, but in truth no one really knows.

From the edge of the mountain, one could still see the slab where human sacrifices were carried out, the bodies no doubt unceremoniously tossed down the steep slopes into the canyon below. I could sense palpable evil from the past as I walked there. Words fail me when confronted with what must have been unspeakable horror taking place in a quiet, beautiful countryside.

Traveling through these ancient lands, I often get a sense of all the people who have come before me. I wondered as I took in the sites around Armazi—what would make a person think that he could appease what he considered to be gods by murdering a human being and then discarding him like so much rubbish?

Above: The slab where human sacrifices took place in B.C. Georgia

Above: The slab where human sacrifices took place in B.C. Georgia

What God hath wrought- through Christ!   Mongolian pagan altars have also remind me of these sacrifices, and before we get too sanctimonious in the West, don’t get me started on our modern equivalent of abortion. But here the place was so silent and the landscape stunning. It led me to wonder all the more how God, addressing His rebellious children, sent His Son who became The Sacrifice for us all. “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners,” Paul tells us in Romans 5:8, “Christ died for us.” He didn’t find a scapegoat; He didn’t toss so many human bodies off a mountainside. He, the Son who participated in the Creation of the universe, Himself became The Sacrifice. Now, words fail me but in a most grace-filled sense!

How Christ comes to us in the Present   One week previously, I had the opportunity to share with our Lutheran believers in Kutaisi how our present sufferings will not compare with the glory that our Lord Jesus will reveal to us. After the preaching of the Word, we had the chance to partake of the Eucharist, where our Lord came to us in His body and blood. After my trip to Armzai, I was grateful that much has changed in Georgia throughout the centuries. Pagan rituals of human sacrifice, a brutal communist regime for close to seventy years, all of this has given way to an opportunity to share the

Above: Communion in Kutaisi’s Lutheran congregation

Above: Communion in Kutaisi’s Lutheran congregation

forgiveness and peace that Christ brings to us through His Word and Sacrament.

Prayer Requests:  I have two prayer requests for health. Pastor Alexey Shepelov had a minor stroke recently but is now recovering in Moscow. This stroke had nothing to do with the recent successful brain surgery he had in Israel. I hope to see him in October.

Above: A cross, placed in the ancient citadel, symbolizing Christ’s victory over paganism.

Above: A cross, placed in the ancient citadel, symbolizing Christ’s victory over paganism.

Please also pray for Cousin Shawn. She is getting discouraged and the health reports have not been good lately. I had the chance to see her and her kids this summer in Kansas City, as well as her mother. (Her mother is my first cousin; Shawn is my first cousin, once removed). It was a joy to visit with them and pray for her. Please keep Shawn and Alexey in your prayers, praying for good health and God’s peace.




Please pray for my flight to St. Petersburg on Thursday from Tbilisi through Kiev. Also pray for my upcoming class on the New Testament at the Ingrian Lutheran Seminary in Russia.

Above: Edge of the citadel

Above: Edge of the citadel

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Sunday, the waterpark

On Sunday morning a few of our group woke early for a 6am run. They report that downtown is empty at that time and that the Alamo is much smaller than they had imagined. After breakfast we grabbed food from our bins and were off to the Schlitterbahn waterpark in nearby New Braunfels, TX. Although we left in a torrential downpour, by the time we got situated inside the park, the rain and drizzle had ended, and we enjoyed an uncharacteristically cool morning (by Texas standards). The cooler weather and clouds protected us from major sunburns and burnt feet as we walked about from one ride to the next. The waterpark had plenty of slides, rides, rivers, waves, and pools to keep us busy and entertained for the next few hours. As we arrived, each person received three wristbands, one for entry, one for lunch, and one for a snack. The meals were filling, and snacks of pretzels and Blue Bell ice cream gave everyone enough energy to slide and swim for the rest of the afternoon.

Upon our return to the hotel, the Grace group split into family groups for a supper out and time to explore the city. A variety of of cuisines was consumed, including Italian, Irish, and American burgers. Most groups then wandered around the Riverwalk for a bit, taking in the sites and visiting a few souvenir shops.

We ended the evening with a group meeting to go over the plans for the next day, and headed to bed.

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