04 April 2016


 This is the Skripnik family, Vica and Sergey.  They are missionaries supported by the Baptist Missionary Association of America.  We are so glad to be partnering with this dedicated family.  Below is also Sergey's mom, myself and Jeff (from the left). 
They do camps through the summer and Sunday school in their area of western Ukraine in a town called Borshiv where there is no Baptist church.  Above is a winter picture.  Each time we go to visit we are always greeted with a wonderful Ukrainian meal.  And they always want us to stay the night in their tiny 3 room apartment.  Ukrainians are just very hospitable.  We've learned a lot from them and are continually blessed with the privilege of serving in this country.

27 November 2015


 Andrew Kelly was the host of our missionary group Thanksgiving celebration.  Andrew & Jenny have a camp way out in the country where they host groups in summer. 
 Andrew cooked the turkey as he always does and everyone else brings the rest.  It was so good.

 Jeff and Jeff.  My Jeff left and Jeff Crane from Kiev.  A reunion of friends, some of which we don't see all year.
 A time of fellowship and catching up on each other's lives. 

This is Jenny our hostess.  She baked many of the desserts.  Such a treat to have pumpkin pie.  Our thanks to them both for giving us this great "taste" of home.

23 September 2015

UKRAINE: "Sounds of Silence and Rumors of War," By Jeff Franks

Russia has been backing separatists at war in Eastern Ukraine, but you’d never know it by watching the evening news. The predominate sounds in Western media seem to be mostly silence. However, here in Ukraine TV, radio talk shows, and newspapers are just abuzz with rumors. Everyone’s on edge about one big question: Will Russia invade? Fighting in Ukraine’s eastern provinces, collectively called Donbas, flares up from time to time, and then dies down.
To date about 8,000 people have been killed and at least twice that number have been wounded, both soldiers and civilians. These figures do not take into account Russian soldiers, whose existence is officially denied. However, no few of them have been transported back to Russia for burial, sadly. More than a million people from Donbas have fled their homes as refugees in Ukraine and Russia.
Recently, General Ben Hodges, Commander of U.S Army in Europe, estimated that there are up to 12,000 Russian soldiers now fighting inside Ukraine, another 50,000 are amassed on Ukraine’s eastern border, and 29,000 more occupy the illegally annexed territory of Crimea. Why does Russia keep this many troops at the ready?
People who think Russian President Vladimir Putin will invade give these reasons:
1) For more than a millennium Ukraine and its capital Kiev (spelled “Kyiv” Ukrainian- style) have been part and parcel of Russian history and therefore of the Russian soul. After all, the ancient state of Kievan Rus’ began under Prince Oleg of Novgorod here in 882 AD.
2) Therefore, many Russian leaders want to return Ukraine to Moscow’s political, social, economic, and cultural control, and not allow her to remain in a Western-leaning orbit.
3) Allowing Ukraine to keep it’s Western stance means it could either become a NATO country or at least could be used as a base for an invasion by others. In Putin’s mind Ukraine must never become a military threat.
4) Allowing Ukraine to trade freely with Europe and the West will lead to a more robust economy and increased trade, like in Poland.. This in tandem with increased political freedom could lead to widespread popular dissatisfaction in Russia, and thus threaten Putin’s authoritarian regime. The only cure for this is invasion, some say.
5) The next president of USA will undoubtedly be more firm and decisive militarily than the current president, and therefore it will be more expedient for Russia to invade Ukraine earlier, rather than later.
Here are some reasons from people who think Putin will not invade Ukraine:
1) The costs far outweigh the advantages. First, Russia cannot risk the West coming to Ukraine’s aid via outright military assistance. It cannot risk NATO’s encroachment up to its very borders. Secondly, increased economic sanctions at this point might turn Russia’s financial tail spin into a horrendous crash.
2) Russia has already won and militarily occupied Crimea. This and their present control of several hundred kilometers of Ukraine’s border can be held ad-infinitum as a buffer against NATO encroachment.
3) Ukraine has borrowed so much money from the Europe and the IMF to bolster their war-footing, that it will take decades to recover economically. Therefore, Ukraine will no time soon become a vibrant trade partner with an economically ailing Europe.
4) Putin is “happy” with a frozen conflict in Ukraine similar to those that Russia engineered in Transnistria in Moldova, and in Abkhazia and North Ossetia in the Republic of Georgia. Perhaps Russia’s intervention in Syria is the very thing Putin is counting on to help the UN Security council “forget” Ukraine as just another frozen conflict.
We and the Baptists of Ukraine have been praying intensely that the reasons for NOT invading Ukraine will take center stage in the minds of the Kremlin’s leaders. We do not rejoice in Russia’s economic distresses, but of late they have helped her leaders to more soberly count the costs of military aggression.
We are also keenly aware that peace in our world comes through strength, both political and economic, but especially military. For the sake of peace in Ukraine we invite you join us in praying that military strength will be used by wise leaders here who know and fear God. Though Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, he is also the only one worthy of the title “Prince of Peace.” Let us remember Ukraine and Russia before Him in our prayers today!

10 April 2015


As printed in the Baptist Trumpet, April 7, 2015:

Since the beginning of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine the Russian propaganda machine has

greatly increased its pressure on Baptists. The truth of what it really means to be a Baptist in

Russia or Ukraine has once again been completely distorted by Kremlin-backed radio,

television, and printed media. Persecution of Baptists began in the 19th century under the

Czars. In the 1930’s, Russian Baptists had to report to “The Commission for the Affairs of

Religious Cults”. Now, just as in past repressions, the name Baptist in Russia has come to be

synonymous with “enemy of the people”, “that American sect”, something entirely foreign and

even sinister.

In America it is natural that names and labels should hold different meanings for different

people. Here some happily call themselves “conservative”, and others are pleased with the

name “liberal”. And so it is here with the name Baptist. But in Russia and especially in Eastern

Ukraine, the very survival of believers is at stake. Before returning to the subject of repression,

let us reflect for a moment on just what it means for you and me to be Baptists.

Many of us are proud to be Baptists because of our belief in the Holy Bible as the inerrant and

sole source of truth. What higher standard could there be for life and for the practice of faith? If

anyone among us does not believe that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of

God,” then let him deny this noble name! Is there any among us who does not believe that

Jesus Christ is God the Son, co-equal in his divinity with the Father and with the Holy Spirit?

Let him think what he will, but let him not have the honor of carrying the venerated name of


Therefore, I am grieved today that the highest authorities in Russia have become the source of

the latest repression against this noble name. I am grieved because of the wonderful friends

we’ve made among the Russians both before and during our missionary journey. Though we

have lived in Ukraine, we have friends among the ethnic Russians who live there. How is it that

the world does not know that a great many of them are patriotic citizens of Ukraine? Our

journey has taken us to Russia, and to many of the republics of the former Soviet Union. In all

of these places we have been honored to make friends among those who proudly call

themselves Baptist, and who hold to our cherished values. Sadly, they are once again

becoming the victims of state-sponsored repression.

In a previous article for the Trumpet I wrote about Alexander Turchynov, the Ukrainian Baptist

minister, who became the interim president of Ukraine when Moscow’s favorite, Victor

Yanukovich, was deposed. Perhaps this fact alone became the stumbling stone which led to

Russia’s targeting of the Baptist name.

Recently, a Ukrainian friend told me about a billboard he had seen near Moscow’s international

airport. Posted there were three portraits and the words: Jimmy Carter is a BAPTIST, Bill

Clinton is a BAPTIST, and Alexander Turchynov is a BAPTIST. Three undeniable innuendos

that lead to two wrong conclusions: First, that America was behind the Maidan revolution which

removed Russia's man and placed America's puppet in the seat of power. Second, the Baptist

faith is American and undermines Russia's national interests. Both of these lies have become

the oft-repeated refrain of the Kremlin’s propaganda machine.

What is at stake? I believe the most condemning answer was in two simple words:

“PROPAGANDA KILLS”, carried on the placards of protesters who rallied against the late

February murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

In Ukraine's Luhansk and Donetsk regions, Baptist pastors and church members have been

kidnapped, tortured, and killed because of their faith. Churches have lost their buildings to

Russian-backed fighters who have converted them into field headquarters, gyms, barracks, and

make-shift hospitals. Others have been completely destroyed.

Finally, for us who cherish our defining values, let us pray that the renewed repressions of our

brothers and sisters in Russia and Ukraine will only showcase the surpassing value of their

genuine faith as Baptists: faith in Christ and in his Word! (1 Peter 1:7)

05 March 2015

WHO CARES? By Jeff Franks

Why should we in the West and Europe be the slightest bit concerned about the assassination February 27, 2015 of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in the shadow of the Kremlin?  Precisely because Nemtsov was one of the few Russians who dared to voice his opposition and expose Russia’s involvement in the war in Ukraine. Amazingly, Vladimir Putin and those who believe his narrative now blame the USA as the prime instigator of the Ukraine conflict.  

Many of us find this laughable.  Especially those who agree with Senator John McCain, who expressed shame at our hesitancy to come to the aid of our beleaguered Ukrainian friends.  Even so, every hesitant step we take only feeds Putin’s narrative, regardless of the facts, and of course that plays beautifully into his poker hand.

It is all too easy these days to imagine that the Russian President represents and/or controls the thoughts of common Russian citizens.  No, that is not entirely the case!  Nemtsov and the 70,000 Russians who attended his memorial march were proof.  That day they carried signs: “Those bullets were fired at us!” and “Propaganda Kills!”.  These are people of conscience who deserve our respect and prayers.

Nevertheless, we should be cautious not to allow our presumptions about Russia and it’s leaders to become the source of our conclusions about Nemtsov’s murder.  Therefore, I offer here a summary of facts as reported by Brian Whitmore in his Power Vertical blog, “Chaos or Terror”, and also his well-reasoned conclusions:

What are the undisputed facts? First, as an opposition leader, Nemtsov was under constant surveillance by Russian security services.  Second, he was killed in one of the most heavily policed and monitored parts of Moscow.  Third, the shooting was stunningly professional, highly efficient, and the assassins got away clean.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the security services or elements connected to them were involved in the killing.  Amateurs without inside connections could not have done this.  

Is this Terror or Chaos?

Two possibilities then remain: the killing was sanctioned (terror) or someone inside the Kremlin regime was going rogue (chaos).  If sanctioned, then why?  Terror.  To send fear into the opposition: anyone can get hit anywhere at any time.  A warning to the opposition: Watch your step and measure your words!

If the killing was by rogue elements, then there is chaos in the Kremlin.  Putin is losing his monopoly on the organized use of violence. This kind of chaos in the security services in the long run could be even more destructive than deliberate terror.

Terror and chaos are not what any thoughtful person in the West wants to see as ruling in Russia.  Let our prayers therefore be toward the end that people of conscience will gain the upper hand and that cooler heads prevail.  Otherwise, as in past world wars, we will once again see our sons and daughters drawn into an uncontrollable, descending spiral of war.  God forbid!  That is why we should watch and pray for Russia and its citizens.

31 December 2014


Every follower of Christ, at some point in his journey, will encounter God's puzzling declaration

in Romans chapter nine, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated." What! But doesn't God

love everyone? Like Jacob, I find myself wrestling with questions of time and eternity, questions

of God's will and my own. If God hardened Pharaoh's heart, who's to say he won't harden

mine? If my life is predetermined then what point is there to this tiresome daily fight with evil?

So what if I fail? "Why does he still find fault, for who has resisted his will?" Paul asked, as if

just for me, in that very same chapter. One's nose could get "put out of joint" over all of this, to

say nothing of Jacob's hip!

For a fortunate few, the problems resolve easily in the truth that God exists outside of our

space-time continuum and is in no way bound by it. Here's the idea in a nutshell: Because God

is omniscient, he knows the end from the beginning of every person, so he already knows

exactly whom he will sovereignly elect for his purposes. Simple right? Not so fast!

Take the case of the patriarch Jacob. If he were this godly, upright man of good character who

always made the right decisions, I could more easily understand the phrase "Jacob I have loved

. . ." (Rom 9:13) That is, I could agree with the simple idea above that God chooses right every

time because he knows all things. However, from the moment of his birth, when he emerged

holding his older brother Esau's heel, Jacob was known as the deceiver, the manipulative cheat

who always connived to achieve his own ends. His whole life dramatized the meaning of his

name: supplanter! Likewise, who needs to look hard within his own heart to find something that

he knows God hates? So the real mystery is not, "Why did God hate Esau?", but rather, "Why

did God love Jacob?"!

Notwithstanding all his misdeeds and character flaws, there came a time when Jacob wrestled

all night with the Angel of the Lord. When morning came, one touch of the Angel's finger

dislocated his hip, leaving him limping for life. But something else happened in Jacob's spirit. In

a moment he was humbled, he was broken, and his heart was changed. Jacob's spirit, hitherto

bound by time and flesh, was somehow touched by God's unseen, eternal hand. Along with

many prominent Bible scholars, I believe the Angel of the Lord was none other than the pre-

incarnate Messiah -- Jesus, the Son of the Living God!

Could this have been the one defining moment in time, whereby God would now eternally say,

"Jacob I have loved?" The Bible did not record such a moment for Esau. Many years earlier,

their grandfather had just such a moment, memorialized by the famous words, "Abraham

believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Romans 4:3, Genesis 15:6) The

Apostle Paul's moment also came one day in a blinding flash . . . on a road to Damascus. 

The question that leaves me troubled, or should at the least deeply concern me, is who am I to

God? Am I Jacob? Or am I Esau? What will heaven's epitaph declare for my life? For me, the

deciding issue cannot be one of character or even good works, as important as those things are. 

Far more defining and of eternal consequence must be the question of whether I have wrestled

with Eternity. That is, with the Eternal One. Has my defining moment come? Have I heard

heaven's knock and opened the door? If the heavens declare the glory of God, how can I say I

have not heard? Like Jacob, am I in the number of those whom God loves?

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and

they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27, 28)

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at

the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine

with him, and he with Me." -- Jesus Christ (Revelation 3:19,20)

Photo:  Jeff Franks, Striped Butterfly

10 December 2014

UPDATE ON UKRAINE by Jeff Franks for The Baptist Trumpet.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine takes a surprising turn from time to time, but of late it seems frozen, both militarily and politically, to say nothing of soldiers struggling to stay warm on the front lines. Reports of artillery, tank, and missile barrages, deaths and injuries continue to trickle in every day. 

Since September 5, a cease-fire has been in effect in Eastern Ukraine. However, since then 93 civilians have died, and countless soldiers on both sides. I have read impossible to verify, conflicting reports of thousands of Russian soldiers who have died in this conflict. To say nothing of the grieving Ukrainian families, Russian families cannot even publicize the real reasons for their sorrow without incurring the displeasure of the state, which continues to deny their involvement. Therefore, please continue to keep both Russia and Ukraine in your prayers. 

The protracted conflict is taking a huge toll on Ukraine at large. With the coldest months of the winter still ahead, exhausted coal supplies are forcing electric power brown-outs and black-outs throughout the country. The Hryvna, the Ukrainian national currency, has lost 40 percent of its value over the last several months. Elderly and handicapped pensioners are paying a third or more of their pension just to stay warm. Though food prices tend to lag behind inflation, the relentlessly rising numbers still create “sticker shock” as they take a larger percentage of the monthly pay check. I have no doubt Russian families are suffering in a similar manner.

The Baptist churches of Ukraine have responded in encouraging ways. Within the last week, the Baptist Union of Ukraine has held vision and planning meetings for a coordinated response to the crisis. They are focusing primarily on prayer, benevolence, and evangelism to the more than 100,000 displaced persons from the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. A recent outreach to the nearby Ivankov region has resulted in many saved with Bible study groups forming. Please pray that this effort will result in new churches planted! 

How are the churches doing inside the conflict zone? A recent report to the Baptist World Alliance stated: “Amid shelling and tanks moving through the streets, Christians hold prayer meetings in the city parks and squares, establish centers of free psychological and medical assistance, host, feed, and dress the refugees.” Only heaven sees and records the stories of their faith and sacrifice.
Author Chris Tiegreen once wrote, “We live in a broken world, partly of our own doing, and we suffer because of it. But we rejoice that the suffering does not compare to the glory to be revealed (Rom 8:18).” How true! 

I hope you have derived some prayer points from this article. I think you know well that the current unrest is part of God’s plan to show his incredible faithfulness to his chosen people in the last days, and to all who seek a relationship with him through his Son, Jesus Christ. “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22,23)

05 December 2014


There is a publication that circulates among our BMAA (Baptist Missionary Association of America) churches which targets those believers among us who are pro-Israel. The writer emphasizes recent Israeli laws and governmental actions which favor homosexuals and abortion. “You who stand for Israel, right or wrong, are grievously in error,” he argues, “because you are also standing for unbiblical laws which dishonor the Almighty.” 

Yes, unfortunately, there just may be some fanatics out there, who apparently think they have to support everything Israel does, right or wrong. In all the years I have fellowshipped with our pastors and church members, however, I have never met such a person. Therefore, I think these are the author’s “straw man” for highlighting Israel’s faults, whether political or social. 

But the issue regarding Israel has never been her faithfulness or her backsliding. Biblically speaking, she much more often chose the latter as a way of life. Oddly, the author goes to great lengths to demonstrate that God, the prophets, Jesus and the apostles spoke against Israel. Oh, I guess I am so pro-Israel that I missed that! No, the issue with Israel is God’s incredible faithfulness in spite of her failings! 

God’s love and protection for Israel is really more about the veracity of his eternal Word. He said he would gather them from all the nations, and he has. (Ezekiel 36:24) He is faithful and loving. His love, discipline, and protection of Israel never fails because he has promised them these things in his Word. That is why I identify with God’s protection of this much hated and maligned nation. 

Aren’t you glad that God is not like you and me? We can turn our backs on the unfaithful and hold grudges forever. We raise our fists in anger, call for mass demonstrations and destructive behavior. No, thank God he’s not like us! He is always and ever our faithful, loving Father. He may be angry for a moment, but his love never, ever fails!  Just think, if he can love Israel through her failings, he can love you through yours.

Photo above: Schindler's grave in Jerusalem. The Hebrew reads: "Righteous Among the Nations"; the German reads: "The Unforgettable Lifesaver of 1200 Persecuted Jews".

28 November 2014


"I Am Not There, I Am Here"

On this Thanksgiving holiday I am thankful for many things including living and working in Ukraine. I must admit, though, our hearts sometimes ache over being so far from loved ones and family, from our culture and familiarity of it.  I post this from another missionary.  It is encouraging and I hope helps others to understand our being so far. 

I am not there.

          I am here.

The miles are long. Their days are my nights. My days are their nights.

I am not there. I am here.

She looks so beautiful, dressed in white. She walks the aisle, and he meets her at the front. The “I do’s” are said and tears of joy are shed. I do not see it. I only have pictures. I am not there. I am here.

The tree is put up and decorated. The lights glisten and glow. Sipping hot chocolate after a family dinner. Presents exchanged. But I am not there. I am here.

Tears are shed. Flowers fill the chapel. A casket is closed. Hearts are broken. Goodbyes are spoken. Comforting hugs. Reminiscing over happy memories. But I am not there. I am here.

A family hurting. Children crying. Parents aching. And someone leaves. A broken home. Phone calls and emails are all I have. My heart wants to hold them, to cry with them. I want to wipe away the tears. But I am not there. I am here.

Bad news comes. Health is failing. Surgeries. Treatments. Doctor’s appointments. I cannot help. I cannot drive for them or cook a meal or clean. I am not there. I am here.

A beautiful pregnant belly. The gender announced. Before long, the labor starts. The baby’s first cry. Happy parents. But I do not get to hold the baby. I do not hear the cry. I am not there. I am here.

Birthdays come and go. Trials faced. But I am not there…

Sometimes my heart wants to cry out, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first see her wedding. Let me first see the baby born. Let me make sure everyone will be o.k. while I am gone. Let me first… me first…”

              Me first…

I am not the first to think it. I am not the first to feel the pull… the tug.

Luke 9:57-62 “And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.  And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Following is not without sacrifice. I don’t want to look back. I want to keep my hand to the plough. I want to plough straight and deep.

My heart wants to cry, “Me first!” So I remind my heart about what belongs first.

Matthew 6:33  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

If I put Him first, He will supply me need… comfort when I ache inside… comfort when I miss family and friends… comfort when the tears flow.

Why am I here when I am missing out on things there?

 I remember why I am here. I remember Who brought me here.

Romans 10:13-15 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

I am not there.

              By God’s grace, I am here.

              So today, I lay “there” on the altar again.

I am here.   (Author unknown, surely a missionary)

26 November 2014


 Some of you may have seen this on Facebook.  Two weeks ago today Jeff fell and had a 2/3rds tear of his Achilles' tendon.  The doctors in Ukraine said he needed surgery within a week to maintain his mobility.  Now as expats 20 years in a foreign country we've come to understand that sometimes doctors are anxious to operate on us for financial gain.  We weren't convinced and we wanted another opinion.  The above picture is the cast we left Ukraine in. We added the duct tape with a wooden block on the heal so he could actually walk in it.  He was on 2 crutches.
Some years ago we had a very good experience with a surgery in England on Jeff.  So off to England to see a ankle specialist.  The long and short of what was quite an ordeal is that Jeff is walking in a boot for 8 weeks, no surgery.  Thank you to you who already are praying for him.  Please continue as he must be very careful not to fully tear this tendon or it WILL be surgery.  The above shows his new boot in the London Underground (the extent of our tourism).  Please also pray for the resolution of two blood clots in the same leg.  They didn't catch that in Ukraine. We are grateful for God's provision and your prayers.

01 November 2014

HOW CAN I KNOW? By Jeff Franks

“Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16) 

How do I know if my deeds are done in the Spirit or in the flesh? 

Devotional thoughts for Saturday, November 1, 2014 

While still in this life I feel I cannot look back at my PAST deeds and say definitely and reliably that this or that was done in the Spirit. I am often blind to my own pride and the subtle impulses which flow from it, such as saying and doing things to justify myself or avoid guilt. Like, HOW long has Aunt Emmy been in the care facility and I STILL haven’t gone to see her? I mean what will her family think of me? (Just for the record I don’t have an Aunt Emmy, but if I did I might be feeling pretty guilty right now!)

Regarding PRESENT deeds, I have every opportunity (yes this very moment) to confess my sins, be filled with God’s Holy Spirit (a command), wear the full armor of God (also a command), walk in the Spirit, put on the “new man” and put off the old. Yes, even when it comes to visiting dear Aunt Emmy! I know I should, but why not do it in the love of God and in the power of his Holy Spirit?!!

Finally, the FUTURE day will come, when looking back, I WILL KNOW EXACTLY what I did in the power of the Spirit and what I did in the weakness of my sinful flesh. Note:
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) 

Therefore, dear Lord, give me the grace to follow you this day, walking in your Holy Spirit, and building on the only foundation that counts - you alone, Jesus! When that day comes I want to receive gold and silver that will withstand the fire of your holiness, and bring glory, honor and praise, no not to me - never! - but to you alone, forever! 

By Jeff Franks
Photography by Jeff Franks from Coleen's Garden

25 October 2014



A few days ago, I watched a video interview of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, Russia’s fourth largest political block. In his typically smug and sneering style he said that on Sunday, October 26, 2014, Ukraine’s nation-wide parliamentary elections would fail because pro-Russian armed agents would overpower all the polling sites. Following this Ukraine’s so-called Banderov-led nazi (anti-Russian) government would promptly collapse to be replaced by a state which favors the true leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Or something like that. He was so confident it was like a done deal. 

I know this is the kind of drivel that we’ve come to expect from him, and one should not pay it a whole lot of notice. But there is a war going on and Ukraine has lost complete control of several hundred kilometers of its border with Russia. Two days ago, Thursday, three metro stations in Kyiv were closed for bomb threats, which is happening entirely too often lately. The same day three major discount stores were shut down for the same reason.   In advance of tomorrows elections, the army, national guard, and militia are on high alert. 

So with all of this rattling around in my subconscious, yesterday I went to our weekly Friday morning prayer meeting where we pray for peace in Ukraine among a dozen other urgent needs. And that’s where God spoke to me from a Bible passage we read before prayer. 

Turns out there was a similar situation in Israel in King Hezekiah’s day. Sennacherib, King of Assyria, was camping on Jerusalem’s doorstep with 185,000 troops. Israel was completely unprepared militarily to contend with these forces, which had already destroyed all the surrounding nations and taken all the fortified cities of Judah. Only Jerusalem remained. The Assyrian messenger declared haughtily, 

“Look! You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by utterly destroying them; and shall you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered those whom my fathers have destroyed, Gozan and Haran and Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?’” (2 Kings 19:11-13) 

This so reminded me of Zhirinovsky, breathing threats toward Ukraine! Hezekiah took the Assyrian King’s threatening message into Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and opened it up before the Lord.

“O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone.” (2 Kings 19:15-19)

Was there a word in this prayer about Jerusalem’s sorry military condition? This prayer was centered on God’s glory and reputation alone, honoring him as holy and majestic, Creator of heaven and earth. Of course you know “the rest of the story”, but I’ll copy it here in case it’s been a while since you read it: 

“And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away . . .” (2 Kings 19:35,36) 

Likewise, let us always remember to honor the Lord by remembering that whether threats are real or empty, He is always in control, and his ear is turned to humble hearts who turn to him when they are afraid. 

Have a wonderful and prayerful day in his grace, and remember to ask his blessing on Ukraine’s elections tomorrow, Sunday, October 26th, 2014. 

Article by Jeff Franks.  Photo by Coleen Franks, western Ukraine this month.


You have surely noticed three names dominating the world headlines: 


Tell me, which of these big three would have grabbed your attention only a year ago? That’s right! None of them. They were different, weren’t they? What will they be a year from now? Well, only the Lord knows, but there are certain forces behind them which actually do not change: death, disease, and war. Like the horsemen of the Apocalypse, we can “safely” predict that these key players, though their names may change, will still be upping their game until the Lord returns.
Knowing that, as believers how should we respond to these evil forces when they come to our neighborhood, to our very doorstep? 

Here in Ukraine, a year ago Coleen and I could not have anticipated the outbreak of war and the widespread social and economic challenges that we would be facing today with our Ukrainian friends. However, watching their response has been instructive and inspirational for us, and I hope their example will also encourage you and prepare you to face any storms on your horizon. If I were to ask a close Ukrainian Baptist friend for advice on what to do in times of national upheaval, here is what I think he would tell me. 

First, hold your inner peace. Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass.” (Matthew 24:6) The entire country seemed to teeter on a knife-edge of suspense during the long and difficult winter of 2013-14. No one really knew when or how the “Maidan” protests in Kyiv would resolve. There were outbreaks of violence from both sides, but the Baptists who took part always did so with prayer and song, peacefully, as if to say, “It’s OK. God’s still in control.” 

Second, serve those in greater need. Throughout the long months of war, starting in the spring and continuing through this fall, the Ukrainian believers provided clothing, opened their homes for refugees, and served in countless other practical ways, not “growing weary in doing
good.” (Galatians 6:9) 

Third, keep sharing the love of Jesus Christ, no matter what happens. I was especially encouraged to see teams of young people walk into the winter conflict on Maidan Square and share the gospel with all and any who would listen. Unforgettable! 

Fourth, pray without ceasing. It seems there is nothing like troubled times to bring new life to our prayer ministry. However, just between us, don’t pray for trouble, just pray! It has been a joy to kneel so frequently with so many faithful partners in prayer, daily, weekly, continually! 

When I began to write this article I wondered which event in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict would have the greatest significance for our BMAA believers? This previous Sunday at 3 pm,
the Baptist Union of Ukraine, having received approval from President Poroshenko’s administration, invited believers of all professions to gather in Kyiv’s Maidan Square to pray for peace in Ukraine. Similar prayer meetings were held simultaneously in all of Ukraine’s major cities.
When has a nation so publicly and boldly sought the favor and protection of God? Though this event did not rate in today’s fear-laced headlines, remember that heaven views earthly events in the most radically different way, and thank God for that! So alongside ISIS and Ebola victims, please remember Ukraine’s peace in your prayers! 

Written by Jeff FranksPublished in the Baptist Trumpet, October 2014. Photo by Anatoly Kaluzhny

04 September 2014


Greetings from sunny Ukraine.  This is just a reminder that there is another blog you might enjoy.  It is my art ministry I do with ladies and children.  You can find it on the side of this blog or you can access it here:  www.vintageterrace2.blogspot.com.  It would be an honor if you chose to follow there.  Blessings, Coleen

29 August 2014


Today as never before Ukrainians are fighting for their life as a sovereign nation. Young men are dying in droves as they are often outgunned by Russian heavy weaponry. Two volunteer battalions have been surrounded the last two days with no way of escape. Yesterday, Russia opened a new front on the Azov Sea in the southeast to make a land bridge to Crimea. President Petro Poroshenko has made urgent appeals for emergency sessions of the UN and European Security Councils.

Who has not heard the indignant denials of Russia’s leaders? In response to NATO and western accusations they bandy about words like “fantasy” and “no relation to reality”, simply because in all of their Orwellian newspeak and propaganda they have replaced “Ukraine” with “Novorossiya”, meaning “New Russia”.

Yesterday, in an emergency session of the UN Security Council, Vitaly Churkin told Samantha Power that the United States was “meddling in the affairs of a sovereign nation.” The news camera showed her smiling and shaking her head in disbelief as she took notes. To us in the West such a statement is flat out hypocritical and beyond the pale of normal reason.

In Russian “newspeak”, however, the sovereign nation (singular) of Greater Russia includes a whole lot more than just Ukraine, which has to them become a mere province. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and others take notice! Having redefined everything in Orwellian newspeak, Russia’s leaders are acting, speaking and killing with impunity according to what they see as their historical destiny, their “divine right”.

You do not have to tolerate the blatant lies and disinformation coming your way from Russia. Rather, listen to the cries and see the tears of Russian mothers whose sons’ bodies are being flown back from the combat zone. Join in prayer with Ukrainian families as they mourn their dead sons. Hear fathers and mothers in Kyiv protesting the pitiable state of their boys fighting with inferior weapons and no body armor. Above all, take action by contacting your representatives, speaking the truth, and praying for God’s divine intervention.

24 July 2014


The Baptist Trumpet
July 23, 2014

“You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.” (Daniel 5:27)

    On a certain night in Babylon, King Belshazzar saw a hand writing on the wall of his palace.  Among other things, Daniel the prophet had told him, “the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.”  That night Darius the Mede took both his throne and his life.

    I think God may speak similar things to certain world leaders today, many of whom have given these truths perhaps no conscious thought.  Very recently I believe a handwriting of sorts became a wake-up call to Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.  I am speaking of the shooting down of the Malaysian Boing 777 over Ukraine on Thursday, July 17th.

    For the first time in the war against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Russia is completely exposed and unable to successfully hide it’s complicity in the tragic loss of 298 lives aboard Malaysian flight MH17.  Moreover, the Russian military has unwittingly exposed its proactive role in fighting Ukraine. 

    Until now, Putin’s entire diplomatic corps has everywhere confidently asserted Russia’s non-involvement in Ukraine’s “internal affairs”.  Now, continuing the Kremlin line is more than awkward for them and in part here’s why:

    Proficiency in using an advanced surface-to-air missile system like the Russian SA-11, which shot down the Malaysian airline, requires many months of training and practice.  Furthermore, downing a jet flying at high-altitude must be a well-coordinated multi-team operation, involving the expert use of tracking and communications technology housed in several carefully positioned vehicles. 

    Therefore, none of the untrained, rabble-rousing separatists in Eastern Ukraine could possibly have tracked and downed the Malaysian airliner.  This is true even if they had begun training many months before the outbreak of the war. 

    In spite of the Russian media’s well-polished efforts to the contrary, the disaster evidence overwhelmingly exposes the Russian military as an active combatant against Ukraine.  Even the separatists’ pilfering of the victims’ belongings, the removal of technical evidence from the crash site, the failed attempt to hide the black boxes (in an age of smartphone videos), has not diminished, but has rather confirmed Russia’s involvement. 

    The West knows it and Russia knows it, despite all of Vladimir Putin’s brain-numbing, fog-inducing war of words.  As the Russian infrastructure and economy continue to unravel, Putin increasingly needs to distract his people with a greater ultranationalist agenda, with a new expression of ancient Russian ideals, with a renewed fight for orthodoxy and justice against an increasingly decadent West.  He must depict the rise of Ukraine’s western oriented government as evil, neofascist, and even Russian-hating. 
    However, the evidence from the Malaysian Airline shoot down has dealt a blow to his audacity.  Even his diplomatic corps listened with icy stares as for the first time in years, Vladimir Putin spoke with hesitating stutters and with none of the usual interruptions of applause. 

    This is not the time to underestimate him, however, because history has shown that men of power are most dangerous when they are most shaken.  George Bernard Shaw once said that “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history”.   A few days ago Great Briton’s Prime Minister David Cameron said, "Europe must not forget the consequences of turning a blind eye when big countries bully smaller countries.” 

    How many lives were lost before Adolf Hitler “saw the handwriting” and took his own life?  Has Putin seen the handwriting in last Thursday’s aviation tragedy?  I think not, for when that day comes we will hear no more of him.  God is in perfect control of human events and his timing is also perfect.  His day will come.  Meanwhile, let us remember King David’s last words.  “The Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.’” (2 Samuel  23:3)

Woe be to all who forget this truth!

16 July 2014

A SEASON OF WAR by Jeff Franks

A Season of War
By Jeff Franks
BMA Missionary, Ukraine 

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven... A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war,
and a time of peace” (Eccl. 3:1,8).  

May God grant that all towns like this one will soon be free of conflict. Photo by Jeff Franks

Seasons come in divinely ordained cycles and do not ask us if we are ready for them. All evidence seems to show that a “time of war” has come to Ukraine. Alas, the Ukrainians were not prepared for the invasion and takeover of Crimea, and they were not ready for what is happening today in the
Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. 

On Monday, July 14, a Ukrainian military spokesman reported that yet another large column of about 100 armed vehicles, including tanks, mobile artillery and armored per- sonnel carriers (APCs) had crossed into Ukraine from Russia across the porous border. Even the Russia Today news net- work (RT) showed a long column of tanks and trucks, some towing GRAD missile launchers, driving through Luhansk, Ukraine, all driven by anti-Ukrainian militia. Curiously, RT denies that the Russian government has provided any equipment or aid to these apparently well-armed rebel militi- amen. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rightly called RT a
“propaganda bullhorn.” 

The July 15 headlines in Vesti, a local Ukrainian news- paper, read, “Ukraine Stands on the Brink of Invasion.” We are seeing a new gathering of Russian forces, this time with peacekeeping insignia on military equipment and uniforms. Our Ukrainian friends say Russia has already invaded, they continue today and will proceed in the same “plausibly deni-
able” fashion as the recent takeover of Crimea.

Another article in Vesti debunks an outrageous lie recorded on primetime Russian TV of how the Ukrainian “Fascists,” upon liberating the town of Slavyansk, publicly crucified a 3-year old boy before his mother. Then after she had allegedly watched him die and fainted, dragged her three times around the town square behind a tank. Of course, local residents witnessed nothing of the kind, but the interview with “Galya” the self-proclaimed eyewitness, has “gone viral” on the Internet. Russian media has not retracted her story. The accumulative effect of such propaganda is to bring the watching public to its collective feet, tearfully begging Presi- dent Putin to send Russia’s “peacekeepers” into Ukraine to
prevent further such atrocities.

What is real and not imagined is the rise of persecution of Baptists in eastern Ukraine. Separatist rebels have both occupied and destroyed Baptist churches in the Donetsk and
Luhansk provinces. Homes of pastors have been destroyed.

On July 10, pro-Russian militia took over Donetsk Christian University and held Pastor Pavel Minaev, the board
chairman, and 20 other workers hostage. Pastor Sergey Sko-
robagach of Mariupol was on a mission to help orphans
when he was caught and killed in a terrorist attack.

During our prayer meetings, Baptist refugees have re- ported kidnappings, beatings, torture and disappearances of their church members. Partly, anti-Baptist sentiment has risen because Ukraine’s interim president was a Baptist, and partly it is because the Baptists are known have been active in public prayer meetings calling for peace and national unity. In any event, the rebel militia has targeted them as purveyors of an “enemy ideology.” Truly, it is not hard to see “the enemy
of souls” at work here behind the scenes.

Coleen and I meet refugees almost every day because they come to our worship services and prayer meetings. Two families live next door and several others live right in our neighborhood! It is our privilege to help them however we can, but the Lord is most glorified when His local churches extend a loving hand. Praise God that many church members have taken in refugees, and some are even helping them from
their poverty!

Finally, I want to call your attention to the orphanages that are in Ukraine’s conflict zone. Just the other day, Sepa- ratist gunmen confiscated passports and forced the adminis- trators of Orphanage No. 1 in Donetsk to sign documents al- lowing their orphans to be transferred to Russia. The same kind of lawlessness is happening throughout eastern Ukraine.

Please keep the innocent children and their caretakers in your prayers. If someone should approach you to give to this need, please remember that when we talk of abusing little ones, is all too easy for charlatans to play on our emotions. We don’t always help by “throwing money” at a problem. Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear disaster and similar crises have led to fundraising abuses and moral shipwrecks. Rather, let us serve the Ukrainian Baptist churches in their efforts to care for the helpless in the name of Jesus Christ! And if we should do it through our giving, let us entrust our love gifts only into the hands of trusted servants of God, who have a
proven record of faithful accountability.

Above all, please keep the pastors and churches in your prayers. Just as this season, this “time of war” took the Ukrainian Baptist churches unaware, so it may be with any of us in the United States. Seasons do not ask our permission. Therefore remain alert because “to everything there is a sea- son and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

13 May 2014


As published in the Baptist Trumpet, Little Rock, Arkansas,  Photo:  Nikolaevka, Crimea on the Black Sea

I will admit we were caught up in a dream of sorts.  Here we were, living in a peaceful Ukraine where churches had the freedom to preach the gospel publicly and train their leaders in seminaries.  Though the Baptist churches were relatively few, their pastors and leaders could continue to pray and work toward their visions of multiplication.  I really didn’t see it coming, that in November of 2013 our idyll of a peaceful future here would shatter.

Throughout the winter Maidan square in central Kyiv became both a protest site and a battleground.  The Yanukovich administration sent in riot police and introduced draconian laws which restricted the public’s freedom of movement and speech.  The citizens pushed back, reinforcing their number of protesters.  Nationalist, right wing elements, though percentage wise were few, took full advantage and led a more violent resistance.  As missionaries, Coleen and I were shocked to hear that we were now required to register as “foreign agents” and display those words on our official documents.   Our illusion of a peaceful Ukraine had been shattered, but things didn’t stop there.

After the change of power in Kyiv in February 2014, Russia craftily engineered a takeover of Crimea in March.  Then Russian armed forces amassed on Ukraine’s eastern border.  Eerily reminiscent of the seizure of Crimea, armed men in unmarked uniforms began to take over government buildings in the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Donetsk.  

Throughout April and May we have witnessed the largely feeble attempts of the new Ukrainian government to wrest back control militarily.  Civilians who are brave enough (or in some cases paid) to go on the street take videos of these clashes and post them on Twitter and YouTube.  They are hard to watch because of the civilians’ extensive cursing, shaming and name-calling of the Ukrainian soldiers, the most common of which is “fashisty,” meaning fascists.   

Yesterday, on Sunday, May 13, the pro-Russian separatists held an illegal referendum in the Donetsk province, seeking to call themselves independent and autonomous from Ukraine’s Kyiv-based government.  This was also a repeat of the Crimean scenario, and we fear a similar outcome eventually in Ukraine’s eastern provinces.

It is not clear whether Ukraine will be able to defend its territorial integrity, but even if that is the case, many changes will take place in government and society because of the deep divisions between Ukrainian citizens.  At some level the new government will need to account for them.  Moreover, the new government will have to deal with Russia’s long-range plans and strategies from this point forward.  Much has been written about Putin’s Eurasian game plan, but I will summarize the current Ukrainian conflict with one phrase: Russia cannot tolerate a pro-Western Ukraine.

The crisis in Ukraine means different things to different people.  For some it is East vs. West, the reinstatement of the cold war between Russia and the USA.  Some say it is the revival of the old USSR.  For those who live in the conflicted regions who have bought into Russia’s propaganda  it means a choice between civilization with strong executive power and reasonable salaries (Russia) or being under the boot heels of an oppressive neo-Nazi junta, as Russia characterizes Ukraine’s interim government.    For those who know better it means an opportunity to build a new nation state on transparency and rule-of-law.  

But for Christians this crisis means a call to prayer, to greater dependency on God, to greater unity among believers, and to standing for the truth of the gospel.  We must remember that even if the worst possible outcome should occur, nothing in this conflict could change the God-given mission of even a single local church!  Our marching orders come from the Lord Jesus Christ who has all power in heaven and on earth!  Therefore, our dream remains for the success of the Ukrainian churches, only now unfettered by our former rosy illusions!

Coleen and I are praying to know God’s will during these troubled times.  We ask you to join us in praying for peace for our Ukrainian friends, not the idealistic kind, but the kind that involves compromise, understanding, and a willingness to listen to one another.  Thank you for your prayers!

28 April 2014


CHOOSE to practice gratitude!
When our hearts are filled with gratitude,
we find contentment, even joy.
Practicing gratitude can transform your experience of life. Try it. Make it a habit. It's not something you would ever regret and you have so much to gain.

My take on the subject.  Hope it blesses you.

17 April 2014


I travel about 45 minutes to our northwest where I do a monthly class with some ladies.  As you can see we don't have a big space to work in this tiny church, but that does not stop them from creating lovely things.

This is Oxana and Vika, mother and daughter.  Vika is a school teacher.  These two always do such lovely creations.

Of course, Vika's little dog Archie had to be part of everything.

Natasha always does pretty work.  She was an orphan growing up.

Though they are not often with us, these two youngsters are Natasha's children, Ivanka and David.  I've been giving them clothes because they don't have a lot.  A young girl needs some nice things.

Thank you to those of you who send pretties and supplies.  I couldn't do this without you.  These were Easter cards that the ladies will give to the elderly in homes.  So your blessing of supplies will bless others for Christ.  Despite the threat of war with Russia, we try to continue life as normal.  Pray for peace please.