22 August 2008

We Covet Your Prayers

Please pray that the Lord will lead our BMA churches in responding to the needs of our brothers and sisters in the country of Georgia. Specifically lift up Bro. Anatoly Krivov who ministers in the province of S. Ossetia. The churches he serves are in the town of Tskhinvali and the Georgian and Ossetian villages which surround it. These towns and villages have been devastated by the recent conflict. There have been great losses of life and property. In addition please pray for the Baptist church in Gori, Georgia and it's pastor, Bro. Vissarion, who has been successful in church planting in this area. This town has been occupied by Russian troops. The well-being of church members and their property is in question.

Pray for Coleen as she continues to hold "faith-booking" classes in churches and camps of Ukraine. Faith-booking is a means of documenting one's faith which can be a powerful witness to relatives and friends. Since Ukrainians always pull out the photo album for guests, Christians here can pull out their faith-book.

Bro. Justin Owens and I have planned a trip to Tallinn, Estonia from October 10 through 17. Please pray that God will prepare the hearts of those with whom we will meet. Bro. Justin is following the Lord in responding to a special burden God has given him for this country, where there are very few Baptist churches. Please also remember Crystal Owens that she and the baby she is carrying will be healthy and blessed during Justin's absence next month.

Bro. Charles Speer and I will be working with Ukrainian national missionary Bro. Pavel Pochapsky from September 18 through 24. Please pray that God will lead us in accomplishing his vision of planting 62 churches in the 62 villages of his region. In addition we have trained many men for work in the prisons of his province. Please pray that we will be able to begin a Bible training program this fall in several prisons. We ask you to join us in prayer that this will spread to many other Ukrainian provinces.

At the end of September I will be traveling again to teach the second installment of Romans to our friends from the underground churches of Iran. Please pray for my thorough preparation in advance, and that I will be sensitive to God's unique plan for this conference and it's participants. Jeff

17 August 2008

Jeff's Experience in the Georgia Conflict

Jesus told us there will be wars and rumors of war until he comes. That God is in control and is the one and only true judge, well this is our remaining comfort when wars and cruelty seem to take us like a flood.

As to Georgia, I am amazed at God's protecting hand. Our plans to visit Gori had been in place for maybe 6 months. We arrived there Thursday evening, the 7th. That night Dr. Ralph and others heard shelling throughout the night. I heard only a lot of loud rumbling. (I had a noisey air conditioner that someone had apparently taken off a Motel 8 in Mobile, Alabama back in '73.) The next morning Dr. Ralph and I were in the Gori drug store buying medicines when we heard a loud explosion, shaking the building. At the same time the lights went off. The workers began calling their families on cell phones and outside we saw people rushing to and fro. Within minutes the streets were filled with cars and there was a general panic.

When we rejoined the van with the team, Jim Earl, a doctor's assistant on our team, told us how he saw the Russian fighter plane swoop down and release a bomb into the city stadium. The windows where he was standing were shattered, and he said later his ears still hurt from the explosion. Other than that we suffered no harm during the trip. We went to E. Georgia that same day, and the following day traveled by bus to Yerevan, Armenia as the International airport at Tbilsi was now closed.

Bro. Vissarion, pastor of the church in Gori managed to escape with his family. Temporarily, he is living with our missionary to South Ossetia, Bro. Anatoly, who lives in Tbilisi. Bro. Anatoly has been shepherding churches in Tskhinvali and surrounding Georgian and Ossetian villages. They are now essentially in ruins. Please pray for our brothers and sisters whose homes and belongings in Gori are subject to looting and destruction. It is not only Russians, but many Ossetian "irregulars" who are also still occupying this city.

You ask about the propaganda from Russia. It is true that Georgians have been guilty of repressing Ossetians in the past, and probably vice versa. I am not convinced that Georgia was trying to commit "genocide". This sounds more like a justification for Russian military action. On the other hand, I wasn't in South Ossetia itself, so I can't say. I doubt that even the most unbiased observers will ever be able to fully establish the truth. Try to convince the average Russian citizen that there was no ethnic cleansing by the Georgians. Your efforts would be in vain. You will do better to agree there is evil afoot and quickly turn the conversation to Christ.

A video from the You Tube link that was sent to me of a young Russian man portrays persuasively the Russian media's view of the conflict: Russia is the compassionate protector of the poor abused Ossetians. The unnamed Russian in the video does not mention the fact that Russia has issued passports to the Ossetians, calling them "our citizens". Over the last several years they have armed them, giving them the ability to wage war in their own right. All of this was done inside Georgia's internationally recognized borders. What if Canada (or China) did the same for one of our Indian tribes?

Where I think this gets sticky is that Georgia through hateful, unforgiving attitudes, has not done right by their minority populations, and in some sense has "asked for" someone's intervention. Given the presence of a new major pipeline through Georgia, a young new president, and a strong shift to western politics, Russia's hackles have been raised. They were more than ready to play the role of the great defenders of the Abkhazians and the Ossetians. The Russian people have been fed this line through all their media channels and virtually all of them believe it is true.

In this conflict Russia, Georgia, and America all have their agendas, and rich natural resources play heavily into this picture, notwithstanding minorities and borders. The tragedy is that many Ossetians and Georgians who have lived in S. Ossetia for generations have been killed, their homes destroyed, and the survivors are forced from their homes and farms and are living in refugee camps.

There are no "hero" nations in this conflict, much as we like to see ourselves with white hats. We must pray for the victims and do all we can to re-establish peace in the region. As believers we must do this first on our knees as per 1 Tim 2.

Thanks for being there and for caring. Thanks especially for your prayers for us and for our Georgian and Ossetian brothers and sisters, who are going through such a great trial of their faith.

Bro. Jeff

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers him in times of trouble.
The LORD will protect him and preserve his life;
he will bless him in the land

and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. Ps 41:1-2

Jeff Franks

For those of you who haven't met him, this is my dear husband Jeff. This picture was taken as he toured with Jaime Jorge. He had the joyful privilege, as you can see from this picture, of introducing Jaime in all 11 churches they toured throughout western Ukraine. He even briefly shared the Word in a few, one of the things he takes joy in doing. Jeff is fluent in the Russian language and acted as Jaime's interpreter for some of the trip. In western Ukraine they had a translator who spoke Ukrainian.

16 August 2008

Over the years, Jaime has played his violin in a variety of settings, from high school auditoriums to churches to the world-renowned Carnegie Hall. He has performed before heads of state and other government officials around the world, including the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Russia. He averages more than 75 concerts annually, performing for over half a million people each year—sometimes as many as 44,000 in a single performance.
While there certainly aren't 44,000 here, this was a very full church auditorium in Kiev, Ukraine.

Summer Activities - Jaime Jorge, Violinist

To catch up on some of our summer activities I will start to show you things that have already happened, but just didn't have time to get it in the blog.

Jaime Jorge was here in June to do a concert/evangelism tour. Jaime’s expressive mastery of the violin has delighted audiences around the globe. A committed Christian, Jaime has dedicated his unique talent to sharing God’s love through sacred/classical concerts and special appearances.

Born in Cuba in 1970, Jaime began violin studies at the age of five. When he was ten, Jaime’s family immigrated to the United States, and he began lessons with the eminent violinist Cyrss Forough, a student of the great David Oistrakh.

Since 1988, Jaime has traveled over a million and a half air miles.

13 August 2008

Testimony of God's Grace

On Monday Jeff and the team went to look for tickets. They all got tickets via Europe, but Jeff and went to lunch. Afterward, Jeff went to find a ticket to Ukraine. This was on the 11th and they told him there was nothing available until the 19th. Which would have meant sitting around paying for a hotel room for eight days. But God in his mercy sent someone in just as Jeff was there to return a ticket. That reduced his wait time to only two days. He will fly in tonight at 11:15. Thank you for your prayers. Our God is great.

11 August 2008

Leaving Armenia

Today the medical team went in search of tickets. Lufthansa couldn't give them any credit on their Georgia tickets and some had to pay $2300 to $3000 one way. There may be the possibility of some remuneration from Lufthansa later, but Jeff was skeptical. Since each of these team members pay for their own tickets it can be quite a burden.

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia is flooding with people trying to escape Georgia. They are all going there because it is the only safe crossing out of Georgia and all traveling by bus and auto. There are many more Americans and Europeans who have left Tbilisi and other parts of Georgia all trying to get passage out. Thus the reason for very expensive tickets as flights are all filled up until the 19th of August. Our team will leave tomorrow morning at 2 a.m. That will be 6 p.m. CST today. Please pray for their safe travel and a sense of peace. Jeff has yet to get a flight home.

10 August 2008

Georgian Conflict

Jeff and the BMMI team attended church services today in Yerevan, Armenia. All is well with them. They feel like they got out of Georgia just in time. Tomorrow they will be trying to rearrange tickets without having to buy new ones. Please pray that the Lord would dispose the hearts of the ticket office Lufthansa and for Jeff's ticket as well.

The situation between Georgia and Russia really boils down to cold war sentiment on the part of Russia that has never gone away. Russia wants to dominate as a world power. They were weakened through the fall of the USSR, but have risen from the ashes. This is a time when our prayers are critical. This type of conflict is something that could bring about world involvement if it escalates very far. And we thought Iraq was messy. For more on this check out the following: http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/08/georgia-latest.html

09 August 2008

Yerevan, Armenia

Jeff just called (it is almost 10:30 pm here) and they have all arrived safely in Yerevan. His phone battery died on the road. They will stay until Monday to rearrange tickets. Thank you for your prayers. Only God in heaven knows how your petitions may have protected them.

The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace. Num 6:24-26

Gori, Georgia

I have not heard from Jeff since about noon today (here in Ukraine we are 8 hours difference from Central Standard Time in the U.S. and Jeff is one hour later than us so I'm writing this at 10 p.m in the evening here). I can only assume he doesn't have signal where he is. He mentioned a lot of infrastructure was breaking down due to the bombing and there was no internet or land phone lines. We have been doing sms messages and occasionally we could get through on calling, but have not been able to do that since early today. I am so grateful for those of you who are praying. I hope to hear something soon.

Overnight, the town of Gori, where our team started out, was bombed and 60 people died. Sadly one of the bombs hit an apartment complex. Pray for Gori and it's people. We have brothers and sisters there.

As for Leah and I, we trust in the One who holds it all in His Hands. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him." Rom 15:13 (NIV)

Georgia Declares War Against Russia Today

This morning I spoke to Jeff as they were on their way to Tbilisi, the capital to see about flights out. On the European news it already said there were no European flights leaving Tbilisi except to Ukraine and Turkey. Therefore they have rented a van to drive them to Yerevan, Armenia where they can fly from. In the meantime, Georgia's parliment this morning declared war against Russia. The town of Gori (Stalin's birthplace) where the team was yesterday suffered bombing overnight and is now the front as it is close to South Ossetia (S.O.). The South Ossetian Republic is in the north of Georgia bordering Russia on it's north side. Gori is just south of the S.O. border. S.O. is a breakaway republic wanting their independence from Georgia because they are strongly Russian, yet they have always been part of Georgia.

This afternoon Jeff informed me that they have hired a van driver to take them to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia and closest place they could fly from. He said there are a lot of rumors about which roads are open and which bridges have been bombed. Russia is now bombing strategic spots around the country. According to BBC, government officials are evacuating Tbilisi. Pray for the team's safety as they travel.

08 August 2008

On the Verge of War in Georgia

Jeff and the BMMI medical team left the conflict zone today. Tomorrow they will get up early and drive three hours to Tblisi, the capital to see if they can get flights. They are for certain sending out the women tomorrow, but possibly they might all be leaving if they can get flights. If they cannot get flights they will take a bus to Yerevan, Armenia and fly from there.

European News has reported 1400 deaths overnight in South Ossetia which is a breakaway Georgian republic where many Russian people live. Russia has claimed the perpetrators will not go unpunished. The Georgian president has ordered full mobilization but they are a small force against Russia. This certainly is a time for prayer.

They have no internet and much communication is down, but because Jeff bought a local Georgian phone chip we can call each other. Tonight they are without water where they are and it is very hot. Please pray that they will make wise decisions and that they will be safe.

Belichi Tent Camp

South Ossettia/Georgia Conflict

While I wanted to continue showing you camp pictures, I must take a break and ask you to pray for my husband Jeff and the Baptist Medical Missions International (BMMI) team who are all in the country of Georgia. This morning as they were preparing for their first day of seeing patients in the town of Gori (Stalin's birthplace), they heard a loud explosion. No one knew what this was about, but it had the whole town scurrying about. Later, at home in Ukraine, I heard on Russian news that a bomb had been dropped by a Russian plane on the stadium in Gori. Needless to say, the mission has moved out of this area to another part of Georgia. Please pray for resolution of this conflict and for the team's safety. Pray also that the Lord might use Jeff in resolving some conflict amongst the Baptist brothers of that country. May the Lord bless as you seek him.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. 1 John 5:14-15

05 August 2008

Craft Class

Liza and Vika working on their camp scrapbooks. Some of the kids were so creative and made beautiful books to take home. All of them had the creation story and our verse for the day for each day of camp.

04 August 2008

Sports in front of the church

In green camp t-shirts are Leah Franks (our daughter) and John Williams (of Conway, Arkansas) about to do sports with some of the older kids.

Craft Class

Ukrainian ladies helping the children. This year we did something different. Each child made a scrapbook that had the Bible lesson, verse (in English and Ukrainian) plus pictures for each day that went along with their lesson. In addition, we had photos of them, their classes, the pastor and activities. It will be a nice memory, but also built in is the idea of a witnessing tool that each child took home to show their parents and friends. We hope this will bring more into Sunday school in the fall.

Bethany Baptist Church of Bucha

This is where the Bucha camp took place for those of you who are curious. Bucha is located in a beautiful pine forest so it makes a lovely place to do camp.

Bucha Kid's Camp

Dan Williams of Conway, Arkansas was our camp pastor. We found him another job of keeping track of some of the little ones who needed extra attention. These three are some of the orphans from the Village of Hope who attended camp. Dan's wife Cindy also came and was our English teacher while their son John worked with Leah to do sports. What a fun time we all had with the kids.

Bucha Kid's Camp

After a hard morning of fun these little ones are ready for their snack. They had music, crafts, Bible lesson, sports and English lessons.