28 April 2009

Choir Director's Accident

"...pray for one another that you may be healed. The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." James 5:16. "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 5:2 Above is our choir director at the piano and his assistant leading us in practice. As you will notice there are crutches next to him. I would ask that you pray for Alexander as he fell from his attic and has been several months and extensive surgery putting his hip and leg back together. Sadly, there is now the problem that he is not healing. Though he can walk with crutches, he cannot stand on this leg. This is a man who has devoted himself to Christ and leads our church choir on a volunteer basis. Though I know this dear man has had a very difficult time, I have only seen smiles and a joyful spirit from him. I know the finances of all his medical has been very great so if the Lord should touch any one of you to help with his bills, we would be be so happy to pass that on to him. Any amount could be sent to the missions office:
Designate the check to Jeff Franks-workfund (Alexander Borisovich)
P.O. Box 30910
Little Rock, Ar. 72260

This is one of our choir practices in mid-April. Notice that we all had heavy coats on against the cold in the church. Heat hasn't been on for a long time in order to conserve energy. This is a common practice in most churches across Ukraine. As Americans we take so much for granted in our warm churches.

27 April 2009

Ukraine Youth Singing

This is the youth choir from Bethany Church of Bucha. They sing so beautifully and performed in our church for Easter and then also in a Jewish Church that same afternoon. Our daughter Leah is in this choir and is standing second from the right.

26 April 2009

Russian Missionary

A joy and privilege that we often have is to host guests in our home. This is L-R, Jeff, Victor and Victor's nephew, Dema in our kitchen. Victor was in one of Jeff's church planting seminar series in Russia in 2001/2002 along with about 20 other men. Since that time he has become a missionary pastor opening a new work in the town of Voronezh, Russia. It was a nice time of fellowship for the couple of days they were with us.

Easter in Ukraine

The Adult choir was in full splendor for Easter. We had a rigorous schedule of practices but it paid off with some wonderful performances. Jeff and I took the plunge last fall and joined the choir. Singing in Russian and in Ukrainian can be quite a challenge at times. One of the Easter traditions here is that we do three days of Easter. That is Sunday, Monday and Tuesday so there are a lot of services. Jeff of course, along with the two other pastors do a good bit of preaching during this holiday season. Unlike America, our Easter, which was on the 19th (old Julian calendar), continues to be celebrated for weeks after the actual day so we are still hearing Easter sermons. I rather like the tradition here of drawing out the holidays. Like in America, this is a time when some folks come who do not attend any other time so it is a time in which we pray for the planting of the seed of God's Word. We are always grateful for those who come along side us in prayer.

The children's choir did an Easter play of the risen Christ. One of the hats I wear as church art director can sometimes be helping with costumes. The two soldiers were done from cardboard. These kids were really talented.

25 April 2009

Children in Car Accident

More prayers answered. Our thanks for money sent from some of you for the children who were in the Kiev car accident in the fall of last year. I know this will be a great blessing and relief to pay off debt of doctor bills incurred for the long rehabilitation of two of the three children.

24 April 2009

Answered Prayer

Sometime earlier I wrote to you about five people, who at one time or another, came out of their no access country for Bible teaching from Jeff. He had the privilege of baptizing many of them. These five who had been imprisoned for their faith have now been released. The bad news is that we have heard of other arrests. Please continue to pray for these believers that Jeff is working with that they would also be released and God would keep others safe.

Missions to a Creative Access Country

This lovely young family has a heart for missions. The Lord has been preparing them for several years and now that Pasha has graduated from seminary, they are looking for God's next open door. They have not been dissuaded despite the fact that two young men were recently murdered there for their faith. At the end of this month Jeff will accompany Pasha and Tanya on an exploratory trip to this creative access country where one cannot be overt about their mission for Christ. Therefore, I ask you to please be in prayer for this couple, for Jeff, and their upcoming eight day trip that will begin on April 30th. I will write more on their trip later.

21 April 2009


Though we are still wearing our winter coats on some days here in April, this is some of God's beauty from our garden. We consider our home and yard a place to share with others the blessings God has given us.

Nikolaevka, Crimea, Ukraine

This picture is some of the neighbors sitting in front of our home in Nikolaevka. We have witnessed to these folks for many years, but lost Ukrainians don't like to go to a Sunday service in someone's apartment or a small room in an unheated rented hall. This is too reminiscent of clandestine meetings during Communist times. Yet if this village had a church it would be a very different attitude among the people. They would have credibility. It breaks our hearts to see the many who are dying each year without Christ. Our next door neighbor Vanya passed away this year and it pains us because despite our witness, he never seemed to come to a saving faith. If you would like to help the small band of believers build their church, your donation, no matter how small, would buy them more bricks so they could continue using their own hands to build. Maybe you could just give up a Starbucks a week for a year. That would buy quite a few bricks. Please be in prayer with us for this need.
Designate your check: Jeff Franks-Nikolaevka Church
and send to:
Baptist Missionary Assn. of America (or BMAA)
P.O. Box 30910
Little Rock, Arkansas 72260

12 April 2009

A Ukrainian Cultural Story

The pictures above show you what Ukrainian money looks like. This is called one hryvna and is the equivalent of about 12.5 cents. I had a very cultural experience involving this bill recently. My elderly neighbor, Shura, came over to get some Vinca from my flower bed for her grandson's yard. We both dug around 12 rose bushes pulling out the vinca 'til our backs ached. I try to witness to this neighbor as I can. I speak Russian, she speaks Ukrainian and somehow, by God's grace, we seem to communicate though I don't always understand everything she says. After filling her bucket she left for a few minutes and then returned to give me two hryvna for the bucket of vinca. I was surprised and refused saying she didn't have to buy the vinca, She was very insistant and said if I didn't take it the vinca wouldn't grow. So I compromised and took one bill instead of two. My 12 and a half cent sale for the day.

09 April 2009

Ukrainian Creativity

Just wanted to show you some of the fanciful work done by one Ukrainian lady with paper and sissors. I recently took these down from my windows since it just turned warm and so it was time. They are so beautiful I thought you all would like to see them. They are a nice decorative touch in winter, but with tulips popping up....

08 April 2009

First Prison Seminar in Ukraine

The Kiev prison authorities and the Vinnitska leaders, who attended the April 2008 trip to USA, granted us permission to do the first seminar in the Litin(central Ukraine)Prison beginning Monday, April 6. The Litin Prison is on the west side of Litin, just a stone's throw from Pavel Pochapsky's church. The prison officials did not grant our request to hold the seminar in the standard format, but restricted our time to two hours a day. They are allowing extra time on weekends to allow us to complete the 32 hours of the Basic Seminar within two weeks.

Thirty seven men came to attend the training, although three left early on, taking their workbooks.

About 10 days before the start of the training, the Litin Prison authorities informed Sasha Shevchenko that they would let us work with 4 men. Pavel told him to tell the prison authorities in Vinnitsa that we are canceling the seminar and going to the Zhitomir(western Ukraine) oblast, where we have an open invitation to begin from the colonel who made the trip to America. At this news, Pavel told me they did a quick about face and even put up advertisements in the prison for men to attend. Praise the Lord for the 37 who came the first day.

Sasha Shevchenko is well known and respected at this prison, so he made the initial greetings. He then introduced me, and I talked about the history of the training, sharing about Bill Gothard's devotion to young people and criminal gangs in Chicago. I let the men know that only recently has the training been used in prisons in America and in other countries. One prisoner, Sasha, stood up and proclaimed, "Crime is the response of normal people to abnormal societal conditions!" Several prisoners grunted their approval. He then said, "We prisoners are mostly Orthodox and care nothing for your protestant teachings." I said, "Thanks for your comments and statements, because they allow me to underscore a couple important facts. First, we only allow people to attend voluntarily, and if that is not the case we need to know about it immediately. Are you all volunteers?" They all quickly assured me they were. "Secondly, this is a fully non-denominational program, enjoyed the world over by all Christian denominations. You will notice that all of the sessions are characterized by a deep love and respect for Jesus Christ as Lord and for the scriptures as God's inspired Word. I presume there are no problems here with those values, which are shared by all Christians." All were in agreement, and the vast majority very respectful toward us, so we began the training. A couple of rebels demonstratively kept their workbooks closed, but when Bill began to share about the causes of conflicts, they quickly began to write and made up for lost time. It seemed to me that all were scribbling quite furiously to keep up with the lessons.

I was very pleased with the first session, and I pray the remaining sessions will be revealing and helpful to all of them.

Unfortunately, I was granted permission to be there only on the first day. I had hoped to be there for questions and answers on following days. However, Dima is very well versed in the principles and will do that job well, if we will keep him in our prayers. He will also give us a full report on the ministry of these two weeks.

Thank you to all who prayed. Jeff Franks

05 April 2009


Today was communion Sunday. That happens here on the first Sunday of every month and thus the service is always fuller than other Sundays. The youth choir sang and did such a beautiful job. Leah, our 22 year old daughter is in this group.

After showering this morning I discovered a deeply embedded tick below my right shoulder. Jeff and I rather tore him apart trying to get him out, but he just wouldn't budge. We decided to deal with it after church. Jeff, being concerned about Lyme's disease got up from services and called the doctor. They wanted us to come right in so our service was cut short. The doctor said that Lyme's disease is not a problem in Ukraine, but he had to cut the little bugger out with a knife and tweezers. He did give me a small shot to deaden the spot. So, a little excitement for the day. Since I was only in the garden the day before you can be sure I'm going to check myself better each night.

Jeff left for Vinnitsa after we returned home and will set up video equipment in the morning and introduce the seminar. That will start at 10 a.m. our time. Please be in prayer for this important event. Jeff asked me to pray for the attendees, that God would select the ones who need to be there. Pray also for the equipment that all would go well in the set up. I know God has a great purpose in bringing all this about and we are excited to see how he will use this seminar. Lives will be changed and heaven will rejoice.

04 April 2009

Easter Preparations

Easter in Ukraine happens a week after Easter in America, but I can tell you that the pastors are already speaking about it in church. And they will continue for some time after the actual holiday.

Today I had the privilege of helping prepare costumes for two little solders from the children's choir. They will do their play Easter morning. We made armor from gold poster board. I will try to get pictures to show you later. Easter is still two weeks off for us. They turned out well and the boys wanted to start sparing with their swords.

Prison Ministry Practice Run

Today Jeff set up and tested all the equipment for Monday's prison seminar. This is an area where things can easily go wrong so he wanted to make sure he had that end of things all running smoothly. Please pray for this seminar which will start on Monday morning at 10 a.m. Will let you know how it went.

Tea on the Terrace

I invite you to check out our sister blog, Tea On the Terrace to see more of the artsy/personal side of our lives.

03 April 2009

Prison Ministry Beaurocracy

Today Jeff has gone to Kiev to do documents that allow him to go into the prisons of one oblast (state). On Monday Jeff, along with Pavel Pochopsky and some Ukrainian men will go into a prison in Central Ukraine to start an evangelical seminar called the "Institute in Basic Life Principles." Jeff is simply there to facilitate the beginning of this program. It will be run by Ukrainian pastors and missionaries as it should be.

This time last year Jeff took a delegation of high-ranking prison officials to America so they could see first hand the benefits of this program in reducing the rate of recidivism (return rate to prison). The whole process has been a lot of bureaucracy and required diligence for all those working to make this come about, but now the day is arriving for it to begin. Please be in prayer for this first seminar to start on Monday, April 7th. The far-reaching ramifications for Ukraine are truly a big step in God's Kingdom.

"Unless the Lord Builds the House..."

The architect's rendition of the finished church building for Nikolaevka, designed to seat 150. That is God's faith from this small band of believers.

A Place for the Children

The rear of the property with Sunday school buildings begun. Black Sea and the much of the village in background.

Church Beginnings

My recent photo, March 30, 2009, of the property from the top of the neighboring building. Note that property is walled off and the foundation is laid. This is the main church building. (Jeff writing).

The Church the Lord is Building

The Nikolaevka church members are very dear to us, and have a lot of faith for such a humble group of believers. They have spent all of the $37,500 they have raised by God's grace. This went into drawing up plans, digging, and laying the foundation. Just getting the official grant from the town involved hiring an architect, surveyors, drawing detailed blueprints, etc. Most of the money they raised on their own went into this bureaucratic process. The builder then contributed twice that, and did the work to this point. Therefore, they are without funds to continue at the moment.

One might think the Nikolaevka saints are like the man in Jesus' parable, who began to build a tower, but failed to count the cost..."lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' " (Luke 14:29,30)

BMA Ukrainian missionary Pavel Pochapsky has built several church buildings on faith alone, several of them fairly large and others out of more humble village homes. His goal is to "Plant 62 churches in 62 villages", the number of villages in his region. Having developed a strong team of leaders, 14 churches have been planted and several groups have been started in other villages.

One time in early summer as Pavel's crew had completed a foundation, an American believer, a businessman, challenged him with Jesus' parable of the tower. Pavel desperately needed bricks and had a full work crew returning in the morning. He was unable to answer the American's question of where he would find bricks. He had called all the brick factories in the region with no success. The businessman shook his head and said, "Now look at you, having started, are unable to finish!" Pavel responded, "All of what you say would be true of me if I were the builder." He pointed to his Father in heaven and said, "I'm just the foreman here, serving the Master Builder. Please return next year in May for our building dedication service."

As the sun was setting that evening and Pavel was looking over the site, his deacon walked up, very troubled. "Why didn't you dismiss them? They will have to take the bus here tomorrow for nothing." Pavel shrugged his shoulders, unable to answer. Just then a large truck lumbered around the corner and stopped in front of them. "Is there a Pavel Pochapsky here? Can you use a few thousand bricks?" asked the driver. A sister from another region, who worked in a brick factory, had heard of Pavel's need and told her Christian boss who had donated the bricks. Less than a year later in May, they held the dedication service for the building, which is in Gorodishche, one of Pavel's 62 villages.

So, we are joining the Nikolaevka believers in serving the Master Builder who is able to do all things perfectly, and who has proven better than anyone that he is able to count and bear the highest cost.

Bottom line: Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it. (Ps 127:1)
(Written by Jeff)