23 January 2013

I would like to think every church has "unsung heros", who labor faithfully in their calling, regardless of whether anyone notices.  Don't you know Jesus has some surprising rewards in store for such as these?  We all know the parable of the talents, where Jesus rewards those who were faithful with what little was committed them.  ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’  (Mt 25:21)  What an encouragement to work faithfully!

Some rewards for the faithful, though, come sooner, in this life.  A few days ago I was training our small group leaders and our numbers were down, probably due to severe cold and bad roads.  I must admit this discouraged me a bit.  Then Natasha shared how she and her husband Sasha, answered God's call to lead the teen ministry in our church.  Because of certain conflicts and troubles this last year, many of our teens quit coming:

"We only had two teens coming to our meetings in August.  The same two kept coming every       week and we continued to work with them in September, October, and November.  Each time we had to drive all the way from Kiev we began to wonder about the time commitment (45-60 minutes).  Nevertheless, we kept praying for all the teens. Finally, in December several more teens returned, and now in January we are averaging fifteen at every meeting!  I am so thankful we did not give up!  God is so good!"

 I repeat, what an encouragement to work faithfully and not give up!  Please pray for Sasha and Natasha as they lead and pray for this teen group that it may grow and prosper with more teens coming.  Small group ministry is growing in our church and for that we are excited.  Natasha is seated in the center (blue sweater).

22 January 2013


The article below is written by Jeff Franks.  This picture is Judy Van Sant, our dear friends (husband Bob, not shown) who arrived in Ukraine just shortly after we did which is now almost 20 years ago.  She stands in front of a Christmas message, "If you don't have Christmas in your heart, you won't find it under the tree."  Below is the church where Jeff visited this past Sunday.

How rich we are as believers, that in almost any part of the world, we can join with other friends who are fellow members in the family of God!  In some places they may be very few, like here in Simferopol, yet we can visit them because they have a name and a place of worship.  This Sunday I joined the believers in Simferopol Baptist Church, where our long-time missionary friend Pastor Bob Van Sant leads one of their church plants along with his wife Judy.

A number of years ago their church acquired the building where the traditional Evangelical Christian Baptist Church held its services during the Soviet years.  When I walked in Sunday morning I was overcome with a flood of memories, since I had first preached here in August of 1992 during a short-term mission.  Two years later, when our family settled in the village of Nikolaevka, I preached here on most Sunday mornings. However that was another time, another age, and another church.

Bob & Judy's church actually knows Coleen better than me.  Here I am better known as "Coleen's husband".  Several of the ladies, on seeing me, immediately asked, "Did Coleen come?" She has led several seminars in art journaling or as she sometimes calls it, "faith-booking" for the ladies of Simferopol Baptist Church, both young and old.

Before the main service Pastor Bob led a Sunday school lesson on the subject of crowns.  Very encouraging lesson, and challenging, too!  Afterward in worship Pastor Bob had invited me to preach, and since the day before was January 19th, the Holiday of Jesus' Baptism, I chose that for my subject, one of my favorite episodes from the life of our Lord Jesus.   Worship was uplifting and joyful.  Marina, Lena, and Nelya sang "Nearer my God to Thee" in beautiful 3-part harmony.  Here is their performance on YouTube http://youtu.be/kEN5vP0j4_I

14 January 2013


Just thought you might like a glimpse into life where we are.  On December 3rd I returned from a month in California.  It was the first snow that started that day and continued for two weeks.

Here we have our local "quick stop," two of them.  You buy standing outside, but they are heated inside (sometimes).  On the left kiosk, notice the dog laying up against the building.  Lots of street dogs here.

This is the local cultural center for the town of Vorzel which is not far from us.  I like the old architecture.  Notice on the front lawn to the right is a small wooden hut where they later put baby Jesus and his manger.  I liked that.

This is the local fruit/vegetable stand and bus stop.  That's what it says with the vertical letters.  This one you can go inside.

Jeff and I laughed about this sign.  It says car wash.  This is a one-way bridge under the railroad tracks.

Right next to the railroad tracks is where vendors come to catch the passengers in hopes of selling.  This is a meat truck with people lined up and a few hopeful street dogs.  People here are good to help feed the dogs that live out loose.

My favorite picture shows the family blankets out airing in the cold winter air.  So many things we take for granted in America are not always easy here....like laundry, for example.

Children love the holidays that have just finished this week here in Ukraine.  As you can see the snow is still coming down.  It's gotten so deep that some roofs have caved in.  We are praying that our garage roof, which is not a high slant, will hold.  Some get up and shovel theirs off.  We are afraid to do that.  Would appreciate your prayers with us.

The road home through the villages is very slick, but we are blessed with a 4-wheel drive so it's not a problem for us.  Though much time is spent indoors in this season, small group training still goes on as well as ministry to children and ladies.  Thanks to all who hold us up in prayer.