Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sorry for the absence....

Wow, what a busy and fruitful time we've had this week. Each day has started early and the ministry has gone late into the night. It's now a beautiful and cold Saturday morning in L'viv, and I'm going to try to recap the week. I apologize in advance as this may seem like a long rambling....

As I wrote earlier, Monday's outreach at one of the local Universities resulted in us being invited to come back again. On Tuesday a number of classes were combined in a larger room and we had about 75 students present. We used music and the English language as a way to spend time with these students, which allowed us to talk to them about our faith and to invite them to the evening English Club meetings at the Church. 

To our pleasant surprise, many of them attended at various times throughout the week. One young lady named Olga came multiple nights, and as she left on Friday night she said, "See you at Church on Sunday"! I don't think she's a believer yet, but her interactions with the American & Ukrainian believers has definitely drawn her to the Lord. We'll be excited to see her on Sunday morning.
Tuesday's outreach at the University was much harder than Monday's because only a small percentage of the group spoke enough English to participate. It made it hard for us to keep their attention, and I think we all felt a bit frazzled. Josh Pratt, Mike's son, is the worship leader at New Horizons, and is becoming a well known musician in the area. We changed gears and had Josh and Taylor do some music; all at once things changed for the better! The students were clapping, singing, and there was a sense of unity between Americans and Ukrainians. Music is very powerful...

Tuesday evening's English Outreach was a struggle as well. A number of people came that were either a direct plant from Satan, or simply there to distract us. By the end of the night our team and the leaders at New Horizons were a bit frazzled again. We discussed what happened, we prayed, and we modified things for the next evening. By God's grace, we've not seen any of those people again.

Wednesday we did an outreach at the Children's Center that's run by a lady named Yulia who attends New Horizons. We sang songs, did crafts, read stories, and took the Children to a playground.
This is Yulia with some of her students

One of the little girls was obviously sick with a respiratory infection and she was nice enough to share it with me! Please pray for me to be healed....

When we arrived last week the weather was so beautiful. Over the last few days it's been getting colder & colder, and Thursday was so miserably COLD, WINDY, & RAINY that our evangelism outreach at another local University had to be cancelled. :(
However, that created other opportunities for all of us.... 
The team spent the morning resting, walking around the city, and having devotions. In the afternoon they did a little shopping for souvenirs. 
I used the morning to prepare a message on the subject of "Faithfulness" for this Sunday's service. I'll be teaching on using our "Time, talent, & treasures" to further the work of the Kingdom.
Pastor Mike prepared his message from Revelation for the Saturday night "Koinonia" service, and Keli & Michelle planned the food for a special party we had after last night's English class.

Friday we braved the wind, rain and snow to do an evangelistic outreach on the streets outside of Ivan Frankov University. We handed out @ 1500 Bibles with invitations to New Horizons. We also set up a prayer tent and offered to pray with and minister to people. Later in the afternoon I had the opportunity to meet with 4 young men in Pastor Mike's leadership to do a simple little leadership training activity. It was really an encouragement to me, and it led to some impromptu one on one time with 3 of them later in the evening.
Rick, Trish, & Pastor Mike leading our English Outreach activities

Yulia leading a small group evangelism study at an English Outreach

Some of our English students...

Taylor and Josh doing music at an English Outreach

The war in the East has caused many refugees to flee to the West. There are a number of families and individuals at New Horizons that are refugees. This is Igor and Liliya. They are from a Calvary Chapel that no longer exists because of the war. Igor sent Liliya and the children to L'viv & he remained with the pastor until he had to flee. They are hoping to go to Poland or Canada and start a new life.

This is Lida. Her parents put her and a sibling on a train to flee the war. She ended up in L'viv and the sibling in another city. She's hoping to be reunited with her family

Today our team will be back on the streets handing out bibles, sharing our faith, and inviting people to New Horizons to hear God's Word. As you pray, ask the Lord to open people's hearts; since we're not Catholic or Orthodox we're viewed as a cult like the Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons.

In short, the team has done a great job reaching our goals here in L'viv!
- Through last weekend's conference and all the time we've spent with the Believers here, the Saints have been encouraged to continue "Running with endurance the race set before them"
- The gospel has been clearly proclaimed, and we've had the opportunity to help a number of people clarify their faith.
What do I mean by "Clarify"? We've met quite a few young people who know about God and His love, about Jesus and His sacrifice, but don't understand the gospel message. We've had the opportunity to clarify the gospel, and to see a few people make a profession of faith! Praise God

Tonight Ashley, Keli, and I will do some special music at Koinonia. Tomorrow morning Taylor will participate in leading worship, and I'll teach. We'll spend the afternoon preparing to travel home, then attend a coffee house concert that Josh is doing. Monday we head home, and we're all looking forward to being back with our AWESOME church family.

Keep praying, and let's not forget that there is much to do....

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Back in Touch Again!!

Today is Tuesday, and since our last post we have had a very full schedule. 

By God's grace our luggage arrived last Thursday afternoon, just after we spent part of the afternoon shopping for essentials..... Although TSA and who knows who else thoroughly searched all of our luggage, none of our ministry or personal items were missing! Praise Jesus-

Thursday night we held our first English Club outreach at New Horizons Church. The Church was full and our team had a great time interacting with the guests. Our theme for the evening was "Manners"; we watched Youtube videos and then discussed them. We broke into small groups and spent time discussing vocabulary words, which led into us being able to share our faith in Jesus with our guests. We began building relationships and invited everyone to join us every night this week for our English Classes.
After the outreach we worked late into the night tearing down the Church sound system and organizing everyting we'd need for the Western Ukraine Calvary Chapel conference. We began early on Friday morning; we loaded everything into a rented truck and moved it all to the conference center where it all got set up an organized. 
The conference began at 3 with an introduction by pastor Mike, worship, and then I taught through Colossians 1:1-14 encouraging everyone to seek, know, and operate in their gifting & calling.

Pastor Joe Bruch of Calvary Chapel Portsmouth, Ohio and I tag teamed the teaching all weekend, and our team provided child care, prayer, encouragement, and practical service in whatever way was needed. Local pastors and leaders provided practical workshops on Saturday afternoon. We got some really good feedback from our guests; Jesus used this weekend to strengthen and encourage the pastors, leaders, and members of the Calvary Chapels in Western Ukraine and Eatern Poland.

It was such a blessing to watch our team building new relationships and picking up right where they left off with the Ukrainians we met here in 2012. 

When the conference was over we tore down and moved everything back to New Horizons where it all got setup again for the week's ministry activities.

We used Monday morning to catch our breath. Monday at 12:15 we had our first English Outreach at the local Polytechnic Institute. We met with a "Strategic Management" class of about 15 students. During the class the Professor left the room for awhile, and when she returned she came with an invitation for us to come back today, but this time to use an auditorium and reach a greater number of students! We were able to modify our schedule and we will be heading there soon! The students also  responded positively to the invitation to come to the English classes at the Church.

Monday night's English class was not only fun, but the gospel went forth clearly. We continue to watch as the relationships and the gospel draw people to Jesus.

Keep us in prayer as our schedule is filling up fast, with more opportunities coming each day.

Literally running out the door, so please pray. Also, we'd love to read your comments and feedback so we know you're praying for us. I'll add some photos to this blog later today....

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 4: Thursday

Isaiah 6:8-10 
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send,  And who will go for Us?”
Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 “Make the heart of this people dull,
And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears,   And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.”

Ukrainians are a very religious people, much like those in Southern USA. Here most are Catholic or Orthodox, at home they're affiliated with one of the Denominations. Both place a great emphasis on what one needs to do to please God, but very little on what He's already done for us on the cross of Calvary. By the same token, there's no emphasis on having a relationship with God, it's more of a Pharisaical cleansing of the outside of the cup and dish while neglecting the heart.

Ukraine is currently suffering the consequences of not being a Nation that seeks to please God. America is moving in that direction. "God, help us to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts that respond to Your Word. Empower us to help Ukrainian eyes see, ears hear, and hearts respond to Your Son Jesus. Lord, please heal our lands..."

Today the team is out on the streets and on the campus' of 2 Universities handing out invitations to the English classes at New Horizons. We're looking forward to spending the evening speaking English with the guests that come, and sharing the Gospel message as part of the curriculum.

Tomorrow begins the Calvary Chapel Western Ukraine conference. The theme is "Complete In Christ". Pastor Joe Bruch from Calvary Chapel Portsmouth, Ohio and I will be teaching through the book of Colossians and doing question & answer workshops. Please keep the conference in your prayers.

As you consider the passage from Isaiah 6, I'd like to challenge you to do what Isaiah did. Set your eyes on the Lord and answer His call to proclaim the good news of Jesus regardless of how people respond. 

"Here am I Lord, send me"

P.S. There may not be internet at the conference center, so I'll post first chance I get.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Luggage update

Our luggage was sent to Austria instead of L'viv. There was no room on today's flight so if all goes well we're hoping for it to arrive Thursday around 3:30pm. God is obviously in control because our first outreach requiring ministry supplies was rescheduled for a later time!!! Tomorrow we'll shop for some clothes and toiletries to hold us over...
Please continue to pray for the Lord to move and speak clearly at this weekend's pastors & leaders conference, and for all the local outreaches beginning Thursday

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We arrived in L'viv, our luggage didn't...

Day 2, 5:30 am
Snacking on some last minute junk food before our International flight
Our travel seemed easier than previous international trips, and God gets all the glory for that! We arrived safely and on time, however our luggage and all of our ministry supplies didn't! As of early  Weds morning none of our luggage is showing up on Lufthansa's tracking site. I'm praying that it'll arrive today. Please pray for the same as the work we do beginning tomorrow depends on the supplies.

The team traveled well and our first day was spent getting settled in our missions house (AKA apartment in the main square downtown) and exploring the city. We ate Ukrainian food, walked, all over the city, drank coffee, and had dessert at the chocolate factory.

Tuesday night there was a peaceful protest in the streets of L'viv; a huge crowd marched through the city carrying banners and shouting. In short, they want to maintain their National freedom & be delivered from Russia's dominance.

As I watched the protest I couldn't help but think of Paul's words to the Colossians -

Col. 1:13-14 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

This is the message we've come to share in L'viv! Regardless of what happens with these Earthly kingdoms, Jesus gave His life to deliver us from the kingdom of darkness into His Father's kingdom! We have been redeemed, forgiven, and washed clean! We have been loved with His perfect love! Please pray that we have an effective, Spirit led time here!

Today we'll have an orientation and planning meeting, some prayer and fellowship, and a few hours of recreation at a park outside the city. Tomorrow the outreaches begin.

We're praying for you all, continue praying for us

Monday, October 13, 2014

Departure day

October 13th, 2014
Departure Day!

Matthew 28:18-20  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

I am constantly asked, "Why do you invest so much time, effort, and resources to Missions when there is such a great need right here at home?" It's a fair question, and one that I refuse to answer in a generic manner. My answer is simply this; Jesus commands me to make disciples of all Nations!

Disciples listen to the voice of Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit's help, obey Him. Jesus' Great Commission compels us to invest in the disciple making process both at home and abroad. Doing so at home can be a challenge, so how does a church successfully do so abroad? How can we effectively make disciples of other Nations if we're only on the Mission Field for 15 or 20 days a year?

The answer is pretty simple. As we obey the call to "Go", we partner with like-minded churches. Our short-term mission trips usually have 2 focuses: Investment & evangelism...

Acts 15:41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
We invest in the lives of the long-term missionaries. Simply coming to Ukraine encourages the Pratts and their team. We seek God for creative ways to to encourage and undergird the work that Jesus has called them to. Whether it's putting on a church retreat, speaking at a pastors & leaders conference, providing personal & ministry supplies or simply "Hanging out", we want our time to "Encourage & strengthen" the missionaries.

Acts 2:40-41 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
We also focus on evangelism. Sharing the gospel and introducing people to the grace of God through Jesus brings new believers into the church. Our goal is to help them become part of New Horizons Church where Mike and his team can help the new believers become devoted disciples of Jesus! 

Today we begin our trip to L'viv Ukraine. Keep us in prayer as we travel, and keep checking back for updates and pictures