Dear Praying Friends and Family,
Amazing Answered Prayer! The Lord has so graciously answered our prayers! There is a great sense of inadequacy when I think of how to properly, with words, give God the praise He deserves and express my own thoughts and emotions. Perhaps a little background would be the best place to begin to explain what a huge blessing we recently received. During our last furlough our two largest fund raising projects were plane tickets and a vehicle. We saved for our plane tickets and were planning to return during the down season for the cheaper rates. After the funds for tickets were raised two pastors graciously asked us if we needed anything. I told them that we needed a vehicle for my family and ministry. We almost had all the money needed when several unexpected things derailed our plans. First, the war in Ukraine along with new document requirements postponed our departure, resulting in us paying almost twice as much as planned for tickets. Upon arrival in Ukraine the rest of the fund was quickly depleted by having to replace our stove, washer, water pump, and heating and A/C unit. There was also a lot of expense trying to fix our water problem. By the time it was all said and done the vehicle fund was gone.
For over two years we have been here on the field with no vehicle. We are very thankful that we were able to use Brother Casey Kline’s van when we needed to travel to Odessa for supplies and run errands but we tried to keep our use to a minimum. (Having to borrow another’s property does wonders for your pride of independence.) The rest of the time we used taxis to get to church and for long trips. The lack of transportation was tense at times, especially while Naomi was miscarrying. There was always a little fear of “what if?” when thinking of emergencies and if war ever did come to our region. Would we have to flee and perhaps couldn’t?
There were other questions. “Was I following the Lord or was I putting my family in harm’s way unnecessarily?” I believe we were following the Lord and I would never foolishly put my family at risk. Of course there were times when we wondered why it was taking so long to raise the funds. We had several generous love offerings but there were always other needs that seemed to be more important. A good chunk of our support goes to the overhead of the work and I never felt comfortable about the thought of decreasing it. The question, “Is the Lord chastising us for having such nice vehicles in the States during furlough?” was there too. We had been criticized during our time in the States and such words always seem to be close at hand during periods of doubt. Perhaps we deserved it. Of course we prayed about it individually and as a family. Bedtime prayers with little Christopher were sweet and humbling. One night he asked, “Dad, why does everyone have a car and we don’t?” These types of questions and doubts led me to question whether the Lord wanted us here anymore. We didn’t mention this in any of our prayer letters because it was personal. We needed to see God provide in such a way that there is no doubt that it was Him!
I have a Scripture promise from the Lord about starting a new work in Odessa and the last thing I wanted to do was to start something without the Lord’s blessing and presence. It was clear, however, that we couldn’t begin that work until we had dependable transportation. So, I prayed for God to provide us a vehicle in such a way that it would be confirmation about His will in the new church plant in Odessa. The answer came when a pastor of a church who wishes to remain anonymous contacted me and said that they had heard that we were in need of a vehicle. Still to this day it is a mystery to me how they found out. Only a few close friends
and family knew that we didn’t have a vehicle. What is important is that the Lord knew and got the news to them! One of the most amazing parts is that I’ve always low-balled the price by $5000 when asked how much we needed and just hoped we could make due. Vehicles are so expensive here due to heavy import taxes that I feel somewhat ashamed to tell people what it really costs. However, when this God-sent pastor asked me I told him the entire amount and was shocked that they said they could cover it! The Lord is so good and we are so grateful that He did this the way He did. We really needed a “Red Sea Crossing” type of experience and the Lord provided. Thank you all for praying for us and our ministry. Every time I sit in our vehicle I know that the Lord gave it to us!
A Cultural Moment. The economic crisis in Ukraine has caused crime to increase again. There was a wave of break-ins and thefts that came to our neighborhood. Someone broke into my storage shed and got some tools and our ladder. They tried breaking into our house through the garage but were unsuccessful. A police officer showed up at our house one day and asked if we had been robbed. He said he had our tools and that we would have to fill our paperwork to get them back. It resulted in a criminal case and I had to go to court and face the thief. It turned out to be one of the workers that helped us with some concrete work. He showed up at court “three sheets to the wind” as they say. What a spectacle! The judge was getting very irate and I ended up being his defense of a sort! She, the judge, was getting ready to throw the book at him for being drunk and unruly. I asked for clemency knowing he had children. In a way it was funny in that the whole spectacle was so absurd but really it was just plain sad. Please pray for Sergei for salvation.
Bible Institute. Classes for our Bible Institute have resumed for another year and it is encouraging to see the interest in our own people here locally as well as in other cities. We currently have eleven students; some full time, others just come for the Bible classes or the course Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. One of our fulltime students is a young man named Daniel who is still in high school in Odessa. He takes our classes by watching the videos after school. It is humbling and encouraging to have Misha from Limansky travel over awful roads to attend classes. A couple students receive a stipend that helps them attend and they are required to pay for their education by labor around the church. It is a win – win situation. They benefit by being able to have work and attend classes and the church benefits by the constant attention and upgrades that help the ministry. The kitchen help is all done voluntarily by several ladies in the church.
Odessa Church Plant Update. We are glad to announce that we now have ALL of the documents in hand and now can legally rent a building for use in the work. Now that we have a vehicle we can begin to look for a good location to rent. We probably will not begin regular services till spring and will pray and prepare as we decide on the right location and building to rent. Please pray about this important step in the work there.
Church Building Project. We are coming very close to finishing the veranda to handle overflow and help us with more seating on special occasions. We are also busy insulating the building in preparation for what looks like an early and hard winter. We hope to soon begin drawing up the building plans for a more functional church building that will be able to service our current members and give us room to grow and host larger conferences. We have been maxed out for quite a long time and it is obvious that we need to build. Please pray for the Lord’s wisdom, guidance, and provision.
Thank you all for your friendship, prayers, support, and all that you do for the Lord that gives us the privilege and opportunity to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Until our next prayer letter or our meeting in the air!
That Ukraine May Know Him,