Dear Praying Friends and Family,
I hope this letter finds you all well in the Lord, rejoicing in His blessings, enjoying His Book, and faithfully serving in His vineyard. We are slowly digging out of a freezing, snowy winter and getting ready for spring. Looking back over the last two months reminds me of how much we have to be thankful for in this New Year, which got off to a good start with Scripture calendar distribution at the local marketplace. It reminded me of 1990s when crowds would gather to hear the preaching of God’s word and even throng you to get literature.
The Bible Institute is going well and takes up the majority of our time. Classes are four hours a day, five days a week. There are currently seven men and two ladies studying. Two men are from the Lakeside Baptist Church in Limonski. We’ve had others who would like to attend via internet but we are not set up for that yet. We are considering offering classes to others in the country who would like Bible Institute training in Russian next year.
We are also busy making repairs and improvements on the church building. Our Sunday morning services are full with only a couple empty seats. We are in the planning stages of adding a larger hall onto the building so the church will have room to grow. We also plan to add an outside covered picnic area for use in warmer weather. We are thankful for a new gypsy family that has been attending lately. The man of the house is saved, while his wife’s testimony is still unclear. Their marriage is a little shaky and we are praying that the Lord will allow us to help them with healing their family issues.
We are very thankful to the Lord for those that sent special love offerings last month. The funds helped us cover many extra expenses including the overhead for the Bible Institute and the higher gas bills since the new tariffs went into effect. We were able to purchase a washing machine for a national pastor, Brother Korol, who is currently serving as Captain in the military. There were over one hundred Ukrainian soldiers doing their wash by hand in winter! Thank you for allowing us to help. He made sure that the men he serves with understood that American Baptist churches made it possible for Jesus’ sake giving him an opening to witness to his men.
We are thankful for our Great Physician’s care over the past few months. Naomi was ill for several weeks and was bedridden as a result. Miriam picked up the load and kept our home and school running as smoothly as possible. We made it through a plethora of flus and bugs that struck the area, including swine flu, that left several people dead and the local schools quarantined. My son, Benjamin, tore a ligament in his hip one night after church. It was Valentine’s Day so the hospital staff was a little “merry” as a result. The ambulance was just sad. It had no life-saving equipment whatsoever and I’ve seen work trucks that were cleaner. The splint the EMT’s used to stabilize his leg was homemade out of clothes hanger wire, cardboard, and packing tape! The X-ray technician had to scour the place for film then had me hold his leg while the 50 year old x-ray machine radiated us (6 times!) till they got it right. He was also “merry” because of the holiday. Ah, the joys of socialized medicine! Since Benjamin is a minor the incident was reported to the local police and I had to answer a bunch of questions. The doctor was unprofessional and rude. I did not like the rough manner in which he handled my son and he was irritated that I would ask questions like, “What is the diagnosis?” He would not give any information whatsoever about Ben’s condition or treatment nor would he listen to my account of what happened. As a result, he gave a conflicting report to the police. They came to my house the next day and interviewed my children while Naomi and I were out getting groceries. They required me to appear at the police station with proof that Benjamin was my son. We are very thankful that it was not worse, and Benjamin is already walking again without the aid of crutches. We are reminded of the Lord’s protection over 20 plus years of life here and only having to visit the local hospitals a handful of times.
The plans for registering a new church in Odessa are still being held up at the Dept. of Religious Affairs. The government is currently overhauling everything resulting in many government workers being laid off and even closing whole departments. A new head of Religious Affairs was appointed and is still trying to learn the ropes. She wants us to make changes to our documents that we are not yet sure are legal. Please pray that the Lord will intervene and that this work will begin with His blessings and guidance.
On a personal note, Joey turned three in January along with “yours truly” turning 49! February marked my 27th anniversary of rededicating my life to Jesus Christ. He changed my life forever and my only regret is that I haven’t done more for Him. I guess the song sums it up well, “Jesus passed by my way, and He made me whole that day. Just a sinner was I when Jesus passed by and Oh what a change in my life, when Jesus passed by.
I would like to ask you all personally to pray for my pastor Dr. Ruckman, whose health is not good at the moment. Few men have had the impact on my life as he has, and I thank God for his good example. When I received the news that he stepped down as pastor of Bible Baptist Church I was somewhat melancholy for days. Several men who also had a big influence on my life have gone home to be with the Lord. The old guard is going home and passing the torch to our generation. Dr. Ruckman has said that he wants to go home to be with the Lord and asks people to pray accordingly. I find it difficult to do so after praying for the Lord to keep him going for so many years. Please pray for Pastor Donovan as well, that the Lord will keep him strong for the work ahead as he leads the Bible Baptist Church and the Pensacola Bible Institute.
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,