What is God Doing in Ukraine?

January 2016

In December Anthony Harper, editor of Intermountain Christian News, asked me to write an article about my last mission trip for him to publish in the January-February issue of the paper. Last month we shared part of that article in our “Compassion Corner.” Below is the first part of the article.

What is God Doing in Ukraine?

“I realize that I can only give you a small glimpse of what God is doing in Ukraine – but here is a summary of what I saw and experienced:

1. I saw Christian believers opening their hearts, their homes and their church buildings to the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Crimea and the eastern side of Ukraine where there has been and continues to be devastating destruction, terrorism, and bloodshed. Pastor Andreʹ from Grace Church told me that there are 170,000 refugees (Internally Displaced Persons) in the city of Kharkov alone. Other reports indicate that there are over one and a half million I.D.P.’s inside Ukraine.

2. I saw grateful smiles and felt warm handshakes and hugs from those receiving the funds I brought from our donors to help the churches and ministries who are helping the refugees. I personally heard a refugee named Lena tell me how wonderful it was to experience the warmth and love of believers who opened their home to her with her children. Grateful tears glistened in her eyes and ran down her cheeks. I heard another refugee named Tanya tell me how thankful she was for the clothes she was wearing and the scarf around her neck. Even though she had lost her home, was separated from her family and had to flee from the city of Lugansk (in the war-torn Donbas region) with only the clothes she was wearing and very few possessions, she had an attitude of gratitude to God. She was rejoicing in His grace and provision for sparing her life and providing her needs through other believers.

3. I heard a pastor named Sergey Datskov tell me how they had opened their church building and their homes to the floods of refugees coming in to Kharkov, and have continued to use the church building as a distribution center for food and clothing for refugees now long after most of them have found jobs and apartments of their own. He said that they do not make church attendance a requirement for receiving help, but a great many of the refugees are coming with open hearts to hear the gospel because of the kindness of the believers. Sergey pointed out to me a large abandoned building next to their property and told me of his plan to buy that building and have it remodeled to become a hospital for handicapped people. He told me that the church doesn’t have the money to do so, but “with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37). He also said that the church didn’t have the money to provide for all those refugees either, but they just ministered to those who came with what they had – and God supplied as they went. Why should they worry when they are serving the same Jesus Who fed 5,000 men plus their families with 5 brötchen and 2 small fishes?

Our Mission – Overseas Outreach

Almighty God created human beings with two legs with which to move, and He also gave us two legs to move forward with our Overseas Outreach ministry. One leg is evangelism and encouragement through compassion, and the other leg is evangelism and equipping believers through evidences – the “many infallible proofs” as Luke mentioned in Acts 1:3.

We partner with many churches and effective Biblical ministries in Ukraine to accomplish our goals, and in my autumn mission trip (5 weeks in Ukraine), I was seeking those who are effectively ministering to refugees and orphans. However, I did not totally concentrate on using just the compassion leg of our ministry, but also I saw God open many doors of opportunity to effectively share “many infallible proofs.” Have you ever heard someone say that we cannot prove God exists? Or that we cannot prove Jesus arose from the dead? Oh, really? You might ask the one making such a statement to explain why Luke, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote that Jesus “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3 NKJV). You might ask the one who says that we cannot prove that God exists to explain why God inspired Paul to write that atheists are “without excuse”. (Romans 1:18-22). Why did God inspire David to write: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’?”

On this recent trip I had opportunity to share some of the infallible proofs during the church service and for an afternoon seminar at New Hope Church in Kharkov; at Black Sea University in Nikolaev for four days; at Christian Open University in Odessa for eight days; and in many churches in Ukraine, then in three churches in Germany before returning home on November 2nd.”

How Serious is the Situation for Ukraine?

To clarify this question I want to share with you a brief article which Georges Carillet passed on to us back in November – after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

“Imagine terrorists wouldn’t just attack one city, but hundreds.
Imagine not dozens of terrorists would come, but thousands.
Imagine they would have not only Kalashnikovs, but tanks and missiles.
Imagine they would block our ports with their warships.
Imagine they would shoot at us out of crowded schools, kindergartens and hospitals.
Imagine they would claim, our nation doesn’t exist and our land belongs to them.
And imagine the world believes that.
Imagine these terrorists have the right of veto in UN.
Then you’ll understand, how much the Ukrainians suffer..”

How to Respond

Shall I stop going to Ukraine because it has become a more dangerous place to be than it was before February and March of 2014? I’m reminded of a famous quote by William Borden, who gave up his fortune and ultimately his life to be a missionary to the dangerous regions. After his death, someone found these words written in the fly leaf of his Bible: “NO RETREAT! NO RESERVE! NO REGRETS!”

I’m reminded also of our friend, Blythe Robinson, another evangelist who often goes to dangerous places to preach the gospel and reach souls for Christ. Please pray for a hedge of protection for him right now since he is serving in a hostile region (where he was allowed to enter even though other missionaries were blocked and sent back to America.)

I am planning to return to Ukraine this year, our Lord willing, either in the spring or in the fall. Whether or not I can go this spring is contingent on several factors, primarily my responsibility with our business, Deighton Lighting. We are sending funds ahead to our ministry partners on a regular basis, and I have invited several of them to consider becoming ministry representatives for Overseas Outreach. Zhenya Molodchy was the first one I invited and the first to respond. Below is a copy of his acceptance letter:

“Dear Rick and Della,

I am extremely grateful for your letter. It is precise, short, well written, clear and deep enough at the same time. I think God is inviting us to the fascinating future in labour for His Kingdom.

The spirit of your letter corresponds to the vision of my approach to the Kingdom work. Your balance of head, heart and hands is outstanding. Glad for compassionate and forgiving heart. See Isa. 61. I will be glad and honored to join. I am praying about reaching Armenia, Baltic countries and Bulgaria. I am also studying Deutsch now, as Masha and Yan are in their schools.

I was glad to read the words ‘real God’ in your letter. In fact we want to call our home church the church of real people with motto: REAL GOD, REAL LIFE, REAL PEOPLE. However my coworkers have not grasped this idea yet. Please, pray. What do you think of the name? Any concerns?. I want to be careful and follow God’s leading. We are trying to measure the name of the church with the culture. Any advice you have?

I wholeheartedly share your vision for overseas outreach…..Thank you Rick, for these years walked together as friends, brother, mentor and mentored, father and son, grandfather and grandkids ( on behalf of my children).

We love you and Della, your family. God bless you.
Zhenya

P.S. Thank you for personification of the OO vision in your life!”

Dealing with Disappointments & Discouragement

We asked Sandy Jones, editor of our local “Christian Living” magazine for permission to share her excellent article from the November/December issue. We hope it is an inspiration to you, as it was to us.

“Lessons learned through a challenging year”

“I know it’s cliché, but where has this year gone? This year has certainly been an eventful one, and God’s been faithful to carry us through the good, the bad, and even the very bad!

2015 seemed to be the year of cancer. It touched our family, and several others we care about. While our daughter-in-law Shannon, and a dear friend’s mother lost their battles, we’ve watched as God miraculously healed others.

A fairly young family friend had extreme complications following back surgery, ending up in ICU for several weeks, followed by rehab, and finally getting to go home after seven very intense weeks of treatment and therapy.

My husband and I bought a 30 year old home and moved in May. Our first indication that we might have our hands full was one Saturday morning when I got up at 3:30 a.m. to no water! We got that fixed, only to find out that we may have to re-drill our well. The flower beds that we’d fallen in love with soon filled with vines – vines of all kinds. We discovered rotten siding on the North side of the house and had to have that replaced. We hired a painter to paint the outside, and came home one Sunday afternoon to find him there with his pressure washer, prepping the house, only to discover that we had a broken faucet in the wall (on the North side of the house) between our laundry and powder rooms; we had a small flood! What was it with weekends and plumbers?! This ruined the floor in these two rooms, and we had no choice but to call in the disaster clean-up people to thwart any possible mold growth.

I mention these things, not to ask for sympathy, nor to whine, but rather to set the stage – this has been the year of asking God to, well, fill in the blank. “God please heal _____.” “God please bless ____ with strength.” “God please keep _____ safe.” “God please….” At one point our pastor commented to me that we were having the summer of Job, and to many on the outside looking in I know it appeared that way.

I reread parts of Job to reassure myself that it could be much worse.

I get a daily devotional delivered to my email each morning. It’s how I try to start my day. The end of September/the beginning of October they did a brief study in the book of Job. I could sympathize with Job.
At some point your friends can’t handle your pain, frustration and grief any more so they go silent, or disappear altogether. The suffering wears on you. Several times during Shannon’s illness I found myself asking God “Why?” knowing full well that sometimes we don’t get to see the ‘why’, comforted in knowing that “all things work for the good…”

As I sat in the early morning quiet on the first day of October, I opened my email to find that day’s Scriptures were Job 40:1-24, where in verses 1-4 God speaks to Job.

[1] “The LORD said to Job: [2] ‘Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!’ [3] Then Job answered the LORD:[4] ‘I am unworthy-how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.’ God goes on in verses 7-14: ‘Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.[8] “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? [9] Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? [10] Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. [11]Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at all who are proud and bring them low, [12] look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand. [13] Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. [14] Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.'”

I find myself completely humbled. All the times I cried out “Why?” came rushing back to me. I never once thought I was asking God to explain Himself to me. While others might, in the circumstances, I never once felt like I was condemning Him, never once tried to make myself His equal. So why then did I feel this overwhelming sense of shame? Because I realized that from His perspective I had been asking, often begging for Him to listen, to understand that I knew better than He in situation upon situation. ‘Please cure Shannon.’ ‘Please give Drew and the kids the strength they need.’ ‘Please touch and heal our friend.’ Looking back on it there were a whole lot of ‘pleases’ with a smattering of “thank you’s’ thrown in for good measure. I’d been treating God like a drive up window! ‘Hello. I’ll take two healings, a dose of courage, and a super-sized side of wisdom to go please.’ ‘What? Will that be all?’ ‘No, I’m just getting started. I’d like to add some peace to sprinkle on top of every life situation, and please pour Your grace over all of it. Did you understand that this is a to-go order? I’m in a hurry, I’ve got things to do – I’m a busy person.’

About that time I attended a business seminar, where a local business coach asked “What is your why? Why do you do what you do?” When the answer to that is to show people God’s love throughout your community, this revelation is pretty big. Huge actually!

I was disappointed in myself, too. For someone who tries so hard to live intentionally, I had unintentionally sold God short. Short on my one-on-one time with Him. Short on remembering that He is the Creator of the universe; He is all powerful; He is the Alpha and the Omega; He is The Great I Am. I’d once again put Him in a very small box! How could I do that?

Easy – spiritual warfare! A member of our Small Group Bible Study brought in a single-sheet last Spring, showing the many ways that the enemy can take your eyes off Jesus; His sacrifice and what that really means. It really could have been summed up in one or two sentences, but the author took the time to give real-life examples. To recap this revelation, the enemy gets a person so busy being busy that they don’t have time to think, or focus, or do anything much besides be busy. I realized at that moment, it’s time to turn off some of the noise. Slow down. Start my day with intention. Get up, turn on the coffee maker, give the dog her meds, food and fresh water, feed the cats so they’ll all leave you alone, then sit down with The Word. Allow God to start your day. Even if it’s just a short daily devotional that arrives each morning in your in-box. This one brief message had stopped me in my tracks. It doesn’t end there – it’s thanking Him for everything. Thank You for the person who returned my call, Lord. Thank You for this new friend. Thank You for wrapping Your arms around our son and his children. Thank You, Lord, for loving and forgiving me, time and again. And, yes, getting back on track broadening and deepening my own personal study in His Word.

I realized years ago that our pastor had to speak to all levels of Christians from the pulpit on Sunday mornings, and that if I was to learn The Word, and truly be able to apply it to my life, then I had to study it for myself. Much like the teacher who sends homework home with your child, so they can practice what they learned in school that day, I believe each of us needs to continue to practice and grow in what our pastors teach us – often branching out into extended areas of study.

At that same business seminar the coach showed a slide of the Cheshire Cat talking to Alice in Wonderland. Alice was asking for directions, when the Cat asked her where she was going. Alice replied that she really didn’t know where she was going. The Cat answered that it really didn’t matter which way she went if she didn’t know where she was going. It made me realize that it’s time to revisit our business plan for this wonderful magazine, but as I write this today, I’m so grateful to know where I’m going, but realizing, too, that perhaps my life plan needs a tune-up as well.

2016 looks promising. New plans. New directions. Our family is adding a new member, as our oldest son will marry this Spring; we love Alex, she’s an amazing woman, and will be a wonderful addition to our family. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m blessed to have Faith to get me through today, by having Hope for what is to come tomorrow. It would be my prayer that you have the same.

May God bless you through this wonderful Holy season, and may 2016 be the year you draw closer to Him than ever before!”

(Re-printed by permission from Sandy Jones. She also wants you to know that “you can read each issue of Christian Living Magazine at www.boisechristianliving.com”)

“Look around and be distressed! Look within and be depressed!
Look up – and be at rest!” – Corrie TenBoom

From Our Mailbox

“Greetings with John 8:12 ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’

I wanted to write you at Thanksgiving but as you know we had big problems with electricity in all the Crimea. It began on 20 November and ended about 10 days ago (12 Dec.). The first two weeks were especially bad. Our district had electricity about 2 hours in the evenings and 3 hours in the early mornings. In the other towns and villages of the Crimea it was worse. The usual life has changed. Children didn’t go to school. It has never been so dark in Simferopol. Unusual feelings. But I thought how wonderful it is that our Lord is the Light that nobody can switch off. On 29 November I preached on John 1:4-13. It was also nice to see people coming to Bible study groups in ‘the evening light hours’ when they could stay at home to do their work in the household.

This year it has been 20 years since I came to Christ. These have been the years of God’s grace and faithfulness. He has been guiding and blessing me. I remember very well the evening of my repentance on 15 November 1995. I remember overwhelming joy of forgiveness and peace with God. It is unforgettable and remains a memorial stone in my spirit and in my story, a stone that I go to, when it is difficult. It is a moment and a place where I have experienced the gospel, the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, the power of God for my salvation! In 1995 I was the first believer among my relatives and former schoolmates. I thought everybody must hear the Good News, all need the gift that I accepted in Jesus Christ! And God blessed me with Bible study groups, the IP, a new congregation and God blessed me with such wonderful partners and friends like you, Rick.

Ebenezer! ‘Thus far has the LORD helped us.’ (1 Sam.7:12b)

The ministry is going on. My main goal is to raise leaders, people who have the character of Christ and can take responsibility in life and in the ministry. It includes not only Bible study but opportunities to work together.

Thank you for your prayers! Thank you for sending us the information to think about and pray!

With love from Simferopol,
Yuriy, Alyona and children.”

****************************
Note: Here are a few comments from those who wrote about dealing with the lack of power:
• “Not only does it mean no light, but no water or heat or internet, since they are controlled by power.”
• “We had to turn off the power for 3rd and 4th floors to turn on the oven.”
• “Today we did not have lights in the house from 6:30 a.m., and I left the office at 5 p.m. and there was no light still.
• “Presently we have no water at all. A water line broke on our street. Supposedly it was fixed today, but we can’t get water until the water source and our house have electricity simultaneously. The temps are getting cold, and without power, our radiators don’t work either – only during the 10 or so hours a day that we have power. Twenty girls living here in such an unpredictable state and without water is extremely difficult. So far it seems that everyone is holding it together and working together to bring in bottled water and to do what we can to help each other.”

Quote to Ponder

“A scared world needs a courageous church.” – A. W. Tozer

Redeeming the Time – Finishing Well

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJV).

Do you ever come up short on time – more tasks than time? I do! How do we go about redeeming the time? I want to complete the tasks that God has ordained for me to do, don’t you? The fact is that we cannot redeem the time for godly purposes in our own wisdom and strength, so let’s see what the next few verses tell us:

“Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Ephesians 5:17-21 (NKJV).

What we cannot do on our own, God will do in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we can finish well! We can be pleasing in His sight. Have you asked Him to fill you with His Spirit today?

The following true story inspired me! I hope it inspires you as well.

“John Stephen Akhwari – 1968 Olympic Marathon

“While competing in the marathon in Mexico City, Akhwari cramped up due to the high altitude of the city. He had not trained at such an altitude back in his country. At the 19 kilometer point during the 42 km race, there was jockeying for position between some runners, and he was hit. He fell , badly wounding his knee and dislocated that joint, plus his shoulder hit hard against the pavement. He, however, continued running, finishing last among the 57 competitors who completed the race (75 had started.) The winner of the marathon, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, finished in 2:20:26. Akhwari finished in 3:25:27, when there were only a few thousand people left in the stadium, and the sun had set.
“A television crew was sent out from the medal ceremony when word was received that there was one more runner about to finish.

“As he finally crossed the finish line, a cheer came from the small crowd. When interviewed later and asked why he continued running, he said, ‘My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”

God did not create us in His image, adopt us into His forever family, and commission us to start in the race to share the gospel with every lost soul – He put us here to finish the race. Are you running the race or sitting on the sideline?

Yours & His,
Rick

In a recent letter we received from our friend, David Black, he wrote:
“This is likely to be an interesting year, but regardless of what is going on, we must look forward to spreading the Good News of Christ until His return. Who knows? It may not be long at all. It is a pleasure and a privilege knowing I’m on His team with you! Like a rushing river that cannot be dried up or frozen over, His blessings continue to flow, and likewise our thanks and praises should wash back to Him. Praise God, the Source of all our being.”

A Note from Della: Today we enjoyed watching our 4-year-old granddaughter’s joy as she played in the snow. She was laughing, throwing snow up in the air and letting it fall all over her. Then she built a tiny snowman about six inches tall. She had a big grin as she said, “Grandma, Grandpa, look at my snow man!!! Precious Memories, how they linger! Oh, let’s make 2016 a year of “Taking joy in every moment that God gives us!”

Praise & Prayer Requests Summary

1. Praise God – electrical power has been restored to Crimea!
2. Praise God – He has blessed Deighton Lighting with the best business volume of the year for the months of November and December even though I was gone from September 17 to November 2 on the mission trip – and continue to spend as much (or more) time on mission correspondence and projects as on the lighting business. Thank You, God! This was very much needed! (As you may recall, we only take mission funds for our income when I am on a mission trip.)
3. Please pray for protection for Blythe Robinson – and for effective service in a hostile environment.
4. Please pray for peace for Ukraine, Israel, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria (and other nations embroiled in war).
5. Please pray for Christians compassionately serving refugees and “Internally Displaced Persons” to be both wise and bold witnesses for Jesus – and for a continuing great harvest of souls.
6. Please pray for someone to offer a matching grant for Overseas Outreach. The needs are always greater than the funds.
7. Please pray for God to mightily use “More Than Conquerors in Cultural Clashes” to reach souls for Christ and spark revival in Christians’ hearts and in churches. The final revisions are completed and submitted to WestBow Press, so we are hoping to see the completed second edition in a few weeks. We do still have copies left of the first edition, and you may have a free copy upon request.
8. Beginning January 17th, I will be teaching a class entitled, “He Who is in You is Greater Than He Who is in the World” at the Eagle Christian Church east campus at Surprise Valley. It begins at 12 noon each Sunday. You are welcome to come and visit. Please pray!

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