Wonderful Opportunity – Then Censored Speech
Kharkiv, Ukraine (Written in my journal on September 28, 2016)
My experience at a private English school yesterday: Zhenya had set the appointment for me to speak to the kids, and the teacher had arranged for me to stand on a platform in a theater-like setting and to teach five classes of forty-five minutes each. However, just minutes before starting time, Lena, the teacher Zhenya had made arrangements with for my speaking, told me that I should not speak much about religion or God. I told her that I don’t speak much about religion – it was religious people who got Jesus crucified. However, I speak about life and about God. I told her, “I could tell about Della.”
The first class was eighth graders and it went very well. The kids laughed and clapped at my stories, but of course, I could not tell Della’s story about choosing a positive attitude (to become better rather than bitter) without telling them to look up to God rather than around at their problems. The teachers I saw in there were nodding in approval. The first class took many of the books and booklets I offered them and then I gave a handful of them to a teacher named Larisa to save for the teachers.
The second class was younger kids about ten and eleven years old. They were very lively and noisy, so I got their attention by showing them some pictures of optical illusions and asking them questions to get them to want to look deeper than first glance and really think about reality. Things are often not what they appear to be on the surface. Then they began asking me questions, so most of the remaining time was question and answer session. One young man, a teacher named Dima, was helping interpret for me when the students didn’t know (or understand) my answer in English. Russian is their first language, Ukrainian second and English third (usually). During the break time Dima let us know that he is a Christian and has served in Christian camps in North Carolina. He and Zhenya exchanged phone numbers to be able to keep in contact.
The third class I started teaching (but never got to finish) was older students – about fifteen years old. I first showed them the pictures of optical illusions, then other pictures to get them thinking deeper about reality and God. I asked them, “Do you know any invention that does not have an inventor?” I told them that the Bible is the bestselling book in the world – by far – and for good reason. It answers the deepest questions of the heart that every human being sometimes asks. I asked them if they thought it was possible to be truly educated without knowing the Bible – because they cannot truly understand the deep meaning of many great classics of English literature, such as Shakespeare and Charles Dickens (as well as some Russian authors) without understanding the Bible. I did not get to finish the class because we (Zhenya and I) were invited to come to a quick lunch in the cafeteria about ten minutes before class time was over. Then Zhenya told me that our teaching time was over because I was talking too much about God, so we were no longer invited to teach the last two classes in the afternoon.
We really don’t know if it is actually their school policy to censor speech about God, or if a teacher (or teachers) panicked, thinking they would be in trouble with authorities. When I was on the phone later with Dima, he told me that they would not be in trouble with any authorities. He told me that the authorities don’t care what they do.
Here is my plan in case I am again confronted with a similar situation:
First, I will ask the question, “Do you believe in censoring free speech – or do you allow free speech that is not obscene or pornographic?
Second, I will clarify that I cannot tell honestly why I come to Ukraine, and I cannot share either my own story or Della’s story without telling about God. Therefore, if the authorities of the school choose to censor my free speech, I choose not to speak at their school. They can find another speaker. If they protest that they do not have time to find another speaker, I will remind them that they created the problem by choosing to censor my free speech. I do not choose to leave my country and my family to travel half way around the world for speaking appointments about trivial matters that have no eternal value. I will speak about God! About my conversion from atheism to Christ and the forgiveness, peace and joy I’ve found in Jesus!
Normally I have more freedom in Ukraine to share in public schools, colleges and universities – as well as in private schools – than I have in America. This was one of those rare exceptions. Please pray for God to water the seeds He gave me the opportunity to plant at that private English school September 28, 2016.
Correction – and Contrasts
To be accurate, I owe you a correction for something I wrote in our February prayer letter. Abraham Lincoln was not born on the exact same day as Charles Darwin (February 19, 1809), but rather, three days later (February 12, 1809. However, what I shared with you about the great contrasts between these two famous men in their lives and legacies is true and accurate!
Recently I heard Ravi Zacharias on a broadcast tell about an atheist, Julian Barnes, who said: “I don’t believe in God – but I miss Him!” (How is it possible to miss someone who doesn’t exist?) He went on to tell that he missed the beautiful artwork Italian and French artists had displayed in stained-glass windows – as well as the German music which Christianity had inspired. However, he called the inspiration behind the beautiful artwork and music a “beautiful lie,” then said, “I don’t fear death like I used to, but I still sometimes find myself pounding my pillow and shouting, No! No! No!” (Isn’t this very odd behavior for someone who no longer fears death?) Do you suppose that Julian’s inner longing and inner conflicts stem from the fact (Biblical truth) that he actually knows that God exists, that he is himself a lost sinner, and that one day he will stand before Almighty God to be judged? Inwardly he obviously recognizes that he needs a Savior while simultaneously suppressing the truth that he needs a Savior. This produces powerful inner conflicts and stark contrasts between what he says and what he does. Can you relate? I recall wrestling with my own inner conflicts before singing in truth, “All to Jesus I surrender – all to Him I freely give.” Have you discovered and experienced the deep joy and peace of surrendering all to Jesus? I believe that this prayer by St. Augustine may be pertinent here: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Do you suppose that Julian Barnes has restless heart syndrome?
Please notice what Jesus said to Nicodemus following John 3:16: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:17-19 (NKJV).
By inspiration the apostle Paul also exposed the hypocrisy of atheism in his epistle to the Romans: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,” Romans 1:18-22 (NKJV)
It is obvious that there were atheists in the first century, as well as many centuries before that because both Psalm 14 and 53 say, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” However, it seems that in the twenty first century the new atheists have become more bold, blatant, and brazen. So what should we do about it?
Inspiration from the Apostle Paul
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” Romans 1:16-17 (NKJV).
Is Christianity just “a beautiful lie”? No! It is Truth that makes it beautiful! Luke wrote to Theophilus that Jesus appeared to His apostles and “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs.” Acts 1:3. Many former skeptics, agnostics and atheists who set out to prove Christianity to be false found themselves confronted with some of the “many infallible proofs” of the resurrection of Christ, and were moved by the Holy Spirit from confrontation to conviction to conversion! Some of the most prominent names among these are British nobleman, Sir William Ramsey (one of the founders of the science of archaeology), C.S. Lewis (one of the most prominent authors of the twentieth century), Josh McDowell (author of over one hundred books testifying to the truth of the Bible), and Lee Strobel (author of many more books verifying Christianity). I wonder how many of the new atheists ever bother to research the evidence these authors present. Don’t you?
Inspiration from St. Patrick
The man we know as St. Patrick was actually English – not Irish – and he did end up living a life worth remembering and celebrating. Here is a bit of information for you from history.com:
“St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity’s most widely known figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.
It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)”
At about age twenty-two, Patrick escaped from captivity and made his way back to England. Although he had hated his captors at first, he learned by the truth and grace of Christ to forgive them and care about them and saw their need for salvation. After fifteen years of dreaming and preparation, he returned to Ireland as a missionary – to strengthen the small percentage of Christians and to reach the pagan Irish with the gospel. Patrick became an amazingly effective evangelist, church planter and trainer of church planters. Together they planted hundreds of churches, won thousands to Christ, and changed the culture of Ireland powerfully for truth and righteousness. When asked what his secret to success in his mission was, Patrick replied:
“Christ beneath me! Christ above me! Christ behind me! Christ before me! Christ on my right! Christ on my left! Christ all around me! Christ within me!”
Inspiration from Sergei Golovin
Here are pertinent excerpts from Sergei’s reports for January and February:
“Thank you very much for your prayers! My recovery after four surgeries keeps going on, allowing active involvement with teaching and training again. Teaching a Master level course for three groups of distant learning students, – church leaders from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, – was a great joy to explore together a role of Apologetics in Biblical strategy of evangelism, Creation Evangelism importance, historical veracity of the Scripture starting with its very beginning to the key point of Jesus Resurrection, and many other related questions.
As I wrote previously, teaching, equipping and coordinating is becoming a priority in my personal schedule planning. It was a special blessing for me to meet an IDP from Donetsk (war zone at Eastern Ukraine) who now runs a ministry helping people to overcome consequences of war. His introduction phrase made me praise the Lord! He told: “I know you since I was a schoolboy – I was subscribed on Christian Center for Science and Apologetics resources and they helped to shape my worldview”. What a great encouragement! Now we are developing plans for partnership. Isn’t it amazing? May the Lord be praised!
An instant feedback and revision opportunity provided by approaches combining an online apologetics club, training course development and book writing brings amazing fruits! Though the course on Biblical Foundations for Anthropology was supposed to be presented for the Joint School of Christian Apologetics for the first time in the fall, Ukrainian Evangelical Seminary, when they found that the course is ready, they changed the schedule and asked us to teach it there now, so the students who are leaving the school this year can have it. Praised be the Lord!
As usually, the time at UES was a blessed period of teaching, preaching, fellowship with students and the faculty. The most exciting event is a so called “Round table” evening, where students are free to ask any questions on faith, personal experience, life issues, etc. All the time at the campus was a great opportunity for mutual encouragement and growing in Jesus together! Please pray for these workers of Christ from Ukraine, Moldova, Russia and Belarus who are going to spread the message at their regions through their ministries!
The seminary administrators (I hope students as well) enjoyed the course very much. They asked us to teach it again in a month for the sake of alumni who will be able to come for taking it. Please pray with us for that upcoming event in March!
We have received exciting news from country of Armenia: the book “Global Flood Armenian Flood – Myth, Legend or History?” Armenian translation went to the press! That was one of very first books we ever published back in 1994. It was reprinted several times both in Ukraine and in Russia (in Moscow and in Novosibirsk). And now Armenian brethren made a version of it in their own language. May the Lord use it powerfully for the truth of His word and the glory of His kingdom spread! “
Note: Please pray for Sergei because he has been recovering from four surgeries in the past few months, and recently was admitted to the hospital again for kidney problems.
Inspiration from “Chesty Fuller”
“Chesty” Fuller, considered the most courageous marine in history said this during the Korean War when his troop of about nine thousand was surrounded by about three hundred thousand Chinese soldiers: “They’re in front of us – they are behind us – they are all around us – They can’t get away now!” Stand up courageously for truth! Against evil! Remember, “Courage is not the absence of fear – it is the overcoming of fear!”
Inspiration from Reggie Thomas
(Amazing Answer to Prayer)
“Dear Praying Friends:
My son-in-law, Zane Darnell has been working in Haiti the past week. Suddenly big problems have erupted in Haiti and Zane is caught in the middle on some kind of riot. He was trying to get to the Port au Prince airport and was about 10 miles from the airport when he was caught in a mob of people who are blocking the highway and burning cars.
IN CHRISTIAN LOVE, REGGIE”
Later message: “Thank you soooooooooo much for praying. God has answered. He sent two angels (Hebrews 1:14) into the midst of the crowds, burning cars, gun shots, and confusion—-and these two helped Zane and guided him through the mess safely and he was then able to get to the airport safely.
Praise the Lord. Reggie”
Inspiration from Millions of Miracles
Millions of Miracles: The Evolutionist’s Dilemma is now translated into the Ukrainian language to become available soon both in digital and printed format. I sent to some of our closest co-workers in Ukraine offering them free copies of the book in Ukrainian to use for outreach. Here are the first replies and my responses. Please pray!
We are rejoicing with you that it is happening! May your work serve for the expanding of God’s kingdom! I think since it is in Ukrainian (Odessa people speak in Russian) we would like to have up to 10 copies for the beginning. Thank you for offering it with no charge!
May God bless you and your family, Sergei Yurevich”
My reply (which includes the email from Stephen Yagilnicky):
Good. I will plan on having Sergei Golovin send you 10 copies when they are ready. In fact, they will probably come directly from the printer, so what address shall he send to?
Also, since Ready to Give an Answer is already in Russian, would you like to have free copies to distribute? If so, how many? We will need to have the printer print more copies of Ready to Give an Answer and I plan to ask our other co-workers how many they can use. Don’t be shy about asking because we are engaged in spiritual warfare – and it is my joy to help in arming the troops for spiritual battles! Here is the reply we got from Stephen Yagilnicky (who wrote an excellent review for Millions of Miracles: The Evolutionist’s Dilemma):
“Good morning Rick…this is great news. Praise God. There is a good possibility LCI can get your book into many orphanage libraries as well as into the hands of many older orphans. I believe, if possible, to receive 500 copies is a good start point. Thank you Rick, His blessings to you as you share them with others. Stephen”
Note: Also, Sergei Golovin wrote to us that “the endorsement by Stephen Yagilnicky will be printed in the book.” That’s great news.”
Inspiration From Our Mailbox
“I am happy to announce that I have been accepted as staff at YWAM Kiev! God has been so good to me! My heart is so happy ❤ ❤ ” – Katie Hartrampf
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“Prayer/Praise request…we will be starting a Praise & Worship Service at the orphanage near the Transition Home. Interesting that this was the very thing Rick that you and I discussed on your visit here.
In His wisdom and grace. Stephen (Yagilnicky)”
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We just want to share how great our God is! He hears our prayers and answers in His time.
We have been praying for planting a new church in our neighborhood for 5 years and now it seems like God opens the door for us. Our church has blessed us to start meeting for an evening service (we will continue going to Gospel Life for some time). Praise the Lord, we have found a very good place for it. It’s a big and nice hall in a technical school, close to Metro station. They will charge us 200$ for a month of rent. The church is giving us some devices; mics, speakers and piano, but we still will need a laptop and video projector.
Please pray for this, and for us to be faithful servants of the Lord. We pray for you, your ministry and a van for Love Cradle. We got together with Zhenya couple of times and will continue, he is a good godly man. Unfortunately, we haven’t met Natasha yet.
God bless you, Volodya and Maryana”
Note: If God inspires your heart to donate for this new church plant, please contact us, and please pray.
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“We watched ‘It is a Wonderful Life’ at Ozark Christian College on December 2016. At the end of the play, the college president (Matthew Proctor) had the following words to say:
“It is a wonderful life. Sometimes of course, we forget. Because life is also hard. Someone said that twenty years ago, our world had Bob Hope, Johnny Cash and Steve Jobs. But today we have no jobs, no cash and no hope. And maybe tonight that’s how you’re feeling: hopeless. Maybe you’re struggling with illness, or you’ve lost someone you love, or maybe you are just so very tired, and right now you feel like George Bailey. You’re asking yourself: Does my life even matter? Is there any hope?
“Our prayer is that tonight you heard those words that Clarence said to George: ‘Strange, isn’t it? How each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole.’ You see, God has a purpose for your life. If you had never been born, the world would be a poorer place. Because God doesn’t make spare people. God doesn’t make human beings that He’s not planning on using. He doesn’t keep certain folks around ‘just in case of emergency.’ No, God has a plan for you, and even when you’re not aware, He is using you to touch those around you in a hundred different ways. Your life is a wonderful gift from God and it does matter.
“But tonight can I tell you where to find the greatest hope? It’s in Jesus Christ. Can you imagine what the world would be like if he had never been born? Oh I know. He was born in an obscure village to a peasant girl, a carpenter most of his life, who died a forgotten death, crucified between two thieves, buried in a borrowed tomb. Surely such a life would not be missed, it would not leave an awful hole…If Jesus had never been born, the entire world would be a very, very dark place.
“But the good news is: on that silent night two thousand years ago, a tiny baby was born, and the best news is: because there was a Bethlehem, there was also a Calvary. You see, the greatest Christmas gift was not given under a tree. It was given on a tree, and because Christ died for us, we can have grace, we can have forgiveness, we can have peace and joy and love, we can have purpose and meaning and significance. We can have hope. This Christmas, remember the truly wonderful life is found in Christ.”
We could not have said it any better. Thanks, Matt. (Used with permission.)
Lloyd & Betty Thomas”
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Prayer Requests Summarized
1. Pray for unbelievers in Jesus Christ our Lord to be confronted with Truth, convicted of sin, and converted to Christ by the power of the Spirit.
2. Pray for God to use Millions of Miracles: The Evolutionist’s Dilemma, in the Ukrainian language to strengthen multitudes of believers to become bold witnesses for Christ and lead many souls to forgiveness, peace and joy in Jesus.
3. Pray for God’s clear leading and abundant provision for Stephen & Iryna Yagilnicky, Volodya & Maryana Vakula, Zhenya & Natasha Molodchy, and Sergey & Vera Yurevich in their new church planting and outreach meetings to the glory of God and winning of souls.
4. Pray for healing, recovery and strength for Sergei Golovin – and praise God for the amazing doors He has opened to Sergei and his team (Christian Center for Science & Apologetics).
5. Pray for each us to become better, bolder, yet more compassionate witnesses for Christ.
For our Christian friends:
“Stop telling God how big your storm is. Instead, tell the storm how big your God is.”
For our non-committed friends:
“The great God of the universe who heaped up the mountains, scooped out the oceans, and flung out the stars wants to have a relationship with you.”
(The above quotes are from “Adrianisms” by Adrian Rogers)