Like a golden radiant medallion, the morning sun emerged from behind the sleepy horizon and slowly rose over vast flat Ukrainian fields that stretched as far as the eye could see. The dark, black soil lay freshly turned from recent plowing and harvesting of wheat.
A few hours earlier our small team of Ukrainians and Americans got into a bus from Kirovohrad and we were on our way to KYIV – the capital of Ukraine. As we sped towards our destination we could see from small bus windows a glimpse of this miraculous event that happens every day – Dawn. What a breathtaking sight! I tend to think that even angels wonder at it!
As the morning rays warmed the chilled October air and gladdened the Ukrainian landscape it brought to mind what God seemed to be doing in Ukraine; radiant waves of the Gospel Grace shine on the rich soil of many people’s hearts and there is a lingering sense of preparation and expectation of Precious Seed.
The soil is rich here, so much so that in World War II Hitler’s armies shipped train cars full of this black soil back to Germany. But to no avail – it is something that can’t be transported or stolen – only cared for.
I’ve now come to the end of this surprisingly blessed trip and it is as if all of Heaven traveled with us to the churches in 5 cities we visited. Traveling with me were 6 men from L’viv, Odesa, Kirovohrad, Cherkasy Dnepropetrovsk and Kyiv. There was of course the abundance of laughter, fellowship, the Word, & good Ukrainian food. The only thing that we had little of was sleep.
Every city we went to God brought young people to us that told us that they were called to the ministry and that wanted to study in Bible School. One of them was Volodiya.
As I exited the main train station in Kyiv having just arrived by plane from Bishkek, there was a surprise that awaited. Pastor Juha & Lasi from Finland were there with Albina & a young man with long hair. We greeted and talked about how we were to get to L’viv for the Ukrainian Conference. Turning to the young man that stood there I asked, “Як тебе звати?” He answered me in English; ”My name is Volodiya, you know me” he said smiling. “I do?” He did not look like anyone I had met before. “Yes”, he said “I’m from Truskavets, you knew me as a teen there” He was one of the young teens that came to our Bible Study p. Yura Hrodz led in the mid 90’s in Truskavets. Then 3 months ago he re-appeared in Kyiv as someone emerging from the wilderness and contacted p. Misha in L’viv. Hearing that we were to be in Kyiv he found us and was with us till we departed from Ukraine. “What are you doing here?” I asked, “Waiting for a church to start here” was the sum of his answer. He was invited to Kyiv for work and God began to work in his heart.
When we retreated to a nearby Pizzeria from the noisy bustling train station he went on to share with p. Juha and I that he was Greater Grace and that he had no church in Kyiv to go to. He was voicing what I’ve heard so many times already from the growing number that lives in Kyiv that consider themselves part of our church.
It was evident the heart cry from this young 23 year old and in many ways it was disturbing to hear. Everyday for the following 2 weeks his words stirred our hearts in prayer and petition to the Lord of the Harvest.
So we have started to plan and strategize.
Is it possible for a shepherd to sleep when he hears the bleating of a young lamb lost in the wilderness? How can we not do any thing? As Jesus had the necessity to go through Samaria so we have this necessity laid on us to preach in Kyiv and tend to the sheep there. When we kneel in prayer this young man appears to us as an angel from the Lord saying “Come on! Let’s do it”
Lord help us to help them. We cannot, we do not claim to know how – “Thou knowest, O Lord!”
Luk 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
We all felt the same way - it was if God had let us in on one of His multitudes of secret treasures. The 3 days we spent together in Bishkek with the church seemed to be a door that had been opened to God's Throne room.(Other guests attended from Almaty, Samarkand, Finland and Baltimore), The joy and tears, the conviction and release was incredible.
The pervading theme was the Love of God, and every session was blessed with the Presence of Christ Himself.
One testimony I'll never forget and that was from an older woman from the south of Kyrgyzstan who had found our conference. She told us how she had gotten saved and for 10 months she told no one for fear of persecution and rejection from her Muslim family. But as her aunt lay dying she could no longer be silent - she shared the Glorious Gospel with her and she found Christ hours before her death. In retaliation her family in a fit of rage beat her, hung her upside down by her ankles and broke her fingers. She was tortured and thrown out of the house. In Islam when someone in the family gets saved the whole family is cursed they believe. Now she was homeless in Bishkek. But God led her to the new family where we were able to comfort her and help her. Many people that find Christ are often beaten by their family members.
Each day began at 9 am and ended at sometime around 2am. Those of us that came from the States (p.Drew, p.Peter, P. Schaller and I) hadn't slept for 2 nights already & and when we got off the plane we went right into the meetings. God's quickening was amazing - I've never seen anything like it. We weren't even tired. At one point p.Schaller had preached for 5 hours; 3 messages and one rap session. Then we would go with all the men to the Turkish restaurant and had fellowship till late.
P. Emil and the church there have gotten the permission they needed to start building their new church in Bishkek. The fact that they got the permission was a miracle. So much so that one of those working on their approval decided to canvas the neighborhood to gather signatures against the church and their plans to build. But no one would sign the petition in that Muslim neighborhood because they knew the church and loved our people there.
God is doing something new and precious in Central Asia. P. Drew & I were able to visit the work p.Gani has begun in a poor village on the edge of Bishkek (photos to follow soon!)
I've added a slideshow of the time there. "even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight."
Technology has become the new "mode de vie" in the world we live in where individuals become more and more isolated in a intricate web of social networking and data tsunami's. Studies show that the quality of interpersonal relationships in families, friendships and marriages in the last 10 years has significantly plummeted. To the point where in some places as in Korea and England, programs have been initiated to teach children how to socially interact and how to have a conversation.
As I write this blog I'm on a speeding Bolt bus from Baltimore to NY fitted with a Wifi feed and power supply, wow, how we've progressed. In '92 we didn't have Wifi, Laptops, Email, nor Mobile Phones, not even fax machines; yet the work in Ukraine began. I remember buying a hand full of phone "zetons" and calling all of our people on one of the only payphones that worked in L'viv city; thus we began every trip to Ukraine from our base in Krakow, Poland. Today we send a tweet and we could gather a crowd in moments anywhere we are via geo-Tweeting.
"Digital spirituality" has become the "new snake in the garden" that lies and eventually robs man of a face to face relationship with God. Internet, mp3's, dvds and streaming "Church" allows people to avoid the healthy relationships that require accountability in Body life.
We've become a society, a culture that is so plugged-in to alternate identities & "2nd lives" that we've become un-plugged from those that are siting next to us and the cry of their hearts.
As I travel a small group from Samarkand is making their difficult way to Bishkek to see us FACE to FACE. It is costly for them in a country where the poor are getting poorer and borders are becoming more impenetrable. They are traveling 24 hours - a distance that in the US would be about 4 hours. They will be subject to long waits at the border, harassment, and confiscation of any "digital material" that is Bible related and when they arrive to Bishkek they will be sleep depraved; but nothing will match their joy to be together at the conference.
What privilege we've happened upon that we know such people. In Russian I like what they say "Это не телефонный разговор" - "This is a conversation not for the telephone". Face to face is priceless. A few hours together in the Word, in the Spirit, and in the Precious Body of Jesus Christ is incomparable to any price we pay. It is a gift - and it's something that can't get DELETED by accident.
I covet your prayers as I go with P. Schaller to Bishkek, Uzbekistan, & then I go to Ukraine for conferences in all 3 countries. Special thanks to my wife Gosia who usually stays behind in support and prayer. She's a treasure.