As he made his way through the makeshift security checkpoint and passport control at the simple Ashgabat Airport – pastor Vladimir Tomachev remembered the words of his wife as he packed his bags the night before; "don't take your Bible, they will only confiscate it at the border when you return from the conference in L'viv, Ukraine."
He thought "how can I go to the conference without a Bible?" Upon the thought he went to the customs control point that of late had not been often visited by travelers due too the fact that too few had much to declare as they flew out of Turkmenistan.
"I would like a declaration form please" he asked the customs officer. The customs officer surprised replied "why, what do you have of such value that you've like to declare? Do you have a large sum of hard currency?
"No." said pastor Vladimir
"Do you have some rare antique or artifact you'd like to take out of Turkmenistan to Ukraine?"
"No." he said plainly. "I have something more valuable"
"Well what is it that you have that is of such value?" The officer asked inquisitively. At this point a small gathering of customs control officials gathered around this curious man who asked for a customs form.
"It's my Bible." He said as he pulled out a leather bound black Bible with bright gold edges.
"With eyes that grew bigger the officers asked "is that real gold on the pages?"
"No. The real gold is on the INSIDE"
P. Vladimir came from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan to our conference here in L'viv Ukraine and shared this testimony with us. There it is forbidden to pass out bibles and literature at evangelism. Church activities are closely watched and freedom to worship is strictly controlled by the government. Please pray for the two churches we have in Turkmenistan and the vision they have to reach the Beluji people – a widely unreached people group that only have the Gospel of Luke translated in their language.
John 1:45-48: Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
Sometimes people are blinded to reality because they live in the opacity of the obvious or apparent. Nathanael said "Nazareth!? Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Nathanael could not see beyond the opaqueness of the reputation of Nazareth. Nazareth was known to be a city where Jews lived that were sympathetic to the tyranny of Rome. They were considered betrayers and not lovers of Israel. Nathanael possibly was corrupted in his perception because he too had been betrayed or dealt badly with by Nazareth. As Nathanael, we as people see others through the eyes of how we are seeing ourselves. When people are beguiled they see only deceit and trust no one – nothing is clean – everyone is dirty. This is because of duplicity in the soul and guile in the heart.
But when Jesus met him, Jesus said to Nathanael (which means "gift of God") "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Nathanael shocked says, "Whence knowest thou me?" "…when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee" Jesus replies – Love incarnated sees beyond time, the obvious and sees Nathanael deeper than Nathanael sees himself or Jesus form Nazareth. Jesus has clarity and sees through Nathanael's own opaque image of himself and sees no guile = the opacity of Divine Reality
When we think of Ukraine and the work here we must ask ourselves 3 questions:
1.Can we see through the opacity of the material, known, obvious, & reputation as though it was transparent and see what is truly opaque and absolute Truth or do we live in what we know about people or a country? = The love of The Cross crucifies the opaqueness of sin and corruption and makes us see the true opaque nature of things as God has made it through the finished work. Acts 11:7 And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I [Peter] said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
What is transparent is really invisible; "white (clear) as snow". A window, though transparent & invisible is still there but doesn't blot out the opacity of Truth of the Finished Work behind it. Thus Paul said, "nevertheless I live … yet not I"
Is it a clean work? Are people clean? Are you clean? Are we stuck on the opacity of sight and blinded to what is truly opaque?
Faith sees deeply and love discerns God's mind for people = thus we have a ministry
Tomorrow our conference begins and many already have arrived. Thank you for your prayers and support to get many people here that otherwise did not have the means to come.