Now I can See……Sept. 2013

Now I can see!

I am a man of plans. I have always had a plan. Not just one but often I had two or three, four , and more. Often when I daydream, I am creating possibilities in my head. I have never been one to say “I don’t know what I would do.”  However the years waiting to get to Odessa has reduced my vision and dreams to be limited to just one goal…. to get here. Beyond that, dreams became foggy and irrelevant as I thought I may never see the land I was called to. I cried to God in my despair. I learned a lot during this time.  The number one thing I learned was I was so busy making plans I never saw his plan.

By now most know of the story of how we got here to Odessa. I was happy but without a plan. I couldn’t see a vision of what I was to do. I did not have a goal to strive to meet.  I was glad to be here but ….now what?

Over three months we were here and we were still blind. Then something happened. I found out there was a possibility that we would not be allowed to stay in Odessa. My brain fired off like an old lawn mower that had been in the garage all winter. Huffing and puffing like a 1978 Briggs and Stratton 2 cycle motor, my brain got to churning, “time to make plans!” I was heartbroken that my dreams and aspirations for ministry in the port city and transportation hub of Odessa would end so quickly BUT I was excited I got to make plans and develop a vision for what “MIGHT” be up ahead.  I evaluated whether to go back to Atlanta or to move to another country. I had all sorts of variables as I contemplated and researched the possibilities. I am not going to lie to you, it was fun for me! I was excited! Not only was it time to develop a back-up plan, but it was time to put together an exit strategy. I began to think, “I’ve got 8 or 9 days left, what is important to accomplish before we leave?” The time was busy and packed. Some might have even thought “wow, he is excited to leave?”  However, I noticed many things when anticipating I might have to leave.

I saw the blessing of having a school for my children to attend. I saw the blessing of having friends in ministry. I saw the blessing of the different strengths of my team members. I saw the blessing of seeing the completeness of the church rather than the incompleteness. I saw the blessing of what a beautiful city Odessa is. I saw the blessing of so many other things that had been an answer to prayer along the way.

We began to identify our core values and look into our purpose as missionaries. We evaluated who we were and what we were doing as we prepared for the impending change. As they say in football, “It was time to focus on the basics” of why we were here and use that to develop a plan for what was up ahead.

We developed vision.  Now we can see who we are. Now we can see what we want to do and now we can see how to do it. Our visa registration was approved. We are now allowed to stay in the country for 12 months (pending new law changes). I am so happy I get to live out one of the dreams I had for Odessa Ukraine and we are looking forward to our stay here. The list is too long to post here on how this “scare” of having to leave blessed us. We are so happy God brought us through it the way he did, and we are also happy we do not need to go to Kutaisi Georgia and not Atlanta, Georgia. If we had been denied in Odessa than on Friday night at 11:00 pm we would have set sail on The UKR Ferry from Illichevsk Ukraine to Poti Georgia (not the state but the country).

This month we also celebrated another birthday. Emily turned six on September 9 and we celebrated at a local place similar to Chuck E. Cheese but quieter and not so packed. She loved it. Thankful that the Lord even provides for our children places to have fun and be kids.

Thank you to all of those who have been praying for us in this time and to those of you who continue to support us.

Prayers

Please pray for our needs to be met, at our current rate we are slowly using our reserves.

Please pray as we continue to chase the campers from the summer evangelism camp. Some made professions of faith and have since fallen away. The discipleship process is continuing for some while others that remained quiet have continued to learn about the Lord and have embraced the church family. Specifically pray for those whose families have become barriers between these young adults and the Gospel.

Please pray for our language abilities. Our #1 goal for the first year was to learn to communicate. Staying true to this goal and not becoming buried by circumstances and ministry has proved tough.

Please pray for the missionaries of Odessa to work harmoniously together and helps us to support and challenge one another on a continual basis.

Nobody wants to disappoint Mama….Aug 2013

Nobody wants to disappoint MAMA…..

In this past month we have done a lot. First I want to highlight some of the campers from our Evangelistic English Camp. At the second camp, David was honored with the privilege of delivering his testimony. It was the first time that Megan and Jacob got to hear David’s unbridled testimony and I am sure they were quite shocked about who their father used to be. Teniece shared her testimony at the first camp and it was a story of salvation not sealed with a baby baptism or a confirmation certificate but through believing in the Almighty God and his love for us through the sacrifice of his Son. David’s testimony was based with the statement, “No one wants to disappoint Mama”. His testimony was a reminder of how we must come to our own faith in Jesus and not attempt to claim a faith based upon our heritage or culture.  The camps end result was 11 people pledging their life to God. Eleven people acknowledged that Christ died so they might live after this life.  One of these people was a young man of 21 named Ilya (Eli or Elijah in English). He actually raised his hand and asked a question during David’s testimony. Ilya connected with one of the short termers from Minnesota (Eric) and through this relationship by the end of the week Ilya asked for God to forgive him and for Jesus’ blood to wash away his sin and he repented of living life for himself. Another one was Tanya who was quiet and reserved through her time at camp but with the gentle love of the ladies (Cheryl and Karen) from Illinois she saw she was missing the peace that these ladies demonstrated and was actually the first of the second camp to seek out a believer and ask “I want to be a believer in Christ, how do I do this?” Another was the young Vlad who saw the Christian team work together, working towards the same goal.  The team being made of people from different parts of the United States working together. Vlad comes from a broken home and was touched by the family feel. Vlad is a “futbolist”.  One who plays futbol (soccer) all the time.  In fact the only shoes he brought were cleats. He saw team work like he had never seen before and felt the love of Ron and Charlene from Arizona and wanted to be part of that. These are just few of the many stories of those whose willingness to come join us for a week changed not only the life of these precious few, but God used them to change eternity through their actions. I ask you, do you want God to use you? Maybe this is how you can see actual change in the world; change in the Kingdom, God could use you to change eternity.  Are you willing to be used? Join us in presence and come out for our January Discipleship Camps or start planning to spend next summer’s vacation with us at Evangelistic English Camp. If you can’t come maybe you could send someone or support us directly.

So now what about us…..

The children have seemed to withdraw from the outside world a lot lately. A large part of this is an inability to communicate, not wanting to impose on friends they do know, and lack of schedule. In our full budget we had an amount for kids extracurricular activities in order for them to mix among the Russian speaking population and learn to speak and relate to others and not becoming cave dwellers addicted to Mine Craft, My Little Pony, or just reading book after book on the Nook.  We have been living at partial budget since we got here so we decided it was hurting the children so we have enrolled Megan in horse riding lessons to the tune of $16 per week.  It is the highlight of her week and she is excited not only to see the horses but Julia, her riding partner and her coach, Nastia. Jacob is scoping out the gymnastics facilities and will hopefully join one soon.

August 10th was Megan’s 14th birthday and she wanted to go eat Thai food. In the states this is unheard of but here in the land of no spicy food it is sweet like Chinese food. She went horse riding in the afternoon and finished with chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, and corn for dinner and of course cake and ice cream, although the cake was store bought and quite interesting.

Moldova?  What’s that? That is the poorest European nation which is right next door to Odessa. Teniece and David had to go there to apply for visas. It is the closest Ukrainian Embassy to Odessa. It was a 27 hour trip full of long, hot, overnight bus rides as well as a gracious host from CA serving in Moldova. Christian provided us with a comfy bed and a guide that took us by the hand, bus by bus, to get us to the places we needed. We completed one more step in our annual residency. We now have 45 days to complete the process.  In a time when David seems to grow weary and irritated by Odessa, one of our colleagues was over zealous to return back to Odessa. David asked “Why do you want to rush back there?”  And he said “I miss home.” David felt like saying “One day I hope to feel the same”. God seems to be at work in our lives teaching us continually.

School – By the time you read this another school year will have started for the kids. This comes as a financial challenge for us as we misunderstood the cost and so it will cost us double what we anticipated. David thought we were the cheaper of the categories but we are not so the school tuition is now $6000k and this not in the budget and will use up a large portion of our reserves. Thankfully God knew ahead of time we would need this and provided these reserves for a time like this. Teniece will be homeschooling Emily this year and that will be a challenge in its own.

At a time when it is not all fun and giggles living in a different world/culture, some have said “You look so happy there”. We are happy serving the Lord and that is where our joy comes from. Living in another culture is hard and exhausting. We are grateful that even when the days seem long and we lovingly talk about what all we are missing by being here, at the end of the day we are thankful to be here serving our God and those he loves.

Thank you all for your support and prayers and we look forward to you partnering with us in many ways over the years to come.

 

Praise – 11 professions of faith from the camps plus three more who did not come forward but have joined in outreach and come to church in Odessa while contemplating their walk in life. Also, praises that we have not run into issues with our visa’s thus far.

Prayer- Please pray for us as we continue to adjust to a foreign culture, language and people.

Prayer – Funds, we need your help again (I wonder if George Mueller ever felt like he did not need to pray for funds?)

Prayer – David is still due to testify in a civil matter in October. While the outcome of this doesn’t concern us it is quite stressful as David is the key witness and is stressed about making sure he represents God and the truth.

Prayer – Also be in prayer for David’s old work site in Nashville Tennessee. They have experienced some hardships here in the past few weeks that could troublesome for the new and undiscipled believers there.

And now for our feature presentation….July 2013

“And now for our feature presentation”

 

Two months now we have been in Odessa, and oh how it seems to be flying by. We have learned a little Russian. Started engaging the culture deciding what is good to accept as becoming Ukrainian/Russian and what might be a stumbling block to unbelievers coming to know Christ. We have also met many of the missionaries here in the region and enjoyed hearing the tales and experiences. I often look at the situation and think about the movie “Invictus” with Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. I wonder what might bring a fractured city of missionaries and people together for the common good of the Kingdom of God? What is the thing that will unite this crew of God lovers and city of lost people.

One of the things we have seen working is English Evangelism Camps.  This is currently the pinnacle event for our team here in Odessa. This is often how we reach unbelievers and help bring them into the church for discipleship. Without short term missionaries, this event would not be possible and it is your help in these events I ask for now.  I write this letter we are in the midst of one of the camps right now. The first camp is over and was a wonderful experience and we see God moving in the midst of these camps. In the first camp we had six American short term members join us. Two from Iowa, three from Arizona and one from California. In the second camp the two from Iowa returned being replaced by two ladies from Illinois, a family of five from Minnesota and another lady from Minnesota. The three from Arizona and one from California remained for the second camp. In the first camp the two ladies from Iowa were so awesome to have. One is a stay at home mom who was a math teacher in the past and the other was a grant writer turned English teacher in a college. The SAHM was one who really exhibited strength and control in the camp. I would have to say the experience of raising three children definitely was put to use. Her testimony was awesome for the teen girls and she really was a like Doberman watch dog. The grant writer was probably one of the happiest people I have ever met in my life. She said she smiled and laughed when she was nervous and I said I hoped she never felt comfortable because just her joy was a testimony that lit up every room she walked in. It was a joy to work with them.  The guy from California has done this trip like 9 years now and he loves it. It is an awesome time for him to detach from life back home and dive into God and God’s word and seek God and his direction not only for his life, but for the campers around him. He has learned a large part of his Christian walk from his camp experiences. He came to study at Libby Montana while we were there for two weeks and it was pleasure to work along side of him. He is one who is called to stay rather than go for if he followed his heart he would be here permanently. The couple from Arizona has led these two camps for many years and in fact, their daughter is married to the son of the man who first started these camps. They have done it so many times they are a great comfort and assurance to those of us who might be “new” at the game. Also a Navajo Indian joined us this camp really making it interesting to have a “true” American on the team.

The first Camp was great and we had the chance to really make some solid connections and a few of the guys from the camp were excited to know that we live in Odessa and are already planning to get together with us in the future and get to know each other better. In the second camp, we were joined by two ladies from one of my colleagues home church. While he has had many friends and family join him over his seven years here, this was the first time people his home church came and it quite exciting for him to finally show them what he has been talking about! These two ladies also are excited to be here and seem to look for the opportunities to build the kingdom while they are here. I hope we do not have to wait seven years for our first visit but we also understand God is control and just completing our own first camp is our focus for now. We are also joined by a family of five from Minnesota, the father has managed concrete plants in the past and his wife is a SAHM for the three kids aged 14, 11, 5 hmmmmm sounds familiar doesn’t it?  Teniece and I joked they are our twin family. Their kids were instant friends with ours. They also brought their Aunt along with them. It is great for our children to have children the same ages to interact with.  We have a full camp this second time around with about 64 total attendees and I enjoyed being the first one to give their testimony at this second camp. Teniece was the first to give her testimony at the first camp. Hopefully God will use my wreck of a life to save others. Maybe you can think about joining us next year at a camp. We would love to have you serve with us and as you can see any one can contribute, even a 5 year old.

We also were brainstorming for ideas for camps. If we can get at least three Americans to commit to coming we can do almost any kind of camp from baseball to firearms, our need is for willing Americans to come, not finding campers. One of the camps brainstormed was a rifle and range camp to reach Ukrainian men with the Gospel. If you can actually commit to any type of camp let me know and if we can get three people to commit we will do it.

Thank you all for your continued support and prayers,

 

Praises – David’s Grandmother’s house sold. This is something we have been praying for and waiting for since November.

Praise – We have had an awesome time at camp and seen God work in the unbelievers heart and draw them closer. Also God has used this time to improve our Russian and bond us together with the team.

Prayer- Please pray for our visa’s. We have until Aug 20 for David and Jacob’s and they have not been approved yet.

Prayer- Please pray that we our family and adapts to our new home, language, and culture.

If you feel led in any way to support us financially while we are in Ukraine, please mark all donations account “MDP”.  Thank you to all those who make it possible for us to serve here in Odessa!

Second Class Citizen June 2013

Second class citizen? No, not even that.

I have a growing affection for the immigrants of the United States. We sometimes see the signs that say “We speak English” and we want to give that store our business. We meet many people, some are genuinely glad to see us here. Many look for a way to exploit us. Most are bothered by our presence. If we were here on business then they feel we are helping their economy and society. For the most part I have found outside the church the people are a bit put off by fact that we are here as missionaries. I had the privilege to spend some time at a language school. In my class were two Italians and one Swiss man. They all spoke English but were there learning Russian. When introduced to the class the teacher asked me if I was there on business and I said “no, I was here as a missionary”. She responded “well isn’t that interesting”. The Italians thought I was Mormon and the Swiss was perplexed on why a missionary would come to a “Christian” nation. The Italians were open and accepting of me but were quick to say we were on the same team, they were Catholic. Unfortunately I did have the opportunity to teach “being Catholic” was not what was required but belief in grace not works or baptism by a priest. The Swiss implied my work was admirable but poor for business so please do not bother him with the details. This feeling was the same as with most of the Ukrainians I met outside of the church.  I kind of felt like I was back in the States, an unwanted immigrant. In fact, the scary thing is I really see not how different Ukraine is from the United States, but how it is similar.

So a little about the life in Ukraine. The power goes on and off. The water pressure is low to nothing due to being in an old building and on the fourth floor. When someone uses the water to wash a car on the first floor we have to wait until they are done.  People stay up late and sit out on the street talking, arguing, and playing. Getting A/C was a blessing because we could close our windows at night and sleep well. The mosquito bites were all but eliminated as well. However our A/C is like a window unit so it only cools two rooms. The kids have fans.  Most things are more expensive. We are having trouble finding sports leagues for Jacob. We have asked for Tae Kwon Do, wrestling, futbol, rugby or anything but everyone looks at us weird when we ask these things. We know they exist but they are hidden and hard to find for a father and mother who do not speak the language. It is not all bad we do have our victories, like finding a spice store close to the house and being able to get $30 of spices for $10. Finding out that the kids new favorite dinner is Pelmeni which cost about $3 for a bag that feeds the family. Also the kids love spaghetti and so we have meals the kids like.

Last month I spoke about how it was not so much as a difference between countries as to moving to an urban lifestyle. This month it’s not as much as being urban as being a family in single minded environment. Grandmothers raise kids. The growth rate for Ukraine is already negative. Most couples have one or two children at most and then the Grandmothers do the raising. Often the parents live in a different city or even country than the kids. We do see some “families” but often the children run the family. Parents are scared to discipline their children. People speak of family but their allegiance often goes to a grandparent more than a parent or spouse.  I could say the family unit is weak here but is it so much different in the states?  Our church here in Odessa is the culmination of a decade of youth camps and college outreach. Many of these people have grown up and now are getting married and having kids. They are facing a transition of how to become a church for families.  There are already some babies but three more on the way this fall. Our family is now the example where we used to look to see how others did it. Saying it is all about family now is an understatement.

I am not sure how God will use us to bless the people of Ukraine. I see the Port daily and long to work with men and equipment, P&Ls and all the other things I have grown to love. I still get excited and smile and say hello to the garbage men here and look at their truck and inspect it as they come by each day. I observe building sites and marvel at their styles of work. In the short term we will continue to learn how to live as a godly family example. Maybe we will learn how to help the local church body see the lost people right next to them. Maybe God will use us to open their eyes to see the harvest field right in front of them. Maybe God will use us to reach one that he might then reach 1000’s. I don’t know, but I do know that just focusing on my first responsibility to God, raising my family to count nothing more important than the Gospel is our current ministry.  Maybe this will be a blessing to the people of Odessa.

 

Prayers and Praises

Praise the family got here with all our luggage and we had a flat to move into immediately.

Praise the Kids got to meet the students from the school they will be a part of in September and are excited for that time.

Prayers needed for the kids as they adapt to the culture that they will not just retreat in to the safety of the apartment and become withdrawn and separated from the people of Odessa versus embracing learning the language. Pray that God gives us all a thirst for the language.

Pray for our Visa/residency process. I am not used to doing things the Ukrainian way so please pray for God to allow me grace and relieve me from judgment in the situation. It is not a “certain” process and there is the possibility that we would be denied. We need prayers that it goes as needed.

Coming to Odessa….May 28 2013

Coming to Odessa….

I think about Eddie Murphy in 1988 with the hit “Coming to America” and all the things he went through as Jacob and I (David) are now here in Odessa.  As with Eddie Murphy, I believe it is not the change in country as much as the change in position that is the challenge. He was a Prince with many servants becoming a servant so to say. We are the suburban, four-wheeler loving, truck driving, southerners moving to the big city.  There are many differences that take place without even thinking of the different language and culture.

While us guys are here in Odessa, the girls have been finishing up school and packing and will be joining me before you even read this letter (30 May). Oh how we miss them and their arrival will be joyous.  Hopefully we will have a flat to welcome them home to when they arrive, however short sightedness on my side was thinking like a westerner. Thinking finding a flat would take a few days. In the future one should start looking on the 1st looking for a flat to move into on the  next first. So when the girls arrive most likely we will have to find a place to stash them till we can move in.

Jacob has tired of walking. He is used to walking so much and is eager after only a few days head back to Ron’s flat shortly after we leave. Ron Winkler is the IM colleague that is helping us around and letting us crash on his pull out sofa till we find a home. City life puts lots of wear on your feet. Getting used to life without a car is hard. You can’t just go and pick up a week’s worth of groceries, you have to carry it home so you only get what will fit in a bag so daily shopping becomes the habit.  How to tie down the mattress isn’t the issue, getting it delivered is the issue.

City life is really tough on the kids.  Jacob used to be able to run off into the woods or back yard and act crazy with no one judging him. Now there are always a set of eyes on you and you are constantly evaluated as a parent and child. I can see why people move to the country and suburbs to raise children now. It pains me to be on Jacob all the time but he is coming around and getting used to it. However we will have to find a sport for him to join into or he will be like a caged animal. The boy needs to let loose at times as he is a boy.  Hopefully we will be near a park/ playground for him to unleash his wildness on. we see now it is not the Russian/ Ukrainian culture that is so hard as it is just learning to live in the city.

Please continue to pray for us. God has provided thus far yet we still need monthly support. If you feel called to this, please send it to the address below ear marked for account “MDP”

So as I leave you with a game we have been playing called HI / LO I say and item Jacob guesses HI or low, is it higher in Odessa than in the US or lower.

Milk                       HI            5.00 per gallon

Gas                        HI            5.00 per gallon

Dried apricots    LO           3.00 per pound

Water                   HI            2.00 per gallon

Bread                    LO           .60 per loaf

Coke                      LO           1.25/2 ltr no tariffs on sugar here like in the US so they don’t use High Fructous Corn Syrup =cheaper

Cell Phone          LO           $15 per month for light use no contract, phones same price

Cars                       HI            a van like ours which we sold for $1700 was just sold for a little over $4000

TVs                         HI            TVS run about 25% more here as with most electronics and white goods.

Clothing               same     Name brand runs about 20% more while no name is 20% less

Legos                    HI            They run about 50-100% more over here. In fact all kids stuff is more expensive

However the biggest let down is there is only one flavor on Ramen here that we have seen and that is chicken, no oriental.  Megan will be OK but Jacob loves his oriental.

Not by my power…. May 2013

Not by my power but by His….

 

As a young teenager I “fell” in love a couple of times having a feeling that I could not describe. Often that feeling was replaced with a pain I could not describe. It is within feelings I cannot describe that our story of the month of April unfolds.

 

As many of you know, we have struggled getting funding for our mission to Odessa. We have raised many funds, but it seemed as soon as we added two, one fell off. This past year since we have returned to Atlanta from Montana has been a hard year, full of tears and sorrow. It also has pushed me to pray harder and study the word harder than I ever have. I often questioned my own calling to missions and to Odessa. Seeing our shortage of funds and struggling to make ends meet while we waited, I began a road of self reliance. A road that said, “even if God doesn’t show up, I am safe.” I worked and saved up money from tax returns for our departure funds. I also put away gifts and cut our spending to the bone. Whatever we could pack away to support us as we did not have enough monthly support to survive long term in Odessa.

I put all these goodies away into an account and told myself, “Soul, you can rest now for you have ample goods stored up”.  I stood as Nebuchadnezzar, from Daniel 4 saying to myself “look what I have done.”  We had achieved the necessary financials to depart for Odessa and survive through the end of the year. Without warning, an old debt which we thought had been retired, came back and our funds were frozen. The amount in the accounts was almost the exact amount required by the creditor. We were broke. I cried out to God and said, “I did all I could do Lord, I hand it over to you.” I emailed five mighty men of God and said pray! If God shows up in the next week, we will go. If he does not, we will step aside, step down from the mission field for now. Go get a job and return to our “old” life. It was time to see if it really was the will of God that we go into missions and go to Odessa Ukraine.

A line had been drawn in the sand. Not really by me, but by God. He took all I had done by myself and crumbled it up like a scrap piece of paper and tossed it away. It was as if He was saying, “you will only go if I send you, by my power not yours.” We were set to appear before our home church “The Bridge” that Sunday. I called Pastor and filled him in. We shared where we were and showed a clip of a video “Freedom Found in Faith”. The elders came up and prayed for us and I was feeling such a feeling of relief, it was now out of my hands. I was a bit happy on a few items. I was thinking to myself,  “I will not have to ask for support or funds.”  “I will not have to defend the call of God on our life.” “I will not have to defend if I am making the right decision for my children.” I was starting to day dream about what life would look like. I was dreaming about being able to plant my family somewhere for a few years. I was thinking what it might be like to take a vacation again and the possibility of having a car that didn’t require frequent prayer. I was a little excited about returning to a “normal” life. I was content.

My little vacation from missions lasted about five minutes. Some dear friends of ours came up and told us they had just given Pastor a check that just about covered all our funds that had been seized. My vacation from missions was over, but I was excited! God had come through. We never made an appeal for gifts; we never made a comment on the amount needed, and not only that, I had said if God didn’t show up, I was cool with it either way. It was His move, so we were really surprised to see that God had laid it upon someone’s heart to give, not only a gift, but one of that size. I was crushed from the love of my Lord and Savior as He provided for us in a moment what I had worked so hard for the last three years. It quieted all the questions of whether or not we were supposed to go. It sustained me and I knew I could move forward in confidence that my Lord was with me in this. I am excited to be on our way. We are excited as a family. We still need monthly funds to remain out of debt and I hope once people see us with feet on the ground they will understand our need for support. I hope you will support us if you are not already, “but it is not the merely the gift I seek but the credit to your account”. Philippians 4:17

Oh, also it was my 37th birthday this month!

We celebrated with a family gathering with my older brother who was also celebrating a birthday. We all got to act like kids for the day-bowling and playing laser tag.

 

Prayers needed:

* Needing to buy plane tickets for Teniece and the girls.

* Packing preparations have begun. Please pray for a smooth transition from Georgia to Odessa for all of us!

*Monthly funding is enough to go but there is still a need to be met.

 

The Tortoise and the Hare, April 2013

The Tortoise and the Hare,

It was two years ago in February when we were allowed to visit our friends Stefan and Hensie, Missionaries to Odessa from South Africa who work with OM (Operation Mobilization).  It was through this time the Lord confirmed the calling to missions to Teniece and I and He drew us to the Post Soviet culture of Odessa. Our visit was sweet and Stefan and Hensie were oh so gracious to show us the ministry God has blessed them with.

One of my favorite parts of the trips was getting to know their children. Nadia, who is the same age as Jacob is fluent in four languages and has the aptitude of Megan.  Next is Daniil (Daniel ). He is a sweet yet active boy who I could see a lot of Jacob’s mannerisms in. Also they have a son named Victor who really reminds me most of the boys of my friend Kevin McDaniel, sweet and full of energy and smiles. Stefan told me the stories that at the time I missed, his life was lived almost to demonstrate grace to the Ukrainian people. Hensie was his support as well as the mentor to other women.  This family was a blessing to us. We felt the love of God coming from them to us.

As we went to leave Odessa Daniil gave me two turtles made from clay. I thought this was cute but I did not realize the significance of this at the time. Our time to come to Odessa would be long, slow process. There was no racing ahead, there was no hurrying to the finish line. The trip to Odessa has been a mental and emotional struggle. Often I felt like I would rather be in prison in a foreign land than in the prison of my mind trapped in the US fundraising. Being reliant upon others is a hard thing for me to accept. I often wonder if God directed us to this path to eliminate self-reliance from my mind set.

Also God taught me a lot about judgment and grace. The book that I read that had the most impact on me in these years was “In the Grip of Grace” by Max Lucado. I am not a Max Lucado fan but this book seemed different to me. I began to see in my life where I was not trusting and was lacking grace.  In fund raising I had developed a bit of bitterness seeing some thinking they should give and they do not. I was overwhelmed by the people I thought would not give who did. I learned that the gifts,the shillings, from the widows and the poor were such a sweet gift and I treasure and give God praise for those as much as the large gifts from the well off.  I have learned to eliminate the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary and just look for those who would.

In a world of ‘should’ which inspires and implies guilt, I must first realize I should have given my life to God many years earlier, but I didn’t. I should have given more to missions, but I didn’t. I should have shared the Gospel more but I didn’t. I should have trusted God more and myself less but I didn’t. There is a world of things I should have done but I didn’t.  I should live a sinless life but I can’t. Now I am one of those who would trust in the grace of a Savior, and whether I am a tortoise or hare, I will arrive in Odessa at the perfect time. As a tortoise or a hare I will arrive in Heaven at the perfect time.

I thought I could run the race to Odessa as a hare, but even a child could see I was really a tortoise. Thank you for believing in us and supporting us. There is still a need so give as you are led to and we thank you for your support of us and your support of the work God will do through us.

 

Prayers and Praises

Praise- God provided a vehicle on loan to David so he could work for a little bit before we leave covering some of our monthly shortage.

Prayer – Please pray for the Kids as the excitement of two plus years ago has worn thin over the years of waiting. Now there is a bit of sadness as they prepare to leave.

Prayer – Please pray that Odessa and the team there is ready to receive us.