Category Archives: Life as I experience it

Trust

Where do you place your trust? In whom?

In December 1991, I found myself in one of the most difficult places in my life. I had moved to Dallas to work, and the company sold and closed down, leaving me and 900 other people out of work.

The next six months found me learning to truly trust in God. To truly rely upon Him for everything. And it wasn’t easy at first.

Then, God prompted me to do something else… leave the comforts of home and go across the Atlantic to a place I had no knowledge. A country that was only a few years old and still finding its way.

Getting on that plane in February 1994 to fly to Kyiv, Ukraine was a huge faith builder. For the next three years, God worked miracles around me and in me!

Then, seminary came with its own challenges from 1998-2001. Again, I saw events happen in my life that only came from trusting a God whom I could not see, but with whom I had “seen” work specifically in different situations in my life.

Through my 16+ years with IMB, I have watched God work. I have seen lives changed by trusting in Him. I have seen my faith grow because of God working in me. Even when a cancer diagnosis came in 2016, He sustained me.

Now, in February 2020, I am facing walls that I cannot climb, roads I cannot travel… that is I in my own strength, in my own will.

But, the great thing is that I don’t have to try to climb those walls or travel down those roads alone. When I placed my trust in Him, He promised to never leave me, He promised to always be with me. And for that reason alone, I can face these uncertain days… knowing that I am loved by my God. Through it all, it is for His glory!

26 years later

Twenty six years ago almost to the day, I found myself in Kyiv for the first time. It was also my first train ride experience. Tonight I walked through the train station and remembered that crazy day 26 years ago.

There are some things that haven’t changed: the amount of people waiting for trains; some of the kiosks selling last minute supplies, homeless taking a respite from the cold before the police run them out.

I don’t have any photos, however, there are some big changes to the what is called the “south hall” of the train station. Twenty six years ago, the south hall didn’t exist. Now, just meters away, there are 2 new McDonalds, a large supermarket, a huge KFC, plus a large number of restaurants.

When I consider what changes have been made in my life due to living abroad, I realize how blessed I am. God uprooted a boy from a small town (we call them villages here) and moved me across the Atlantic Ocean to a country named Ukraine.

Thanks for being a part of the journey…

Feels like home

Since July 2014 I have traveled to the far Eastern Ukraine region a number of times. I remember that first drive from Kharkov to Slavyansk. There was a feeling of apprehension of the unknown.

As we arrived in the Donetsk region, I noticed a sound coming from the road. It grew so loud that I wondered if there was a problem with one of my tires, even though the car was handling ok. Finally I stopped and checked all the tires.

No problem with the tires, but eventually it was noticed that the asphalt highway showed the signs of heavy tanks that had driven down the road. Ever since then, I recognize that sound immediately whenever I hear it. And I always hear it. I heard it again recently.

This past week, I spent four days in an area where I had never really worked. Even though I had lived in Donetsk for almost 4 years before the conflict started, I never spent any time in this particular area. And on many of the roads in the area that weren’t covered with snow, that familiar sound was ever present.

What a joy it was to meet and spend time with believers living along the conflict zone. One church has experienced tremendous growth since 2014. Attendance has grown from 10-15 people to 60-70. They have baptized 22 people in the last 3 years.

One of the places we visited has a salt mine. The pastor gave me a ceramic boot with a cube of salt as a souvenir. He mentioned to me that the boot represents bringing the “Good News” to the people of Eastern Ukraine and the salt, of course, reminds me to always be the salt of the earth.

I always leave Eastern Ukraine encouraged more than I feel I have helped. It still feels a little like home, even with tank tracks covering the roads.

Worthy

This morning as I thought about how busy my next 4 weeks will be, my mind thought of the song we sang last week during a conference I attended.  I turned on my tv, tuned into youtube and found the video:

The imagery in the video is fantastic, and if you pay attention, the video was shot in one continuous take.

I wept as I sung the words.  I just returned from my latest PET scan last evening.  There is always some uncertainty and nervousness associated with these scans.  What will be the results?

However, this morning, I received a message from someone wanting to know more about a situation inside the war zone.  Her church wanted to help.  So, my mind flows directly to why I am here.

He is worthy!

Here are some of the lyrics:

Does the Father truly love us? He does!

Does the Spirit move among us? He does!

And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? He does!

Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does!

All the nervousness, all the uncertainty, all the days when I don’t feel well, I must continually remind myself… He is worthy!

So, watch the video on full screen (or on your tv), turn up the sound and worship because…

 

He is Worthy!

Honesty

I am a pretty open person.  I’m pretty opinionated (guess this comes from my debate days in HS).  I used to be an extrovert (off the chart!), but that has moderated some.

On November 11, 2016, I endured surgery to remove a tumor on my pancreas.  The surgery is called the Whipple procedure.  The surgery removed part of my pancreas, stomach, intestine, bile duct and duodenum.  Normally, the gallbladder is removed as well, but mine had already been removed.

I healed up pretty quickly and didn’t experience many of the things others have experienced. I must admit that even through chemo and radiation therapy, the side effects were minimal, but I did lose a lot of weight.

I did well enough that all 3 of my doctors released me so that I could return doing what I love to do! So, for the past 9 months, I have lived back in Ukraine.  And, while I have enjoyed being back, there have been frustrations as well.

I have learned that I did not ask enough questions from the surgeon about side effects of the surgery and quality of life. I think I was in such a hurry to get the tumor out of me, that I forgot to ask the important questions.

I am still learning how to deal with the side effects.  I will not detail them here.  But these side effects do cause you to plan well and sometimes realize you just can’t do what you planned to do that day.

I think for me one of the biggest frustrations is how quickly I can feel great and then feel like all my energy has been sapped, only to feeling great again in a few hours.  No apparent cause.

One example is this past Saturday.  I drove to a town about 1 hour from Dnipro.  Enjoyed exploring a new place, and returned to Dnipro.  I washed the car and enjoyed being out in the sun. No real strenuous activity.  I really had a good day. Yet, by evening I wasn’t feeling well and it lasted until Monday morning.  I still went to church Sunday evening and had a meeting afterward.

A few months ago, I found a couple of Facebook groups that deal with my cancer and surgery.  It has been helpful to learn that others are experiencing some of the same things I am.  And, best that I can, I try not to let these unexpected issues (I don’t know what to call them!) get in the way of doing the things I love.

Please continue to pray for me.  I need your prayers.  They sustain me and the work I am doing in Ukraine.

How great

Tonight, as our group began singing the words to “How Great Is Our God”, my heart swelled with love for the God we were singing about and the blessed life I have.

There are a couple of dates in May of significance for me.

On May 7, 2003, I was appointed a missionary with the IMB.  It was a date I was unsure would happen after my first interview with the candidate consultant at SWBTS in 1999.

I remember sitting in a small room in the basement of the Scarborough Hall.  The consultant mentioned the numerous jobs I had had and why I thought I could last overseas long term.  I left the meeting a little angry that a person who did not know me would speak to me in such a manner!

Fortunately, I didn’t hold it against him and attended a second and third meeting with him.  And, I just celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of my appointment, so I guess I did last a while! 😉

Four years ago, my world was turned upside down when war broke out in the Donetsk area.  Initially, I left Donetsk in April 2014, but due to my registration expiring, I was forced to return to Donetsk in May 2014 to try to extend my registration.  I won’t go into great detail, but I will tell you that it was nothing short of a miracle that I was able to extend at all!  So, I left Donetsk for the last time (for now!) on May 15, 2014.

One event is a joyous celebration, the other completely the opposite.  But isn’t it a reflection of our life?  We all have ups and downs.  How we handle either speaks of our character.

My prayer is that no matter the circumstance I may be facing, I will be a reflection of the relationship I have with my Lord and Savior.  He is the reason I have life! He is the reason my life is so blessed.  Through it all…

HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD
The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty
Let all the Earth rejoice
All the Earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice
How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

 

Busy-ness

The past few weeks have been extremely busy, and honestly, they are getting busy-er!

Last night, however, I got to enjoy a symphonic orchestra concert for a few hours.  It was a gift from a group of students that were part of Campus Crusade’s English club.  The group I led for the week bought me a ticket to the concert last night.

I learned that these students listened well.  I had mentioned to one or two of them that I used to attend concerts in Donetsk, but had not gone to see a concert here.  So, the group got a couple of tickets for me to go last night.

I noticed that they are having a jazz concert soon, so maybe I will go back!

Last weekend I was in Severodonetsk.  I really enjoy going there and seeing new friends.  The Central Church does a great job of hosting and taking care of us.  We had four evangelism meetings with displaced people and others.  So many are still hurting 4 years after the war in eastern Ukraine started.

The sun is shining brightly these days.  We had blizzard-like weather the end of March and it took until almost mid-April for the snow to melt.  The last 2 weeks have been terrific.

I am thankful the Lord has allowed me to return to Ukraine.  Every day is a blessing. Thanks for partnering with me on the journey.

Decisions

There have been times when I have made some terrible decisions.  And, as usual, when one makes a terrible decision, there are consequences.

This morning, as I was in the Word, I read the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11, which is full of bad decisions on David’s part.  Verse 2 says that David saw a woman bathing, and she was beautiful.

If only David had shown some restraint…

However, he didn’t and his decision set in motion a series of unfortunate events.  The woman got pregnant, David tried to have her husband, Uriah, lie with her (he didn’t).

Then David sent word to Uriah’s commander to put Uriah on the front lines of a battle, and then pull back so that Uriah would be killed.  Another amazing twist is that David used Uriah’s on hands to deliver the letter to his commander!

So, Uriah dies and then Bathsheba becomes David’s wife.  Now comes the part where the consequences happen…

The Lord is not happy with David’s decision making.  So, the Lord sent Nathan to rebuke David in 2 Samuel 12.  So, verse 15 says the Lord afflicted the child that Bathsheba bore to David.  David interceded on the child’s behalf.  Eventually, the child dies.  Verses 22-23 give some great insight.

While most of our decisions do not lead to death like in this story, our bad decisions can lead to equally difficult heartache and stress.  I still regret some of the stupid decisions I made even in my 20’s.

While I have sought forgiveness and have been forgiven, I still experience some sadness realizing the pain I caused.

As a Christ follower, I know that I must seek the Lord in all decisions.  I can have assurance that He hears me and desires the best for me.  It doesn’t always mean that I will not have troubles.  But, I can rest in knowing that He is always with me.

Heart

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I Sam 16: 7

In today’s world, one’s outward appearance often opens doors.  Seems that even in Old Testament times the same was true.  Guys typically are attracted to girls who appear tall and beautiful.  Women are attracted to guys who appear tall and handsome.

Yet, scripture clearly warns that we are seeking the wrong trait.  God was preparing to anoint a new king for Israel.  Samuel was directed to go to Jesse’s family.  Immediately, Samuel looked upon one as the prospective king and the Lord said the words above.

It is human nature to look at the outward appearance.  We cannot “see” the heart. How often are we guilty of “choosing” someone to lead a particular event due to wrong motives? Many scriptures speak about the heart. So, while I cannot “see” the heart, I can feel or sense it.

May I seek to serve with the right heart attitude.  Seeking God’s will while looking to the heart.

Second best

My Bible plan has me in 1 Samuel right now.  As I was reading through the anointing of Saul, I was struck by this thought…  it was not God’s plan to have a king.  It was the people that wanted one.

1 Sam 8:5, “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

Immediately Samuel was displeased, but as he prayed, the Lord said, “obey the voice of the people… they have rejected me from being kind over them.” (v 7)  The people didn’t want what was best for them, but decided they knew better than God.  They settled for second best.

How often do I make unwise decisions because of my own desires or stubbornness?  How often do I settle for second best (or even worse!) because of those decisions?

Often, I hear people say that they are going to “walk through this open door” and if God wants to close it, He will.  (I must admit that I have been guilty in the past of doing this!)  However, maybe I was the one who opened the door and God is going to allow it because of my selfishness!

The people of Israel knew what God had accomplished.  They knew their history.  Yet, still, they desired something “more” in a physical king.

I should seek to know God so that I can make decisions based on what He desires.  I need to spend time reading His Word, praying to hear His voice, and seeking Him, so that I can be in a position to accept the First Best!