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What will my response be when adversity comes?

In this morning’s Bible reading from Job, Satan was sure that Job would curse God’s face if he lost everything.  Yet, after discovering much of what he owned was lost and that his children had died, it is stated in 1:22, “Throughout all this, Job did not sin or blame God for anything.”

Again, Satan infected Job with terrible boils from his head to his toes.  Job’s wife comments, “are you still holding on to your integrity?” Job replies, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?”

Job’s question is a good one for us to consider.  Most of the time, when everything is working as it is and life is “grand,”  many may not even think about God.  However, the moment adversity shows up, God is the first one blamed or questioned.

I remember watching “Facing the Giants” many years ago, and in a pivotal moment in the movie, the lead character, Grant Taylor, decided to praise God even in the difficult times in life.  Of course, in the movies, everything turns out great in the end.

But this is real life.  How will I react when life throws me a curve ball?

In the last week I have met with three Christians who have been diagnosed with cancer.  Each of them have been an encouragement to me.  Each of them have a faith that will see them through, no matter the ending.

My faith in Christ is what will get me through those difficult times. How I respond in adversity will speak much about my integrity and in whom I truly believe in.  Through the good and through the bad (which inevitably will come!), I choose Christ!


The “C” word

I think one of the first things I asked my sister when I woke up from surgery was whether or not I had cancer.  She said yes, and after the words sunk in, I didn’t think about it too much more.  It wasn’t until the day he released me that I had confirmation that the mass they removed was cancerous.

Since that day, I promised myself that I wouldn’t dwell on the diagnosis as I needed to concentrate on healing after a major surgery where the doctor used 20 staples to put me back together.  And so, from my discharge date on Nov 17 till today, I have worked to get stronger and healthier.

Both of my parents had cancer, but neither lived long after their diagnosis.  My dad lived less than 4 months after discovering cancer, and mom lived less than 2 weeks.  Cancer has affected my family much as it has other families.

Yet, it is one thing for family members to have it, it is completely different when you are the one hearing the words everyone fears to hear.  Still, to this moment, God has given me a peace to go forward.

I am so thankful for a support system of family, friends, and colleagues around the world.  I am taking this one day at a time.  For His Glory!

For those who don’t know, I was diagnosed with a cyst/ lesion on my pancreas in December 2015, however, due to a mistake in reading a MRI in January 2016, I didn’t know until September 2016 that the cyst was still there. The tumor was completely removed on November 11, 2016.

30 seconds

The street I take out of my apartment area crosses with a major highway in town. Often, if I am going to go to the center of the city, I take a left at the intersection. After moving here, I quickly realized how often cars coming from the direction of the airport run the red light.

Yesterday, the light had turned green for me to go, and I paused and started to go, I never get in a hurry since pedestrians have the right away as well. As I stepped on the gas, I noticed a car flying down the highway, running the red light. Fortunately, the young man on the side of the road was wise to wait as well and had not stepped out into the roadway.

As I waited for the pedestrians to cross, I watched this vehicle fly on down the road. It caused me to wonder how much life can be changed in not being content to wait 30 seconds for the light to change to green again.

It also caused me to wonder how often I am guilty on not waiting and not being content. How often do I “run” ahead of God because I think my plans are better than His.

I have learned from my experience at this intersection to wait because of the danger of moving to quickly. Almost every time I’m at this intersection, I see cars running the light. So, it is better for me to hesitate 2-5 seconds before moving through the intersection.

What lesson can I learn from this to apply to my life? Sometimes it is better to sit and wait (30 seconds, 30 minutes, 30 days…) on the Lord’s direction, His prompting, and allow Him to guide me than it is to jump out into the middle of the intersection and discover that I am crossing against the light.


When the war broke out in eastern Ukraine, fake bomb reports happened all over the country causing disruptions in many transportation hubs. Eventually, Borispol Airport in Kyiv installed security at every entrance.

In my 4 month “exile” there in 2014, I remember going to Ocean Plaza mall with a colleague, and as we arrived, we learned the mall was closed due to a bomb threat. This past weekend, I went to that same mall and encountered something new.

I was a taken back a little when seeing the machine. However, numerous countries have been using machines like this for years.

In 2009, while living in Georgia (the country), I drove to Trabzon, Turkey. They had a large mall there, and so as I drove into the parking garage, a security member took a mirror and looked under my car for a bomb. As I entered the mall, I went through another set of security measures.

Unfortunately, I guess this is what to expect in other places in the future as we try to feel secure in traveling.

Learning to relax

For Christmas, I received a Fitbit watch. It has been a great gift… one that reminds me that I need to move. The last few weeks it has been hard to move as we have had rain often.

I have enjoyed being back in an area where I can go for walks. There are numerous parks nearby that afford the chance to get in a walk. Recently one late afternoon, I took a walk to a nearby park where we had a children’s camp last summer.

We are planning to have a camp there again this summer and our team prayer walked there a few months ago. I decided to walk over there when I knew the park would have mothers and grandmothers with their children.


Many young mothers use this time to allow their small children time outside, but it is also a time for them to be able to catch up with their friends. I saw numerous moms talking to one another as their children ran about getting exercise and fresh air.

Ukrainians love their parks and most cities have numerous parks within walking distance from homes. These parks come to live in spring until last fall, and even into winter.

Pray for this park and others just like it around Ukraine where summer activities could lead people to a closer relationship with the Creator of all things.

Love God, Love others… reflections from the past year after leaving Donetsk

My world changed on April 14, 2014. I left my apartment early in the morning, just after daylight. I was headed northwest to Dnipropetrovsk and was sure that I would be gone for maybe a couple of weeks when things would settle down.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I got to the city limit sign. I hesitated and wondered if I should stop and take a picture with the sign. Ultimately, I did not stop at the sign, as I was sure that I would be back soon. I now regret not stopping.

Just a few months prior, our church planting team had met and was making plans for the summer and beyond. The turmoil Kyiv was experiencing seemed a world away and didn’t really affect us. All of that would change when the president left the country and the government appointed an interim president.

I am a news junkie. As a youth I loved reading the newspaper in the morning and watching the news on TV in the evening. I wanted to be a reporter and attended college to do just that, but God had other plans. So, with all the events in Kyiv, I would sit in front of my TV watching the news for hours.

I have lived in Eastern Europe the last 11 ½ years (14 1/2 total). I love the cultures and the peoples who live in this area. I love many of the foods (still not a fan of salo or holodets) and enjoy visiting in homes for hours enjoying a meal and unlimited tea and conversation.

Donetsk became my home. I loved walking on Pushkinska Boulevard. After the long winter months, the city burst open with millions of roses blooming. The city took pride in its appearance. Even with all the coalmines in the area, it was still a clean city. I loved living in the center. At times friends and acquaintances would be in the center and call to see if they could drop by for a cup of coffee.

All of this made leaving that much harder.

I spent 4 months in “exile” to Kyiv. Colleagues opened their apartment to me. At first it was hard, but they made me feel at home. Another family was scheduled to be in the US for the summer, so I moved into their apartment for the duration of my time in Kyiv.

For the last 7 months I have lived in Dnepropetrovsk. It is a little bit larger than Donetsk, but seems much bigger because the city is divided by the Dniper River. I enjoy the city but it still doesn’t feel like “home”… yet!

I have learned so much this year. The Word has been my comfort. My friends in the Ukraine and elsewhere have encouraged me. Often I tell people that we are all students and life long learners. This has been true for me during the past 12 months.

The one thing I have learned is not to take relationships for granted. I miss my friends, I miss the small group who had become the church, I miss worshiping with them.

Through it all, though, God continues to show me that my life should be a reflection of Mark 12:30-31: And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Understanding the truth of these verses compels me to press on!

Where did the time go?

I let a momentous occasion slip by… In February 2005 I began writing this blog. I can’t believe that 10 years have gone by.

I had just moved to Karaganda, KZ in January 2005 and someone suggested that I write a blog about my experiences. I remember the first month I lived in KZ and I don’t think I spoke one word of English. I didn’t know anyone there that spoke English.

It was an incredible experience living in Karaganda… in the middle of winter… where it was -30 degrees much of the time! But, as with every place I have lived, I grew to love the city and the country.

I will always cherish my time in KZ and am thankful that it was the reason I started writing a blog, even though I don’t post as often as I used to do.

For those who continue to read my posts… congratulations on sticking around for 10 years!

Christmas memories

One of my favorite Christmas memories happened when I was a young boy.  My family went to Oklahoma City to visit my dad’s sisters.  My dad had a brother who was “intellectually disabled.”  Even though he lived in a home, he always spent the holidays with his sisters who lived in OKC.  At the time, my uncle was in his late 30’s.

My parents had given me a train set for Christmas that year.  I remember us playing with that train set all day.  We so enjoyed that train so much that we burned up the electrical system that day!  And while I was sad that I had ruined my gift, I still cherish spending that day with my uncle.  It was the “best” Christmas gift of all.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, may we remember that the gifts are secondary to the relationships and the memories that can be made in a moment.  Merry Christmas…

3M: Learning

Recently, I watched a movie.  I know that is a shocker!  I don’t watch a lot of movies.  I have several reasons, but won’t get into them here.

After watching the movie there were several things I took away from it.  One, I was impressed that the director allowed a woman to state she was going to be celibate until marriage because she had become a born again believer.  Two, physical and verbal abuse destroys more families that we probably realize.

Saturday night, several young people gathered in my apartment after playing volleyball.  Three of them grew up in orphanages.  They ranged in ages from 17-22, yet in many ways a couple of them were child-like in their behavior.  They really didn’t know how to act in this type of setting.

After talking with one young lady from church about this yesterday who has been working with orphans many years, my eyes and heart are open to trying to understand the world they live in.  Many of these children do not know how to trust people any longer because of all they have seen, heard and witnessed.

Like the woman in the movie, they need to come to a point in their lives where they have to learn to forgive and try to forget the hurtful past.  But, just like the woman in the movie, it is a process that doesn’t come easy or without, possibly, more hurt.  It is a cycle too many of them have seen and aren’t willing to repeat.

Pray for me to learn to understand their lives so that I may be a light into theirs.

19 years

Nineteen years ago (1994), around this date, I arrived in Ukraine for the very first time.  I still remember vividly those first few days.  While I won’t recount all of them at this moment, I would like to share one that stands out.

I arrived in Ukraine not knowing any language other than English.  I quickly learned that in Lugansk, Russian was the language everyone spoke.  This is still true today.  So, on that first Sunday I arrived at church, I knew that I would not understand much of what would be said.  As the service began, I stood listening to people singing songs in Russian. The Holy Spirit filled the place with such a presence that, even though I could not understand them, I comprehended their desire to worship the Risen King.  It was quite an experience for me.

I love recalling that experience.  It fills my heart with hope for Ukrainians today.  That one day, as scripture tells us, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, Jesus is Lord.