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Celebration week! 21-30…

I’m celebrating my 50th on Thursday… here is 21-30 of people, places or events that have impacted my life!

21)  While a member of Faith BC in WF, I met in a discipleship group with Scott Mason and Danny Kauffman led by Terry M. Even though we met early in the morning, it was well worth the time!
22)  Serve as youth minister at Faith Memorial BC in Archer City, TX.  The Kings, Raters and Dollars were tremendous, godly people who helped me grow tremendously.
23) Went to work at Wichita Falls Times Record News.

24)  After working there a couple of years, I was recruited and hired by Dallas Times Herald in Oct 1991.  Two months later the newspaper was sold the the Morning News.  At first I was angry with God for moving to Irving and finding myself without a job, no friends, no church home.

25)  God led me to Plymouth Park BC where I met Smoky and Inez Eggers.  During my 6 months of being out of work, God spoke and called me to missions in May 1992.
26)  Moved to Lugansk, UA in Feb 1994 and worked with Emmanuel Church; incredible time of seeing God at work there; lots of people influenced my time there (too many to mention, but you know who you are).
27)  Being a part of life at Camp Chaparral: Danny and Teri D, Fred and Susan A, Mike and Sheri L, and lots of other great folks!
28)  Attended Southwestern Seminary in FW.  Met some great professors such as Daniel Sanchez, William Goff, Dan Crawford; students: Carl B, Mark S, Ben Macklin, and Chad Smith; hanging out at Ole South Pancake House late at night and trying to solve all the theological issues.
29)  Attended Southwayside BC, FW; eventually was on staff there.  Cannot even begin to mention the people who influenced me, but will mention a couple: Chicks and Betty- Chicks didn’t like me much when we first met because he didn’t like the fact that I took the trophies out of the case and put in a different display.  After I put them back after Christmas, he gave me a gift.  He showered me with love and gifts to the day he died.  I miss him and Ms Betty.  Others: Liggetts, Warrens, Whites, Drewry’s, and lots and lots of others!
30)  Mission trips to Mexico: while on staff at SWS, we took two groups to Mexico and helped an orphanage.  What a blessing it was to go to Pedras Negras and had not God called me specifically to eastern Europe, I could have moved to Mexico!

Wednesday, I reveal 31-40 and then on Thursday, 41-50…

3M: Simple faith

One day while in Ouranoupolis, Greece, I saw a young boy with his net.  He was trying to catch some of the small fish swimming around in the water.

It was a great picture of what may have taken place a few thousand years ago and a some miles to the south when Jesus approached some men with slightly bigger nets and said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  (Matthew 4:19 ESV)

I have thought about that little boy often over the last few days and wondered what it would have been like to have a man unknown to me simply walk up and say, “Follow me…”  These 4 fishermen did exactly what the man said.  Scripture tells us that they dropped their nets and began following Jesus.

After our last meal at the hotel, I was impressed by the Holy Spirit to talk to the young Polish girl, Alexandra, who had set our table for us on several occasions.  I knew I wouldn’t have much time to talk to her, but knew I needed to do so.  I walked over to the table she was preparing and shared my thanks for her taking such good care of us.  During our conversation she said, “I believe in my own way.”

I shared that I would be praying for her and that she might understand why Jesus came to earth.  I walked away uncertain about whether or not I made a difference.

However, the picture of the little boy came back to my mind and I was reminded that the outcome is not mine to choose.  I must be like those 4 fishermen, willing to drop my nets and follow Jesus and speak to people like Alexandra along the way.

3M: Crucified

I am attended my organizations annual meeting in an undisclosed location (hint: Paul walked here…).  It has been a great time of reconnecting with people I don’t get to see too often.  Most days have been packed with meetings, etc, but we have also had chances to soak up some sun in the sea.

Our theme this week has been based on Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  It has been good to be reminded again the work of Christ and his obedience.

Now, by faith, I live in Christ and He in me.

This week has been more than just meetings, etc for me.  It has been a great time for me to get away and to spend time worshiping and hearing once again the call God has placed upon my life and for Him to once again to reveal the vision I believe He has for me and for the city I live in.

I have been reminded that I must be willing to experience hard times in order for this vision to become real.  I must be willing to do whatever it takes.  I must be willing to sacrifice it all.  I admit that this is hard to do sometimes.

My will and self get in the way sometimes and I’m not willing to go that extra mile.  This week I have been reminded that God’s vision is still there and that I have been called and sent to do His will.  So, even though I may face opposition (internal and external), I must be willing to do it.

I hope in the weeks and months ahead to share with you ways you can be apart of this work in Donetsk.  I’m excited.

3M: How Awesome are Your Deeds

Yesterday, I preached in Korsun, a village about 40 km from my apartment.  The church isn’t very large, probably about 15-20 people, but Alexiy, the leader, and his wife, Mila, are doing a great job of trying to reach the people.

The layout of Korsun makes it an extremely long drive through the village with the church built on the edge, a long walk from the center.  Buses do not run often through the village which means that in order to get to the services on Sunday, you probably walk or, if you are fortunate to have a car, you ride.  We actually waited 15 minutes before we started while waiting on the bus to drop people off near the church.

The first preacher spoke from Psalm 66.  In my ESV Bible, it is titled, “How Awesome are Your Deeds.”  The preacher proclaimed that as a believer one must praise the Lord as the Hand of the Lord is upon us.  The psalmist reflects a little on how God brought them out of Egypt by the mighty Hand of God.

Verse 19 proclaims, But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.  How true this is today in my heart!

At the end of the service, Alexiy announced that they were planning to have their children’s camp July 23-28, but they didn’t have enough workers.  We prayed for this need and when I returned home, I sent out a request to my prayer partners.  Several people wrote me last night and this morning telling me they had prayed.  My heart was full this morning reading all of these during my quiet time.

Around 11 a.m. Alexiy called me with great news.  A group of 15 youth from central Ukraine were coming to help.  From what I understand, they were to go somewhere else, but their plans were changed and now they were available to go to Korsun.  Only our God could have made these arrangements.

Then Alexiy shared with me that it created another issue: feeding these young people.  I told him that if God could arrange for 15 young people to come help him, God could provide the sources to feed them.  I fully trust the Lord will provide!

Ps 66 closes with these words from verse 20: “Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!”  Great words of reassurance.  Blessed be God, for His Deeds are awesome!

3M: Rest

This past weekend I took some rest.  It is extremely difficult to get away in country and I find it hard to take a weekend off.  But I actually did it this weekend and feel great.

God told us to rest.  Genesis 2: 2-3 say, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

If God told us to rest, why do we find it so hard to do?  I so enjoyed the weekend.  I have a internet wifi connection, but the company doesn’t reach where I was, so I didn’t have any reason to check email or look on the internet.  Not connected for almost 60 hours turned out to be a real treat!

My phone rang a couple of times, but other than that, I spent lots of time catching up on reading, talking, planning and praying, and a little time on the beach!  My red stomach attests to that.

After creating the earth, God found it important to include rest in the 10 Commandments.  Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

We were able to find a place to stay near the beach that prepared 3 meals a day and it only cost a little more than $10 a day.  I can’t say there was an abundance of food, but it was definitely enough and we bought a fresh watermelon and enjoyed it between meals.

In a month I will be 50 years old and I am just now truly learning what the Lord meant when he told us to rest.  I need to be more direct in planning time away so that I can be refreshed, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually.  I enjoyed reading and relaxing so much.  Thank you Lord for the lesson on resting.  May I be more obedient in doing so.

3M: If you love me

Sunday morning, one pastor preached from Jeremiah 33:2-3 and John 14:14-16.  “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it- the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jer 33:2-3)

What a great reminder right away in verse 2 that we see Jeremiah state that is was the Lord who made the earth, formed it.  For me it doesn’t take much for me to be moved when I am outside and I see the beauty of this earth.  I dwell upon the idea that the Lord cared enough to create even the smallest of things.

An atheist was in my home this past week doing some work.  After the workers finished doing their job, I invited them to sit at my table and drink coffee with me and discuss life.  I didn’t need to bring up that I am a Christian, the atheist straight away asked me if I am.  So I thought about our conversation when the pastor read this passage.  It is the Lord who created and formed this earth.  I didn’t have much time to speak with the atheist about his life views, but the Lord used the sermon on Sunday as a reminder to pray for him!

Then the pastor shared these verses: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.”  (John 14:14-16)

The pastor emphasized several times through the rest of his sermon the words, “If you love me.”  Through loving Him I am able to praise Him, to love Him and others, and to follow Him.   Pastor Valeri closed with these words, “If our love is found in Christ alone, then it will be our desire to follow His commandments.”

The Lord continues to teach me much and emphasize often through His greatest commandments: to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength and to love my neighbor as myself.  How often do I meet people like the atheist in my home last week and really take the time to understand where they are coming from?  How often do I see hurting people on the street and just like the priest, pass on the opposite side of the road?  When will I be more like the Samaritan?

3M: A first for me

Sunday I traveled about 1 1/2 hours from Donetsk to a village named Krasnaya Polyana.  There is a small church in the village where a group of about 40-50 believers gather to worship.

The bus driver didn’t have a GPS device and so we had to stop often to ask if we were heading in the right direction (since there weren’t any signs) and so we actually arrived about 10 minutes late.  Due to this, we didn’t have time to speak to the pastor and I didn’t have a chance to meet him properly.

The pastor, Alexander, speaks with lots of fervor from his heart.  It was a joy to hear him preach.  And after the service and having the opportunity to speak with him I admire him and his family.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, thousands of Christian believers have emigrated to the US, Canada, Europe and other places.  Alexander and his family moved to Spokane a number of years ago and lived there around 10 years.  A few years ago, his family began having a burden to return to Ukraine to share the gospel.

So, they returned to Ukraine with all of his children in their late teens.  They didn’t return to the city where they had lived before, but moved to a village with around 4,000 people in it.  A village.  I can only imagine the difficulty they must have had!

I grew up in a village in east Texas (of course, we call them small towns) and have lived in a city ever since graduating high school.  I could not even imagine living in such a small place now.  I am definitely a “city boy.”

Alexander kept calling his children heroes for the sacrifices they have made, but I think they are all to be admired for their desire to follow Christ and to do His will.  And their passion for this village shows.  They will baptize 7 people next Sunday.  For a village that is a lot!

Hearing their story caused me to reflect upon my own call.  That call is as evident today as it was in May 1992 when I first felt God tugging at my heart to go to Ukraine.

God’s desire is for each of His children to be obedient to the call He has placed on our lives.  What is He asking you to do?

Long time

I had a group from Second BC, Russellville, Arkansas during the first two weeks of June so I didn’t have time to post any updates.  I fully intended to post something on Monday, however, I went to pick up my dog from the sitters and found that he had been missing for 2 days.  I spent 2+ hours looking for him to no avail.

I hope to find time later this week to update on what all is going on.  In the meantime, check out my FLICKR page (link on the main page) to see photos.  I think I have posted all the photos from the Russellville team, plus a few others.

3M: Living in the Bible belt

I grew up in Texas, where it appears there is a church on every corner (and sometimes 2 or 3!).  It was a sense of pride to have so many churches in town, and I guess it still is.

Having spent many years living in Ukraine now, it is often called part of the evangelical Bible belt of Europe, along with Moldovia and Romania.  Many new evangelical churches have been started in these countries since the fall of Communism.

At the moment I am in Krakow, Poland, where there must be a Catholic church on every corner, or at least it seems like it!  I arrived here on Friday evening, and while enjoying dinner at the local mall, I asked a couple of Polish teenagers what they would want to see in their city if they only had one day.

Surprisingly, they suggested I see several of the Catholic churches near Old Town that have some historical or artistic meaning.  So, on Saturday morning, I went walking through Old Town and then found several of these churches.  One of them had several stain glassed windows that are spectacular.  I will try to post some photos of these after I get home on Wednesday.  Then I walked to the Dominican church down the street, literally!

When I walked in, the place was packed with people standing up.  There was a mass going on, so I stood in the back but didn’t want to take pictures while people were worshiping, so I left.  I guess I was somewhat surprised by the crowd.  With all the churches in the city, and many in the area, I didn’t expect so many.

I am reading Francis Chan’s Crazy Love at the moment. It has been challenging me to re-think some things in my own live.  Chapter 5 is titled, “Serving leftovers to a Holy God.”  I thought about the many people in America, Europe and all over the world who try to label themselves as Christians because they might have walked the aisle, said a prayer sometime in their live, or were simply born into their family and faith.

Chan equated this to the new “health labels” found on many food products in America.  He said, “It struck me that many Christians flash around their “no trans fat” label, trying to convince everyone they are healthy and good.  Yet they have no substantive or healthful elements to their faith.”

Talk about a stab to the heart! How often have I considered myself “good” because of the deeds I may have done or anything else that may appear righteous.  Yet, I know none of these compare to what Jesus has already accomplished on the cross.

I want to grow past the need or the desire to tell other Christians about my good deeds.  I want to have substance and healthful elements to my faith in Jesus Christ.  I… don’t want to be a lukewarm Christian.

3M: Counting blessings

So, again, technically it isn’t Monday.  I spent Monday doing some work in the apartment, then had to go several places (the home repair store included).  By the time I got home, took my dog for a walk, and had a lite dinner, I was extremely tired and sore and it was still after midnight before I went to bed.  And thanks to my dog, I woke up at 5:30!

Sunday evening I attended Golgotha church.  It is in far southeastern Donetsk about 25 minutes from my house. It is a nice fellowship of believers and I have enjoyed my visits to this church.

The first sermon was from Ps 103:1-2.  “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits”

The preacher shared a story of one of his visits to a homebound believer.  This believer has been confined to her home for many years and cannot even leave her apartment.  Yet, every time this man visits her home, he finds her in tremendous spirits.

Then he asked how each of us felt, being able to get out and get to the evening service.  While we may have struggles, illnesses, etc, we should still find plenty to praise the Lord, just like this woman. The preacher did a fine job helping us see how often we bless the Lord in the good times, but it is during those hard/ tough times, we sometimes forget to thank Him for those as well.

Needless to say, I know I can thank God each and every day.  Truly I can Bless His Holy Name.