Category Archives: Ramblings

Go

On Sunday, January 14, I preached in a church about 1 hour from Dnipro.  It would be the first time there, so I knew I would spend some time telling my story of how I wound up in Ukraine.

As I was praying on Saturday, the Lord reminded me of three great stories concerning the word “GO”.  Of course, the one I thought of first is found in the story of Gideon.  God used the story so clearly in 1994 to move me from Wichita Falls, TX to Lugansk, Ukraine.

Gideon, and the Israelites, faced what seemed an insurmountable problem.  Yet, the Lord chose Gideon and, in Judges 6:14, told him to “Go in this might of yours…”  In 1994 when the Lord used this passage in my life, I saw so many parallels between Gideon and myself.  I truly felt that I was the weakest and unable to do what the Lord was calling me to do.

Then, a few years ago, God used the story of Abram (Abraham) from Genesis 12.  God chose Abram to  “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”  What is amazing about this story is Abram’s response found in verse 4: “So Abram went”!!!

I find this story incredible.  Family was all Abram knew.  Family was important.  Family relied upon each other.  Yet, God told Abram to go and he went!  What’s even more incredulous… God didn’t specify the place other than… “to the land that I will show you.”  How many of us are willing to do what Abram did?

Then another spectacular aspect was Abram’s age.  He was 75 years old.  Again, how many of us are willing to move to a new place that we know nothing about at the age of 75!?!?

The final passage the Lord reminded me is found in Matthew 28:18-20.  It is commonly known as the Great Commission.

Jesus is speaking to his disciples and tells them in verse 19 to “Go and make disciples.”  Since God laid these verses on my heart a few weeks ago, I must say that I have been consumed by them.

As I preached from this passage yesterday I told the congregation that this was our purpose for living on this earth… we are here to make disciples.  And while we are making disciples, here, there and everywhere, Jesus promised to be with us.  How freeing is that promise!?!  Jesus has said that He would always be with us.

So, as I go in the strength the Lord has given me (Judges 6:14), to whatever land the Lord will show (Gen 12:1), I should go and make disciples. (Matt 28:19).  May I always be ready to Go!

Lots to celebrate!

Nine years ago I started this blog and today I am celebrating the 1,000 post.  Additionally, it was in February 1994 that I moved to Ukraine the first time.  So much has happened in that time!

I started the blog in February 2005 because I had just moved to Karaganda, Kazakhstan, a city in the middle of the Kazakh steppes, and the coldest place I have ever lived.  I found it somewhat humorous that the Lord would move a Texas boy that loves Texas summers to a place where winter begins in October and, if you’re lucky, it will thaw by May!

For the most part I enjoyed winters in KZ because the sun was visible much of the time.  Winters in Ukraine and much of Europe are difficult due to the gray, short days.

In the last nine years I have also gotten to travel to places in Europe and Central Asia.  I have been able to see parts of the world a guy from a small east Texas town could only dream of.  God has truly blessed me.  I have lived in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Georgia.  Traveled to Armenia, Turkey and much of central Europe.

It all started 20 years ago when I moved to Lugansk, UA.  It was a journey that took almost 1 1 /2 years for me to get to the point of moving to Lugansk, but once I arrived, it didn’t take me long to know this is where God wanted me.  I absolutely love living in this part of the world.

There is so much I could write and reflect about in this space.  You can read my first post here.

Thanks for being a huge part of this project.  I enjoy writing and will continue to do so as the Lord lays on my heart things to write.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Thoughts…

It is hard to believe that I haven’t posted in more than 2 months.  I actually thought I might make it to the 1,000th post by New Year, but that ain’t happenin now!

I had a great trip to the US and really enjoyed my time at First Baptist, Stephenville, TX.  I made a trip to AR where I visited with some folks from Second BC, Russellville and then headed over to Guion and Melbourne, AR to do some research on my dad’s genealogy.  It was a real blessing.

Christmas is a week a way and it is hard to believe.  I will fly to Warsaw to spend Christmas with some colleagues that live there.  I am looking forward to visiting them and the city.

I pray you have a wonderful Christmas season.

The honeymoon is not over!

This morning I was looking at my twitter feed and noticed that my tag states: “Enjoying life in Donetsk.”  It caused me to think if that statement, which I have no idea when I wrote it, was still true today.

I must say emphatically “YES!”

First off, let me say that I have enjoyed every city in Europe that I have lived in.  I love the beauty and history of Kiev.  I lived there 3 1/2 years (minus 6 months in Kstan) and still have great friends in the city.  I enjoy myself each time I am in the city.

However, I grew to dislike having to get around the city in a car.  There are times when it is better to very early or very late to get somewhere.  This was amplified to me recently when a few guys from Donetsk and I drove to Kiev for some meetings.  We had to get from one side of Kiev, through the heart of the city (as that is the only way to do it!), completely through the city to a suburb at 7:30 a.m.  I knew we were going to spend some time in the car, but I didn’t realize it would take almost 2 hours!  Love the city, hate the traffic!

Next I moved to Karaganda, Kazakhstan.  The first time I arrived in the city as at 10 p.m. in late January.  The temps were around -20 Cel (-4 F) and the wind was howling.  Not a great first impression.  But I grew to love the sleepy mid sized town and watched it transform itself over a couple of years.

Tbilisi, Georgia was next.  I spent less than a year there.  Georgia needs to work on its tourism, because it is one beautiful country!  From the Black Sea beaches in the west, the main highway travels through the mountains to Tbilisi.  What a spectacular site!  The food and hospitality are terrific!

To present day Donetsk, where I have been for almost 18 months.  What can I say!  I love living in the center of the city.  The beauty of walking on Pushkina Boulevard, the Park Sherbakova, listening to the symphony orchestra or jazz at the Philharmonia, to enjoying football games at Donbass Arena. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this city, and I still have so much to learn.

Usually, they say that a person has a “honeymoon” period of 1 year before life becomes routine and there is less sparkle.  However, I continue to really enjoy this city.  I am so thankful to God for sending me here and for leadership that saw a need to have someone here.  Do I have frustrations?  Of course, but I still have so much faith and hope in what is happening here.  May the “honeymoon” last forever!

Ukraine Spotlight: Tanzilya

During 2012, I hope to spotlight different people who have impacted my life in some way.  Today I would like for you to meet Tanzilya.  Tanzilya, or Tanya as some of us still call her, is an Uzbek immigrant to Ukraine.

Tanzilya was around 11 years old when we met.  I was living in Lugansk at the time and our youth held a retreat in the village of Zholtoye.  Early on Saturday I needed to take someone back to Lugansk and as we were driving through the village, there were lots of people at the bus stop.  The Lord prompted me to stop and see if anyone needed a ride.

Now, I would not suggest picking up strangers, but the Lord did prompt me that morning.  Out of the 10-15 people waiting, only two took my offer of a ride.  A mother and young daughter.

On the ride to Lugansk, we shared the Gospel with this mother and daughter.  They were only going to the next town, so they weren’t in the car long, but we learned that Larissa was an English school teacher in Zholtoye.  We dropped them off and drove on.

Later that day, I had to take all the youth back to Lugansk and it was going to take two trips.  On the return to pick up the second group, as I passed Alexandrovka, standing on the side of the road looking for a ride was Larissa and her daughter, Tanzilya.  I decided to pick them up.  (Years later, Tanzilya shared with me that her mom was a little scared of us after our first conversation and she was hesitant to get in the van with me!)

On the ride to Zholtoye, Larissa opened up and actually invited me to come to her school to share with the kids.  A few weeks later, my friend and interpreter, Olga and I drove to Zholtoye.  I was the first American in the school and the first American most of the students had met.  I was treated royally by the teachers and students.

After that visit, Larissa and Tanzilya started making the almost 1 hour trip to Lugansk every Sunday to attend services at our church.  It was amazing to see how God changed their lives.

Tanzilya and her mother made decisions to accept and follow Christ in early 1997.  I had already moved back to America, but Tanzilya sent me letters, cards and hand painted watercolors and crayon drawings.  I have all of them framed and hanging in my apartment in Donetsk.

Tanzilya has been very active in ministry.  She has taught Sunday School, teenagers, helped with interpreting, and many other things.

Since I now live closer to her, I have enjoyed immensely getting to know her better and to see the heart she has for the Lord.  She is a blessing to me.

New Years resolutions

Many years ago, I tried doing some NY resolutions.  However, I found by mid to late January I had stopped trying or wasn’t motivated to continue.

The organization I work for started a process where I would need to have several goals for the year.  These goals must be achievable and related to the work/ ministry that I am involved in.

I have enjoyed these types of goals much more and while I wouldn’t say they are “completely” achievable, they definitely motivate me to try.  One goal I had for this year was to get out and meet the people in my neighborhood.  This has caused me to get out and have coffee at coffee shops, to shop at the sames stores most of the time, or to buy veggies from the same persons at the local market.

This has allowed me to get to know these folks and to know more about their families, their needs, etc.

I plan to have this same goal for 2012 with trying to expand the stores I shop at or drink coffee.  It helps me hear the heartbeat of the city which I have grown to love and I learn about people and their needs, and hopefully, it helps me become even more understanding.

I am still considering what my other goals for 2012, but I am already looking forward to seeing what will happen with this goal!  Happy New Year!

3M: Memories of Christmases past

Christmas 2011 is now a memory for most of us.  I enjoyed Christmas very much by hosting dinner for other expats living in Donetsk.  There were 10 of us and it was a good time.

As I read Facebook this morning, I learned that my cousin passed away on Christmas day.  He had been in the hospital with several problems.  I had just met this cousin in September while home on vacation.

This caused me to reflect on Christmases past and probably one of my favorites is Christmas 2006.  As it happened, it would be the last with our mom.  I had been home for furlough that fall and we had enjoyed turkey for Thanksgiving, so I asked if we could do something different for Christmas dinner and everyone indulged me!

So, we had Mexican food, including homemade tamales, enchiladas and lots of other great Mexican food.  It was truly a Christmas to remember.  All of us kids were there and lots of the grandchildren and great grandchildren were there.

I think I have a little of Clark Griswald in me.  I love all the sights and sounds of Christmas and love the images created by some of the old songs by Bing Crosby and others.  Maybe I have a too high expectation of Christmas, just like Clark.

But I love being like a little kid and also love doing for others.  Isn’t that what Christmas is all about.  Coming to Christ like a child and striving to live out one of the greatest commandments: loving others.

I hope you had a Merry CHRISTmas.

3M: Thankfulness

Thanksgiving in the US typically begins the holiday season.  Lots of parties will take place from now until New Years.

If one is not careful, this week will become just a necessary event to get to the really good stuff, like shopping on Black Friday.  Today, I was looking at some of the ads for Black Friday and saw that Wal Mart is starting at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night, Best Buy at midnight and others will follow.

I was in Texas for Thanksgiving in 2006.  I remember one young man telling me that he spent all of Thanksgiving on the parking lot of Best Buy so that he could be first when they opened the next morning at 5 a.m.  Now they are opening at midnight.  All of this just to save a few dollars (well, maybe more than a few!).

In 2009, I was in Wichita Falls for Thanksgiving and drove to my sister’s house to help get things ready.  I drove by Best Buy at noonish and there were already 3-4 people lined up for a store that wasn’t going to open until 5 a.m. the next morning!  That is persistence.

I don’t fault these people for what they did, I just worry that Thanksgiving is going to lose its meaning due to all the rush to get to the next big thing.  I love thanksgiving.  I love sitting around the table and speaking of what we have been thankful for in the last year.

I love the smells, the preparation, the food, and then watching the Cowboys play.  That is what Thanksgiving means to me.

Last Saturday, I sent out my weekly Pray: Donetsk newsletter.  In it, I listed things for which I am thankful.  Most importantly for me is to serve a Lord that loves me and watches over me.  I could not live overseas without seeing how He watches over me.

I am thankful for two sisters and other family members who love and support me.  They did not choose for me to live overseas.  I know it was hard for my mom to “let me go” live in Ukraine in 1994.  She always supported me though.

I am thankful for the opportunities God gives me.  It’s hard to imagine that a boy who grew up in Jacksboro and Lone Star, Texas has had the opportunities I have had.  I thought my life would take a completely different path.  But, wow, God has blessed me with lots of opportunities.

I am thankful for friends He brought along the way who invested in my life and molded me into the person I have become.  I am afraid to begin listing people as I would forget someone!

My prayer for you is to take time on Thursday to reflect over the ways you have been blessed in the last year and thank God and others for those blessings.  Life is too short to not be thankful and to enjoy life.

 

Suspicion is the new religion

In the last few months, I have grown to love a Christian group called, Switchfoot.  I’m not sure where their music is classified, Rock or Alternative, but if it is rock, it would definitely be soft rock.

Anyway, I purchased their new album while I was in Texas in September and have listened to it so often on the IPod that I may “wear” it out.  There are some great songs on the album, but one in particular seems to resonate with what I have witnessed with some stories the media are overplaying.

The song is called Selling the News.  You can listen here:   Selling the News

Consider these lyrics:

See, opinions are easier to swallow than facts
The greys instead of the whites and the blacks
If you shoot it too straight it won’t come back
We’re selling the news

Isn’t it so apparent in this life of 24/7 talking heads that we take a person’s opinion to be fact!  I loved journalism in high school and college.  I am from the old school… report the facts and nothing but the facts.  However, today the news contains so much opinion that it begins blurring the lines and one can’t tell what the facts truly are verses the person’s opinions.

Another verse says:

America listens as the story is told
With the eye on the truth as the story unfolds
But the ratings determine which story was sold
We’re selling the news

Wow.  America does listen, however, the news channels look to see what stories are selling and then they dull our senses with the sensational!  So much so, that we no longer really care about the truth.

Then they sing this verse:

Substance, oh, substance, where have you been?
You’ve been replaced by the masters of spin
Who make good looking books and write history in
We’re selling the news

This song does an excellent job in causing me to examine my own life.  It caused me to think about the words of the song and wonder where do I stand.  I must admit that it seems that I am growing more cynical the older I get and I don’t want to be cynical!

They conclude with these words:

I wanna believe you, I wanna believe
But everything I see is green
The fact is fiction

Suspicion is the new religion

Oh, how true.  We do want to believe the media with all they bring to the table.  But all too often, fact is fiction!

I really enjoy listening to this song.  There are so many subtle jabs at our hunger for the sensational.  Any yes, I am guilty.  Why else would I spend so much time reading the stories that prevalent in the news today.  All of it causes me to wonder: is the facts really just fiction.

Suspicion is the new religion…

Busy week…

Thus far this week has been packed and it appears that it will be packed until Sunday!  Guess that is better than sitting at home doing nothing.  Lots of conversations to take place again today.  I have 4 meetings with people!

I FINALLY paid my utility bills.  I must say this is the thing I dread the most.  I hate standing in lines at the bank.  There is no order and someone can show up and say, “I was standing behind this person earlier and I am now returning.”

I was 2 months behind (well, not really, as I stay a month ahead on most of the bills).  So, I went to the bank the other day, but they had closed early.  Then I went yesterday and the line was incredibly long so I decided to return later.  I had to be out early this morning, so I went by the bank and there were just a couple of people in front of me.  So fortunately, I was able to get it done fairly quickly.

At home preparing lunch for a couple of students and then will start my marathon of meetings.  By the way, its hump day for those of you working 9-5, M-F…