unexpected events

14 04 2014

As the riot police withdrew, snipers opened fire on peaceful protestors, shooting them dead from building-tops in the city center. My disbelief turned to horror at the unfolding events downtown: Kyiv became a killing field on February 20th. A week later streets calmed in Kyiv, but Russian troops steadily occupied Crimea.

prayer | the Ukrainian church on her knees

Since the beginning of the protests, the prayer tent (pictured above) has been the heart of the protest. Ukrainian Christians have prayed there 24/7, just beside the main stage where the protests organized and the people found their new voice. Our church in Kyiv held frequent prayer meetings; our elders called us to prayer and fasting. Persistent over three months, non-violent protestors demanded truth. When the corrupt government fled overnight, our pastor called it a miracle of prayer, reminding us people prayed for seventy years under the corrupt Soviet Union.

uncertainty | serving in a broken world

My team’s ministries alongside our Ukrainian church partners have continued through the stress of the protests, the rapid and surprisingly good changes within Ukraine’s government, and the uncertainty of Russia’s next moves. Tens of thousands of invasion-ready Russian troops have been massed on the Ukrainian border since early March. English Club was disrupted for a few weeks, but it has resumed.

An uncertain future and the real possibility of war has created an openness to spiritual questions among Ukrainians, similar to the early 1990s after Ukraine gained independence from the USSR. Pray for Ukrainian Christians, that the church will live the reality that only Jesus’ grace and the power of his cross can renew their land. Pray for my team and others serving Ukrainians under these daily uncertainties.

decisions | seeking our call together

Finally, my fiancée Stephanie and I are seeking where we will live and serve together after we marry in July.  We’re both excited to serve in Europe, using our skills and abilities to help Europeans strengthen their churches.  Please pray for wisdom as we have conversations with potential future colleagues, and as we make decisions together.  Thanks for your interest, prayers, and support!


the White Rose and hope

2 10 2013

Today marks the beginning of my second year in Kyiv.  A year ago today, while moving to Kyiv, I had an 11.5 hour layover in Munich–which I chose over a 4.5 hour layover where I would have only seen the airport.  I hopped on the train from the airport to the city center with one primary goal : find the Hans and Sophie Scholl monument.

Munich was full of men in lederhosen, and women in traditional dresses, all there for Oktoberfest.  I grabbed a quick breakfast at a cafe, and set off to find the street which would intersect Geschwister-Scholl-Platz, the square named after the Scholl twins.  When I found the street its entire length was a huge party for the Day of German Reunification; every German state had a booth with tourist info, food, drink, and lots of people.  I walked maybe a kilometer up the street, found Geschwister-Scholl-Platz covered in festivities for the German reunification party, and eventually found the monument in the pavement.

I was en route to Kyiv, but finding that monument mattered to me.  Ukraine is a country that suffered greatly during World War II and under the Soviet Union.  I knew a little of the Scholl’s story, enough to know that their connecting their Christian faith with actively standing for truth, was something I wanted to learn about, and is something I believe is still relevant today. Perhaps more than anything, what Ukraine, Europe, or the United States need today is a solid basis for hope.

the White Rose in Munich

Hans and Sophie Scholl have been heroes of mine ever since I first read of them as a college freshman.  During World War II, the Scholl twins were part of a small group of university students in Munich who published a series of pamphlets from June 1942 through February 1943 informing people about the evil the Nazi government was pursuing, and calling people to stand against it.  Hans and Sophie were eventually arrested by Nazi secret police, tried in what was by all accounts a show trial and travesty of justice, and beheaded, along with five of their friends and fellow-students, who had helped write and distribute their pamphlets.

I felt that their story mattered deeply, and that in coming to Ukraine it was worth the stop to find their monument, to gain a little more understanding to their commitment to truth.  They believed that loyalty to truth ought to drive us to action, to standing against evil in the world, with a willingness to die if necessary.  During his interrogation at the hands of the Gestapo, Hans Scholl stated, “I knew what I took upon myself and I was prepared to lose my life by so doing.” Wow.  You don’t make that kind of decision without a commitment to truth and solid hope for the future.

But some have this idea that truth is for hard-nosed people, that you either care about truth or you care about people, that truth is only facts, and hope is just an irrational feeling.  Was that the case with Hans and Sophie?  Or did their loyalty to speaking the truth actually illustrate the deep love they had for their neighbors and hope they had for their future, for the men and women who lived in German cities, who were all around them but largely silent in the face of fascist atrocities?  Jesus himself said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  Their loyalty to truth, to living their lives out of their deepest commitments and hopes, still speaks today.

Here in Ukraine, one can still see the legacy of World War Two destruction, some seventy or so years later.  There are lots of monuments, eternal flames, and statues commemorating those who died, those who fought bravely, and those who died tragically and horrendously.  There are also countless villages which no longer exist, wiped off the map.  Much trust has been broken, and generations of people didn’t know if they could trust their neighbors or their government.  Soviet writer and dissident Alexandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago (p. 15) regarding the silence with with people responded to the disappearances of their neighbors and friends,

“You really can and you really ought to cry out—to cry out that you are being arrested! That villains in disguise are trapping people! That arrests are being made on the strength of false denunciations! That millions are being subjected to silent reprisals! If many such outcries had been heard all over the city in the course of a day, would not our fellow citizens perhaps have begun to bristle? And would arrests perhaps no longer have been so easy?”

Though not Ukrainian, Hans and Sophie Scholl provide a much needed example of people who weren’t content to remain silent.  They cried out, giving their lives as a witness to the truth.

There are still many things broken and wrong here, systemic corruption, and deep cynicism about the government.  However, this isn’t unique to Ukraine.  I have plenty of friends back in the United States who are deeply cynical about the state of things there.  Some think gargantuan corporations run the entire show with their Republican friends by simply pursuing the almighty dollar and a pound of flesh, others think leftist and statist liberals are out to destroy or remove constitutional freedoms.  All over people are concerned about the potential of terrorist attacks.  Whether confronting hard historical realities that still reverberate here in Ukraine, facing deep challenges to constitutional liberties and social order in America, or facing unpredictable terror, I think a primary question is how to give hope for the future.  And I’m not naive: neither people nor cultures change overnight, but they can change.

When a man lays down his life for his enemies, and then rises from the dead three days later, that can change the world.  That gives real, substantial hope as it reverberates through history.  That hope is something solid, not just a wish—its a foundation lives can be built on, truth to which we’re called to live in response, and hope for cynical cultures.

I’m beginning my second year here.  How much can I really do, as a foreigner?  I’ve just made a start learning the language, with only 11 months under my belt.  I worship with Ukrainians Christians, serve our community through an English club,  am investing in relationships with friends I’ve met here, and am helping a small group start a new church.  Why?  I long to give hope, to bear witness to the truth, to stand against cynicism and help Ukrainians, Europeans, and Americans display this hope for their own cities, and point to the empty tomb that gave birth to a new humanity of women and men with hope.

calm calendar

14 06 2011

So I’m sending out emails, mail, and making calls to schedule meetings to tell you about Ukraine.  Why am I going?  What’s the need?  How is God working?  He’s building his kingdom, but what does that mean?

I’d love to sit down with you and tell you about a friend I met in Ukraine who wanted to know why God doesn’t do something about all the bad in the world, if God really is compassionate and powerful as we see him in Jesus feeding of the 5,000 people.  I could describe sitting at a cafe on Red Army Street listening to a young elder share his and his wife’s passion to help strengthen marriages in Kiev and through-out Ukraine.

I’ve seen glimmers of God’s kingdom being built in Kiev, and I’d love to share those stories with you.  Would you like to listen?  Let me know.

Have you already heard?  Pray that I’ll see fruit from my labors, that I’ll be able to schedule calls and meetings with people.  Pray that I’m able to point out the dynamic gospel and grace of Jesus that’s transforming people and places in Ukraine and around the world.  Thanks!

MTW Ukraine retreat

5 10 2010

I’m copying this from the blog of future team-mates of mine, Steve and Dawn Sparks:

This coming weekend (Oct. 8-10), all of the Mission to the World (MTW) missionaries in Ukraine will gather together for the annual country-wide team retreat. Since MTW has folks in 5 different cities across the country, it is nice for everyone to gather together in one place periodically. This is a great time to hear about the joys and challenges of ministry in the various cities, to pray for one another, to worship in English, and to be taught from the Word. It is also a time for folks to get away from their usual ministry context and enjoy the mountains of western Ukraine with their families….

The Ukraine team is also in the midst of a big transition. Eric Huber, the Country Director for the past 7 years or so, has taken a pastorate in Pennsylvania. While I’m sure his congregation there will enjoy the Huber family, they will be greatly missed in Ukraine. The Hubers will be at the retreat for the first couple of days.

As you think of them this weekend, please pray for the Ukraine missionaries. Pray for rest, refreshment, and encouragement. Pray for safe travel and health for all. And pray for some folks who planned to be there but due to a lack of financial support or family health issues are currently in the U.S. Pray that God would provide for them and that they would also be encouraged and comforted by Him. Finally, pray for the Hubers as they say final goodbyes to folks in Ukraine and continue their transition to life in the U.S.

Join me in praying for the retreat this weekend. I hope to be in Ukraine by mid-2011, and would be able to attend the next retreat.

humbled, excited, and needing sleep

16 07 2010

When was the last time you were blown to tears by the grace of God? by his insistent, loving hand moving in your life and in your heart to show you (yet again) that He is the Sovereign, He is the King, and to reassure you that He is good, does good, and his covenant faithfulness or hesed pursues you all the days of your life? When was the last time you were deeply thankful for God saying “no” to your request–and not thankful because you initially wanted to be thankful, but only thankful because in your disappointment at the “no” you still knew that God has your best in view, that He knows what you really need? When were you last reminded that when you ask for something and God overrules you and says “no”, his promises are all still Yes in Christ Jesus?  When was the last time a good friend reminded you that God’s sovereignty and his providence are never opposed to each other in your life? when singing old hymns raised your eyes from navel-gazing to a jaw-dropping view of Jehovah’s grace and glory?

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:32)

God’s no to my request is actually yes to what I really need, and the thing is, He knows better than I what I need. Needless to say, I’ve been blown away by God’s greatness, by his majesty, by his love, by the comfort of the reality that He is enthroned, ruling for his glory and the good of his people–and that includes me, as undeserving as I am.

God has given me new, more demanding responsibilities in my engineering job (i.e., more hours, too), when I had hoped and prayed to reduce my hours for more time support raising. This was initially very disappointing and hard for me, but over the past two days God has done amazing work in my heart and through the prayers of his people.  I need your prayers that I will adjust well to my new schedule and have wisdom for my time-commitments.

Tonight I presented the Ukraine ministry to a group of friends brought together by an engineer who’s a former co-worker of mine. I’m so encouraged by friends and coworkers who give me the gift of time to hear how God is working in Kiev and calling me to serve there.

Part of what God may be reminding me with my new responsibilities and tighter schedule may be my limitations and my dependence on him. One of those limitations is my need for sleep, now.  Its yet another gift from my Keeper who doesn’t sleep.

conference this weekend

22 03 2010

Please pray that a “Weekend-to-Remember” Conference being held in the Khmelnitsky region of Ukraine this weekend will strengthen the marriages of all the participating couples. Alex, one of the elders from the Solomensky church in Kiev our team works with, will be speaking at this conference. Please pray for God to use Alex and his wife in a powerful way as well as for the hosts of the conference while they are preparing for the event.

I got a name tag

20 11 2009

Mission to the World (MTW) just approved me as a missionary to Kiev, Ukraine!  I spent this past week at MTW with nine other missionary candidates for Interview and Orientation (I&O), the final step in the application processes.

I&O was a very full, busy week, and I felt very cared for by MTW.  When I met with the candidate committee to find out if I was approved or not, the first thing they did was hand me a magnetic name tag and welcome me to MTW.

Here’s my I&O group at the end of the week, excited to be new missionaries, to be done with the week, and to see how the Lord will work in our lives over the coming years as we raise support and then head to all corners of the globe.