giving thanks

27 09 2009

Its nearly 2:00 AM Monday in Kiev, Ukraine right now.  No wonder I feel a bit tired, jet-lagged here in northwest Georgia just outside Chattanooga.  Yesterday (Saturday) morning I got up at 3:30am for my flight home from Kiev, and I was home by 10:30pm.  This morning I woke early, alert and excited to gather with other believers to worship the Lord together.

Thank you for your prayers.  My trip was worthwhile, and I got a good sense of what the Presbyterian missionaries are doing to equip and encourage the Ukrainian church in Kiev and Odessa.  There are a number of ways I could serve in Kiev after learning Russian, including music ministry and mentoring, evangelistic outreach, discipleship, and possibly theological education in the future.  The team there looks like a good fit for me, and I got the sense they may think I’d work well as part of their team.

Please continue praying for me as I pursue where and how the King is calling me to serve in the coming years, and as I serve where he has placed me right now.  Tomorrow morning I’m returning to my full time civil engineering work, helping to push back the brokenness and play my part in seeing God’s common grace blessings extended through better, safer, and more efficient transportation systems.  I remain your debtor–thanks again for your prayers.

Last Sunday I was excited to worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ in Kiev, where I found myself longing to know Russian and thankful for Hebrew words like “hallelujah” that call everyone everywhere to praise Jahweh.  Today I was thankful to be able to worship in English.  Isn’t it exciting that God’s steadfast love, which narrowed through Abraham, Israel, Judah, and David until it focused on Jesus, burst out to all the peoples, languages, and nations of the world when Jesus rose from the dead?  As Psalm 57:9 says, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.”

Here are three pictures:

I’m at the Zoloti Vorota (Golden Gate) in Kiev, built by Yaroslav the Wise in 1037, destroyed when the Mongol’s sacked Kiev in 1240, and rebuilt in 1982.

The Kiev skyline at nightfall, from the front balcony where I stayed the first half of my trip.

Maydan Nezalezhnosti is the “Independence Mall” in the center of downtown Kiev.





observing Odessa

22 09 2009

I’ve just spent two days here in Odessa, getting an overview of what the Presbyterian missionaries are doing here.  The Evangelical Presbyterian Reformed Church of Odessa has a beautiful building near the city center.  The present congregation, which grew out of missions work in mid 1990s, was able to obtain the historic building in which they worship by proving to the court that they are the theological heirs of the reformed and presbyterian congregations which worshiped in this building prior to the Soviet Union and communism.  They have ties with a counseling center and a pregnancy resource center, and have a healthy youth ministry being led by a number of younger Ukrainian believers.

Odessa is architecturally rich, though many (if not most) of the buildings are crumbling–literally.  My host told me that Odessans often will walk closer to the street than the buildings in case a window or balcony falls while they’re passing.  However, the remnants of beauty are striking, and could have compared with central L’viv in West Ukraine.  The Opera and Theatre is gorgeous.  We had lunch today with a Campus Crusade staff worker at a cafe, Mogol Gogol, on Gogolya str. where the author Nicholai Gogol lived for a year or so.  Reflecting on the faded glory of many of the buildings I saw today, I’m reminded that John Calvin said that people are ruined statues, with remnants of former glory.  Thankfully, Jesus came to restore us to his image, in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.  Please pray that as his church is built in the lives of the people of Odessa, they will joyfully follow him in sacrificially seeking the welfare (or shalom) of their city.

I’m taking the overnight train back to Kiev, and have three more days there before returning home.  Wednesday I will participate in the MTW Kiev team meeting, and have a couple other meetings with missionaries on that team.  I will also meet the Ukrainian pastor of the church plant where I worshiped this past Sunday either Wednesday or Thursday morning.  Then I will be visiting my relatives Oleg and Audra Thursday and Friday, and leaving very early Saturday morning to fly all the way back to Chattanooga.  Please continue to pray for safe travels, and for wisdom as I hope to continue supporting and encouraging the missionaries in Kiev.





safe arrival

16 09 2009

I’ve arrived safely in Kiev, tired but grateful for a few hours of sleep while crossing the Atlantic.  Thank you for praying.  Tonight is pretty low key–I’m settling into where I’ll be staying through Sunday, and staying awake until bedtime here, to hopefully minimize the time adjusting to jet lag.  Please pray for a quick adjustment to the new time zone (seven hours ahead of the US east coast time), and that I will remember the few useful Ukrainian phrases I know and pick up any necessary Russian phrases.  I will have two overnight train rides while I’m here, and I may need to communicate in Ukrainian or Russian, and it would be great to have a little bit more than just pointing at my phrasebooks.

Tomorrow I will be visiting the seminary with which the missionary team works.  Friday I will participate with their university student English Club, and may be seeing some other aspects of the work here.  In the morning when I meet with the team leader I’ll find out a bit more about my schedule for the next few days.

Here are two pictures I took off the 20th floor apartment where I’m staying:

Please continue praying that the Lord uses this trip to clarify how he is leading me.  Thanks for supporting me with your prayers!

with gratitude,

Joel





time to travel

14 09 2009

I am returning to Ukraine tomorrow (15 – 26 September) to visit with two
teams of missionaries, one in Kiev and one in Odessa.  Many of you have
prayed for me over the past few years as I’ve considered and pursued how and
where the Lord is calling me to serve.  Both teams are Mission to the World
church planting teams working with Ukrainian presbyterian churches to
establish and strengthen the church in Ukraine.  During this ten day trip, I
will be considering these two teams and they will be considering me, to see
if I might be a good fit on one of their teams for two to three years.

Some of you may wonder how this fits with my civil engineering work.  I am a
professional engineer, but that is not my passion, and I’m hoping that some
of my gifts, strengths, and skills that have benefited me in civil
engineering will be able to transfer to a church planting team.  The folks
in Kiev have a seminary for training Russian-speaking pastors, and I’m quite
interested in the possibility of teaching there longer-term, if that is how
the Lord leads.  That team also has university ministry outreach, music
ministry (including possibly mentoring Ukrainian musicians for thinking
about music in worship), work with an orphanage, and lots of possibilities
since its a city of 5 million people.

Please pray:
1.)  For safe flights (Newark to Boston to Copenhagen to Kiev).
2.)  That I will grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
3.)  That the Lord will clarify his leading in my life.
4.)  That I will be an encouragement to the missionaries I meet with.
5.)  For safe travels within Ukraine.  The evening of the 20th I’ll take an
overnight train to Odessa, and the evening of the 22nd another overnight
train back to Kiev.
6.)  That I will pick up a few Russian phrases quickly.
7.)  That the nations will delight more and more in Jesus!

Please let me know if you have questions or comments for me.  Thanks so much
for your prayers.

joyfully,

Joel