After 30 hours in cars, 20 hours in planes, and 46 hours in trains – a six week trip – we are back in Tennessee. The trek was Toronto, Berlin, Kraków, Lviv, Ternopil and Mykolayiv, and in all of those places God’s people are faithfully bringing His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
That’s right, I said bringing it. Jesus taught His disciples to pray and proclaim His kingdom come, but we too often fail to realize that we play a part in actually bringing a measure of His kingdom into cultures that often have an immune response to His claims. Those earthly kingdoms are hearts and lives, and our part is to preach the Gospel and help people bring his lordship into everyday life and situations. Discipleship.
In our last update, we were halfway through our trip and preparing for ministry in Mykolayiv and Ternopil, Ukraine. Pastor Oleg inTernopil has asked me for some time to visit their new work in Mykolayiv because it is unique. Imagine this, a former drug addict, Igor Vasilovich, who was in prison and crippled from drug use decided that God had called him to raise up a team, raise finances, and go to Mykolayiv to start a church and a rehab center. Igor himself went through the rehab center in Ternopil where he ended up serving on the team. He has the mobility of someone with severe cerebral palsy and can barely speak, but now he has a family and is leading a ministry. In a country at war and in economic crisis he believed that God said to go to a difficult city to start a new work. This frail man had an acceptable list of reasons not to go, but faith overruled, and he went. And this is why I had to go.
While there, I lived with and ministered to former addicts, many who were already leaders in the ministry. And then there was the city itself, a Soviet relic whose citizens still believe in the old ways and are reluctant to change. Sounds a lot like the earth that Jesus came to, doesn’t it? Yet Jesus went anyway, and so should we.
After the 18 hour train ride to Mykolayiv and back, Oleg asked me to train his senior leadership team in Ternopil and preach at his two Sunday services. During lunch with Oleg, he explained that most of his team had once been in substance abuse yet are now pastors, elders, youth leaders, have families, are business owners and even church planters. “Which ones?”, I asked. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the Book of Daniel, I could not tell which ones had gone through the fire. Not a trace of smoke. Just miracles.
In our next update we will share how Ukrainians and other people groups in our ministry have taken the Great Commission with them as circumstances such as war and economic crisis caused them to migrate. This is resulting in unexpected church plants in unexpected countries, and one of our goals is to equip these new works. This is also unique, but not surprising, because the first mission trips of the first church were for similar reasons as persecution overtook them.
“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” Acts 8:4
We are currently preparing for our next trip to Poland this fall where we will make preparations for long-term work in Europe, and until then we will be increasing our partner base and getting trained in strategic planning and consulting. We thank all of you who partner with us, and we welcome new partners to our team for this important mission. God bless!
Mike and Myra