Ukraine Update #1

2018-05-07

It was 1994 when I made my first international trip for Walk Thru the Bible, right here to the newly independent nation of Ukraine. Has it really been 24 years since I came here for the first time? I left a big piece of my heart here, and thankfully I’ve been able to come back and check on it every 3-4 years since that initial CoMission trip. But this trip is extra special because my wife, Ellen, is with me for the first time. Seeing Ukraine through her eyes is like rediscovering my first love.

After a desperately needed night’s sleep and a restful day, Yuri drove Ellen and me to their apartment where his loving wife, Natasha, and their son, David, had prepared a traditional Ukrainian feast. Think Thanksgiving, only with an entirely different menu. There were several courses, but we could have stopped after the introductory bowls of borscht, a hearty soup made of beets, potatoes, and carrots, with a spoonful of sour cream on top.

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Yuri and I have been friends and partners in ministry for more than 20 years. Any time I get to spend with him is full of raucous laughter, heartwarming memories, and mutual encouragement. But this year we were in for a totally unexpected surprise. Natasha has been taking English three hours a day, three days a week. Gone are the days when she has to wait for Yuri to summarize our conversation in Russian. When she took Ellen by the hand and led her to a separate room, Natasha bubbled, “Now we can talk, just the two of us, like I have always wished we could.”

Later this week we’ll convene our European regional conference with delegates from nearly 20 countries. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories and pictures to share as we equip our European leaders to launch Revolution, our new resource focusing on the parallels between today’s young adults and King Josiah. But first, there are other strategic opportunities that need your prayer support. Tomorrow I’ll be teaching Revolution to more than 400 young adults and a few dozen influential pastors and church leaders. Then the next day I’ll be meeting with two different groups of denominational leaders to explore how Walk Thru the Bible can help them accomplish their God-given goals.

I used to view days like today as a necessary waste to overcome jet lag and begin to adapt to a new culture. Oh my, has my mind been changed over the past 24 years! How many times did Jesus purposefully lead his closest friends (we call them disciples) off to a remote location simply to enjoy and encourage each other? God, as three persons in one being, is relational to His core, and that’s the primary reason He created us humans. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of early mornings and full agendas before we fly home. But could it be that tonight with Yuri, Natasha, and David turns out to be one of the most eternally significant events of our trip?

Speaking of relationships, our entire ministry would cease to exist without your partnership. So mentally pack your bags and share this adventure with us through the miracle of prayer. Without Him we can do nothing, so please commit to pray each day as God surprises us with what He has planned for us to experience, teach, and learn. Thank you dear friends, and please stop coveting my borscht!

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