Sunday, October 26, 2008

From Death to Life

Serhiy's Funeral

Today we held a funeral for Serihy, but not in the normal sense. We brought members of our church and treated it as though it were an extended church service. We sang worship songs and preached about God's free gift of eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ. It turned out to be a great opportunity for sharing the Gospel with the villagers that attended. I was blessed to be able to share about the life we are offered once we leave this world behind. The other two pastors preached similar messages of salvation and the need to invite Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior before it's too late. God's Love is so great that His Word reached into this small village of mostly elderly people and began to shine light into their lives. (This happened figuratively and literally!)

Serhiy's Funeral
A cold overcast day suddenly gave way to bright sunshine as God's Word was lovingly shared.

Serhiy's Funeral
After we left the cemetery, we shared a meal and one last song together.

Не в тому любов, що ми полюбили Бога, а що Він полюбив нас, і послав Свого Сина вблаганням за наші гріхи. -1 Іван 4:10

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. - 1 John 4:10

You can see more photos from this day by clicking HERE.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Passing and Prayer

Serhiy & Topeek
Serhiy and his dog Topeek heading home.

Earlier today, our friend Maria's great-uncle, Serhiy, left this world. We knew him from the times we visited the village where he lived to help harvest potatoes and it was earlier this year that we buried his sister, Baba Hanya. We will be holding a funeral service tomorrow in the village of Kozhenykiy. Please pray for Maria and her family as they shoulder the majority of the work and preparations to be done tonight and tomorrow. We are hoping to help in any way we can, but there is a lot to be done in a short time. Maria's mother Valentina has especially been overwhelmed with caring for Serhiy since his sister died and in his final days. Please pray that we will find ways to bring glory to God and share Christ with the people of the village there.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Feed My Sheep

In the Gospel of John, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. When Peter affirms that he does in fact love the Lord Jesus each time he is asked, he receives this instruction. First, "Feed my lambs." Second, "Take care of my sheep." And finally, "Feed my sheep."

One of the ways pastors are to feed the sheep is with sound Biblical truth. The problem is that those people whom the Lord has entrusted to these pastors don't always want to hear the truth. At least not all of the truth. It is human nature to want to hear things that are pleasing to us and that make us feel good. Unfortunately it is all too easy for a pastor to fall into the trap of trying to please the sheep rather than feed them by telling them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

I freely admit that I would like nothing more than to please everybody and have them walk away feeling good about themselves. Would I really be "feeding the sheep" if I skipped over all those disturbing parts of the Bible about sin and the narrow road to salvation? If I love Jesus, as Peter claimed, I have to tell people what they need to hear. I can do this in the most loving way possible, but some will likely still be offended. (Some of you know how difficult this can sometimes be in Ukraine.) I've seen and heard too many pastors who, out of fear of offending, are not feeding their sheep. They make ambiguous statements and shy away from controversial issues leaving people to come to their own conclusions right or wrong. Granted, some issues are complex and need careful consideration, but some positions can be clearly stated using sound Bible teaching.

I've been reading some of Randy Alcorn's posts lately and I admire his willingness to boldly "feed the sheep" according to his convictions and Biblical insights. Please take the time to read his latest post and his impassioned plea to view life as God does.

I'm not Voting for a Man, I'm Voting for Generations of Children and their Right to Live

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"The Little Path" Issue Zero

Tropinka (The Little Path)

We are excited to announce that the Christian children's magazine that we know as Ctezhynka in Ukrainian, little path, has been published as a trial issue in English. It will be published under the Russian name, Tropinka, The Little Path. Please go to where you can view this beautiful magazine page by page. The theme of this issue is appropriately enough, light. It will only be published in English on a regular basis if there is enough interest.

These great magazines are published here in Ukraine by Light in the East (Світло На Сході). You can click on this link Light in the East for a rough English translation of the site. The senior pastor of our church, Pavlo Mitichev, works with Light in the East in Kyiv so we are blessed to have access to their publications through him. These English versions are great for helping some of the children learn English in our Children's Ministry. Light in the East publishes many other books for all ages in Ukrainian and Russian. They also have a missions training program for equipping native Ukrainian missionaries as well as various other ministries for Christ.

The origin of Light in the East can be traced back to World War I Russian prisoners of war. They came in contact with German evangelists who taught them the saving knowledge of Jesus. These prisoners of war would eventually take this Gospel message back to what was to become the Soviet Union where these men literally became "lights in the east".

Ctezhynka and Tropinka
The English version will share works by some of the same great Ukrainian authors and illustrators as its Ukrainian counterpart.

If you know of a church that might be interested in these magazines, please contact :

Tropinka "Light in the East" Inc.
P.O. Box 326
Lake Forest, CA 92609

Phone/Fax: (949) 458-6248

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blessings and Answered Prayers

Children's Ministry
Joshua, Oksana, Kristina, Lusya, Zhenya, Maxime, and Dominic with Maria and Edna during Children's Ministry

We were happy to see God at work in so many ways today at church. Maxime has been spending his weekends in a village with his grandmother lately and we have really missed having him at church. This weekend he stayed home from the village and even spent a night at our house. We were glad to see him outside of our building with his Bible waiting to go to church with us today.

Our neighbor Oksana usually goes to her grandparents home in a nearby village on Sundays, but today her family stayed home. She came upstairs to our place before church to get some help on her English homework and she asked what time we would be going to church. We told her and to our joy she told us that she wanted to go with us. This is something that we have been praying for since we met her. God is faithful. Oksana seemed to really be listening to the teachings and having a good time. Please pray that she continues on the path that leads to life.

Anya singing to the sound of a bandura
We were treated to Anya singing to the music of a bandura today also.

Children's Ministry
The kids making turtles.

Maxime holding up his turtle that says, "Mattew 5:16, I will be a light."

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Red Sea of Communists (by Edna)

Communist Protest
Communist demonstrators wave Soviet and even a few Russian flags in protest of the Day of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army

I traveled by myself to Kyiv Monday to purchase our bus tickets to the Calvary Chapel Bible College in November. Upon walking out of the metro on Independence Square, I was amazed by the large gathering of communists on the opposite side of the street. Cara told me the night before to bring my camera because there would be a protest. Boy, was she right! Cara gave me some background information regarding what was happening that day and then I did my own research here at home. It turned out to be the day chosen to commemorate the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). The problem is that Soviet Army veterans don't want to recognize UPA veterans as legitimate war combatants due to their struggle against communism in Soviet Ukraine. It's interesting that the blue banners in the background say "Freedom" and the square they are protesting in is called Independence Square. How beautiful those blue and yellow Ukrainian flags flying overhead are.

Ednochka and Carochka
Me and Cara

I met with my friend Cara at the McDonald's on Independence Square. She was so gracious to offer her time to help me with translation so that I could purchase my tickets. After looking at the map, we set off to find the business we were looking for. I thought I had the address written down right, but it turns out we needed a completely different address. We ended up walking all over before finding it! All went well with purchasing the tickets and we are grateful that we found a cheaper alternative in traveling to the Bible College. Afterward, we headed back to Independence Square to have lunch together. Thanks Cara for making all of this possible! I really enjoyed hanging out with you.

Ukrainian Patriots

Since I rarely travel to Kyiv alone, I thought it would be a great opportunity to spend some time with Marianna. We met at her place and had a nice time chatting over real coffee. :) It was good to discuss politics together since she watches all the debates and could better fill me in. We also discussed the possibility of visiting orphans together, which is something that is really close to my heart. I am excited to see what God wants to do!

Our Freedom - Their Blood!
A poster commemorating October 14th, the day of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. It reads, "Our Freedom - Their Blood!"

Here's what communism did for Ukraine. I can understand Ukrainians disdain for the Soviet Union after watching this video. The video describes Holodomor, the genocide of Ukrainian people by the Soviet Union. Please be warned that the following historical images are very graphic and tragic.

The Soviet Story

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Not About Politics

I've told myself that I wouldn't get involved in debating American politics on this blog, especially concerning the presidential elections in the United States. I feel that I can't stay completely silent on the issue though. To not say anything would be a betrayal of the very reason that we are in Ukraine, to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and that the Bible is the inspired infallible Word of God.

I came across a post today that caught my attention. It's about the presidential candidates' views concerning abortion and how some Christians are supporting a pro-abortion candidate. Logically, you would think that every Christian would take a firm pro-life stance, but not so according to the post.

After reading the post, I still can't believe that Americans (especially Christians) could possibly feel this way about human life. I live in a country (Ukraine) where abortion was once the preferred (if not the recommended) form of birth control. In the former Soviet Ukraine, since 1970 (the first date I found a record for), over one million unborn children were killed each year until the collapse of the Soviet Union. The number of babies killed by abortion exceeded live births in Ukraine until 2001 when live births finally exceed the number of abortions. This was done out of ignorance. People were told that it was "just tissue" or that "it had no soul". Education to the contrary has been slow and hard fought by many Christians laboring to end this tragedy. I have heard the stories of women who were broken and devastated by the realization of what they had done and the emotional scars they now carry. I'm thankful that there are Christian missionaries in Ukraine right now that are devoting their time to public education programs about the importance of abstinence and the sanctity of life of unborn babies. They are also sharing the saving news of Christ and of forgiveness with those affected by abortion.

This is what Norma McCorvey, the woman known as Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade, had to say after becoming a Christian,

"I was sitting in O.R.'s offices (Operation Rescue) when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. "Norma," I said to myself, "They're right." I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that's a baby! It's as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth--that's a baby!"

I felt crushed under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn't about "products of conception." It wasn't about "missed periods." It was about children being killed in their mother's wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion–at any point–was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear."

I'm saddened to think that the United States seems to be taking a moral step backwards. Is human life so trivial now that we can simply brush aside moral truth in the interest of electing a candidate that tells us what we want to hear? I would hate to be a pastor that had to stand before God and answer for why I told His people only what they wanted to hear.

Without endorsing a candidate (I shouldn't have to), here's my personal view. I would rather have a president who takes a Biblical stand on issues like abortion than one who seems to have a more popular plan for economics or foreign policy. If a candidate claims to be a Christian, as both do, then both should do everything in their power to stop abortion. No candidate is perfect, but I believe that their position on the future of abortion is a clear indication of their true moral character and how we vote is an indicator of ours as a nation. Time will tell.

I want a president who will make decisions based on God's Word, the Bible, and not on popular public opinion. Presidents aren't elected to make everyone happy and feel good about themselves. Presidents are elected to lead the country in a godly manner (yes, the pledge of allegiance still says, "one Nation under God"). Presidents have to sometimes make unpopular and even painful decisions. Do you remember how unpopular President Lincoln's decision to abolish slavery was? The war that followed cost the lives of more than 620,000 Americans. (The number of Americans killed in the Civil War is still lower than the number of babies who are killed through abortion each year in the United States since 1973.)

By the way, it was President Eisenhower who signed the bill into law on Flag Day, June 14th, 1954, that added the words "under God" to the pledge of allegiance. He had these words to say about it,

"These words [“under God”] will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble. They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded."

I think we live in a time when people would rather remain silent than risk offending anyone with the truth. My views in this post might be offensive to you and you might disagree with them, but the message of the Gospel is also offensive so I won't make apologies for either. 1 John 4:11 says, "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." Do we really manifest God's love when we remain silent on these issues? Is the love of Christ in us when we endorse the killing of innocent unborn children?

Read these next two verses and the post that is linked below them. After you have read the post by Robert George, watch the video response to abortion by John Piper.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. Psalm 139:13

The Witherspoon Institute

John Piper: Abortion is About God

I've added this link after originally posting this because I felt that it echoes almost exactly what I believe about this issue. Please take the time to read this post by pastor and author Randy Alcorn.

Not Cool: Obama's Pro-Abortion Stance, and Christians enabling him

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Back to Voloshka

Voloshka Orphanage

On Tuesday, we went back to Voloshka orphanage here in Bila Tserkva after last visiting in April of 2007. We finally got an open door to go back and visit the children after Nastya told us that she and some friends make regular visits there. We met up with her and four of her friends to spend about an hour and a half coloring and playing with these beautiful little children.

Voloshka Orphanage

Voloshka Orphanage
They have such tiny little beds.

Voloshka is a very nice orphanage by normal standards in Ukraine, but like all children these kids need loving human contact. We are praying that we might be able to start some kind of Bible Club or regular teaching for some of the kids at Voloshka. We only saw a small group of them, ages five to six. There are groups of younger and older kids in the rest of the building. It would be a blessing to be able to spend some time with them as well. You can't imagine how much a hug means to these little ones until you've had them run to you as you pass in a hallway just to steal a quick embrace.

Voloshka Orphanage
Six year old Ivan is one of the children still with the same group since we last visited a year and a half ago. Sadly, he and another boy don't seem to have grown much since we last saw them. All of the children are much smaller and skinnier than they should be for their age.

Voloshka Orphanage
Polina, the only girl in the group, tried to braid Nastya's hair.

Voloshka Orphanage
Edna giving Arsen a ride. This little guy was so funny and kept us all laughing with his sense of humor.

Voloshka Orphanage
The children were so excited just to be shown a little affection.

Voloshka Orphanage
Polina and Edna having some girl time together.

Voloshka Orphanage
Before we left, we passed out pechyvo and tsukerky (cookies and candy). Just in case the children were low on sugar :)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Fall Day With the Claycamp Family

The Claycamps

The Claycamp family, Micah, Christy, Josie, Jaden, Jeremy, and Justin, came to visit us today from Kaharlyk. The weather was perfect for a walk in the park and a chance to enjoy all the colors of Fall. It was fun to spend time with all off them. I think Josie even made a few new friends on the playground at our place before they left. The day seemed to slip by and we wish we would have had more time.

Thanks for stopping by guys. It would be our pleasure to have you over again soon.

Dominic, Joshua, Jeremy, Josie, and Jaden
Dominic, Joshua, Jeremy, Josie, and Jaden

Christy, Justin, and Edna
Christy, Justin, and Edna

Joshua and Jaden
Joshua and Jaden

Jeremy taming a lion
Jeremy taming one of the lions of Oleksandria

One step at a time little guy

Colors of Fall
Three boys and a pond
Jeremy, Jaden, and Joshua

Bride and Groom
one of the many newly married couples we saw

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ukrainian Hot Sauce (well sort of)

OK, it's not really Ukrainian hot sauce, but you can make it in Ukraine. I'm writing this post so that I can share some of my experiences with trying to satisfy cravings for this spicy red liquid here in Ukraine. It seems that most Americans and especially Californians have a strong liking for the stuff. Edna and I are no different. We both like Tabasco and Tapatio with a preference for the latter. After exhausting our last bottle of Tapatio one day, I decided that I would try and create something that could serve as a reasonable substitute. I headed for the local outdoor market and began my quest for spicy goodness in a bottle. Here's what I came up with:

3 tablespoons ground red peppers
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped white onion
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder (if you can find it)
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons water

You can find these red peppers just about anywhere they sell vegetables. The best method is to dry the peppers in the sun or indoors (it works well in the summer if you have a balcony). This might take a couple of weeks depending on the weather. If you can't wait that long, you can dry them in the oven for 24 hours at about 50 Celsius, but the flavor of the peppers isn't quite as good. If you really can't wait, you can chop up the fresh peppers and throw them straight into the blender, but I don't have a recipe for that.

Slice open the peppers on one side so that they will dry properly and then run a needle and thread through the green stem so that you can hang them. You can dry large amounts of peppers this way. Once the peppers are completely dry they will be brittle and break easily. The best way to grind up the peppers is in a coffee grinder. They should grind into a red powder. I also used a coffee grinder to grind up the dried oregano I bought, turning it into a powder as well. (I try to store up as much of the ground peppers as I can for future batches.)

Basically, all you need to do is to throw all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. The result is a spicy hot sauce that seems to me to be a little less salty than Tapatio, but still a worthy substitute. The above recipe makes enough hot sauce to fit in a 10 FL. OZ. / 296 mL container with plenty of room to allow for any expansion. This sauce seems to get better with age and doesn't need to be refrigerated. Feel free to modify the recipe to suit your individual tastes. Let me know how it works out.