Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blog Posts Review - 2011

One thing that is true about 2011 - and every year before and after - is that God is good and faithful.  When I was in grade school, my Mom would lead the song time at our church's Vacation Bible School.  One song we sang regularly was, "Great Big Wonderful God".

The words are:
We've got a great big wonderful God
A great big wonderful God
A God who loves every one of us
Done so much for all of us
Great big wonderful God

He never, never, never leaves us
He's always standing by
To pick us up if we stumble
We're the apple of his eye

We've got a great big wonderful God
A great big wonderful God
A God who loves every one of us
Done so much for all of us
Great big wonderful God

Here is a video of the Imperials singing this song a few years ago.

God has been faithful to provide all that we have needed - and that will not change because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Here is a review of my 27 blog posts in 2011:
  • Three posts (the most popular posts) were about our expanded family (yes, it is probably time for another update) - In His Time - Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

  • Three posts about things I feel strongly about - Missions, Abortion (if you haven't already seen the 180 video, you need to!), and Orphan Sunday

I believe that we serve a wonderful God and His promise to supply all of our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus is true.

How about you?  Do you know and serve my wonderful God?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Book Review - Dreaming in 3D

A couple of months back, I purchased Doug Clay's book "Dreaming in 3D:  Finding and Following God's Amazing Plan for Your Life."  (It is still available in eBook form for 99 cents from Amazon).  While we were away from home, I was unable to finish it - until today.  I found the book to be interesting, challenging, and full of helpful ideas for people at various stages in life and their dreams.  I have been able to put some of the information to practical use in my life already - and hope to use more in the future.

Here are some things I gleaned from the pages of this book:

There are three questions that Doug poses when he is making a decision.
  1. God's Man - Does the role fit me?
  2. God's Time - Does the timing fit my family and my sense of direction?
  3. God's Place - Is God leading me to that particular place with those people?
God takes our desire and talent and blends them with opportunity to use them.

God's anointing along with our humility, which points us to God's provision of grace and strength, provide the strength to fulfill any dream that God has given us.  We need mentors and friends to walk with us through fulfilling our dreams.  Mentors are wise, trusted leaders who speak truth and prod us to go where we have never gone before.  Friends are our cheerleaders who love us and believe in us no matter what happens.

A person with a servant's heart does whatever it takes to get the job done, without thought of convenience or applause.

It is important that people are the focus of our God-given direction.  God created us in His image as relational creatures.  We are not meant to be Lone Rangers.

"God's dream for us is inaugurated by the Spirit of God, and it is confirmed by the Word of God and the people of God. The powerful interplay of these three give us hope, heart, and handles on the dream. They inspire us, correct us, and propel us to keep going when times are hard. At each step forward, we celebrate God's goodness and the incredible privilege of being His partner in the greatest enterprise the world has ever known—changing people's lives."
Clay, Doug (2011-10-05). Dreaming in 3D: Finding and Following God's Amazing Plan for Your Life (Kindle Locations 1258-1261). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

"When dreams go backward, we need to have a long-term perspective. We need to understand that God is purifying our hearts, marshaling resources, or setting up His perfect timing to accomplish His good purposes. Difficulties don't mean that God has become our adversary. Just the opposite! He is our most gifted and diligent Teacher. He's committed to take us through the curriculum He has designed specifically for us so that we learn life's most important lessons."
Clay, Doug (2011-10-05). Dreaming in 3D: Finding and Following God's Amazing Plan for Your Life (Kindle Locations 1324-1327). BookMasters. Kindle Edition.

I find myself at a place where I need God to give me a renewed vision and plan for the future.  While reading a book like this cannot be a substitute for prayer and seeking God for direction, it can provide a different way to look at things and does provide many thought provoking questions to help as you think through various options.

It does not matter our age or stage in life, we need God to give us a dream for what He has for us to do.  Only then will we be truly satisfied as we see God fulfill those dreams through our lives.

How about you?  Do you have a God-given dream?  If so, pursue it with everything you have.  If not, ask Him to give you one!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Visa Travel - 2011 - Part 2

Continuing from my last blog post, Visa Travel - 2011 - Part 1...

Having already been in Moldova for a week, we continued waiting.  Tuesday we were told that the documents would be ready on Thursday.  So we continued doing what we had been doing.  Fellow missionaries came to Moldova and it took three days to get their visas, so now we expected another three days once we got our documents.  More school for the girls.  More studying.  More cooking.  More shopping.  More fellowship with other missionaries.

Still no documents.  On Saturday, we were told that the documents would be ready on Monday.  On Sunday, after we had been there for two weeks, I told the same person, "I hope not to see you next week."  She returned the salutation.  One of my friends in Moldova thought that was the funniest thing he had ever heard.

More waiting.  Amazingly enough, we are not getting anxious yet, but are getting ready to go home.  We have a team arriving from our church on November 26th, so we are beginning to wonder how close to that date we will be arriving in Ukraine.  Our original plans were to go from Chisinau to Odessa, and then back to Krivoy Rog.  Because we had plans to be in Kiev for Thanksgiving, we were also wondering whether we would make it or not and decided that it would be best to go straight to Kiev instead of going home first.

On Wednesday, we heard that the documents were ready (finally!).  I expected to go to the train station to get them on Thursday, but the government office did not release them until late Thursday.  Once they were released, they were put on the train that leaves Kiev at 4:40 AM and arrives in Chisinau about 5:50 PM. Friday afternoon.  I left about 4:30 PM to take public transportation to get to the train station.  Unfortunately, the train station is about one block off the main road and not very well marked, so I missed it.  When I realized that, I got off at the next stop and looked for an available taxi.  The first one I found was busy, but the second one, waiting at a stoplight, was not.  We arrived just 3 minutes before the train arrived.  I was really starting to sweat before we got there.  I got my documents without any problem and headed back to Buck's place.  There was now visible light at the end of this tunnel.  We enjoyed the weekend.  On Sunday, after we had been there for three weeks, I told the same person, "I hope not to see you next week."

On Monday morning, I arrived at the Ukrainian embassy just before 9 AM.  Someone came to get us about 10 minutes later, and we all filed in to a small office where we told a lady at a desk why we were there and she wrote down our passport information.  Because I was an American applying for a visa, the lady at the desk got up (had not done that for any of the 20 people ahead of me) and told me to follow her.   She went to one window and told those people to move because I was next.  That was just a bit uncomfortable, but I was glad for my turn at the window.  The man working there was actually nice and very helpful.  He processed our visa applications (a tedious and manual process) and sent me to the bank to pay for the visas.

When I arrived at the bank (which was 3 or 4 blocks away), there were no less than 12 people in the small lobby waiting.  I did not realize that I needed a specific window (which was a different line from the others).  The man that helped facilitate the lines was not doing his job at the time.  When he got me over to the right line, it seemed several people who arrived after me were going first, but I finally had my turn. I paid about $8 for the bank to handle my payment of nearly $1600 to the embassy. Then I had to get some additional copies, so I entered the building next door. One of the small shops in there had a Xerox machine. I paid about 50 cents for six copies and headed back to the embassy.

Upon arrival, I rang the buzzer to announce my return. A lady came to let me in just a few minutes later. When I got to the area where the processing window was, the man working gave the stuff he was working on back to the person there and told them he needed to help me. I gave him the copies, the receipts from the bank, and our passports. He told me to return at 3 PM with my family. I had no idea why they needed to come, but we would be there.

All of us arrived a few minutes before 3 PM and we waited for at least 10 minutes. The group of people waiting there were all let in and led to the small office where I had started that morning. We were told to go into a larger room and to wait while the lady there helped other people. After about 20 minutes, she called our name and gave me our four passports back - with our visas in them. I honestly expected Wednesday would be the earliest we would get them, so I was in shock (but very glad!) that we had them already. We left the embassy rejoicing and thanking God for His faithfulness and goodness.

About 8:30 AM Tuesday, I headed to the train station to buy tickets to go to Kiev that night. With Thanksgiving on Thursday, we wanted to get to Kiev on Wednesday, if possible. I told Denise as I left that I was forgetting something, but had no idea what it could be. When I arrived at the train station about 45 minutes later, I got to the ticket window and learned that I had forgotten our passports. Because I do not need them for the train travel we do within Ukraine, I did not give them a second thought. When I returned home, my family asked if I had tickets. They were concerned when I told them "no" - at least until I told them why.

When I arrived back at the train station again, this time with the passports, I was able to buy the tickets we needed. We would leave just after 8:30 PM and would arrive in Kiev about 1:40 PM Wednesday. It was after 11:30 AM before I arrived back home again. It had taken all morning just to buy four train tickets. We had made plans to go out to eat with a group of our friends for supper that evening before we left, so we were packed and ready to go by 5:30 PM. We enjoyed our farewell meal and headed to the train station.

We settled into our coupe and started our journey back to Kiev. We were tired and wanted to sleep, but it was quite warm in the wagon. About 5 AM, we arrived at the Moldovan border check, which seemed to be a fairly smooth process. About 6 AM, we made it to the Ukrainian border check, which was more thorough. They had two dogs on our wagon sniffing things. The customs officer looked at my passport for a long time, asked a few questions, and finally stamped my passport. One of his cohorts wanted to know if we had any American coins (it seems he wanted a "gift"). We appeared to be the last ones to be processed, because moments after they left us, the train took off.

I met a cute little boy that was two doors down from us. He was five years old and from Russia. He and his mother had also been visiting in Moldova. At first he wasn't sure what to think of me, but eventually he warmed up was talking with me and giggling. He told me the English names for some animals, counted to 8 in English, and showed me how to make something by folding paper. He explained to me how, then unfolded it and had me do it myself. He was quite the natural teacher. Then we played between our doors and in the hallway. When we left, he said "goodbye" in English.

We finally arrived in Kiev about 1:40 PM on Tuesday, where we were met by a friend. We stayed in Kiev for Thanksgiving and really enjoyed celebrating with our missionary family. While I have many things to be thankful for, I am very thankful for our new visas and for being back in Ukraine. We had planned on being in Moldova for 8 days, not 24 days. One of our fellow missionaries commented about the resiliency we had demonstrated through the events we had been through. Thank God for His help and strength when things to not got as planned.

We met the team from our church at the airport on Saturday afternoon and headed back to Krivoy Rog, arriving home about 10 PM on Saturday November 26th. We had been gone for about 90 minutes shy of four weeks and it was so good to be home. Through all that time, God continued to be faithful. While we did not know what God's timing would be, we knew that he would take care of us. That is just what He did. There were moments of frustration and some doubts, but I can raise that experience up as an Ebenezer because "Up to this point the Lord has helped us!" (see 1 Samuel 7, specifically verse 12 as well as the second verse of the hymn "Come, Thou Fount").

How about you? Do you recognize and thank God for his help even when things do not go as planned? Do you look back to that experience as a reminder of God's faithfulness? We must not forget the things that God has done for us! Let us continue to regularly count our many blessings!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Visa Travel - 2011 - Part 1

When I started writing this blog post, I decided to first take a detour and share about our experience last year (Part 1 and Part 2).  Even as I wrote those blog posts, I did not expect most of the events that made up this years visa travel.  Because this is mostly about the visa process, the November post of our update blog will have more information about what we did while we were in Moldova.

In September of this year, the laws in Ukraine regarding visas changed completely, which results in a process that is very different.  That also means there is a greater potential for more confusion with those administering the different parts of the process.  The visas are more than twice as expensive than last year and we need to register within 45 days after we return to Ukraine.  We are the first within our missions organization to leave Ukraine to get the new visas.

Some of the best advice we have received in the last year is, "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break."

With our visas expiring on November 1, 2011, we needed to leave the country before then and apply for new visas.  To receive a religious visa, you need documents (letter of invitation) from an appropriate organization.  Our documents were finished in Kiev and were sent to us on the train, where I picked them up early Saturday morning (the 29th).  I had already checked on train tickets and learned that we could not take the train to Odessa, but would need to take the bus.  After getting our documents, I headed to the bus station to buy tickets for that night, which is also the night we moved our clocks back an hour.  (Just a side note about that - the time change had been cancelled earlier this year, but two weeks earlier, on October 17th, the parliament decided to cancel the cancellation of the time change.)

We finished packing for our trip, I watched the Nebraska Cornhuskers beat Michigan State soundly, and then we left home about 11:45 PM.  We waited inside the bus station for about 20 minutes, but were on the bus and headed towards Odessa by 12:40 am Sunday.  The roads improved as we progressed farther from Krivoy Rog.  There was some really thick fog and we seemed to be driving along quite slowly.  We made one stop after about 3 hours that was supposed to be a 15 minute stop, but because of the time change (falling back one hour), we waited a little more than 45 minutes instead.

During the trip, Hope slept most of the time, Denise and Laura slept part of the time, and I slept very little (which is quite normal).  We arrived in Odessa about 6:45 AM (after the time change).  That means we spent a total of over six hours on a bus trip to go 350 km or about 220 miles.  Even on highways in Minnesota (not the freeway), I would expect to be able to do that in a little more than four hours.

After I purchased bus tickets for the 8:20 AM bus, we waited inside the bus station (which was not much warmer than the outside temperature) and ate some of the food we brought with us for breakfast.  We loaded onto a smaller passenger bus that was less than half full and started our journey to Chisinau, Moldova.  It only takes about an hour to get to the border.  It was a cloudy day and just above freezing outside, and the bus quickly became cold with the door open the whole time we sat and waited.  Our bodies were warm enough, but our feet were cold.

At the Ukrainian border, one man from the bus was called to the office, but returned after just a few minutes.  We got our passports back and we were on our way again.  The same drill was repeated on the Moldova side where things went quite smoothly.  Moments later we had a quick pit stop, where we paid less than 20 cents each to use a squatty potty, and we were on our way again.

Before long the sun was shining brightly.  I kept trying to sleep on the bus, but could never get more than a couple minutes at a time.  Whether it was the man in back who kept coughing, or the movement of the bus as we followed the curves of the road or tried to miss potholes, I finally decided to give up.  We completed our nearly 200 km (about 125 miles) journey about 12:30 PM.  In Chisinau, it was about 50 degrees and quite nice.  Laura and I got off the bus before Denise and Hope.  A man behind us saw my wallet, which had somehow fallen on my seat, and gave it to Denise.  I am so grateful to God for his protection!!

Because I wanted to save the hour long round trip marshrutka ride to get tickets at the bus station, I bought return bus tickets for November 7th.  That should give us plenty of time to get our visas - or so I thought!

We once again stayed with our friends, Wesley and Donna Buck.  When we called to let them know we had arrived, Wesley came to pick us up.  We always enjoy being with them, so it was fun to visit and catch up.  However, I was so tired it was hard to be very good company and I finally excused myself and went to bed at 8:30 PM (which felt hours later to me).  I did not even hear Denise come to bed later.  I woke up one time during the night and saw she was there, and then got up about 7:30 AM feeling much better.

My plan was to go to the Ukrainian embassy right away in the morning, so I got up and took a shower.  When I checked my computer before I ate breakfast, I learned that my plans had changed.  The documents we had with us were incorrect and we would need to get new ones sent to us.  Honestly, my first response was "Oh, OK.  No big deal."  That, my friends, is not normal for me, but something that God has done in me.  It was impossible to predict when the new documents will be ready, but that was not a concern.  At that time, I wrote, "My job is to trust God and that is what I plan to do."  So we waited.

Our hosts are both teachers and they left 7:30 AM every day.  Most days they returned home after 6 PM, so we had the place to ourselves most of the time.  On Wednesday, we spent the day with our friends, the Stitt's.  We enjoyed some delicious Moldovan food, visited a museum, and then watched a movie together.  We left there and loaded on to a very crowded marshrutka to get back to the Buck's place.  After we got off, Denise realized that her purse was unzipped.  When we got inside the house, we discovered (as we had feared) that her wallet had been stolen (not her camera or iPod nano).  They got about $50 worth of money, her driver's license, a credit card, a store card, medical insurance cards, and some photos.  Not a big deal, just a hassle.  We stopped her credit card immediately and will have friends bring a new one when they come later this month.  It made me even more grateful that we still had mine and my wallet!

On Friday, I went to the bus station to return the tickets, since we obviously would not be leaving on Monday.  We also were told that the documents could be ready today or Monday.  We lived a somewhat normal life while we waited.  Denise cooked meals and baked (which the Buck's - and I - really appreciated).  The girls did school.  I studied Russian.  We bought groceries.  God really blessed me with a peace during the waiting.  Normally, I would have been anxious and ready to move on.  I do like being home, but I was real relaxed about all of this.  It is just part of the process.  On Sunday, after we had been there for one week, I said to a person I met, "I hope not to see you next week."  And I honestly thought we would not.

How about you?  I am no one special, but I serve an extraordinary God.  He has helped us so far and will not let us down.  How do you respond when things do not go as planned?  Keep trusting Him.  He will never fail you.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


A few weeks ago, I saw an elderly couple coming out of their apartment.  She was walking with two canes and slowly worked her way down the 3 or 4 steps out of the apartment (no ramp).  Then she went over to take one of her husband's two canes from him.  He had one full leg and one that was cut off a little above the knee.  He worked his way down the steps with one cane while holding on to the rail.  This was after what I already knew had taken place.  They both had to walk down a half-flight of stairs inside the apartment building, because no apartment buildings here (that I have seen) have an elevator on the ground level.  Wherever they were going, it was going to take them a long time to get there.  I have to give them credit, because I would be tempted to stay home if it was that difficult for me to get out.

Watching them reminded me of several things that I (and maybe you) have taken for granted.

I am thankful that I can walk without any assistance.  I do not need help getting out of bed or out of a chair.  I can easily walk where I need to go.  I can climb up and down stairs (though down is much easier).  I can walk fast or slow (I prefer fast, and Denise often reminds me that we are not in a race).  In fact, getting around is something that I seldom give much thought to.  In the past, I have experienced problems with my hip when walking was very painful or times when I have sprained my foot that slowed me down, but I could still get around on my own.  I do not need to be dependent on anyone or anything.  I do not need a cane, walker, crutches, or wheelchair.  In fact, I have never needed any of those things.  Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with health and the ability walk.

I am thankful that my wife and daughters can walk without assistance.  They do not need help or suport to get around.  They can climb up and down stairs.  They can walk.  When Denise had her lower back issues several years ago, it was painful to do everything.  Those times remind us how grateful we are for health.  Thank you, Lord, for blessing my family with the ability to walk.

I am thankful for American handicapped accessibility standards.  Living overseas and watching other people (like this older couple I saw), helps you realize how much easier it is to live in America.  Most apartment buildings in America have either no stairs or a ramp to get to the entrance.  When they have an elevator, it is on the ground floor.  A person in a wheelchair could roll in to the elevator completely unassisted.  That will not happen most places in this part of the world.  Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of rules that make it easier to get around for everyone.

I am thankful that we had two minivans when we lived in America.  We could easily get in a car and drive where ever we needed to go.  If the weather was bad, we could walk into the attached garage, open the door with a button, drive out, and close the garage door with a button.  All that without being in the elements.  Most people around us in Ukraine do not have cars and have to walk or ride public transportation.  In fact, we have been without a vehicle for this term in Ukraine - and have survived!  That means walking to the bus stop in all kinds of weather or daylight.  For some people, it is difficult to climb the steps into the marshrutka or bus.  Whatever you buy when you are out, you need to carry home with you or hire a taxi to drive you home.  Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of owning a vehicle.

These are just a few of my many blessings, which are too numerous to count.  Lord, thank you for blessing me in so many ways!

How about you?  Maybe you cannot be thankful for all these things, but you have many other things to be thankful for, just like me!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Follow this Blog

There are several easy ways for you to follow my blog.   They are listed on the right hand side of the blog page below the WELCOME section.

Enter your e-mail address in the "FOLLOW BY EMAIL" field, then click "SUBMIT".   Complete the required field and submit that form, then follow the directions in the validation e-mail.
Then every time I publish a post, you will receive an e-mail with the new post.

Copy and paste the blue text into your RSS or ATOM reader.
If you use Microsoft Outlook, open Account Settings, select the RSS Feeds tab, and choose new.   Copy and paste the blue text, then click "Add."  Follow the other prompts to finish adding the feed.
Then everytime I publish a post, you will have the new post in your feed reader or Outlook.

(Please note:
If you are using the old feed, please change to use the feed on the right.   Thanks!)

If you are a Google user and are signed in, you can choose to follow my blog with your Google account.   Simply click the "Join this Site" button and choose whether to follow my blog privately or publicly, then click "Follow This Blog."

If you would like to print so you can read or share a post, just click the "Print PDF" button that appears at the bottom of every post.  Follow the directions on the next screen.  It is just that simple!

Let me know if you have any problems and I will see what I can do to help you out.   Or if you know of other ways to follow a blog, share them with me.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog posts as much as I enjoy writing them.   Blessings!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

God Has a Plan

While we were waiting in Moldova for our letter of invitation that we needed for our visas, we enjoyed being able to attend International Christian Fellowship for a service.   The man who preached has been a missionary to Moldova for 19 years and has started working in Malawi, Africa as well.   His message was about Jesus being the "I Am" for whatever we need.

One sentence really struck me - "Moses was content to tend sheep in the wilderness even though he had been trained to be a prince."

Think about it. Moses was blessed to be raised as a prince.  He was comfortable.  After Moses murdered the Egyptian, he had to flee from Egypt, where he became a shepherd.   The time as a prince was not wasted, but was part of the preparation for what lay ahead for Moses. God had a plan.  Moses was comfortable being a shepherd.   After God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, he became the leader of the Israelites until he died.   That was God's plan for Moses.  The time as a prince or shepherd was not wasted, but was part of the preparation for what lay ahead for Moses.  God had a plan.  It took something to get the attention of Moses to help him make the change to follow the next step in God's plan.

I can relate to Moses.   I had worked at a company for more than seven years and enjoyed my job very much.   I was comfortable.  One day, I realized that God speaking to me about a possible career change.   Having more questions than answers, I sent out one resume, got the job, and we moved within three months.   During that time, circumstances in my job changed for the worse and I understood why God had been getting my attention.   The time working there was not wasted, but was part of the preparation for what lay ahead for me. God had a plan.

I worked for more than 13 years for the other company.  Those were some of the best years of my career.   I loved what I did and was comfortable with it, planning to retire working there.   We had purchased what we hoped would be our retirement home.   I was comfortable.  But God had other ideas and rattled my world with a short-term trip to Ukraine.   Last year, we moved to Ukraine to be missionaries.   At this point, this is God's plan for my life.   The time working there was not wasted, but was part of the preparation for what lay ahead for me.  What does the future hold?   We plan to return to Ukraine for another term.   Beyond that, I have no idea what the future brings.   But I do know this - God has a plan and He will guide prepare me so that I am ready for the next step, whatever it is!

The other thought I had about that statement was this - is it better to do things my way or God's way?   God's way, of course.   When it comes to daily life, we continually need to make that choice.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT) says "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."   How often do we choose to live in fear, instead of chosing what God has for us?

Philippians 4:6 (NLT) says "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done."   How often do we choose to worry, instead of choosing to pray and trust God.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NLT) says "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."   How often do we choose to grumble and complain, instead of finding something to be thankful for in our current circumstance?

Whether it's our daily life or our career direction, God has a plan and a purpose for each of our lives.  As sons and daughters of the King of Kings, we need to learn to live how God wants us to live and be who God wants us to be.   We need to spend time reading the Bible and praying if we are not sure what that is.

How about you?   Are you shepherding when God wants you to be doing something else?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Food for Thought - 4

Today's food for thought...from a sampler eBook (for just one month instead of for the whole year) that I picked up free from

"Lord, give me I pray:
A remembering heart for the things that have happened;
An attentive heart to what I have heard;
A forgiving heart for what has hurt;
A grateful heart for what has blessed;
A brave heart for what may be required;
An open heart to all that may come;
A trusting heart to go forth with You
A loving heart for You and all Your creation;
A longing heart for the reconciliation of all things;
A willing heart to say “Yes” to what You will."
LEIGHTON FORD, American evangelist/spiritual mentor (1926–present day)
Bjorklund, Kurt (2011-08-16). Prayers for Today Sampler: A Yearlong Journey of Contemplative Prayer (Kindle Locations 569-574). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

"Lord, give me I pray:"

I already discussed the title "Lord" in my last blog (Food for Thought - 3). Please remember that prayer is not just asking God for things for ourselves. That is only one small portion of what our prayers should be. (If you are interested in learning more about prayer, check out my cousin Kevin's ministry, blog, and book here.) Rather than being a complete prayer, this would simply be part of a larger prayer. By asking God for things for ourselves, we are confessing our need of his help. He is our source and the only one who can truly meet our needs and give us what we need. It does not matter who signs our paycheck, God is our source. Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes we only ask God to meet the large, pressing needs that we have now, but God wants to help is in the smaller things as well. Lord, help me to realize that you are my source and will supply all my needs.

"A remembering heart for the things that have happened;"

Remember how God told the Israelites to continue retelling all God did for them? That is because he knew that they would forget them if they stopped telling about them. And their children, their children's children, and their children's children's children, from generation to generation, needed to remember what God had done for their ancestors. When we hear what God has done in the past, it gives us faith to believe that He can do something similar for us in the future. It is very important for us to remember what God has done for us so that we can encourage the people around us with what God did in our lives. When Denise and I had a miscarriage (our only pregnancy) on Easter Sunday 1992, we found encouragement through the many friends who shared from their similar experiences. Lord, help me to remember.

"An attentive heart to what I have heard;"

Are you guilty of listening but not really hearing what someone is telling you? I am. But we would never do that to God, would we? I do not know about you, but I have. Do I pay attention when I read my Bible every day so that I am actually "hearing" what God is saying to me? When I am at church, do I listen attentively to what is being preached, or am I thinking about our plans after church is done? Throughout the day, God may speak to us in various ways. Are we listening? Lord, help me to be attentive to hear what you want to say to me.

"A forgiving heart for what has hurt;"

You do not have to go very far in life before you are hurt by someone. How we handle that hurt affects us. If we forgive, then we are free to move on. But if we hold on to the hurt, we limit God's ability to work in our life. The Lord's Prayer includes the phrase "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." If I cananot forgive someone (including myself), it begins to color everything I see around me and can affect my relationships with everyone, especially my family. Lack of forgivess leads to hate, bitterness, and anger. It is like drinking poison and expecting it to hurt the other person. It is also like holding broken glass in your hand, the tighter you sqeeze your hand, the more the glass cuts and hurts you. The other person may or may not know what they did to hurt you. But you are, as we tell our daughters, responsible for your behavior. Lord, help me to forgive like you forgave.

"A grateful heart for what has blessed;"

November is when we celebrate Thanksgiving in America. Many of my friends are daily posting something on Facebook that they are thankful for. It is interesting to read or to hear what people are grateful for. Sometimes I agree right away and, other times, I realize that I never quite thought of it that way before. It is important to develop an attitude of gratitude. We are truly blessed. Remember the "glad game" from the movie "Pollyanna"? Before he died, her Dad taught her to always look for something to be glad for in every circumstance. Even now, as we are in Moldova waiting for documents to apply for our visa, I am grateful for God's blessing and help. Lord, help me to be more grateful for whatever circumstance I find myself in.

"A brave heart for what may be required;"

There are times in life that we face difficult circumstances or situations that require courage. Remember the cowardly lion in "The Wizard of Oz"? He was not brave, though he pretended to be. When we are afraid, we need to find someone that we tell them about those fears. In doing so, we will find courage to face our fears. It does not matter what we have ahead. Maybe you face a meeting with someone or a test for school or work. Maybe there is sickness in the family or you are facing death or are in the valley after a death in the family. Maybe you face a significant job change or there are changes in the family. Joshua 1:9 was one of my Mother's favorite verses and she believed it to the last day of her life. "This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (NLT) Lord, help me to be courageous in your strength for what I am going through now or will go through in the future.

"An open heart to all that may come;"

When God asks us to do something, how do we respond? Do we say, "Yes, Lord!"? I must admit that sometimes I answer God just like my kids answer me. "Why?" "Just a minute." "Do I have to?" "Not now, Lord." Or I act like I did not hear him. We should respond as a servant, doing what the master asks of us. Remember that Paul was a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are certainly no better than Paul. Only God has the perfect plan and purpose for our lives. Sometimes we think that it is just the big things that we need to be open to. But it is usually the little things that trip us up because they get in the way of our own daily plans. Lord, help me to be open to what you have for me.

"A trusting heart to go forth with You"

If God calls us, He is going to go with us. Remember Joshua 1:9 that I referenced above. "The Lord your God is with you wherever you go." When Denise and I decided to follow God's call to missions, we both knew that without His help, we would surely fail. At the same time, I had learned to trust God and knew that He would go with us. You know what? He has done just that. He is always faithful. Lord, help me to always trust you.

"A loving heart for You and all Your creation;"

Until I learn to love like God loves, I have more to learn about love. Jesus gave His life because of His great love for us. Do you realize that people around you (not just in Ukraine or, as a Ukrainian woman said to me, "I thought that missionaries only went to Africa") are dying without knowing Jesus as their personal savior? What are you doing about it? People in your circle of influence need to hear it from you. If God speaks to your heart, you need to give to those who are doing something to reach those people that you cannot reach (like our family). There are needs all over the world. Remember that showing someone love is a great way to share God's love with them. Lord, help me to love like you love.

"A longing heart for the reconciliation of all things;"

There are many things in today's world that need to be reconciled, or brought back together, but I am going to focus on just one thing. We all need to be reconciled to God. That is why God sent His Son Jesus to earth. He lived a perfect life and paid the price to ransom (buy us back) from our sin so that we can be made right with God. This was not just provided to a few people, but is a free give that is available to everyone. Lord, help me to long to see people in my life reconciled to you.

"A willing heart to say “Yes” to what You will."

This is the bottom line. I can remember what God has done for me. I can be attentive to what God speaks to me. I can forgive the hurts of my past. I can be grateful for everything I have and everything that God has done for me. I can be brave enough to do what God calls me to. I can be open to what God has for me. I can trust that God will be with me. I can love the people around me. I can even long to see them reconciled to God. But if I am not willing, all those things are meaningless. We need to say "I am willing to be, to do, or to go - whatever you ask." I love the phrase of the song "Yes, Lord" recorded by "The National Christian Choir" several years ago - "Yes is the answer, what's your question gonna be?" Lord, help me to be willing to do what you ask.

How about you? Do you, like me, need God's help in these areas? Maybe we do not get the help we need because we have not asked.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Visa Travel - 2010 - Part 2

Continuing from my last blog post, Visa Travel - 2010 - Part 1...

Because we needed our letter of invitation authorized in Kiev and we live so far from Kiev, we thought it would be easier to have someone in Kiev provide the letter for us rather than our local church this time around.  When the document was completed and authorized in Kiev, it was sent to us on the train (this is a fairly common and fast method of delivery here rather than sending things through the mail).

November Trip
Because we had a team from our home church in Minnesota arriving in Kiev on November 12th, we had just enough time to go to Moldova for a week before they came.  We headed to the train station in the late afternoon of Thursday November 4th.  That night it was very warm inside and the sleeper train was more like a "sleepless" train for some of us (as one of our missionary friends calls them). After 13 hours on the train, we arrived in Odessa about 6:30 AM.  Because we knew where we wanted to go, we caught a taxi to the main bus station, bought tickets, and left for Chisinau, Moldova at 7:20 AM.  The large van was very crowded and had very little leg room.  This was going to be a long 6 hours, but so far it had gone better than our first time in Odessa when we could not find the bus station!

We got to the Ukrainian border about an hour later.  Passport control came on the bus to get each of our passports, then took them inside to stamp them.  It was not very long until the bus driver came to get Denise and I.  It turns out that we had been in the country more than 90 days out of the last 180 days without a visa. We knew this, but did not think it would be much of a problem.  It did not matter that we tried and failed several months ago, we are now "illegal" and we were told several times that we needed to have a "protocol" written against us.  We never did figure out what that meant.

One scenario was that we would not be allowed back into Ukraine for 3 months. That was obviously not a good option.  A better scenario was to stay in Ukraine and pay a fine (that changes our "illegal" stay into a "legal" one, and then try to go to Moldova to get our visas at a future date).  That sounded like the best option to us, especially with the bus driver wanting to keep "on schedule" and us not wanting to have any issues getting back into the country.  In those situations you can second guess yourself, but it seemed best at the time to play it safe.  Needless to say, we did not get a refund of the unused portion of our bus fare.

After we got all of our things off the vehicle (we have to think the others were glad to have a little more space, though Ukrainians need much less personal space than Americans) and waited to catch a vehicle that had room for us going back to Odessa.  We called a friend in Ukraine to have her send an e-mail to our missionary friends in Moldova to let them know that we were not going to be coming this week.  Soon we were back in Odessa trying to determine options for getting home.  Rather than waiting for the 10:40 PM train (that would get us into Krivoy Rog about 11:30 AM the next day), we decided to take a six-hour bus ride (leaving Odessa at 2 PM).  In spite of our situation, we enjoyed the warm, beautiful November day while waiting outside the train station (because there was more room to wait than at the nearby bus station).  Laura and I walked to McDonald's to bring back lunch for everyone.

Waiting for our bus ride back to Krivoy Rog
The passenger bus we boarded for home had plenty of space, but no air conditioning and no windows to open.  It was so miserably hot, it almost felt like we were being further tormented after our failed border crossing earlier in the day.  When we got home that evening, we were "glad" to be home and out of the hot bus, but so very disappointed that we were not in Moldova getting our visas and visiting our missionary friends.

December Trip

After our documents that we needed (to prove that we had paid our fine for being in the country more than 90 days out of 180 days) were released by the courts and I picked them up on the train, we were ready for our next trip to get our visas.

Monday evening, December 6th, found us on board the train to Odessa once again.  When we arrived there at 6:30 the next morning, we walked to the bus station close to the train station, purchased bus tickets to Chisinau, Moldova, then waited for our departure time.  This part of the trip is getting to be so routine (thankfully - in some ways anyway).

This time our border crossing was smooth and we had no issues at all.  After reaching Chisinau, we looked for a taxi to take us to the where we would be staying (with Wesley and Donna Buck again).  None of the taxi drivers recognized their address, so a group of them got out a map and tried to figure it out.  I made a call to help them out (with my newly purchased Moldovan mobile phone card).  They finally figured it out and one of the drivers took us to their apartment.  This time, we knew we had arrived at the right place.

Taxi driver conference to determine where our friends live
On Wednesday morning, I headed to the Ukrainian embassy to apply for our religious visas. I was very disappointed to see the same lady who turned me away in August, sitting at my window.  Thank God, this time everything was in order and I was told to return later that afternoon, after going to a bank to pay for the visas.  When I picked up our passports, each of them had a new visa in them.  At last, we had what we came for!

We enjoyed a few more days visiting friends, then headed home on Monday evening.  This time we took a bus that left Chisinau, Moldova about 8:30 PM and arrived in Krivoy Rog, Ukraine about 6:30 AM Tuesday morning.  The drawback is that this goes through the region of Moldova run by the rebels.  At one border of theirs, one officer had a speech he gave at the front of the bus (where we were sitting).   Because it was in Russian, we mostly heard "blah blah dollars blah blah dollars blah blah."   Then he asked if I understood, knowing that I did not, and kept right on going (thankfully).  You have to fill out a document (except for kids) when you go into this region, then they "process" you before you get to the Ukrainian border.  I did get called to the office because I did not fill out a form for Laura.  It seems that 16-year olds are not kids.  I ended up paying a $5 fine and filling out the document for her.  The officer even asked if I wanted a receipt.  No, thanks.  I actually found the whole experience rather amusing.  Other than that, the ride home was long, mostly sleepless, and uneventful.  We probably will not be going that route in the future.

After three tries, we finally got the visas that we came for.  In some ways, the first two trips were failures and the third was the only successful one.  While the process was challenging, I do not believe that any of the trips were failures.  The first one I wrote about in my part 1 blog post.  The second one was an opportunity for us to trust God in the difficult times.  We got turned back at the border, it really is not the end of the world.

If it is God's will that you serve in Ukraine, should the process have been easy?  Not the way I read the Bible.  The Bible does not promise an easy life just because we are doing what God has called us to do.  In fact, God has promised that, while we will have trouble in this world, He will not leave us alone.  God is not afraid of our questions, but He has not promised to answer every question we have here on earth.  Why did we have to take the extra time and money to make three trips?  I do not know, but I am confident that whatever it was fit into God's plan for my life.  That is enough for me right now.

How about you?  Are you trusting God through the challenging times?  God will make a way where there seems to be no way, but in His time.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Visa Travel - 2010 - Part 1

Life is full of challenges, but it seems that this is especially true when living in other cultures.  One of the things that makes life interesting is when you have to leave the country to get a visa.  This can be just a required exit and re-entry or it can be to apply for a visa for the a future period of time.  Most of the time, these experiences are quite routine, but sometimes they are not so routine.  Whether you have done it one time or many times, you are always glad when you are back to your foreign home and the process is complete.

Since we are in Moldova to get new visas, I was going to write a blog post about that, but thought it would be fun to share our experiences of last year first.

When we came to Ukraine in June 2010, rather than getting our one-year visa prior to coming (and possibly delaying our departure date), we decided to go ahead and come without a visa (for up to 90 days) and then leave the country when it was time.  We decided to go to Moldova because that was closer and we had missionary friends there.

To receive a religious visa, you need a letter of invitation that has been correctly authorized. The local church we attend was willing to do this for us, so they wrote the required letter and went to the government office in a city two-hours from us to get the letter authorized correctly.

Train travel is the most common here, so I went to the train station to buy tickets to travel to Chisinau (pronounced Kee-shin-ow), Moldova (the capital city).  When I got there, I had trouble getting the lady working there to understand where I wanted to go (the Russian pronunciation is different), so I had to call someone on the phone to help me.  My poor Russian was good enough for a straightforward situation, but not this experience.  Through the translator, I learned that there was no direct train route.  (The reason is that there is an area of Moldova that has been taken over by rebels and most tourists avoid going through this region.)  We would have to take the train to Odessa, Ukraine and then ride a bus to Chisinau, Moldova.

August Trip

On the late afternoon of Friday August 27th, we took a taxi to the train station to start our adventure to Moldova.  This would be our first (of many) experiences on the train.  We got settled into our coupe (a small room on the train with 4 beds—2 up and 2 down), and at 5:40 PM the train left for Odessa.  We spent time in the evening standing by one of the open windows in the hall to cool off.  After about 13 hours on the train, we arrived in Odessa just after 6:30 AM Saturday.  It was hot in the train and we slept with the door open, hoping for some fresh air from the open windows in the hall (because the window in our coupe would not open).  Between the heat and the many stops, sleep was intermittent, but we still enjoyed riding the train and seeing the countryside.

This was the Odessa train station at 6:30 AM

The next step was to find the bus station.  (In my research, it did not sound like this would be a problem, but it became a problem for us).  Taxi drivers wanted to take us somewhere, but we did not know where to have them take us.  We asked around and were told it was close and we could walk there.  As we asked different people for verification of how to get there, we ended up walking around in a several block circle, dragging our luggage behind us.  I am sure we looked like quite the sight!

Finally one lady (who knew a little English) told us the name of a bus station, what marshrutka to get on, and where to find it.  The marshrutka driver did not like us with all of our luggage, but I did not care as long as we got where we needed to go.  (We later learned that the other bus station was very close to the train station - and I was within one block of it at one point of our walking around.)  We purchased tickets for the next available bus to Chisinau (leaving at 9:40 AM).  While waiting, we bought something to drink and ate some of the food we had packed for breakfast.  It was strange buying juice inside the bus station from a woman who was smoking while she was selling food.  (It is times like that that I miss the clean air laws in America!)

Other than being hot, our ride in the regular passenger bus was uneventful, but the border crossing was interesting.  We stopped at the Ukrainian border to get our passports stamped.  The customs person took each passport one or two at a time, making sure they matched the person.  When they are all stamped, the passports come back in a pile that started in the front of the bus and gets passed to the back.  Then the process was repeated at the Moldovan border.

We finally got to have a pit stop about 2 PM.  I could not find an ATM anywhere and, unfortunately, because you have to pay to use the restroom (true in most places in this part of the world), without any Moldovan lei we could not use the restroom (2 lei - or about 17 cents - per person) or buy a snack (the ice cream other people were having looked really good on the hot day).  We arrived in Chisinau about 3:30 PM—hot and tired.  The first thing I did was find an ATM to get some lei.  (The second was to spend 2 lei on something that was now rather urgent!)

We tried to call our Missionary friends (Wesley and Donna Buck), who were hosting us, and all we got was 3 beeps.  So we called a friend in Ukraine to get the phone number for a couple of other misisonary friends in Moldova.  We talked with a man who worked at a mobile phone store at the bus station (who spoke English very well).  He helped us connect with our friends, got an address, and called a taxi for us (because the ones at the bus station charge more).  The taxi driver needed to check the map for where our friends lived.  When we arrived there, he asked us if this was the place. We had no idea (having never been there before), but told him it must be.  Moments after we got out of the car, Donna came out the door of the apartment building.  What a relief!

On Monday, I went to the Ukrainian embassy to learn that it was closed for processing visas.  Because Tuesday was Language Day in Moldova, it would not be open until Wendesday.  Right away Wednesday morning, I headed to the embassy.  After waiting outside the gate for a bit, I was able to go in and wait at the appropriate window, which was completely unoccupied for a long period of time.  When the lady finally returned, she took a look at our visa applications and documentation, then looked into one of her "procedure manuals" (at least that is what it looked like).  She needed another lady to tell me, in English, that because our documentation was not authorized in Kiev, she would not process our visa applications.  Because the process for additional documentation would take more than just a couple of days, we decided it was best to just enjoy a few more days with our friends and then head back home.

Saturday morning we headed to the bus station to start our journey home.  The weather was beautiful, so it would not be as hot for our return trip.  Our regular bus was not very full, so our border crossings were a bit faster than they just a week earlier.  We actually completed the journey in five hours this time.  When we arrived in Odessa, we were dropped off at the bus station very close to the train station.  I purchased train tickets for the night train (we could not be in the same coupe this time) that which did not leave until 10:40 PM.  That meant we had almost eight hours to wait at the trian station.  We walked to McDonald’s (with all of our luggage) and ate a late lunch/early supper because we were very hungry.  We were surprised that they were all out of chicken sandwiches (that most of us wanted).  We then headed to the train station where we waited (and waited).  It took a bit of looking, but we finally found the common waiting area on the second floor.  There were no elevators, so that meant carrying our luggage up the stairs (and back down again later).

We sat there until early evening and then headed outside to wait in the fresh air.  When it was finally time to board the train, Hope was very tired.  Denise and Hope settled in the top berths of their coupe and Hope was sleeping before they even distributed the sheets.  Laura and I settled in the top berths of our coupe (both coupes were in the same wagon, fortunately).  One young man (Sasha), who shared our coupe, was from Krivoy Rog and spoke excellent English.  We had a very enjoyable visit and I still have some contact with him.  We got back to Krivoy Rog about 11:30 AM Sunday. We were tired, hungry, and ready for a shower!

Even though our trip did not see us get the visas we came for, God's hand was evident.  I believe that the lady who told us how to get to the central bus station as well as the man who spoke English at the mobile phone store were God-sends to us.  Our friends, Wesley and Donna, had just arrived back in Moldova a few days earlier.  We were able to help them get settled and make sure supper was ready for them when they got done with their busy days.

How about you?  In spite of the challenges, do you see God's hand guiding and directing you?  Do you see the opportunites for you to minister to others during the challenging times?

Friday, October 28, 2011

In His Time - Part 3

It has been over three months since my last blog post about Slavik (In His Time - Part 2).  It is always interesting watching as God works things out in His time.

In August, we brought Slavik to Kiev with us so he could enjoy part of our family vacation.  He had only been in Kiev one time for one day before that.  He was so excited that he could hardly sleep on the train.  During our vacation, we stayed at the home of some missionary friends who were out of town for the week.  We enjoyed visiting with several other missionary families while we were in Kiev.  We walked around to see some sites on Monday.  On Tuesday, we went to the zoo with our area director and his family.  Slavik was so thrilled to see the many different animals, most of which our family had seen many times.  On Wednesday, we all had a great time at the new Dream Town water park with our friend Sasha.  Needless to say, Slavik had a blast and loved every minute of our time there.  We had so much fun being a "family" during those days.

While we were in Kiev, Slavik and I had a great talk late one night.  It led to him praying a prayer of repentance, because he felt that he had done some things to jeopardize his walk with God.  The next day at lunch, he shared that with the family.  God is good.

Since that time, Slavik has not stayed with us overnight, but we still see him on a regular basis.  Most of the time his girlfriend, Tanya, is with him.  She is also an orphan and is harder to get to know because she has a lot of hurt and bitterness in her life.  She needs to know Jesus and we are praying for her to come to that realization.  Slavik goes to the gym with me once in a while.  I cherish the times when we can have some Father-Son time together.

Early in September, Slavik's older brother, Maxim, was released from prison.  Needless to say, when he first came over for supper, I was a bit nervous.  But he has proven to be a great young man who wants to stay away from the life of crime and his bad friends.  He accepted Christ as his Saviour shortly after getting out of prison and it has been fun to watch him grow in his young faith.  He has been here many times by himself to watch movies or to visit.  He loves coming here for supper and thinks everything Denise cooks is wonderful!  He enjoys going to the gym with me and goes as often as he can.

Maxim's birthday was early in September.  A couple of weeks ago we decided that since we did not know him on his birthday and we would not be here on his next birthday, we would go ahead and made a birthday cake for him and give him a small gift.  We sent some of the cake home with him.  He just beamed with gratefulness.

Recently, Maxim started dating a girl, Yulia, who has been here a few times already.  She is very sweet and seems to really enjoy spending time with us.  Denise showed her a lot of family pictures the other day, and she really seemed to like that.  Maxim wants Denise to teach Yulia how to make pizza.

Another young man, Yura, lived at the same orphanage with Slavik and then they both lived with our friend Max Fetisov for several years as well.  He and Slavik's brother Maxim have become pretty good friends and he has started joining us for supper quite often, too.  We love having him here because he aspires to make people laugh.  He is a student at the technical school but, like most orphans going to technical school, he does not like it.  He would rather go to the gym with me three times a week.  He makes himself at home more easily than the others did.  He is trying to live for God and we are glad to have him as part of our lives!

The first evening he was here, we talked about how Denise's pizza is so much better than the pizza at the local restaurant, Chilentano's.  He immediately started asking for pizza the next day.  The next morning, we were at the gym, and he was asking if "Mama" was making pizza for lunch.  After lunch, he sat on our living room and said "Mama" several times to get Denise's attention, and then asked "Pizza?"  Needless to say, he got homemade pizza a few days later.

God spoke to my heart before the end of August to start a Bible study for Slavik and some of his friends.  It has been a bit challenging to meet every week because of various conflicts, but I am working to be flexible.  We do everyting in Russian, so I keep reminding them to speak slower for me.  Our first time was just Slavik and Maxim, but it was good and they both enjoyed it.  Last time, we had Slavik, Tanya, Maxim, and Yura.  It was great time and Tanya spoke up quite a bit, which really surprised me.  We are going to keep at it, trying to plant the Word of God into their hearts.  I have grown to love Maxim and Yura as sons (though not quite in the same way as Slavik), and want to see all of our young friends live wholeheartedly for God.

When Denise was making supper the other day, I reminded her that baking cookies every Thursday for Men's Bible Study the last few years before we moved was just practice for living here.  Denise made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies (about 4 dozen) on Monday.  By Tuesday evening, there were only two cookies left.  They really like our homemade cookies.

It has been interesting watching how God has caused our "family" to grow.  Sometimes it can be frustrating because you see them making mistakes and they are unwilling to listen to your advice.  One day after I did something for Slavik, he commented that I was "just like a real Dad."  I commented in return, "You are just like a real son, too.  You do not do what I want you to do."  He knew what I was talking about and, while it was true, I still love him.

From left to right:  Yura, Maxim, me, Slavik

We look forward to what the future brings.  God truly does make all things beautiful in His time.

How about you?  Are you seeing the beauty of what God is doing in your life?  Or are you still waiting?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Orphan Sunday

Did you even know there is day designated as Orphan Sunday?  This year's Orphan Sunday is on November 6th.  I must confess, that I was not aware of this date.  Having a day set aside for awareness of a problem does not do much if the word does not get out to the people on the streets.

I heard on the radio this morning that people in the US adopt more children than the rest of the world combined.  Good for us, but there is so much more to do.  While you may not be able to adopt a child, everyone can use their voice to share about the need.

Did you know that there are 147 million orphans in this world?  How can we make a change in such a large statistic?  We change the world by touching one child at a time.

From the website:  Each event is locally-led. Sermons and small groups, concerts and prayer gatherings, shared meals and youth activities—each rousing believers with God’s call to care for the orphan, and what we can do in response.  From many sources, one voice. On November 6th, thousands of events echo across America and around the globe, all sharing a single goal: that God’s great love for the orphan will find echo in our lives as well.  Orphan Sunday is your opportunity to rouse church, community and friends to God’s call to care for the orphan.
Denise and I adopted both of our daughters when they were babies.  Many people are surprised when they learn that they are adopted because they look so much like us.  Building relationships with orphans in Ukraine has caused us to wonder, "Are we doing enough?  What else can and should we be doing?  Should we adopt a child from Ukraine?"  These are not easy questions and are things that we are still working through and praying about.

Maybe you are thinking that you cannot do anything because you cannot adopt a child yourself.  There are still many other ways that you can help.
  • You can PRAY
    • for orphans that you are aware of
    • for expectant mothers that are struggling with what to do with their baby
    • for people you know (like us) who are personally touching the lives of orphans
  • You can GIVE
    • to support ministries who are meeting physical needs of orphans (like Latin America Child Care)
    • to support missionaries who are ministering to orphans on a regular basis
    • to local organizations who are ministering to those in need in America
  • You can GO
    • on a short-term missions trip almost anywhere in the world and show the love of Jesus to some orphans
    • to help local organizations who are ministering to those in need in America
  • You can SHARE
    • what you read about other organizations (for example, what OneHope is doing in Ukraine)
Please prayerfully consider what God would have you do on Orphan Sunday, November 6th and the days and months afterwards.  Now that you are more aware of the needs of orphans around the world, what will you do about it?

P.S.  I have posted links to the sites of several groups.  I am not aware of everything that these organizations are doing, so by linking to their sites, I am not giving a full 100% endorsement of each of their activities.  Before giving to any organization, we all need to do our homework.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Food for Thought - 3

Today's food for thought...

"Lord, help me to do great things as though they were little since I do them with your power; and little things as though they were great since I do them in your name."
BLAISE PASCAL, French mathematician/philosopher (1623–1662)
Bjorklund, Kurt (2011-08-16). Prayers for Today Sampler: A Yearlong Journey of Contemplative Prayer (Kindle Locations 365-368). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

"Lord," defines Lord as a person who has authority, control, or power over others.  When we start out a prayer with, Lord, we are confessing that He is in charge.  Do we really mean that when we say it?  How many times have I prayed and confessed Him as Lord, only to try to take control back after the close of my prayer?  Is He really Lord of our lives?  Have we committed everything we are and have to Him?  We need to remember that He is the sovereign One and we are His servants.  The servant does what the Master asks.  Sometimes I do what He asks, but only after I have argued with Him about it.  That is not the role of a servant.  A servant is not greater than his Master.  Everything I do needs to be for His honor and glory.  Only when He is truly Lord of my life will I be OK with God getting all the glory.

"help me to do great things as though they were little since I do them with your power;"

I do not know about you, but I like to be in control.  Most tasks I would rather do myself, without any help.  But I have learned (and continue learning) that I do need help.  The larger the task, the more help I need.  As we have left the comforts of America to live in Ukraine, this is a great task that is much larger than what I can do alone.  I need the power of God to help me adapt to a new culture, learn a new language, and have my light shine for Him.  The task is made easier knowing that God is on my side.  Without Him, I can do nothing.  I am grateful for the power from God to help me live for Him and to do what He has called me to do.

"and little things as though they were great since I do them in your name."

Sometimes when I think that a task is little, I want to do it by myself.  When is a task little?  Is it when it is really "easy"?  Or is it when it is a "lowly" task, like when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples?  I tend to think the writer meant that we need to be willing to be a servant.  Demonstrating servanthood as a leader is very important, in my opinion.  If something needs to be done, do it, and do not worry about who gets the credit.  Philippians 2:5-7 says, "You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being..."

Whether the task is great or small, we always need God's help.  With a great task, we need His power.  With a little task, we often need His humility.

How about you?  How do you approach the things you do?  Are you relying on the power of God to accomplish what He has called you to do, whether great or little?

Monday, October 17, 2011


In case anyone has not already figured it out, I am unashamedly and unapologetically pro-life.  Life begins at the moment of fertilization.  Abortion is the murder of a child.  In my opinion, I believe that many of the financial issues our country (and world) faces is because we have murdered so many children.  As adults, these people would have been consumers of goods and services, not to mention part of the work force today.  If an unborn child is not wanted by their parents, there are many parents available who would love to adopt that child.

God has chosen us to be an adoptive family.  We are so thankful that He has!  The process is not easy (do not let anyone tell you otherwise)!  Our two daughters are such a blessing to us.  We appreciate that we were chosen to raise and love them.  We are "real" parents, no different than if they were our birth children.

Living in Ukraine and visiting kids at the orphanage can really break your heart.  You see the potential for who they could be if someone would just give them a home and show them the love of Christ.  Without that, very few are able to overcome the obstacles that are in their path.

I watched the documentary "180" when it came out and was totally impressed.  Even if you do not appreciate the style of Ray Comfort (and Kirk Cameron), I believe this is a well-done project and that everyone should watch this for themselves (after being warned about the graphic content).

Because I feel strongly about this and because I care deeply about the people in my life, I wanted to take the time to share it with you.

Are you willing to take 33 minutes to watch this - and then share it with your family and friends?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Food for thought - 2

Today's food for thought...

The "layman" need never think of his humbler task as being inferior to that of his minister. Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything. Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act. All he does is good and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For such a man, living itself will be sacramental and the whole world a sanctuary. His entire life will be a priestly ministration. As he performs his never so simple task he will hear the voice of the seraphim saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory."
Tozer, A. W. (Aiden Wilson) (2011-03-24). The Pursuit of God (p. 71). Kindle Edition.

"The "layman" need never think of his humbler task as being inferior to that of his minister."

Have you ever thought that someone was more special to God just because they were a missionary or pastor?  I have.  I remember when I was growing up, someone I knew became a missionary.  I made the comment about how special they were because of this.  The response, "I am no more special than anyone else.  I am just an ordinary person."  More than twenty-three years ago, I married a Pastor's daughter.  Now I am a Minister and Missionary myself.  Those who are in ministry are not loved more by God.  We are all loved by God and are special to him.  We are all ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God.

"Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry."

We all get our pay checks in different ways.  As a missionary, my salary comes through our missions agency - Assemblies of God World Missions.  Before that, I had always been paid by a corporation.  My Dad taught me, that no matter who we work for, no matter who signs the check that pays us, that God is our source.  If our job situation changes, God continues to be our source.  No matter who we work for, we are responsible to serve God with everything we have.  God will open doors of opportunity for you to speak into the lives of those you work with.

"It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.  The motive is everything."

Why do I do what I do?  What is my motive?  Do I do it for myself or for someone else?  It is the best if I do what I do because I want to honor and please the Lord.  Colossians 3:22-25 (NLT) says, "22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord.  23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.  25 But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites."  God has no favorites.  No one person is more special to God.  Work for the Lord in everything you do.  Remember how Joseph was promoted when he worked at Potiphar's house and while in prison, but was eventually promoted to second in command in Egypt - because God was with Him.  When I do my best work for the Lord and honor God in my words and actions, God will take care of me.

"Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act. All he does is good and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

A.W. Tozer is not saying that even if we sin, it is good and acceptable.  It is that we will want to keep from sin to not break the good relationship we have with our God.  When our hearts are right with God, we will not want to do anything but please God.  The Bible talks about our works being a demonstration of our faith.  The Apostle Paul asked in Romans 6:1-2 (NLT), "1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?  2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?"   Let us not live in sin.  Rather, let us make it our goal to glorify God in how we live.  Whatever God has for us to do is not a common thing, let us do it with all of our heart!

"For such a man, living itself will be sacramental and the whole world a sanctuary. His entire life will be a priestly ministration. As he performs his never so simple task he will hear the voice of the seraphim saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.""

I love hearing our Pastor tell about his Dad.  He was a mechanic who told his customers about Jesus while he worked on their cars.  He had an impact on many people, because he believed that his sanctuary was his garage.  No matter where we are, we need to walk in our call as Christians. We need to let our light shine, making the darkness run.  We need to be salt in our world, making those around us thirsty for more of God.  As we yield ourselves completely to God, people around us will take notice and listen to what we have to say.  That is glorifying the Lord.

Rather than putting full-time ministers on a pedestal and holding them to a higher standard, maybe it is time that all Christians start living like ministers.  After all, is that not what we are?  When I was a layman, I tried to live like that, which has made the transition to Minister and Missionary easier.  What would you need to change to live like a minister of the gospel?  Are you willing to make that change?  Just think of the great impact you could have on the people in your life if you took that step of faith.  What is your motive for doing what you do?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Review - Quiet Strength

During the time we were itinerating and preparing to move to Ukraine, I read the book "Quiet Strength" by Tony Dungy - which is an autobiography about the life of a football coach and Godly man. It was during a period that I needed some of that strength.  Anyone who has prepared to move knows that it can be more than a little stressful at times.  That is even more true when you are preparing to move overseas.

As Coach Dungy has honored God, God has blessed him. And it was the relationships that he had with other people that helped develop him into the man that he became.  We could tell that same story over many times in the body of Christ, couldn't we?

The coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers told new players that "We have a great group of guys here. But you have to understand that this is Pittsburgh. It's a tight-knit community, and you are now Pittsburgh Steelers. Wherever you go, you're going to represent us as a team and as a community, so govern yourselves accordingly." (page 55)

When I read that, I thought it sounded like the church. The church is a great group of people that should be tight-knit. Whatever we do reflects on the church - and the body of Christ universal. We should make wise choices with God's help so as not to bring harm to the reputation of other Christians.

That reminds me of the prayer of Jabez, whose mother named him that because she bore him in pain, from 1 Chronicles 4:10 (NKJV), "And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, "Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested."

The Minnesota Vikings chaplain met with Tony on a regular basis to study the book of Nehemiah. He summarized three key truths from Nehemiah as follows. "First, Nehemiah's opportunity came in God's time, not his own. Second, Nehemiah diligently prepared his mind and his heart so he would be ready when God's time arrived. Third, Nehemiah needed to be prepared to take on the problems, doubt, and adversity that would come his way both from the outside and from within." (page 87)

At that time, I recognized that was right where I was living.  We were waiting for God's provision and timing of the house to sell.   We were trying to use this time to prepare for when God says "GO" and to be ready for what is in store for us when we get there.  My prayer at that time was that God would help us be ready to GO, ready to SERVE, ready to PREACH, and ready to LOVE.

Looking back, I can say that God has been 100% faithful - just like always!  God gives us what we need, when we need it, and all for His purpose, even if we need to wait.  When we wait, do we wait in quietness?  For Coach Dungy, God gave Him quiet strength when He needed it.  The Psalmist reminded us to be still and know that He is God.  Isaiah told us that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.

Isaiah 30:15-18 (NLT) says,
"15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:  “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.  In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.
16 You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt.  They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’  But the only swiftness you are going to see is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you!
17 One of them will chase a thousand of you.  Five of them will make all of you flee.  You will be left like a lonely flagpole on a hill or a tattered banner on a distant mountaintop.”

18 So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion.  For the Lord is a faithful God.  Blessed are those who wait for his help."

I have learned that as I wait, even though it is hard, the promises in the Bible are true - without a doubt!  My strength is renewed.  I am blessed.  And God gives me the grace to wait on Him.

Psalm 37:5 (NLT) says, "Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.  Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes."

How about you?  Are you waiting for something?  Keep trusting that God will give you what you need when you need it!