Last week I met several members of Ukraine’s Self-Defense force and what I learned from them was shocking!
I spent the last five days with a bunch of our students hiking through Central Ukraine during what we call “Extreme Institute.” We camped in church yards and every morning and evening we taught from the book of Titus.
During the day we had time to walk around the town or village where we were staying and share the Gospel. As we headed out on Friday I prayed that God would send the right people our way.
After sharing the gospel with a half-dozen people we had made our way into the center of town. We were taking a break for a few moments when a tall man in fatigues came out of the city hall building and headed our way.
For some reason I felt like I should stop him and talk with him. I stepped toward him and simply asked,
“What do you think needs to happen in order for there to be peace in Ukraine?”
Well, that was enough to get the conversation going and we ended up talking with him and his buddies for about 90 minutes!
Here’s what they told us:
90% of soldiers are ready to turn around and attack Kyiv.
Sadly many of the Ukrainian soldiers feel betrayed by the government in Kyiv. They feel that the government officials are pocketing all the money and not providing them with the basics like bullet proof vests.
Some of the officers have been bought out.
Unfortunately everyone has their price and it appears that some of the officers have been bought out by the separatist. They are paid to give the locations of the troops, which gives the separatists quite an advantage.
They are no longer fighting separatists.
While much of the media still calls the rebels in Luganska and Donetsk “separatists,” the soldiers claim that those they are fighting are very well trained men with tons of experience and the latest weapons and technology. For the most part they are not Ukrainians.
There are many more deaths than are being reported.
The official death toll for the Ukrainian side is just over 2,000. That’s a lot but soldiers say that the deaths are under-reported and true number is much greater.
They were preparing to bury a friend who was killed by a sniper.
Just an hour after I finished talking with them these two guys buried a friend from their town. They had just brought his body back from the front lines where he had been shot and killed by a sniper.
We talked about more than just war.
I can’t talk about peace without sharing the news of the peace that only Jesus can give!
By the time our conversation moved to spiritual matters there was a small gathering of people around us. Some were also part of the Self-Defense force and others, I’m not really sure where they came from.
I clearly shared with all of them our Jesus, who is the only one who can bring ultimate peace. The two guys in the picture above also took Ukrainian New Testaments for further reading!
Question: Will you pray for my two friends in the Ukrainian Self-Defense force?
Is God’s will really the safest place you can be? If it’s not a safe place then how can you keep from worrying about your own safety?
In this episode of “Now Is the Time” I share with you a personal example from my life when I was very worried for my safety and I talk about what you can do to overcome worry and anxiety about your health and safety.
(If you’re viewing this in your e-mail client click here to listen)
I recorded this podcast a couple of days earlier because right now I am with a group of our students on a short missions trip in central Ukraine. We appreciate your prayers for us!
How to Kill Worry About Your Health and Safety
The content from this podcast comes mainly from chapter 15 of my book on worry. If you don’t have a copy yet, I encourage you to order one on Amazon. 100% of the proceeds from the book sales go directly to supporting ministry in Ukraine!
That means you can do to great things at once!
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Question: Do you ever worry about your safety? What has helped you to stop worrying?
Today I sat down with a pastor friend (name withheld for safety reasons) from Donetsk. He and his family fled the city over a month ago with hopes that they would soon be able to return. However, the situation has only deteriorated in the past few weeks and along with it their hope for a return to normal life in their home city.
When everything started in back in April my friend said he didn’t expect it to last long. The separatist had their gatherings to protest the new government in Kyiv and even though some of them were violent, it didn’t seem like it would go too far.
Then they took over the city council building and started storming police stations. When the referendum happened in May, everyone expected Russia to quickly accept Donetsk into the Russian Federation, but they didn’t. That’s when things started going bad!
The local separatists who had taken the city where quickly replaced with mercenaries, some from Russia, some from Chenya and other places, none of them local! The newly formed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) began to actively fight the Ukrainian army.
My friend’s church is not far from the Donetsk airport where much of the heavy fighting has taken place! He told me:
“When you see a tank come down your street, stop and then start firing, it’s scary and you start thinking about how you can get out!”
Just two weeks ago my friend made a quick trip back to Donetsk. He wanted to lead the church body in the Lord’s supper and to provide what help he could to those who stayed behind.
He told me about one young man who was walking to church when he happened to get right in the middle of an intense shoot-out. Not knowing where to run, he hopped a fence and tried to hide in a shed. Moments later a shell landed not far from him. Shrapnel flew in all directions and filled his back with bits of metal. A laptop that he had been carrying in his backpack caught much of the shrapnel and probably saved his life. Others weren’t so lucky!
Unfortunately the (DPR) is not very friendly toward evangelical churches. When I asked my pastor friend about the relationship between the DPR and the churches in town he told me:
“All evangelicals are American spies, that’s what they say!”
“They came into our church and searched for something but didn’t find it so, thankfully they decided to leave us alone after that.”
My friend has a small church of about 80 people. They rent their facility, which stands just about 30 feet away from a large DPR military camp that was recently set up for their soldiers. Thankfully his church still has a place to meet but many other churches have lost their buildings.
“If they (DPR) see that your church has a building that is well situated, on the street corner with a good strong basement, then they just take it and use it for their own purposes!”
90% of my friend’s congregation have fled the city. Those who stayed are mainly the elderly who aren’t physically able to leave or simply have no place to go. He told me:
“Caleb, our church is like it says in the book of James ‘scattered among the nations.’ Everyone has fled to a different city.”
Concerning the dire situation in the city, my friend told me that for the last couple of days there has been no water. However, the big problem now is that none of the elderly are receiving their pensions. Some people have a little money saved up but many live month to month. That means they won’t even have money to buy bread and other basic needs.
Please pray for Eastern Ukraine and if you’d like to help believers like my pastor friend and his church please go here.
It’s not the first time someone has commented on our “vacation” in the States. While we live and serve most of the time in Ukraine, we spent the last ten months in the US.
Some call this time in our home country “furlough” and others call it “home ministry.” Regardless of what it’s called it seems that there are a lot of misconceptions about what it is and exactly what missionaries are doing during this time.
Let’s start with the most obvious. During our ten months in the US we do a lot of speaking! We focused on speaking with churches and groups that support our ministry but we also spoke in other settings.
Our goal in speaking was to enlarge people’s vision of what God is doing in the world by showing them what God is doing in Ukraine. We also focused on calling people to boldly share Christ and serve the church no matter where they live.
In all we had the opportunity to speak about 75 times during our furlough.
- Bethany Bible, Kenmore, Wa
- Discovery Baptist, Gig Harbor, Wa
- Grace Baptist, Bellingham Wa
- Central Valley Christian Fellowship, Bremerton, Wa
- First Baptist Arlington, Wa
- Taylor Creek Church, Maple Valley, Wa
- Summit Park Bible Church, Anacortes, Wa
- GracePoint, Bremerton, Wa
- Prairie Baptist Fellowship, Yelm, Wa
- Living Hope, Port Orchard, Wa
- Lakeview Bible, Republic Wa
- First Baptist, Colville, Wa
- First Baptist, Notus, Id
- Meridian Baptist, Meridian Id
- Montana Ave Baptist, Caldwell, Id
- Roswell Baptist, Roswell, Id
- New Hope, Nampa, Id
- Whitney Baptist, Boise, Id
- First Baptist, Kuna, Id
- Thurston Community Baptist, Springfield, Or
- Hugo Community Church, Hugo, Or
- Grace Baptist, Redding, Ca
- Adin Community Church, Adin, Ca
- Salvation Church, Fredrickson, Wa
- Revival Church, Auburn, Wa
- Good News Church, Tacoma, Wa
- New Life Church, Woodbury, Mn
- Emmaus Baptist, Northfield, Mn
- First Ukrainian Baptist, Levittown, Pa
- First Baptist, Kirkland, Wa
In addition to churches we also spoke in the following settings:
- Three Christian schools
- A Home-school co-op for about 100 students
- Radio interviews (one in English and one in Russian)
- Couples seminar at a Russian church
- Youth seminar for about 800 Slavic young people
- Many home groups
- Men’s and women’s fellowships
- Awana clubs
- Youth groups
- And probably a bunch of other places that I’m forgetting right now!
All those speaking opportunities mean a lot of travel. We drove about 13,000 miles during our stay in the US. We went as far North as Bellingham, Wa, as far South as Los Angeles, Ca, as far West as Seabrook, Wa, and as far East as Belmar, New Jersey.
The best part of all the traveling was the many homes we stayed in! We are so thankful to the dozens of families who graciously opened their homes up to our not so small family! We spent many hours conversing with those who hosted us and building relationships. We made new friends and reconnected with old friends!
Cities we stayed at least one night in:
- Bellingham, Wa
- Republic, Wa
- Seabrook, Wa
- Colville, Wa
- Kennewick, Wa
- Notus, Id
- Adin, Ca
- Bend, Or
- San Francisco, Ca
- Redding, Ca
- Los Angeles, Ca
- Bandon, Or
- Grants Pass, Or
- Springfield, Or
- Lewiston, Id
- Victor, Mt
- Cody, Wy
- Sturgis, Sd
- St Paul, Mn
- Wauseon, Oh
- Harrisburg, Pa
- Philadelphia, Pa
- Washington DC
- Madison, Wi
- Northfield, Mn
- Butte, Mt
While we are in Ukraine we often put off major medical procedures that need to be done. Thus, one of the first things on our list to do when we get to the US is to see the doctor. In all we managed to get six surgeries done as well as routine check-ups and dental work.
Family time is also important. Thankfully we got to spend some quality time with my side of the family, (Christina’s family all live in Ukraine). In January we got away for a few days to the Washington coast with all but one of the siblings. This summer we spent several days with all 19 of my parents’ grand-kids and all seven of my siblings plus their spouses!
It’s impossible to effectively minister if you’re not growing in your faith and ministry skill personally, thus personal enrichment is an important aspect of furlough. I had the privileged of attending four events that helped me to grow!
- John MacArthur’s Shepherd’s Conference,
- Heart, Mind Soul seminar on sharing the gospel with Muslims
- Northern California Baptist fellowship conference
- Missionary Enrichment Conference
While in the States I continued with the discipline of writing as both a way for me to continually grow and as a way to minister to my readers.
During our furlough I wrote 77 posts on our blog and one book.
- I wrote about topics that are related to missions and the church like, “How to Become a Missionary” or “Is Missions Hurting Your Church?”
- I also wrote on more individual topics like “Why American Christians Are Fat and Unhealthy” and “Why You Should Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart.”
- I wrote about the situation in Ukraine with posts like, “Why I Love Vladimir Putin” and “Why You Should Care About What’s Going on in Ukraine.“
- Finally, I wrote about issues in the American Church like “The Problem with Worship Experiences” and “When Will Persecution Come to American Churches.”
- I also wrote a book called What If… How to Kill Worry and Anxiety Before They Kill you! If you haven’t purchased it yet, you’d better get over to Amazon and pick up a copy!
So that’s about it! I’m sure there’s some things I missed but really I’m just writing this so that you can have a better idea of what missionaries do on furlough. It’s not really a vacation time!
Question: If you’re a missionary, what could you add the list of things missionaries do on furlough. If you’re not a missionary, what surprised you most in the lists above?
Dear Ann Coulter,
You owe an apology to Dr. Kent Brantly and to every other American who responded to God’s leading in their life by travelling to a foreign country to share the love of Jesus with the less fortunate!
I have to admit your article made me pound my desk with my fist and scream at my computer screen! I understand that was probably your intent when you took aim at the tens of thousands of Americans who have given their lives to serve the poor and the destitute in other countries!
Note: This is a response to a post on Ann Coulter’s blog entitled: Ebola Doctor’s Condition Downgraded to ‘Idiotic’
At first I tried to ignore your vicious and unwarranted attack on Christian missionaries serving overseas. But instead of quietly fuming about your obvious lack of Biblical knowledge and absence of sympathy for the poor and destitute I decided to write a response.
Ann, you wrote:
Whatever good Dr. Kent Brantly did in Liberia has now been overwhelmed by the more than $2 million already paid by the Christian charities Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA just to fly him and his nurse home in separate Gulfstream jets, specially equipped with medical tents, and to care for them at one of America’s premier hospitals.
Do you even believe your own words? Do you not understand that there are some things in this world that money can not buy? Is everything qualified by dollars and cents in your mind?
Ann, you need to stop and think for a minute before you make irrational statements like this! I’m sure Dr. Kent Brantly didn’t go over to Liberia hoping or even planning that the price tag would be $2 million to get him and his nurse home.
That being said, who really cares about the $2 million!
Dr. Kent Brantly sacrificed his time, his comfort, his health and safety for the lives and hearts of people who Jesus died for in Liberia! Even though he knew there were risks Dr. Kent Brantly didn’t think that this was too high of a price to pay!
Talking about a price to pay, Jesus paid a much higher price in order to offer forgiveness and salvation to you and the Liberian people! So really, what is $2 million?
The truth is that Dr. Brantly’s work has not been overwhelmed by the money spent to fly him home! In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t dozens more doctors just like Dr. Brantly who will now be inspired to give of themselves to serve in a missions setting because of Dr. Brantly’s example!
Ann, you wrote:
Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?
No — because we’re doing just fine. America, the most powerful, influential nation on Earth, is merely in a pitched battle for its soul.
I get your point here. America has its problems – true! But you act as if America is the cesspool of the world and every seminary graduate and Christian doctor is running away from America with their tail between their legs!
Let’s get a few things straight here! Most seminary graduates stay in the USA where they serve local churches, many of them in small towns and poor neighborhoods! America continues to have the best of the best when it comes to pastors, ministers, Christian doctors, Christian businessmen, Christian lawyers, Christian youth workers, Christian social workers!
You’re right Ann, America needs help and it’s actually pretty easy to find that help because we have millions of Christians who have chosen to serve right here in the USA!
Ann, you wrote:
If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia. Ebola kills only the body; the virus of spiritual bankruptcy and moral decadence spread by so many Hollywood movies infects the world.
It’s been a long time since I read such an arrogant and egocentric statement!
Do you really believe that a Hollywood power-broker is more significant than and innocent Liberian child? What makes you think that this Hollywood somebody would be more worthwhile to treat than a dirt poor mother in Liberia who is about to give birth?
Ok, I understand, you think that if that uber-rich Hollywood-big-name-star would turn to Christ then suddenly there would be mass conversions across the globe!
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way, Ann! In fact if you read even a little bit of your Bible you’d know that Jesus pretty much turned away the famous Hollywood types and instead turned his attention the children, the poor, and the outcasts! Check out Mat 19:14, Mat 20:16
Ann, you wrote:
Which explains why American Christians go on “mission trips” to disease-ridden cesspools. They’re tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S., tired of being called homophobes, racists, sexists and bigots. So they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works, forgetting that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream.
Ann, you’ve never been on a mission trip have you? I’d be surprised if you had because if you had real experience sharing Christ with people in other countries you’d probably know that it’s very likely that you’ll get called something much worse than “homophobe” or “racists.”
What you’re really talking about, Ann, is fake persecution. Fake persecution in America that makes American Christian feel bad for themselves because they don’t have a Christian senator or governor or president. Fake persecution that makes American Christians think that they have just experienced the dredges of life because someone laughed at their faith or called them a bad name.
Here’s the real reason why many Christians leave the USA and go to serve in other countries: because they know that the hardships in America are really no hardships at all! Because they know that being called “a bigot” is nothing compared to the risk that millions of Christians encounter daily.
Let’s be clear, Ann, we (myself included, since I’m leaving for Ukraine in 2 days!) are not running away from America! We are running to the greater need! We are following God’s leading in our lives! For most of us we are running to a country were the problems are far greater than in American! Yet we do it because we believe it is worth the cost!
Ann, you wrote:
Your country is like your family. We’re supposed to take care of our own first. The same Bible that commands us to “go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel” also says: “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”
Ann, I see what you did there! Take what Jesus tells his disciples to do in the Great Commission (Mat 28:) and then try to nullify it by slipping something Moses wrote in the Law in Due 15:11!
Is it not possible to be generous to the poor at home and go? Do we have to ignore Jesus clear command so that we can make sure all the “poor” in American can still go to McDonalds!
Let me remind you of something else Jesus said! “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Ann, you wrote:
Today’s Christians are aces at sacrifice, amazing at serving others, but strangely timid for people who have been given eternal life. They need to buck up, serve their own country, and remind themselves every day of Christ’s words: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
There may be no reason for panic about the Ebola doctor, but there is reason for annoyance at Christian narcissism.
Ann, those who serve in any country but America might seem narcissistic to you but in the eyes of God these people have done something beautiful! They have put aside their own comfort and risked their health and safety to serve in areas of the world that have much greater needs than America!
Ann, you owe an apology to Dr. Brantly, his family and the many Christians who have chosen to serve overseas. However, more importantly you owe an apology to the Liberian people who you seem to think are worth far less than one Hollywood power-broker!
We’re Not Worried
Despite the revolution, Russian invasion and following civil war that is now tearing Ukraine apart, we are not worried! We know that many pray for us regularly and we believe God is leading us back and has work for us to do there!
When I started writing my book on worry, I had no idea what was going to happen in Ukraine. God knew and I believe he providentially led me to choose a topic that would be more practical to me then I ever would have guessed!
So instead of worrying about us, we ask that you would pray for us! And if you need help with the worry part then you should get my book!
You Can Help!
We are diving into ministry immediately upon our return. Christina leaves with a group of young women for camp the day after we return. Many of these girls come from unchurched families, so this is a great opportunity to share Jesus with them! Christina’s role will involve teaching and encouraging the camp leaders every morning.
Once Christina returns to Odessa, I will leave with a group of our students for a short missions trip in central Ukraine. This is not only an opportunity preach the gospel to those who haven’t heard but it is also a chance to give our students some practical training in evangelism.
Will you help by sponsoring these two events?
You can find out how to give here.
Join Us For a Final Farewell
We invite you to join us on Saturday, August 9th at 6:30 pm at Discovery Baptist Church for our Sending the Sukos Back to Ukraine Open House and book signing!
We will be showing some pictures from our first trip to Ukraine in 1994 and briefly sharing about what we will be doing when we get back to Ukraine. I will also be signing my new book, so if you have a copy bring it along. I’ll have a few copies available there as well.
I think you should watch the video in this post but be aware that it does contain graphic images of the corpses which were pulled from a mass grave in the center of Slavyansk, Ukraine.
After Ukrainian troops retook several cities in Eastern Ukraine they discovered that the separatist who had dominated those towns for several months had been disposing bodies into mass graves!
This video shows the first mass grave that was discovered and in which they found the bodies of 14 people. In addition to this grave, they have recently dug up another one containing 52 bodies.
According to reports, there may be several other mass grave sites as well as individual unmarked graves that were dug in the forests and fields. In all there are at least 300 people who have gone missing in recent months in this area of Ukraine.
Abducted from the worship service
The bodies of four evangelical church leaders from Transfiguration Church were identified in this first mass grave site!
The remains of the following men were found in the mass grave:
- Albert Povenko -Pastor’s son, 24 years old.
- Reuben Povenko -Pastor’s son, 30 years old.
- Vladimir Velichko -Deacon, father of 8 children.
- Victor Bradarskogo -Deacon, father of 3 children.
In an interview with Radio Svoboda Anton Gerashenko, an official with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said:
“On June 8th terrorists arrived during the worship service. They seized four parishioners. These were the two sons of the pastor, Albert and Reuben Povenky. They are young guys who still had their whole life in front of them, Albert was 24 years old and Reuben – 30. They also seized parishioners Vladimir Velichko and Victor Bradarskogo. Vladimir left eight children, and Victor – three. They were taken from the church because someone reported to the terrorists that they were aiding the Ukrainian military …”
Pray with us!
I want to invite you to pray with us this week for the people of Eastern Ukraine and especially for the families who have tragically lost loved ones!
Here’s how you can pray:
- Pray for the following families; Povenka, Velichko and Bradarskogo as they mourn the loss of their fathers, husbands and sons!
- Pray for churches still under the threat of terrorist separatists in Donetsk and Lughansk regions.
- Pray that the terrorists would be eradicated from all areas of Ukraine.
- Pray for refugees who have fled Eastern Ukraine. (Learn how you can help them here!)
- Pray for our family as we prepare to fly to Ukraine on August 11th!
Question: Will you join us in prayer for Ukraine this week? Let me know!
This is a tribute to my five children and to all missionary kids who are often the unsung heroes of missionary life!
Over the past Nine months we’ve drug our kids literally from sea to shining sea, traveling over 10,000 miles in our little mini-van, visiting dozens of churches and staying in many people’s homes. There were times my kids would have loved to stay home with family, times when they probably didn’t want to hear me preach the same sermon again or listen to our missionary presentation for the 53rd time! There were certainly times when they would have loved to do anything other than sit in the car all day as we rolled across endless farmland and plains in the Midwest.
Yet, they endured! They stuck with us, and for that alone they get my respect!
Just a couple of weeks ago we gave our ministry report to our mission board. I brought the kids up and introduced them. After our report the board gave us a round of applause, that was nice. But what they did next really surprised me, they turned round and gave our children a round of applause! That was unexpected and amazing!
My children really appreciated it and told me “Wow, that was so nice that they clapped for us!”
That applause got me to thinking a little about my children’s experience as missionary kids. I want to share with you 17 reasons why missionary kids really are awesome!
1. It was their parents who chose to live the missionary life, not them, yet they willingly go!
2. They make new friends faster than anyone, even if they know that they’re leaving tomorrow and will probably never see that person again!
3. They can sleep in any bed or not in a bed or in the car!
4. They gracefully endure their parents missionary presentations hundreds of times!
5. They’re not afraid to stand up in a church service where they know absolutely no one and introduce themselves!
6. Every time they visit a church in the States several people come up to them and tell them how little they were the last time they visited, they smile politely at the strangers!
7. Even though they’d rather stay home and hang out with their friends they willingly go on excruciatingly long road trips with their parents to visit people they have absolutely no memory of!
8. They learn a new language better than their parents, whether they want to or not!
9. They are effective and bold in sharing the gospel with their friends on the playground and at school.
10. When someone asks them where they’re from, they have to ask for an explanation of the question before they answer because there’s at least four possible answers!
11. They “get” to visit many places in the world when they’d probably rather stay home and be a normal kid.
12. They learn to develop a relationship with their grandparents over Skype!
13. They know that going to college probably means living several thousand miles from their parents and they won’t be able to see them for Christmas and other holidays!
14. American culture is a foreign culture for them, but they learn to adapt.
15. No one really understands how they think and who they are besides other missionary kids.
16. “Home” for them isn’t a spot on the map, it’s the few people in their lives who are the closest.
17. Finally, after all is said and done, many of them choose to be missionaries themselves and that’s just plain incredible!
Now it’s your turn!
Tell me why you think missionary kids are awesome. Also if you want to leave some encouragement for our missionary kids, I know they would appreciate it!
This happened on the road today, about sixty seconds in front of us!
It stopped us and all lanes of traffic on I 90 for over three hours!
At first it seemed like any other traffic jam but as we came to a dead stop on the freeway we noticed the thick black smoke billowing up in front of us on our side of the road.
I jumped out of the car with camera in hand and started heading toward the black smoke while praying for those involved. As I approached I could hear and feel explosions coming from the vehicle ahead. When I arrived the semi-truck was fully engulfed with flames reaching fifty feet into the air.
Thankful the driver managed to escape unharmed. No other vehicles were involved.
As we sat on the freeway and waited I had a lot of time to think about what just happened.
That could have been us!
The truck was just about sixty seconds ahead of us. We could have easily been involved in this accident. We could have easily lost our lives! But we didn’t, and I’m thankful for that!
People are praying!
I often ask for prayer when we travel. This month we’ve gone from Gig Harbor, Washington to Washington D.C. and now we are on our way back. It’s about 6200 miles round trip. That’s a lot of miles and so far we’ve had absolutely smooth sailing.
If you’re praying for us, you deserve a big “Thank You!” Your prayers are working!
You can die in a safe place!
Many people are worried for us when they hear that we are still planning to fly back to Ukraine on August 11th. After the downing of the Malaysia Air flight over Eastern Ukraine, people sort of assumed that we’re canceling our plans to return.
Well we’re not cancelling anything! We’re flying from Amsterdam to Kiev, Ukraine in less than three weeks!
A missionary friend once told me, “You could just as easily die while on vacation in Hawaii as you could while serving the Lord in a ‘scary’ foreign country.” So, which one would you chose as your method entry into heaven?
Here’s the deal, we could just as easily die here in the US, which is a safer place according to most people, as we could in Ukraine! So why shouldn’t we take a little risk and get back to serving the Jesus in Ukraine?
We still have a couple thousand miles to travel on this last road trip before returning to Ukraine! So keep your prayers real because we really need them!
Help us go
If you’ve been thinking about helping our ministry financially this would be an awesome time to give. Thankfully our tickets are already purchased but we will need some funds to help with shipping a few things to Ukraine.
You can join up with our support team here.
Or you can give a special “going away” gift here.
Question: How would you rather die?
To be free from worry is a gift; it’s the gift of deep, blissful sleep and waking with hope for the day!
Children possess this gift. How can a child go throughout his day without being bothered by the worries and cares of this life? There is a very simple reason – he has perfect trust that his mother and father will provide for his every need. He has never known otherwise. His parents have always clothed him, fed him, comforted him, played with him, sheltered him, and held him close in their arms. Thus, he plays with blissful ease not knowing and not caring that there is a frightfully dangerous world right outside the warm safety of his parents’ home.
Special note: This post is an excerpt from chapter one of my new book “What If… How to Kill Worry and Anxiety Before They Kill You” You can order it now on Amazon“.
With maturity comes knowledge of the outside world and responsibility. Often when responsibility comes, so does worry. Let me tell you about how it started in my life.
I’ll admit, I tend to be a pretty laid back type of guy, but appearances aren’t everything. I can worry too! A couple of years after my wife and I married, we started a small painting business. I bought one of those white utility vans with the ladder racks on top, like the telephone company uses. We lived in Tacoma, Washington, in a part of town that tended to have a lot of drug activity and the crime that goes along with it. Since we were poor seminary students, we could not afford to rent a house with a nice garage where I could park my van. That meant my work van, which was loaded with tools for my painting business, sat out on the street every night.
Honestly, I didn’t give it too much thought. I just parked the van on the street in front of our apartment building every night and in the morning it was always there waiting for me. Then one night it happened! They broke the sliding door window and very conveniently removed the contents of my van!
In the morning I got ready for work as usual and headed out the door to find a mess of broken glass on the pavement next to my van. Immediately my stress level shot up; a thousand thoughts invaded my mind and my pulse began to race! Who did this? Where are my tools? How am I going to work today? Where am I going to find the money to replace these things? What’s my wife going to say?
I began to ask questions and I began to worry. As a result, I decided to change the way I did a few things. I ordered metal bars for the windows in my van, installed an alarm, and found a nearby storage unit where I could unload most of my valuable tools at night.
Despite the fact that I had made all these changes, I still worried. For the next couple of months my ears were sensitive to the sound of car alarms. I thought every alarm was mine. Several times I got up in the middle of the night to investigate strange noises I had heard outside! Even though my van was technically more secure than it was before the theft, I was now more uneasy about things.
Let’s compare my situation with the child I described at the beginning of the chapter. The child doesn’t worry because he trusts his parents. However, he also doesn’t worry because he lacks knowledge of the dangers of the outside world. Before the break-in, I was like the child.
Yes, I knew that it was theoretically possible for someone to break the window and steal my tools, however, it didn’t worry me because I hadn’t personally experienced it. The lack of personal experience kept me ignorant of the real danger and allowed me to “sleep like a baby” every night. The problem is that once I went through the experience, it was impossible to go back to the previous state of ignorance.
Sleeping Through the Storm
Now let’s take a minute and look at Jesus. Here’s a guy that could sleep through anything! Remember when Jesus went out on the lake with the disciples? Jesus was sleeping right through a powerful storm that was threatening to sink their boat!
And as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.
There’s no question that the disciples were worried in this passage. They didn’t gently tap Jesus on the shoulder and say, “Master, if you’re not too tired, we could use a little help now.” They repeatedly called for him, “Master, Master!” They made the situation look dire, “We’re going to die!” They didn’t just tell him, they kept telling him!
The disciples couldn’t sleep in the storm, but Jesus could!
What was the first thing Jesus said to the disciples after he woke up? You’d think he’d say something like, “Wow, you weren’t kidding – that really is a terrible storm!”, or maybe he’d say, “Sorry for sleeping, guys; but don’t worry – everything will be OK now.”
Jesus’ response must have shocked the disciples.
He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”
After rebuking the wind and the waves, Jesus turns right around and rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. It was the absence of faith that kept them on edge, didn’t allow them to sleep, and caused them to wake Jesus in their desperation.
Babies sleep like babies because they haven’t yet experienced all the dangers and problems in life. Their worry-free sleep is what we sometimes call “blissful ignorance”. On the other hand, Jesus could sleep despite the fact that he knew there was a storm going on. Jesus could sleep because he had perfect trust in the Father.
You and I don’t have the luxury of sleeping in blissful ignorance. If you’re old enough to read this book, then you are old enough to know that there are very unpleasant things in this life, things that can keep you up at night.
We’ve had painful experiences, or heard about others who did, and now we want to avoid them. As our minds struggle to find a way out, to protect us from the dangers of life, we can easily slip into a pattern of worry.
Worry rarely starts suddenly. It begins small and innocent; it’s almost hard to recognize at first. We want to look for solutions to possible problems, we want to avoid difficult situations; pain, sickness, and death. This is not wrong. However, our desire to avoid the difficult and distressing things of life can quickly lead to unwarranted fears and a destructive fixation upon the problem and the possible results.
No, worry doesn’t usually start suddenly, but when it’s not dealt with, it will eventually drag your mind into a deep pit of fear, anxiety, and apprehension. The deeper you go into this pattern of thought, the harder it will be for you to dig yourselves out. It will seem impossible for you not to think about it. Your mind will play through the possibilities over and over again. You become restless, irritated, feeling like you need to do something but not knowing what to do.
Worry infests the mind like maggots, destroying us from the inside out! It paralyzes us with fear, fills us with doubt, and crowds out our ability to think logically and rationally.
There is really only one way out of the pit worry and that is up! Jesus gave us a great example as he slept through the storm. He also pointed us to the only real hope that we have, the only thing that has the ability to rescue us from the depths of our worry!
A Call for Faith
Jesus reprimanded the disciples for their lack of faith, their failure to believe, their inability to trust. The faith that Jesus was talking about is not a general faith that is often referred to in today’s popular culture. It is not faith in some higher good or simply having a positive outlook in life. It most certainly is not faith in yourself, in your abilities or talents. Jesus called us to a faith much higher than ourselves. He called us to believe in the only thing that can actually lift us from our worries and set us on solid ground.
Jesus called for faith in himself!
After all, he had just proved that he was able to calm the storm with his words. Who has power like that?
When it comes down to it, worry is nothing more than your mind desperately looking for a solution to all your problems. When you come to Jesus, you find the ultimate solution. Your tired mind can stop searching; Jesus is the complete answer!
Don’t get me wrong, Jesus doesn’t promise that when you put your faith in him that he will protect you from all pain and hardship in this life. His promise is much greater! He promises to give you a hope that reaches beyond this momentary life, he guarantees a joy and peace that is much deeper than your temporary struggles. He promises to take your worries upon himself and free you from their weight, but this can’t happen until you begin to trust him!
If you’re like me, then you have gone through things in your life that could give you reason to worry. You can’t un-experience what you have experienced and you can’t un-know what you have learned, so that leaves you with only two possibilities. You either choose to make worry an everyday part of your life, or began a life of trust in Jesus and start sleeping well again!