Bruce from Bila Tserkva, Ukraine
The world as we have known it has been significantly altered for believers in Ukraine! It would be accurate to say that it has been turned “upside-down.” But, even if all else be reduced to chaos and calamity, a firm foundation endures for us in the character and promises of our God!
Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the world witnessed an enormous buildup of troops and military hardware on our borders. The world watched with an unsettled, curious fascination; we watched with uneasiness and apprehension. However, what I heard from most Ukrainians was denial that the invasion would ever take place. The oft-repeated “theory” was that this was a different kind of war, one of mere words and intimidation.
When the invasion began, it apparently took many by surprise. I had been slowly, gradually accumulating some staple foods and water in the event of such an invasion. I had purchased for a pastor-friend a 7-kilowatt electrical generator. Thus, if we would be besieged and denied natural gas, electricity, and water, the generator would allow us to pump water from a well in a nearby village or to power electrical heaters. To my surprise, it seemed that my Ukrainian acquaintances were making no similar preparations.
At the outset, we began to hear the sporadic wail of sirens both day and night. We made provision to take cover, if necessary, in a rough and inhospitable root cellar under a corner of my house. “We” includes 6 others who moved from their apartments closer to the city’s center, supposing that my home afforded a better possibility of safety. There were a few times that we resorted to that cellar when sirens sounded, but soon began to wait until we heard explosions seemingly close enough to alarm us. One time, it was an enormous “boom” that turned out to be a bomb within a 20-minute walk, powerful enough to destroy 30 homes. The bomb missed its probable target, a military hospital about 500 meters from where it landed.
We have often heard explosions, sometimes violent enough to cause the house to tremble. Only 2 or 3 fell within the city. Recently, we have climbed in the darkness to my attic in order to listen to explosions and see flashes and areas of glowing light in the distance. Sometimes the lights were apparently rockets, or perhaps anti-aircraft fire. Those attacks were about 50 miles distant; it is difficult for us to judge distances in these attacks, or to get accurate information as they occur.
One day, Russian subversives dressed as civilians were arrested nearby. They had been seen attempting to plant missile-guiding devices on a hospital around the corner from my house.
Soon after the invasion began, stores began to be closed and secured. Many folks are now without work and incomes. Far fewer pedestrians and vehicles are seen on the streets. Instead, we see an increasing number of armed soldiers. We see barricades of sandbags, logs, concrete, and tank traps in and on the outskirts of our city. The checkpoints at city entrances are increasingly fortified. Soldiers have dug trenches alongside the roads and have made underground rooms in which to take a few hours of rest.
Families are separated, as multitudes of mostly women and children are now displaced into western parts of Ukraine or to other parts of Europe. But, what of life there? They have no way to earn an income, and they are among strangers (even if hospitable and caring strangers). Many sense that they are already wearing out their welcome, and they are longing to return home. They yearn to be reunited with their loved ones and friends, and to return to the life from which they have been so suddenly and rudely dispatched. They long for home and for peace!
God has been answering the prayers of many; He has been shielding us from the violent brutality that far less fortunate people have been experiencing in cities such as Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol, and Chernihiv. Here it seems that we live with at least a sub-conscious tension, never knowing what is coming, what will happen next, or when it may be our turn to experience the fury of that disoriented, humiliated, and thus vengeful enemy.
We conduct services: prayer meetings throughout the week, youth meetings, and Sunday worship. Sunday evening services haven’t been possible due to the evening curfew. In some churches, believers who have remained are critical toward those who have fled; the unity of believers is threatened. Fewer attend when a church meets, as many have left the area and some who remain are fearful of venturing out.
To be continued...
Rachel, BJU Alumnus
NOTE: Rachel and her husband are long-time Frontline team members in East Asia. The three of us are also Tolkien fans, so receiving an article in which she draws on a scene from The Hobbit was not surprising to me. But what gripped me as I read it was the depth of its wisdom and the breadth of its application. Rachel wrote this with young adults in mind, but radical obedience is for all of us who take up our cross and follow the One who said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
So whether you desire to take Good News to Gospel-destitute places or you are counseling someone who is considering going, whether you are parenting or grand-parenting with a passion for Christ and the nations, or if you are taking a prayerful look at “Gospel leveraging” of your time, energy, and resources, there’s something here to challenge you, as it has me.
Tim Keesee, Frontline Missions International (www.frontlinemissions.info)
[This article was divided into two parts and published in the Fall 2019 and Christmas 2019 Frontline Missions International newsletter. Used with permission.]
After a tumultuous disruption of his quiet evening by a bunch of unruly dwarves, Bilbo Baggins is called upon to join them on a journey of great importance—to rescue their people and their home. However, he also discovers that there is a risk, deadly risk—a fire-breathing dragon, to be specific. Furthermore, this grand quest would require upsetting his pleasant, predictable, and respectable life. After considering the magnitude of the offer, he briefly loses consciousness, following which he is seen sitting in his large, overstuffed chair and discussing the situation with Gandalf:
Gandalf: You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. When did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? . . . The world is not in your books and maps . . . it’s out there!
Bilbo: I can’t just go running off into the blue . . . I’m a Baggins of Bag-End.
Gandalf: And you’re also a Took . . . You’ll have a tale or two of your own to tell when you come back.
Bilbo: Can you promise that I will come back?
Gandalf: No, but if you do you’ll not be the same.
Bilbo: That’s what I thought.
This scene haunts me. The grand but highly life-disrupting commands of Jesus inspire us in our 20s, but somehow by our 30s and 40s the cost of those commands makes us want to sink into a comfortable armchair and conjure up other less-costly paths of obedience. How does a 22-year-old so passionate about reaching the nations morph into a 48-year-old who cannot imagine living abroad for the King? With so many well-attended conferences, frequently-read blogs, and well-written books, why isn’t a higher percentage of the young Christian population actually going? And for those of us who end up overseas, why do we so rapidly become disenchanted with the work and begin to long for greener pastures?
At age 20, the world seems open and exciting. We’re eager to launch out and try anything, and we long to bring words of Good News where it has never been heard. There’s fresh zeal and joy, a willingness to be inconvenienced, and little care of the potential losses because of the joy of the potential gain for eternity.
In our mid-20s, our good desires meet their first roadblocks, and we begin to feel the weight of all that is working against us. We get our first real job, our first real bills, and start to feel the weight of survival in a world of broken health, car accidents, soaring insurance costs, and the uncertainties of raising children. Along with the new stressors come new joys—having a nicer car, a modest little house that we’ve painted and decorated, a few pieces of new furniture. Before long, we develop some hobbies, get a comfortable circle of friends, and fall into a predictable routine.
By the time we hit our 30s, we have quit dreaming and are just hanging on as we change diapers, put food on the table, and peel the mac-n-cheese off the floorboards. Our biggest life dream is simply to get one night of uninterrupted sleep. To make matters worse, we realize that we aren’t the super Christians we thought we were in college; so we get discouraged. And we see that we can stay busy in effective ministry right where we are (which may be true); so why inconvenience ourselves when we can serve Jesus right here at home? Maybe we even start to rationalize about all the problems of imperialistic mission work in the past and conclude that missionary work is better left entirely to locals. And so, Jesus’ command to go is suffocated by our logic.
The path out of the Shire is steep and treacherous.
As one who spent several years waiting to go and now has lived full-time overseas for a number of years, I’ve spent lots of time with folks preparing to go. This letter is a plea from my heart to those with desire to work overseas but who have a few more months or years ahead before that can become a reality. Below you will find some practical tips that I hope might guard you on this journey.
To be continued... (Click here for pt. 2/2)
Daniel Smitley, Senior Cross-Cultural Major
I'm sitting in a very small apartment living room, jam-packed with about 25 people for a Sunday evening service in the city of Manila, Philippines. I've never been to this church before, and I am enjoying being able to meet and worship with them. Then the missionary hands me his phone with these words written, “Can you preach?" In less than five minutes, with basically no time to prepare, I was up preaching. I wish I could say this experience was the exception to the rule, but I learned to always be prepared for anything. In fact, when people usually think of missions or internships, these kinds of experiences are the reason they go. The purpose is to minister to others and to gain the experience of teaching, preaching, and jumping into any ministry you can. While I enjoyed many of these kinds of experiences, the greatest blessing I received was not the ministry I was able to have, but the ministry that I saw and personally experienced from those on the field.
While interning in the Philippines this summer, I was able to experience an up-close look into the life of a missionary. I was privileged to learn from and be mentored by a man deeply devoted to his ministry. But to me, what might have been the most influential part of his ministry was his personal life. His walk with the Lord and love for His Word was evident and personally convicting. It was also clear that his “ministry” was not separate from other areas of his life. A major part of his ministry is teaching Bible classes at a Bible college. He himself practiced what he taught in the classroom. The truths he was teaching were clearly being played out in various areas of his life. It’s so easy to act one way while you’re ministering in church or at a Bible club but live differently at home or around family. The missionary I was with exemplified what it looks like to live the same way both in ministry and in family/personal life. Sure, I went as an intern seeking to be able to minister and be a blessing, but I believe it was me who received the greater blessing!
During my internship I was also able to spend some time with local pastors, both in the Philippines and in Singapore. During my time with them I was able to preach in their churches, sing special music, work around the church buildings, and lead Bible studies. But by far the most memorable experience I had with them was observing their ministry and not my own. With one particular pastor in the Philippines, his love for people was obvious. Ministry was not just on Sunday for this man—it was every day! One evening, he traveled out to another city to meet with two separate groups and lead Bible studies, and he even made another stop just to pray with a church member whose relative had cancer. This made for a very late night, but if there was an opportunity for the Gospel and ministry, he took it. He was always looking for a chance to share the Good News, even while in the local hospital waiting room or on a dirt road on the side of a mountain buying fruits. Another big influence was a pastor in Singapore. The church he was pastoring was a joy to worship with. It was neat being able to see how this body of believers applied the biblical role of the church into their specific context and culture. But his ministry wasn’t just limited to a couple days of the week either. I was thrilled to be able to see other aspects of his ministry, whether that was visiting with church members who had recently lost a loved one or taking a day off to bring the teens to a Bible seminar. Being able to talk about ministry and gain wisdom from a faithful man of God was great in shaping my own philosophy of ministry! Too often I see ministry as an event, such as singing in the choir or leading a Bible club. But what these men displayed was that ministry is people, and that should be happening all the time, not just at church. Again, I got the better end of this deal—the encouragement I received far outweighed anything I could have given!
Lastly, I had the awesome opportunity to live in the dorms of a Bible college for most of the summer. This meant I was able get to know and build good relationships with many of the students. As I grew to know them more, their testimonies and desire for ministry were inspiring and rebuking to my own life. As college students, it’s easy to focus on training now, ministry later. Maybe you’ve caught yourself saying, “I’ll start ministering after I graduate!” This is folly, and I was shown this by many of the students who were not waiting to minister. A number of the guys would travel for hours each weekend in order to preach in various churches. Other students would travel eight hours every other week in order to help with the music at their home church. But the weekend is to rest and get recharged! No, not for many of them. They had a chance to minister, and they took it. It was an encouragement to see many who were really on fire for the Lord’s work. This is something I hope I brought home with me!
Traveling and doing missions overseas is an awesome opportunity. The need for the Gospel is great, and many still need to hear it! The ministry possibilities in these places are almost endless as well. There will always be a Bible study to lead, a sermon to preach, or a kid’s club to help with. When we go on such a trip, we should most definitely jump into ministry and service. But the next time you get the opportunity to go minister overseas, don’t get so caught up in what you’re doing and miss the blessing and wisdom around you. Take a step back and learn from those who are there, and you may be surprised at the wisdom and help you will receive. But don’t take my word for it, go experience it for yourself!
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.