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...
Adversities in Ministry
Ransom Love, Associate Pastor at Journey Church (Asheboro, NC)
My name is Ransom Love and I currently serve as the associate pastor at Journey Church in Asheboro, NC. I graduated from Bob Jones in 2013 with a degree in youth ministries. Two weeks after graduating from Bob Jones, I married Hannah Thompson, and three weeks after our wedding we transitioned into a youth pastor role at Parks Crossroads Christian Church in Ramseur, NC. I served as the youth pastor for nearly six years before transitioning to the senior pastor role where I served for nearly three years. After resigning as pastor of Parks Crossroads, God led me to Journey Church in Asheboro, NC where I am currently serving. My primary responsibilities are leading the young adults and outreach ministries. God has blessed Hannah and me with three beautiful children – Camden (seven years old), Ava (four years old) and Rhett (two years old).
God prepared me and led me to where I am today through many adversities that I am continually thankful for. Adversity comes in so many different forms - financial, relational, physical, mental, emotional, etc. and God has taught Hannah and me through adversity to depend deeply on Him and to be ever mindful of how desperate we are for Him.
When Hannah and I began to serve in full-time ministry, it was a surreal feeling. I could not believe that I was able to make my living teaching people about Jesus and preaching His word. I loved being in ministry! Three weeks into serving as youth pastor, we were having VBS. One night during the week, a young man named Chad came to the church completely strung out on drugs. I was made aware of the situation and came outside to speak with him. As we talked, he explained to me that he heard voices telling him to kill people. As our conversation continued, he explained to me that the voices wanted him to punch me in the face! Although I gained a lot of valuable training from Bob Jones University, I unfortunately never took any classes on how to exorcise demons or respond to people making threats to kill in a church full of kids! That was a new one for me. God graciously protected everyone in that situation. An officer who attended our church at the time was able to come in quietly and he tactfully convinced Chad to ride with him to a facility to receive help. I was heartbroken to learn a few months later that Chad had committed suicide. That entire experience took me from what I knew all of my life growing up in a Christian home, attending a Christian school, and attending BJU to a deeper realization that people are hurting and need healing that they will only find in Jesus. I needed to go deeper than just knowing. I needed to do more than just teach Bible stories to teenagers. I needed to engage life with them in order to point them to Jesus. Discipleship is all about relationship that connects to the heart. God began shaping me through that experience to seek heart connection above exciting programs.
About nine months after Hannah and I were married, Hannah’s mother, Jan, who was battling cancer, had taken a drastic turn for the worse. Hannah had been back home with her family for a couple of days and called to tell me that I needed to come quickly because her mother was not going to live much longer. My two-hour drive to Rocky Mount was the longest two hours of my life. Jan had been like a second mother to me. The very day I met her, she made me feel like I was a part of her family. She made everyone feel like part of her family. She was such a dear lady and a dear friend. I sat beside her bed as she took her last breath, and the pain of that moment stung so deeply. Walking through the death of a dear loved-one will measure your faith in Jesus like nothing else. It produces hard, vulnerable, raw emotion that will either lead you closer to Jesus or further trapped in bitterness. The months following were hard, to say the least. Hannah and I had to wrestle with deep spiritual struggles that we didn’t even know existed until we were taken down that path.
Over time, I began to find myself very discouraged in youth ministry. The ministry wasn’t really growing—we were not seeing people getting saved or even excited about spiritual things. At this point in my life I really began questioning my calling. Hannah and I began seeking God in prayer for direction, and after about three months, God called our pastor to a different ministry and led me to become lead pastor of Parks Crossroads. I was scared. I was not sure I was ready to be a lead pastor because I always viewed myself as a “two guy.” My thought was that I could play the support roles well, but to be the leader? Again, I was scared. Funerals scared me. Weddings scared me. I was so nervous the first time I led communion. It was a train wreck of clanging and banging metal dishes. I even got snagged on the table cloth at one point and nearly pulled all of the elements off the table! On my very first Sunday as lead pastor, following the message, the first person that spoke to me was a lady in tears that told me her husband left her the night before. Three weeks later, a dear friend of ours lost her husband and asked me to officiate the funeral. I had never felt so alone in my life! Hannah was always right by my side supporting me, and many people were a comfort and counsel to me through the difficulties; but I was still overwhelmed by a feeling of loneliness. God quickly brought me to a place where I realized how desperately I needed Him. But He also taught me in those moments that He was enough. He lovingly broke me down to places of great weakness in order to build me His way.
The next three years as pastor of Parks Crossroads was an incredible mix of joys, trials, and growth. It was a joy to minister to the loving and generous people at Parks Crossroads. They took such good care of my family. It was a joy to preach the Word every Sunday. Spending deep hours in prayer and study was feeding my soul like never before. I quickly found that even though funerals were heavy and certainly never fun, there was a joy of going deeper with families and forming stronger bonds with them as we walked through difficult pathways together. As more trials surfaced, prayer became a priority in our church. I learned quickly that a church that prays is a threat to the enemy. When threatened, the enemy fights harder. But the enemy has no weapon that can overcome the Holy Spirit. In the midst of our war against darkness, some internal friction came to the surface over some traditions that were being challenged. Some were ready to move forward with our vision to worship God, build relationships and point people to Jesus, while others desired to hold fast to traditions that were keeping us from fully going after that vision. There was nothing sinful in nature about the traditions of the church, but what began to become apparent at the leadership level was a difference in vision. God began to show me that our traditions were becoming strongholds that were holding us back, and as the traditions were challenged, there was pushback. If there is not unified vision among leadership, there will inevitably be division in the organization. Therefore, God made it clear to me that it was time for me to move. I did not want to create unnecessary strife in God’s church; but I also could not stay confined to a ministry that was pulling in a different direction than God had convicted me to lead. I love Parks Crossroads Christian Church, and the people remain dear friends of mine. God led me through those challenges to grow me and deepen my faith in His leading.
Through these difficult days of transition, God led my family to Journey Church where I have served since October 2021. I have found great joy in the leadership roles God has allowed me to serve, and I am confident that He will continue to lead me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. I have also learned that the paths of righteousness always find route through the valley of the shadow of death; but when I remain close to Jesus, I find my life in perfect peace. When I follow Jesus, I am always right where I am supposed to be. I would not trade the adversities He has allowed me to experience for anything, because in my weakness, He shows Himself strong.
Matthew Bohin, Assistant Pastor of Adirondack Baptist Church (Adirondack, NY)
Football and Flat Tires
I am a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan. Autographed cards of my favorite players? Check. Jerseys of the greats like Brian Dawkins and Nick Foles? Check. Eagles mugs, cups, socks, ties, and Christmas ornaments? Check. Attendance at a Philadelphia Eagles football game? You bet.
In fact, the first time I ever went to a game was early on in my high school years. I grew up in Massachusetts, so my first ever game was watching the Eagles play the New England Patriots near Boston. I was excited. Although it was only preseason, I was looking forward to seeing my favorite players in person. I wanted to be at the field, see them score touchdowns, hear the crowd, and experience my first NFL game in person. Needless to say, there was high anticipation. So with my Eagles jersey on I hopped in the car with my grandpa and headed down the road.
As we traveled, my anticipation built. But just as we were less than an hour away from the stadium, I looked out the passenger side mirror and saw our back tire shredding. It was flat—so flat that it was riding on the rim and beginning to tear. We pulled over and assessed the damage. There was no doubt: it was a flat tire.
At this point, I could have done two things. I could have given up, or I could have allowed my anticipation to drive me to fix the flat. And that's exactly what happened. We worked rapidly to fix the tire and get to the game before kickoff.
My excitement for the football game drove me to work precisely and diligently to assure we'd arrive on time. My anticipation fueled my work.
Why do I relate this story on a blog about ministry?
I currently serve as the Assistant Pastor at Adirondack Baptist Church in Gloversville, New York. I have the privilege of working with a number of ministries at church: children, teens, young adults, counseling, and administration. However, I would be unfit for the various roles God has given me without the diligent time of preparation behind me.
What preparation you ask? Well, I've been in your shoes before.
I spent eight years at BJU earning my Bachelor's degree in Bible, Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and finally my Master of Divinity. God gave me the chance to serve him through two church internships and three summers as a camp counselor. I also had the experience of working in the residence halls at BJU for a number of years.
I never dreamed I'd be at BJU for THAT long! But, those experiences prepared me to pastor in my present role.
Your preparation now lays a foundation for your anticipated future ministry. But, your anticipated future ministry must also provide the fuel for engaging in diligent preparation in the present. When you are in the throes of your studies now, are you motivated by your future ministry?
Many students today engaged in college or seminary studies disconnect their dreams for future ministry from their present work of preparation.
In the six years I spent working in the residence halls at BJU, it saddened me to see students wasting the time God allotted for their education on other pursuits. Now, recreation in and of itself is not bad. Video games, sports, entertainment, or other avenues of rest are not wrong. But many times, students in educational settings justify inordinate times of rest at the expense of their education.
Students would spend hours watching YouTube videos while failing to spend hours studying for their doctrines tests.
Ministry majors would claim that it's the "easiest" degree while failing to pour their time into their papers and projects.
Residence hall men would spend their weekends out enjoying the community while neglecting to serve in their local churches.
Why? Why do we expect laziness in our ministry preparation to produce fruit in our ministry futures?
Let me argue that we are lazy in our preparedness because we fail to connect our studies with serving our future congregations.
Just like the desire to see my beloved Philadelphia Eagles inspired my hard work to get me to the game, you must develop a desire to serve your future people in order to inspire your current studies.
You aren't just studying for yourself—you are studying for blood bought souls. You aren't just preparing for the next educational step—you are preparing for a ministry sanctioned and overseen by the Lord. You aren't just waiting for your future to happen where you'll be a good shepherd, missionary, church planter, or bi-vocational worker—you are shaping your future now.
Your Future Is Caring for Blood-Bought Souls.
I'm assuming if you're reading this, you're preparing for some form of ministry whether as a pastor, missionary, or some non-traditional form of ministry. Your studies are preparing you now for service to blood-bought souls.
In addressing the Ephesian elders, Paul says, "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood" (Acts 20:28, ESV).
Jesus cares for his church—the people to whom you are preparing to minister. Every test you take, every research paper you write, every project you submit, or every lecture you attend is not just for your own edification but for the benefit of those Jesus purchased with his cross-shed blood.
Every time you put off an assignment, prioritize unnecessary rest (i.e. laziness), or neglect a project altogether you are doing a disservice to those for whom Christ died. If Christ could give his life for souls, can you not give five hours of study for a class paper?
One thing that helped me as I went through my coursework at BJU was keeping in mind the people to whom I'd be ministering. I now know who they are: citizens of Fulton and Montgomery County in upstate New York who attend Adirondack Baptist Church in the city of Gloversville. Although you do not know where God will lead following your studies, keep these unknown people in mind. When you candidate at a church, enter the mission field, or begin at an organization, you can go to them with the knowledge that you studied, prepared, and learned for them.
Your Future Is a God-Watched Ministry.
But your preparation is not only one for blood-bought souls. Your preparation is for a future of God-watched and God-ordained ministry. Paul urges Timothy, "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word" (2 Timothy 4:1-2, ESV).
The time you spend now in your studies, courses, lectures, and homework is preparing you to minister in the presence of God.
Since becoming a pastor, God has constantly brought this verse to my attention. My ministry is not ultimately about people but about God. He will evaluate my work as a pastor. He is the one to whom I answer.
So what does this truth have to do with preparation for ministry? Your ministry preparation is providing you the tools to serve God well. It sharpens you. Those papers and long reading assignments strengthen you to stand before God as the best servant you can be.
If you were a knight in medieval times, you would want to appear before your king or lord with the best armor, best weapons, and best skills. Why? Because you want your lord protected, defended, and pleased.
Your preparation for ministry at BJU or any other school gives you tools to do the work of your Lord well.
Your Present Is a Reflection of Your Future.
One last thought.
As you prepare, you truly are becoming the person you will be. The same habits you form in college now are the same habits you'll take with you to the pulpit, mission field, counseling room, or job. Practically speaking, the same diligence, perseverance, or studiousness you show now will show when preparing for sermons, counseling sessions, or missionary outreach in the future. The same laziness, carelessness, or lethargy you show now will show when preparing for sermons, counseling sessions, or ministry outreach in the future.
Are You Excited for the Football Game?
As we approached the Eagles game, I was glad we worked hard to fix the flat tire. I was excited to go see my team play in person!
Do you approach your studies with the same effort I used to fix our flat tire that day? You have a great ministry ahead of you; are you preparing like it? Do you serve your future congregation or counselees now by the time you put into your work here at BJU?
By God's sovereign grace, you will have the privilege of serving souls in the future! Study, prepare, and expend yourself in light of that future reality.
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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.