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...
Isaac Perry, Ministry & Leadership Major
When I transferred to BJU as a Sophomore Ministry and Leadership major in the Fall of 2020, I had just begun to take my spiritual walk with Christ seriously. I knew the university would offer me plenty of opportunities to get personal, hands-on experience in ministry. I was excited for all the possibilities. However, one opportunity came unexpectedly through my society. About half-way through my first semester at BJU, I found out about the Epsilon Zeta Chi (Z) missions team. Z missions team is an opportunity for our society to take a trip to a city in the United States, support the church there, and spread the gospel.
Since EZX is a fairly large society, anyone interested in going on the trip applies, describing their salvation testimony, desires for going on the trip, and goals for growth through the experience. Last year was my first opportunity to travel with the missions team; and by God’s grace, myself and eleven other men from EZX applied and were selected for the team. Our team of twelve was composed of many different majors—Business, Biology, Education, Bible, and more. In other words, it was not just the ministry majors going out and spreading the gospel. Tentmakers and preachers joined arm-in-arm to testify to the gospel of the grace of God, just as God intended for the body of Christ.
My first experience on the Z missions trip was different than normal. As I am sure many of you can relate to, COVID-19 threw many wrenches into the plans that we were making. The typical Z missions trip happens over spring break, but not this one! This trip was pushed back to the first week of summer break. To make matters more interesting, our pre-planned destination was San Francisco, CA, one of the most restricted cities in the US at that time. While our man-made plans were being frustrated, we trusted that God knew exactly what He was doing. We trusted that in spite of changing regulations, difficult airlines and changing ticket prices, and many doubts and wonders, God would do what was best. Unsure of whether or not we would actually be able to go on this trip, we began to focus our hearts, study San Francisco and its people, and fundraise and dig into the preparation for the trip.
Perhaps one of the more overlooked aspects of missions trips is the preparation. Everyone on the outside of this particular trip only sees the seven-to-eight days that are actually spent on the trip, but our entire second semester was taken up with reading, team-building, and weekly meetings. Even though we were sure to get the necessary prep work done, we made sure to have a great time doing it. Getting to know the guys on the team better, seeing their hearts flourish with love for the gospel and for people, and experiencing the unity that only the gospel can bring are all memories that will last for a lifetime.
During our prep, we discussed particular goals from the very beginning that we believed God desired for us to have. The primary purpose of Z missions trips is to provide a vision so that men’s hearts would be burdened for the gospel. We want to expose the guys in society to the vast and always-growing need of the gospel. What greater goal can anyone ever have! There are a few different ways that this primary goal is functionally carried out.
First, the trip is designed to encourage our men to partner with local churches in urban contexts after graduation. BJU is a great place to be, but eventually we will all graduate, and new students will move into our old rooms. Our lives will move on from here and hopefully into churches around the world where we, with other believers, will engage to spread the gospel. By God’s grace, this trip will help EZX men become comfortable with and passionate for partnering with their local body of believers.
Secondly, we desire to use our talents and abilities to serve local churches. There are many ways that we do this, and with each different destination, there are different approaches. Often times, we clean around the church facilities or work with our hands. We always encourage the local body of believers where we are serving in any way that we can, as well. Perhaps EZX’s favorite, though, is through songs and the ministry of the Word in Sunday School and sermons.
Thirdly, we always schedule times to sit down with the pastors of the church that we are supporting in order to hear their philosophy of ministry, especially how their church effectively ministers to their specific demographic. This happens in either a formal classroom setting or a casual conversation over dinner. Either way, we consider learning from experienced pastors and ministers of the gospel extremely important. They have soaked in the Scripture for years and have seen many different situations and circumstances. Their experience is invaluable.
Lastly, one of the unstated goals of the missions trip is to create a bond among similarly minded men for the gospel. When twelve guys spend weeks together preparing for a specific goal of sharing the gospel in a certain place to a particular people, a different kind of unity is formed—one that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring. The friendships I gained continue today, and the brotherhood that was deepened only grows stronger as we see the lasting effects of our efforts for Christ.
Eventually, the preparation ends, and it’s time to pack up and head out for a week. Finally getting to San Francisco was incredible. The missions trip as a whole felt like a fast blur of ten days. From relationship building with the homeless in the poorest quarter of the city, to street evangelism in small groups, to helping the church clean up around its facilities; we were busy each day we were there. We spent much time under the wise and shepherding hearts of Pastor David Innes and Pastor Dan Pelletier, learning how to spread the gospel and care for the needs of a broken city and broken people.
Early mornings and late nights led to long days filled with encouraging conversations, opportunities for growth, and divine appointments with those in need of the gospel. I was personally under the assumption that the city of San Francisco would be filled with atheists and God-haters. They are there, but not how I imagined them to be. Many people I spoke to believe in some god: Hindu Pluralists, Muslims, and more. Preparing for and having these conversations challenged me to deeply dig into the Scripture to find out just Who the God of the Bible truly is.
By God’s grace, we had many good gospel conversations, speaking to seekers and believers. More than once, through lines of conversational-inquiring about what people believe, we found that God’s Word is true, that He has built His church, and that the gates of Hell will not prevail over it. At the end of it all, this missions trip gave me a much deeper burden for the lost and hurting, and it changed the way that I view the suffering and searching soul. I know each of the men that embarked on this journey with me felt the same way by the transforming power of the grace of God.
This spring break, the Z missions team will be heading to Logan, Utah to support the new church plant Gospel Peace. While certain nuances of our goals may shift depending on the place we go to serve, our God is unchanging and our primary goal remains the same—providing an opportunity to gain a burden for the lost. Would you pray for us as we prepare our hearts and fundraise, and would you pray for the hearts of those divine appointments that God has called us to; especially for the LDS community that is prevalent in this area of the United States? Our desire is to glorify God through sharing the gospel and supporting Gospel Peace; and by God’s grace, we will do just that.
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.
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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.