by Dan Serns
Note – Ukraine is one of more than a dozen independent countries that have come out of the former Soviet Union. About the size of Texas, Ukraine has a population of 52 million as compared to 15 million in Texas. In August 1993 I was asked to go to the Ukraine to conduct an evangelistic crusade in the city of Chernovtsy. Two and a half weeks before I was to leave I received a telephone call from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists asking if I could drop everything and leave immediately to assist for two weeks in the city of Mykolayiv before going on to Chernovtsy. The church of 150 members in Mykolayiv had put 700 posters throughout the city advertising an evangelistic crusade. In addition they had hand delivered thirty thousand brochures. One of the members had given one year’s salary to help pay the cost. At the last minute the evangelist’s wife came down with cancer and he was unable to go. Four days later I was on the plane, headed for Ukraine!
Today I flew into Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, after spending the night in Frankfurt, Germany. On the plane with me is a group of Seventh-day Adventists from Oklahoma who will be conducting an evangelistic crusade in another city. During 1993 there will be 120 public evangelistic crusades by foreign Seventh-day Adventists in the former Soviet Union.
After spending about an hour at the Ukrainian Union office with church leaders discussing details of the crusade, I went with Kirill, a young man in his early 20s, to the train station. Kirill was baptized a few years ago after attending one of these public crusades. At the time he had a live-in girlfriend and was involved with tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. The Lord gave him many victories but because his girl friend didn’t want to live her life for Jesus, they parted ways. He tells me he has confidence that the Lord has some special young lady picked out for him when the time is right.
There is a Seventh-day Adventist Language School in Kiev staffed by several students from Pacific Union College.
After 12 hours overnight on the train we have arrived in the city of Mykolyiv. We were met at the train station by Pastor Krupsky, a local pastor and conference secretary/treasurer, age 33. We went to the church for breakfast which was great. There we met John Magee and his family who are from Oregon volunteering for a year in Moscow at the Euro/Asian Division Headquarters of Seventh- day Adventists. The division estimates that they will need 500 new Seventh-day Adventist pastors in the next 5 years and John is helping develop training programs to meet this tremendous challenge. John’s background is in health education and administration although he has pastored several years. He has never conducted a public evangelistic crusade but he was rushed here to this city to conduct the first week of these meetings until I arrived to conduct the next two weeks. When I leave Pastor Krupsky will complete the last two weeks. This is my first experience with relay evangelism!
There were 1,500 who attended the first night. After one week the attendance is still 1,200 and last night 744 of those made decisions for Jesus! Last night’s topic was the origin of sin. After the message about how Lucifer became Satan, John invited people who had had specific influences by demons to stay afterwards. Over 30 stayed including a young 12 year old named Igor. During the special prayer for deliverance, there were manifestations that Satan did not want to go but through the power of Jesus was forced to leave.
Several beautiful things happened this Sabbath morning. First of all the church gathers for an hour of prayer at 9:00 a.m. every Sabbath morning, with or without the pastor. Prayer seems to be a key ingredient of the church here in the Ukraine. Secondly during the service, visitors stand and not only introduce themselves but say, “I bring you greetings from the church in Kiev,” or whatever city they are from. They see themselves not only as individual Christians but representing all of the believers in the city where they are from. When I stood and told them, “I bring you greetings from the 207 congregations in the Texas Conference, they immediately stood up and said, “Please send back our greetings to all of our brothers and sisters in Texas.” The third thing that caught my attention was a special students’ dedication. Pastor Krupsky called forward all of the children who were going to begin school that week along with their parents. He challenged them with many questions including, “Are you ready to go to school?” “Parents, have you prepared your children?” “Children, do you realize you will be taught things in many of your classes that go contrary to the teachings of the Bible?” “Are you ready to be faithful to Jesus and trust His Word first?” After each question he gave young people and parents a chance to respond. Finally they formed a tight circle for a prayer of commitment. No wonder these families have stayed close to Jesus through the generations.
Tonight we had our two evening meetings at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. dealing with the parables in Luke 15. Afterwards we had a special counseling session with a woman who has a five year old who is “a bad kid.” We also visited with a woman who has a 17 year old in jail; another son who has already died; a third son who doesn’t want to marry, and a husband who hates kids. She is a school teacher who is very respected by her students but not by her own family. As she poured out her heart I could tell that she, along with the whole family, needs Jesus.
Tonight, we answered a few of the dozens of questions that people are writing on the backs of their quiz and decision cards. We gave Bible answers to the questions: “What does the word ‘Amen’ mean?” and, “If Jesus is God’s Son, does Satan have any children?”
I am gradually adjusting to the culture but the language is very difficult. There is lots of great food. Today is John Magee’s last day as he and his family return to Moscow.
Each morning the evangelistic crusade staff gather at 10:00 a.m. for special prayer requests that people write on the back of their quiz and decision cards. Today we prayed for a woman whose sister was burned on 70% of her body and who is going to lose both legs. We prayed for someone who has cancer in the final stages and also prayed for someone who wants to break a smoking habit that was formed after a visit to an extra sense or ESP doctor. The pastor made a special request that we pray for one of the church members who is not coming. They are very concerned that they are missing one of their 150 members who has not returned after many visits. This is why he is asking for special prayer. I thought of Jesus and the parable of the Lost Sheep where the Shepherd went in search of 1 out of 100. Here they are searching for 1 out of 150. It’s quite a rebuke to those of us in the United States who often don’t search for dozens out of a 100 who may be missing or inactive.
Tonight I gave Revelation Seminar posters to the people who had brought the most friends. I announced it last night. One lady brought 21 friends; another 15; another 12, and another 8. I think I will do that again tomorrow night.
When I see the incredible way that God is working on hundreds of people’s hearts, it makes me have a special sense of my need for the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to do anything that would mess up this beautiful experience.
John Magee & family were very musical, John plays piano, Denise flute, all sing & have learned songs in Russian during time in Moscow. Now that they’re gone I pray God will use Sasha, our Union–provided musician evangelist & the church to fill their place; also that the absence of a family won’t hinder meetings
Sergai, my translator, studied to be a scientist & is brilliant. He’s given me a lot of useful background. For example he explained that in the Orthodox communion the greatest sense is of community of believers, that people believe that if they are in the church they will be saved regardless of other factors, so they go through many motions & rituals but don’t know why. They have a basic confidence that there is a God and that the Bible must be held in high regard even though they don’t know it or understand it. So there is not much need to try to prove God or the Bible but simply to explain and apply it, and call for everyone to act on it.
Sergai also explained some of Ukrainian history. Russian is still the dominant language in the country except the western portion. In the Crimean peninsula there are mostly Muslims, and just north was a largely uninhabited neutral zone. The communists tried to settle this area primarily with Russians. This area is included in the South Conference of SDA’s where we are currently working.
This is the first evangelistic series ever in this great city, known for ship building. Bob Thrower spent a week here in the spring. George Knowles was scheduled to come in May but canceled. Dan Skortz was scheduled for August. There are posters plastered all over the city advertising him. Over 30,000 handbills were personally delivered by members in preparation for these meetings. Then he couldn’t come (one of 6 American evangelists who have canceled series in this union this year). The union & the General Conference scrambled to make sure all the sacrifice, prayers and efforts were not lost for God’s cause. The union president, Pastor Zhukaluk said that God must have something special for this city considering all the difficulties they were having in the beginning! Both Rudy Skortz, Dan’s brother, and Rex Edwards, associate ministerial director at the GC, were asked but couldn’t come. That’s when arrangements were made for John Magee to open and me to continue. I told the church members that for many months they have been praying for Dan Skortz. Now please keep praying for Dan, but this time Dan Serns. What a privilege it is to be in a place where
God is so evidently leading. I just pray that I will be faithful to this great responsibility.
I received statistics from last night: Attendance 1280, 791 quiz cards turned in, 762-Yes!!!!, 1-No (satanist symbols drawn on card), 28-no response
Tonight besides 3 appeal questions on the card (1-I want to accept Jesus as my Savior & Lord, 2-I know that Jesus can change my heart and give me freedom from bad habits in my life, 3-I realize that I can talk to God and He hears and loves to listen) I had those stand who had already accepted Jesus as Savior & Lord or were doing so tonight. In the 1st service ALL stood and in the second about 95% stood. PRAISE GOD!
I got better acquainted with the conference president at lunch today. When he was 6 his father, an SDA minister, was taken to prison where he died. At 16 his mother died too. It was his responsibility as the oldest to raise the family. Today all 4 boys are ministers and the girl is a Bible worker. He & his wife also raised 5 of their own children Two of their sons are ministers–One works at the seminary; one daughter is married to a minister, and the other who isn’t married works in one of our conference offices. His family never made compromises with the KGB by going to school on Sabbath, even though it was difficult many times.
Today I moved into the apartment that the Magees vacated. A little old lady, a “Babushka” looks after the apartment and lives in a room at one end. The apartment has a bedroom, kitchen, living room/study, and bathroom. It’s on the 4th floor of a 10 story apartment building, one of probably 20 in this area.
The prayer requests are incredible. We’ve prayed for a 5 yr old girl born without ears, an 18 year old who was born with female features which changed at age 12 then changed back again at age 18; prayed with parents of a young 19 year old man who says Beethoven appeared to him and is giving him music to write to so he stays locked in his room all day for many days without eating or sleeping and many people who have problems after visits to an extra-sense (ESP) doctor.
Extra-sense doctors are common here. They are in hospitals and people think the “white” ones are ok but that “black” ones are bad, not realizing all are agents of the enemy. We preach very clearly on these things.
Other prayer requests include: pray for wars to stop, for prisoners, children, sickness, mother who went blind when the son threw her out of the house and started using it as a place of prostitution, a woman who says she is a prodigal mother, leaders of the city & country, former communist, single mothers, help for a woman to find her husband, a grandmother requesting that she live long enough to raise her orphaned grandson ’till he’s 18, a little boy who prays that his mother will come to the meetings, mother of a 12 yr old son who died and she wishes to die, woman whose husband committed adultery and wants to come back but she can’t forgive him, and requests for prayer for the dead!
We take all requests seriously (except the last!) It is amazing how much suffering and pain there is in this country and in a gathering like this. No wonder they come out to hear the Good News of God. We always emphasize that we don’t have the answers but Jesus does. Tonight I taught them how to pray and the prayer counselors outside led many of them in their 1st prayer.
I’m getting over jet lag (jogging for 30 min each morning is helping tremendously)
It’s very common to hear the use of “brother” & “sister” for church members. I’m staying at an apartment where the pastor’s “sister” lives in one end. In reality she is a lady probably at least 30- 40 yrs older than the pastor, but she is a church member!
I gained new insight of how present truth (3 angels messages) are given by a loving God because these instructions are the only thing that will see us through the chaos of the end times; only those who truly love and trust God even care about the messages of preparation He has given. The Three Angels messages tie together the truths of Gospel, Sabbath, Second Coming, and how to respond so we can maintain our hold on Jesus in the end times!
A local TV report was negative towards the meetings, trying to link with cults in Ukraine, said “Dan” never came. A young man asked me if it was true. I said, “I am Dan” so let the TV station know you have seen “Dan.”
I plan to begin teaching 15-20 minutes of English just before the 5PM meeting to attract more
A man (Alexander) who speaks English came to me between sessions and told me he had written the newspaper article discussing Americans in the Ukraine. (I think this is what was later reported on TV). He told me he liked to study brainwashing techniques. I told him others may be into that but I wasn’t. He asked me what my purpose was here and I shared with him my testimony of how Jesus changed my life and I believed everyone in the world would be happier if they knew Jesus personally and practiced the teachings of the Bible. He wasn’t expecting that. It is clear that he is quite cynical. He stayed for the 2nd session and was present afterward when a very emotional lady came up to talk about some wild stories she said happened to her. Whenever I tried to talk she would interrupt. She said she was very attracted to Alexander. Finally I told her I had listened carefully and now it was time for her to listen for a moment or two. Then she could talk as much as she wanted but not to any of us but to God. I talked to her about her need for peace that only Jesus can give- John 14:27. Then I led her in prayer and asked her to repeat, inviting Jesus and His peace into her heart. Part way through the prayer she noticeably calmed down in her breathing and talking. She left with peace in her heart. Alexander had witnessed the whole thing and stood there amazed. I think the door was opened just a little crack into one cynic’s mind: Praise the Lord-Slava-Bogoo.
Tonight, very late, I opened my Bible to 1 Corinthians 9:25: And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Thanks, Lord. I’ll head for bed now.
It seems that half the men in this country are named Vladimir, which means “man of peace.” I guess that’s because so many mothers want their baby boys to grow up in a world of peace, with homes of peace. But this hasn’t happened very often in Ukraine’s history.
Alexander came again and listened to the message.
About a thousand people came back after last night’s presentation on the Sabbath! Slava- bogoo (=Praise the Lord).
English class went great. We had about 60 mostly teens present. I taught the 3 basic sentences, numbers to 100, days of the week, the song God is so good, and handed out Signs of the Times to each one as a textbook. The magazines providentially arrived yesterday. Next class is Sabbath A.M. when I’ll teach Bible songs.
The Mykolayiv crusade is providential preparation to help me adjust to preaching with Russian translation and slides, and to Ukrainian culture.
I talked to Lois & Dustin tonight! 10:30 P.M. my time, 2:30 P.M. theirs. Jacob loves school! Danesa looks at the tape of stories and songs I made before I left and smiles looking for Daddy! I’m refreshed by talking with my wife.
Some people say they can’t hear because Satan is making noise in their ears. We had special prayer for them to hear and for peace in their hearts.
So tired last night didn’t record anything.
Sabbath was a full day. I had English class at 9:30 A.M. (Bible songs-God is so good, walking with Jesus, I have the joy, joy, joy), Q&A with conf pres at 10 A.M., Message re: love & marriage at 11:30 A.M., English class again at 4:30 P.M. and 1 hour messages at 5 & 7 P.M. plus Q&A. Tiring but fantastic
About 850 came out for worship on Sabbath morning! 1,100 Sabbath night!
Several hundred joined the baptismal class that started Sunday night. Others will join a second class forming next Sunday.
Tonight I presented the Change of Sabbath & Daniel 7 to probably over 1,000. I pray that God will make the message effective and clear. I wasn’t the most comfortable with it but in my weakness God is strong.
I began the 5-minute-a-night 5 day plan during the Q&A. Tonight: Phil 4:13,19. I have people repeat after the translator. I let them know the Lord can give victory, and how to pray a prayer of total surrender including dedicating their hands and mouth to doing something useful.
I also told them to go home and throw out all cigarettes. Some people had big eyes, as if to say “Can’t I save just a few in case of emergency?” I told them “Save only the cigarettes God can’t give you victory over, Phil 4:13.”
The church members always refer to the church as the “House of Prayer.” I like that. The church is the people and the building is the House of Prayer.
Fuel is scarce and expensive so whenever we’re in a car or van waiting for someone the driver turns off the engine even if it is for only 45 seconds.
At prayer time this morning one of the pastors pointed out that the priests in the OT purified themselves before they ministered to the people, and how we need to be sure everything is clear between us and God so we can carry out our responsibilities to His glory. Confess wrong actions, thoughts, and attitudes to Him. What an important consideration at all times as we watch God do amazing things in this city.
For years the people were taught atheism. But about 5 years ago, as communism was obviously failing there was an explosion of “Extra Sense” doctors. Now there are hundreds in every major city, in hospitals, etc. Many of the people who come to us have been “treated” by these and have worse problems, often involving Satanic influences. It’s wonderful to explain to them that Jesus is far more powerful. This morning we prayed for a woman who felt she had a snake in her throat for the last year because of a curse by a gypsy and when she went to extra-sense doctors it tried to poison her more. She had never heard the story of Jesus and how the demons trembled in His presence. We led her to Jesus, taught her how to pray, and told her to not talk of Satan’s power anymore but to think of at least 10 things to thank Jesus for every day. Ellen White said, “Talk light and you’ll have light, talk darkness and you’ll have darkness.”
Communism told the people “Give me your money and I’ll take care of you.” It used the money to build a super-structure (Buildings, railroads, bus systems, airports, large factories) but it overlooked the infra-structure and the motivation of the people. So now, as the system has broken down there are buildings falling down, buses that need repair, and no system to deliver parts, etc. On August 24 Ukraine celebrated its 2nd Independence Day without much celebration because of the poor
Train tickets that are normally 2-3 thousand Ukrainian coupons ($1 US=9,000 coupons, but this changes almost daily) have just jumped to 70,000 coupons, as the government eliminates its subsidies.
Bibles came in today from Kiev. All deliveries are made by SDA trucks or pastors since other forms of transportation are unreliable.
In Ukraine drivers, rather than pedestrians, have the right-of-way. It results in a lot of aerobic jogging when pedestrians see vehicles coming down the road. Common fruits here at this time of the year are grapes, apples, peaches, plums, and pears. Common vegetables are potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes. Common grains are wheat (cream of wheat, bread) and buckwheat.
3:21 P.M. The posters for Dan Skoretz say that he is known (not “well known” because in the past some evangelists were advertised as “very well known” but it became clear that they were not experienced!) The title for the meetings was “The Bible path to a new life.” There were 700 plastered all over the city. Everywhere I go I see them.
10:16 P.M.–There are a few people coming to the meetings that have serious mental problems. Sometimes they seem somewhat normal at first but only Jesus can straighten out their twisted minds. Tonight there were two examples. During the question and answer time a tall man walked up on the stage and gave me a book then left. The book was about Russian culture. Inside the front cover he had written a note explaining that he was from a different planet, giving his name and some details. Later he gave me a rose, a symbol of peace. After the second session a lady gave me a notebook with about 20 pages of hand-written instructions from God that I was to give to President Bill Clinton. She explained that last time she had given instructions like this to an American missionary he had not delivered them and as a result there had been the terrible flooding of the Mississippi River.
A lady came for special prayer this morning. She’s very well educated, married to a University professor. She works at the state hospital and tells us that the Extra sense doctors have no work since the meetings began. Praise the Lord!! I had just been reading the story of Simon in Acts 8. Obviously he was an “Extra sense doctor.” God has given us plenty of counsel in the Scriptures!
She has had serious discipline problems with her 11 year old son even from the time of his birth. The boy has a terrible temper. I can relate. I gave her 3 assignments for a week: 1. Talk to God and thank Him for her son. Ask Him to give her peace when the son loses his temper and to give her wisdom to know how to deal with him gently. 2. Read from Proverbs every day till she finds a verse that is God’s message for her, then thank Him all through the day for that message. 3. Spend 10 minutes a day as Mama-Son time doing whatever he likes with no strings attached, whether reading to him, walking, eating, etc. I know God will bless this home.
10:56 P.M.–I’m learning to appreciate the little things in life, like water. Today I started my cold shower and got all soaped down and the water went off. I used a tiny cup of water to try to rinse off and shave. Fortunately the water is back on now.
I met my first other American today. He’s from Dallas and is here for 2 years as a volunteer Christian missionary. He noted that our work is operated by nationals. He’s been coming since Sunday night (Topic: Change of the Sabbath!) and wants to meet sometime and talk more.
Tonight the devil was angry. The projector bulb went out at the very beginning of the first message and wasn’t replaced till half way through. Just before the meetings Sergai tried to call his wife at the hotel where the children are sick and there was no answer. He asked the desk clerk to knock on the door but there was no answer. After the meeting when he called they were all there and fine and said they never heard the phone or a knock on the door. Last night a drunk man was trying to break down their hotel door even though there were lots of other doors closer to him. The pastor’s wife, who has the major responsibility of leading the children’s meetings, is sick. But God has already made it plain that He is doing something amazing in this city and none of us are able to take the credit. Speaker cancellations and last minute changes have not stopped the program. Sergai says in the crusades he’s worked with he’s never seen the size of audience maintained like this one. Praise the Lord for ruling and overruling!
Pastor Krupsky has been busy trying to make arrangements for the baptism this Sabbath. He let us know of two providential experiences. First, the lady in charge of the largest pool in the city said the pool is available on Sabbath from 11:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M., and we can use it for a baptism at no charge! The Palace of Shipbuilders where we are meeting is available from 9 A.M. to 11 A.M. and we’re able to rent five large buses (which will carry about 200 each) to transport people to the baptism.
Inflation here is terrible. Prices don’t go up by percentages but by doubling or tripling. Today it takes 10,000 Ukrainian Coupons to buy one dollar U.S., but tomorrow it could easily be 11,000.
A pastor’s monthly salary is about $10. Rent costs vary from $20-$100 per month so the conference pays the rent for its ministers.
When houses are bought and sold the transaction is always in US dollars because of the instability of the local currency.
I told Pastor Krupsky today that I had $400 for the conference to decide how to use. He said they would use it to rent the auditorium where we’ve been meeting for the new church. No other place in the city is big enough! The cost for rent Sabbath morning and Wednesday nights is 4,000,000 coupons till the end of the year, which is $400 at this time. Incredible.
10:23 P.M. – Tonight the topic was the call out of Babylon-true worship, false worship, and family worship. The projector light burned out again right at the beginning. We finally had to use another kind of projector and I would have to signal with my finger whenever I wanted the slide changed. The Lord blessed in spite of the difficulties. At the end of the message both sessions people actually started to clap, even after I had shown from the Bible all the false teachings that many of them had believed and practiced! God is totally amazing!
Tonight I asked for several testimonies of victory. It was beautiful! One man has been free from cigarettes for 10 days. A 17 year old young man has gained the victory over cigarettes and alcohol this week. A lady was given Sabbath off from work by her boss. And a grandmother told a great and entertaining experience from the market where she was talking with a merchant about the Lord and said how the Lord had changed her life since she had started attending these meetings. The merchant said she was attending the meetings, too. The grandma said “Then you should give me a good price.” But they disagreed and got into an argument. The grandma said, “you know, we shouldn’t be arguing like this. Satan has gotten into both of our hearts. Here you take the full amount. The merchant lady said, “No, take these apples for free.” They went back and forth until they were laughing. They finally worked out a good price and wished each other well. Praise the Lord!
The Man from another planet came up last night to say he was a first year student at the institute. Tonight he came up during the testimony time and said he was happy that he had become a doctor of science. Pretty quick degree. So sad. Also he gave me another book (the 3rd one) about anti-communist lies and how Russia will triumph.
The city is buzzing. Some are circulating wild rumors including that Sergai, my translator, is killing babies. But the Lord of truth will prevail.
We received word from the Ukrainian-Union of Seventh-day Adventists constituency meeting in Kiev. Ted Wilson, Seventh-day Adventist Euro-Asia Division president came. Instead of the nominating committee being weighted according to the membership from each conference, each of the six conferences selected 7 members for the committee. This will strengthen the unity of the union and assure that the focus continues to be on the strong helping the weak accomplish the mission of the church. After a full day of discussion by the nominating committee the name of Mikael Morga, currently Euro-Asia Division Vice President, was submitted and accepted by the delegates, 108-20.
I discovered today that the purpose of the train strike was not for higher wages but to unseat the Supreme Soviet and the country’s president. The coming national elections will determine if the strikes will continue or if a new government has been established. The government controls all national transportation. Today prices doubled and tripled because of runaway inflation.
One of the testimonies on the back of the cards was beautiful. Someone wrote: “I am very afraid of thunderstorms, but when a terrible thunderstorm came the other night I talked to the Lord, received peace and went to sleep.” Beautiful!
Another card said: “Thank you so much for coming and teaching me about Jesus. May God bless you and your family. I am 81 years old.”
At the prayer meeting this morning a young church member, probably in his early 20s reported that he has been talking with a group of university students each evening after the program. They have asked the school administration to be able to be free from classes on Sabbath and ask for special prayer that they will have the courage to follow Jesus regardless of the outcome.
The conference office for the South Conference is only a little room in the back of the church, with no secretarial staff. It’s beautiful to see God’s work go forward without elaborate equipment or resources, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Pastor Krupsky, the Conference secretary-treasurer has extended an open invitation to come back next year to hold another crusade in the conference. Surely there is someone who could come. Pray for leaders of other religions that are visiting that God will bring their negative work to no effect.
A man came to the church this morning asking for special prayer because of a lot of fears he had from trouble in his life. I told him we would pray for him if he came to the meeting tonight. He said he couldn’t come at night because of his fears. I told him if he wasn’t willing to come how would we ever know if God gave him victory over his fears. He agreed and we prayed for him and with him. Tonight he came to the meeting and brought his wife! He was smiling ear to ear because the Lord had given him victory over his fears!
Today we learned that Pastor Krupsky was elected union youth and Literature Evangelism leader. He’s not sure he will accept.
We visited an elementary and high school yesterday afternoon. Pastor Krupsky has been asked by a Baptist school teacher to teach Bible classes after she received no help from her own church. The principal wants optional Bible classes offered even though he’s an atheist. He recognizes the students must learn some ideology and perhaps Christianity is the best, he says.
5:52 P.M. There were about 800 present for Sabbath School and Worship this morning. Praise the Lord! After music, question and answer time and my message from Daniel 1 on deciding to be faithful, we loaded into five buses and rode across town to a large indoor pool where 82 people were baptized by 4 pastors. About 300 indicated that they have decided to be in the next baptism.
One of those baptized was the young lady in her 20s who just learned to pray last week. She became so excited to realize that she could talk directly to God without having to go through a priest or pastor. A 17 year old young man was baptized who testified last week that God had given him the victory over tobacco and alcohol. He hopes to be a missionary someday.
After a lunch and farewells at the church we left Mykolayiv by car at about 4 P.M., the first elder, his son, our cook who lives in Chernivtsi, and my luggage and me. A little before 6 P.M. we were going through Odessa, where John Gilley, Jon Siebenlist, Jaime Smith, and Roy Lowe, four young men from Texas, spent last summer teaching English, having Bible meetings, and preparing 37 for baptism.
We arrived in Chernivtsi at 3:30 AM, after a long night of driving, with a few car problems along the way. We drove almost the whole length of the country of Moldova. Besides the international boundaries there must have been 7 or 8 police checkpoints. Each time we had to stop, show documents for the car, open the trunk, then push the car to get it started again.
About 8:30 P.M. we stopped along the road for a break and to eat supper. Here in the Ukraine it is common practice to eat a large meal about 9 at night. I usually skip so I can sleep better. While we were eating off the trunk of the car people passed by on motorcycles, horse and buggies, bicycles, and walking. Two young men, about 20, came by on bicycles and asked if we had any alcohol. The first elder gave them a kind but direct Bible study on the harmful effects of alcohol and invited them to go to the nearest SDA church. They were very interested, asked a lot of questions, gave us some onions from a bag on the back of their bike, and accepted a New Testament.
At the border crossing into Moldova the guards wanted a bribe so the first elder gave them one of my Revelation seminar posters and a Russian New Testament!
We stayed at the home of the lady who cooked for us in Mykolayiv. She lives next door to the Mykolayiv first elder’s sister in Chernivtsi.
Chernovtsy is the 25th largest city in the Ukraine, with a population of about 400,000. There has been a history of strong SDA work here. In fact the largest SDA church in the former Soviet Union is here. It is the mother church for many other churches.
It is not clear how much preparation was done for my meetings. I was shown a small flier, but I saw no posters around the city. The scheduling of the crusade is not very good either, since it follows immediately after a major Ukrainian Union Constituency. But I’m sure that in a city this size, with SDAs who are ready to share their faith, that God has a harvest.
Here we sit in the car on one of the downtown streets of Chernivtsi, with the hood up while the first elder and his son make repairs. They discovered a leak in the fuel line which they’re repairing with tape. It could have been dangerous. We’re thankful for the Lord’s protection.
We opened our meetings in Chernivtsi with beautiful music, excellent translation into Ukrainian, but very small attendance. My translator, Natasha, and her husband, Genna, live in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine.
To help boost attendance we made a 3 minute spot for TV for the evening news to be aired tonight and tomorrow night at 6 P.M. The weather is beautiful today, compared to last night’s rain so we hope, pray, and plan for better attendance.
I talked to Lois last night. It was wonderful. She was going to try to return my call but never got through.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses just had a major convention in this city with thousands coming from neighboring countries. Also there are four different Baptist movements active in the city. So the work there is challenging, but vital.
Last night the attendance grew, Praise the Lord! We had a total of about 100 for each of the two sessions, which still looks pretty small in an auditorium that seats 900. We had the first quiz and appeal and 140 said yes to all three questions!
Today we met with the local pastors for prayer at 10:30 AM. First I gave a short message, then we had silent prayer to prepare our own hearts. After that we read the 25 special requests and prayed in small groups, finishing with a song and common prayer. It was wonderful. We’ll be doing this every day during the campaign. I asked each of them to be available for prayer with the people after the meetings each night. They’ll recruit some ladies as well.
We visited the first church school in the conference today. There are 25 first grade students with two teachers. They have English classes three times per week. Next year they’ll add the second grade.
Also we took a walking tour around the city, seeing one of the oldest universities in the country (about 200 years old), the Fine Arts Palace, a small art gallery in the former communist party headquarters, and a lot of architecture that dates back to the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Palace of Military Officers, where we are holding our meetings, was originally one of the homes for the king of Hungary.
The government owns everything here. Although there are some “private homes” owned by citizens, the land they sit on is owned by the government. Fuel is scarce, so the government cannot maintain regular trash collection. Fuel is purchased from Russia, which uses this for political advantage.
We invite the people to write prayer requests on the back of their quiz cards each evening.
Some of the requests from last night are for specific requests for health, spiritual life of parents and families, a young boy’s ability to speak again, and victory over smoking.
Today was full and beautiful. Breakfast was at 9 A.M. Prayer with the pastors at 10:30. Then we went to the photographer for pictures for new advertising. Next we toured parts of the university that are not open to the public. Lunch was at 2 P.M. as usual. Finally we practiced the theme song at 4 P.M., had the first English class at 4:30, and our two sessions at 5:00 and 7:30 P.M.
Chernivtsi University is about 200 years old. It was designed and built over a 14 year period by a young 33 year old Czechoslovakian who had been educated in Vienna. Originally it was the home and administrative offices of the Metropolitan, the area leader of the Orthodox church. Today it offers 14 Bachelors programs and is expanding to University status and offering several Masters programs.
One of the professors at the university is very friendly toward the Seventh-day Adventists church. He has written his doctoral paper in philosophy about our beliefs. He is good friends with the conference education director, who used to be a teacher at the university. Tomorrow I am to speak to the law students for one hour. I’ll speak about ethics and religious liberty.
Each evening at the meetings there are some English language students from the university that have a tendency toward atheism. They ask questions about evolution, the existence of God, etc. So far the Lord has helped me give answers that satisfy them. They’re also coming to the English classes.
A young lady, an economics student, attended tonight. She is visiting here for about ten days and returning home to Kiev. She saw advertising at the train station and came with bags and all before going to her destination. What an evidence of God’s leading in her life!
Some Adventists are surprised that we are having our meetings in the Palace of Military Officers because they say that place has often been used for teaching extra sense ideas. I told them it was time to claim some new ground for the Lord.
A common question at the meetings is “What do you think about Nostradamus?”, the prophet who lived in France several hundred years ago. The people are amazed to discover God’s perspectives from 1 Thessalonians 5:19, 20 and the four tests of a true prophet in Jeremiah 28:9; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; Isaiah 8:20; and 1 John 4:1-3. I ask the audience to tell me if Nostradamus passes or fails. They all shout out, “Fails” after I read and describe each test. Praise the Lord! They are beginning to test things from God’s Word.
We just completed an hour-long lecture to about 75 law students at the university. The professor who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the ethics of Seventh-day Adventism invited me to speak to his class. I spoke on ethics and law & Religious Liberty issues. We had a very productive question & answer session afterwards, including questions about violence on TV and family spiritual education. I invited the students to the English classes and the Bible Meetings. Tomorrow the professor has invited me to speak to the Medical students on ethics, medicine, and relationships. 4:20 P.M. As we were preparing for the subject of Why do bad things happen to good people, Natasha & Genna shared with me that their little boy was only 2 1/2 when the Chernobyl nuclear disaster took place only 50 miles from Kiev. After that their son began having growths in his nose and throat so he couldn’t breathe properly. At age 3 a specialist performed surgery, but now at age 10 he still has problems. A friend of theirs was pregnant when the disaster happened. The doctors wouldn’t let her see her stillborn baby because it was so badly disfigured. Natasha’s mother, who is a gynecologist, said that they weren’t allowed to keep statistics on all the babies that were born dead and/or deformed. Animals also were disfigured. There was a cow with two heads, a frog with eight legs. etc. Now the delivery rooms at hospitals are empty because parents are afraid to give birth to a monster. There is no doubt that the people here have suffered many things. Only God and His Word can help them understand the temporary nature of this suffering and the hope we have in Jesus.
9/17/1993-Thursday night we went to the home of the youth choir leader. About 15 young people were there to celebrate one young man’s 18th birthday and for us to practice “How Great Thou Art” that we’ll sing Saturday night in English and Ukrainian. The choir leader, daughter of the former conference president, has been leading choirs for 20 years. The young people who were ages 16-25, had all gone to music school and taken voice or instrument lessons. There is no shortage of beautiful music in the churches here.
While at their home I had an interesting visit with the lady’s father, the former conference president. This conference was the strongest in the former Soviet Union, with 1 SDA per 200 population. The house where we were meeting used to be both his house and the secret conference office. Many times there were raids by the KGB searching for literature or other things. When his daughter was only seven the KGB took her and had a panel of medical experts declare that she was mentally incompetent and should be taken from her parents. When the family doctor disagreed, the panel divided in its opinion, and during the dispute the conference president and his wife were able to escape with the daughter and go into hiding for 1 month until things were favorably resolved. About 12 ministers were ordained in that house secretly at night throughout the years. Ministers would travel in from Kiev and Moscow for the service.
Several creative methods of evangelism were used during the times before the church was legalized in 1978. Weddings and funerals were opportunities for the entire church to come and bring their friends. Then “special guests” (=Pastors) would “make remarks” (=give sermons). Many people can trace their conversion to these occasions. At the wedding of the conference president’s daughter there were 1,200 people present since this was one of the few times when the church could gather legally, and it presented a great opportunity evangelistically. Another opportunity was when neighbors would gather to help someone build a house. Then during a break for meals the people could give Bible studies to the non-members.
9/18/1993 – Sometimes in life God makes it very clear that He is working in the little circumstances of life for His honor and glory. One of those times is clear to me now. On one of our first days here we went on a short walking tour of downtown with the conference educational superintendent. As we passed by a group of people waiting at a bus stop he saw a professor from the university that he hadn’t seen in a long time. When we met the professor politely offered to show us around the university. We arranged a tour the next day. Out of kindness he asked if I would talk to his law students the following day. When I spoke on Religious Liberty he brightened up and explained that the university was organizing a theology department and was planning to have only the Orthodox church provide the faculty. He wanted me to speak again to the medical students about these issues and then later to all the Philosophy faculty. Wow! Me speak to the entire Philosophy faculty of a respected 200 year old university regarding Religious Liberty right at a time when they are making crucial decisions about the future curriculum and influences in this region of the country. Maybe God brought me here to Chernivtsi just for this purpose. I need His wisdom to rightly represent Him in the issues of religious freedom and the gospel to the thought leaders of this part of this country. And it all started with a short walking tour of the city.
This Sabbath morning was a great experience! At 9AM we met at the Central church for the usual time of prayer. I was asked to give a short message from Psalms 105. At Sabbath School time the children, juniors, and youth each went to their divisions. In the Adult Division there was one class with about 300. They don’t sub-divide because of space limitations. Two ladies led a lively discussion. Then I was asked to speak for about 15 minutes about the Trinity, because that local church is beginning to have some problems with offshoots in this area who are saying that God is one and not three persons. During the worship time there was music from several different choirs and music groups. I preached for 40 minutes. Then we went immediately into a wedding ceremony.
The pastor preached a 30 minute message. After that several pastors gave 5 minute talks including me. Lots of choirs sang special songs including a youth choir and a children’s choir that also recited
poetry. The bride’s 4 year-old niece recited a poem. There were more solos, and finally a song by a non-Adventist niece who had been very ill until the SDA youth group gave blood to help her. The wedding ceremony is not looked on as something that the bride plans but as something the whole church plans in celebration of the big occasion. I like that!
For English class today I spent the whole time teaching Bible songs since it was Sabbath. They learned “God is so good,” “Walking with Jesus,” “I Have the Joy, Joy, Joy,” “1-2-3 Jesus loves mc,” and “Into My Heart.”
The auditorium was packed tonight at 5 P.M. meeting because the members distributed thousands of new handbills and came with their friends and neighbors.
Each evening there are four young, intelligent English language students from the university. They have lots of philosophical questions. I always ask God to help me turn the conversation to eternal issues. In the last two nights I’ve noticed different kinds of questions like “Have you ever seen people change religions from how they were brought up?” and, “If I don’t accept Jesus before I die, will I have another chance?” They are under conviction.
I have received several requests from pastors and church workers to come or find someone to go to some of the villages and hold crusades where the people are most responsive. I wonder what would happen if some of our theology students came and spent a winter here since that is when the farmers have free time.
9/22/1993–Sunday night I made the first public appeal. About 500 stood accepting Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Wonderful! On their cards about 250 indicated this was the first time they had ever done this.
The English classes have stabilized at about 50 people each day, ranging in age from 8 to 60, with most in their teens and 20s.
The Youth Choir, named Apocalypse (=Revelation, the last book of the Bible) sings frequently. On Friday night I’ll try to sing “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop” in Ukrainian with them.
Last night I presented the Sabbath. I pray that God will take my simple efforts and make them effective in the minds and hearts of His people
Last night between services we had special prayer for a family and their 15 year old daughter who looks like a 5 year old. They said that a year ago after another evangelist had prayed for her teeth started growing and she learned to say Mama. We took the situation to the Lord in prayer. I prayed not just for the girl to be healed but for her to be able to sleep through the night and for the mother to get the sleep and rest she so desperately needs. The mother is a recent SDA and has two normal children. Sometimes we think the best thing is for total healing, and perhaps it is. But even more than physical healing often the families need emotional and spiritual healing and rest. Matthew 11:28-30. I think of the disappointment the beggar at the Gate Beautiful must have felt when Peter said he didn’t have any money. But then Peter put Him in touch with the Almighty God and he received something far greater. Now he could not beg any longer, he had to learn to work. But he didn’t care. He could now run and jump, and now He knew Jesus. Acts 3.
My health is holding up well. I thank the Lord for that.
The people keep coming–about 250 non-SDAs
I’m learning to preach with slides more comfortably
My own prayer requests include–Lois & Danesa while they’re in Italy Jacob & Dustin while they’re without their parents for three weeks, and those who decided for the Sabbath last night.
The people returned last night. It doesn’t look like we lost anyone over the Sabbath truth. We have a worship service scheduled for this Sabbath morning.
Two of the four young men from the university are still coming every night and ask questions afterward. They are very bright and have some good questions about the topics. It’s obvious that they were well trained in atheism, and perhaps have a friend or professor who is feeding them ideas. They ask why God didn’t destroy the devil at first, what I think of Darwinism, If God is loving why did He have the 2 she-bears maul the 42 children who were mocking Elisha, Why God punished the children of Israel for making the golden calf if He really believes in freedom of choice for each person, etc. God has given me answers far beyond my own ability and new insights into the plan of salvation and the Great controversy because of these 10 minute question and answer sessions after each meeting. One evening after my appeal they asked how to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. I talked with them more but the following night they wanted to keep the discussion more philosophical. Last night after I presented the second coming of Jesus, they said it was a wonderful message, but it seemed like a fairy tale. But since they couldn’t prove whether it would happen or not they decided they needed to seriously consider it and prepare for it in case it was true. They also asked a lot of questions about what would happen to those who were lost at the second coming. They saw clearly that if Jesus came right now that would be the category they would be in. I keep praying for them. With their good minds they would make wonderful Bible teachers some day if they’re converted.
In 1923 an Orthodox priest was converted to Seventh-day Adventism. He later donated land for a church which became the mother church in Chernivtsi, out of which have come many other churches. The former priest’s granddaughter and her husband live behind the church today, and one of their sons went to Mykolayiv several years ago to help pioneer the work there. He built a house there and later donated land next to it for the church. Now he is in the process of building another house so the conference can purchase his and turn it into the first conference office for the South Ukraine conference. He is the first elder of the mother church in Mykolayiv, and was the man who drove me from there to Chernivtsi. It’s wonderful to see the faithfulness to God and His work down through the generations.
On the outskirts of Chernovtsy there is a huge shell of a military factory 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) long that has never been completed because of the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. Now Ukraine is trying to decide what to do with it.
During the former difficult times in the Soviet Union the government controlled education of all kinds. They didn’t want Sabbath School to be a school, so they said that not more than one question could be asked during this time or the pastor would be fined. Now that times have changed the people are happy for the opportunity for discussion, but very few churches have more than one large general Sabbath school class, with lively discussion, even though there might be as many as 500 people.
Today we went out into the countryside about 10 miles to the home of the conference youth director. His name is Elder Sema. He was recently ordained at the Union Constituency meeting. His profession is building houses, and his house gives evidence of outstanding workmanship. In 1986 he became active as a local church elder and later as a pastor. Most pastors here have not had the privilege of a formal theological training, but they are solid Bible students. Several pastors and Conference leaders gathered at his home for a celebration of his ordination. We also laid plans for a youth leaders training on a Sunday and a one day youth rally on the following Thursday. He has given an invitation to our Conference Youth Director to come with some Texas young people if possible and have a Week of Prayer or Evangelistic series.
Elder Ted N C. Wilson is the division president of the new Euro-Asia Division. Today I was shown a letter he sent to all conference and union presidents asking for specific evangelistic and building plans for the next year. This is something the church leaders here are not used to because in the past they had to just take any opportunity they had to spread the gospel. The concept of planning is new to many of them. I explained that now that the former Soviet Union is wide open for evangelism that many denominations are sending in missionaries. I told them about the pentecostal minister on the plane to Kiev who was coming to train 400 lay leaders to go to villages with their message. I explained that once they are there many of the people will become addicted to emotionalism rather than the clear teachings of God’s Word and that our work will be much more difficult. The same is true of other Christian groups who are wonderful people but are not willing to teach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The time to act is NOW and that will mean new methods and habits and wisdom from God and devoted leaders with vision.
At the Union Constituency Elder Ted Wilson introduced four new concepts of church
1. Every conference should have equal representation on the nominating committee, so there would be a true union rather than a domination of the weak by the strong. Each of the six Conferences selected seven representative to serve, making a total of 42
2. All voting was done by secret ballot, allowing for complete freedom in decision making.
3. The assumption was made that since leaders are servants, no leader automatically holds position for life.
4. Instead of beginning the discussion with personalities, the nominating committee was asked to decide what qualities they wanted in their Union president. After that discussion they were to decide who would best fulfill these qualities.
Several years ago, when the government was trying to control all religious activity, a Moldavian man was preparing a New Year’s program in the church. Because this was illegal– someone turned him to the authorities. When he was questioned by the government official, and asked what he was planning to do in the church on New Year’s he told him he was “only singing, only singing.” But because his Russian pronunciation was so poor it sounded like “only welding, only welding.” The official laughed, told him this was the last time he should be welding in the church on New Year’s, and let him go.
Even five years ago anyone could be questioned why someone was in their apartment that was not their relative. So during Bible studies they would often set the table with food and a birthday cake and have a party if someone came to question them.
A Non-SDA Christian lady who is attending the meetings told us that during communism the believers always tried to find someone who was recently released from prison to talk to about Jesus and encourage. One prisoner, they found, was a thief, not a Christian, but he had shared a cell with a Christian who had given up his bed for him. When the group of believers talked to him he gave his
heart to Jesus.
We had another wedding today. Weddings are planned by the pastor and youth leader rather than the bride. They are small if only 500 attend! The services include evangelistic sermons by several preachers, choirs, (including children), poems; after wedding commitment, words from parents and pastors (about 3-4 min each)–then a feast with more preaching, music, etc. The pastors meet with the bride and groom before the service to question if this is their own and if they truly plan to be faithful all their lives.
We heard a beautiful story today from one of our local church members. While she was riding the bus home last night, she overheard a man talking to a group of passengers. He said he was going to the meetings in the Palace of Military Officers where the man from Texas was explaining the truth about the Bible. He told the passengers we are living in the last days and that we need to be missionaries and do God’s work. He said he was leaving his work at home and going to everyone he could find to tell them about God because Jesus said to go, teach and baptize. He told them the way that Jesus was baptized and that it wasn’t right for babies to be baptized. As the crowd on the bus listened one lady interrupted and said she had a friend who didn’t have her baby baptized. As the crowd on the bus listened one later died, and in her dream she saw herself in Paradise and saw the baby lost. The other passengers said, “Let the man tell us about the Bible. We’ve heard these other things all our lives, and if they were true your friend would still be in Paradise and not down here with all of us. Let the man tell us about the Bible!”
There were problems with Lois’ transportation from Kiev to Chernivtsi. She and Danesa will finally arrive on the train at 7:30 A.M. Wednesday. Danesa is sick and Lois is very tired. I’ll be glad when we are together. I pray for the boys back home that the Lord will keep reminding them of Himself.
Right now there is a Civil War in Moscow. Ukraine is glad they separated so don’t have to send
The weather is colder now but there is no central heat in the country till October 15 because the government decides these things.
We’ve had a youth outing on Thursday (about 50), and a youth leaders training on Sunday, (about 50).
During communism all pastors had to have a trade as a source of income. Pastor Serna, conference youth leader, was a builder. We saw one of the churches he built and it was beautiful. He had a lot of resistance from the older members because he insisted on building children’s Sabbath School rooms, something they had never had before.
Tonight after the meeting we had special prayer for a 19 year old blind boy who traveled with mother by train 5 hours each way for special prayer. He was very gracious. He needs surgery he can’t get in the Ukraine. I gave him an Endless Praise music tape. He asked me to keep praying for him and said those who can see don’t have time to read the Bible to him often so he would like it on record or cassette in his language. My translator, Natasha, said she was willing to give up her savings and her hope of going to Israel if the money could help this young man.
News from Mykolayiv, Ukraine–baptized 168 so far.
18 were baptized here last Sabbath.
Praise the Lord!
Today we saw a 12th century fort at Hoeten, built on a river to protect against Turks. It’s near the borders of three countries (Russia, Ukraine, and Romania), a trade route.
Bible classes as an option for public school kids, about 50 in each of 2 sessions, NO Bible background, 2nd & 3rd grade then 4th & 5th grade, taught to pray. Told story of Moses, Samuel, Boy Jesus, Creation, Marianne & bear.
10/6/1993–At lunch with an Adventist family. The lady told of how her father was imprisoned for his faith. When he refused to eat unclean food in the prison he was placed in solitary confinement without food. He fasted and prayed for three days. At the end of that time the director of the prison said “I don’t know why but everywhere I go I see your face. I can’t get it out of my mind. I believe you are innocent.” He let him go free.
Visited an elementary & high school in a village about 20 miles from Chernivtsi. Almost all classes are taught in the Romanian language, since this used to be part of Romania until 1940. Romanians are discriminated against in the Ukraine in being considered for certain jobs or admission to the university. I spoke to 3 different classes and the school administrators. The Headmaster is a Seventh-day Adventist. They would like to establish contacts with a sister school in the United States.
Last night we went to a village named Ringach, about 25 miles from Chernivtsi. I was the first American to ever visit this village. We met in the Palace of Culture, a meeting hall the communists built in every village as a place to promote their propaganda. Now these halls are often being used by our church to tell the Good News to the people!
The church began there 80 years ago when a young lady visited an Adventist church in a village 15 miles away and accepted Jesus and this message. She prayed to God asking how to begin and He gave her a dream showing her 7 people in the village to go to and present the message. She went to each one and all of them accepted the message. They formed the nucleus of the new church. The lady is very old, but still living. In the last 10 years the church has grown dramatically especially among young people. We ate supper in the home of the church missionary leader and his wife (ages 33 & 27). He grew up in a home of non-believers and later studied Building Construction at the university. In his work he met a Baptist who was very different from other people. He showed him kindness and talked to him about his life and about God. They began Bible studies secretly with his wife later joining in. After a time they discovered the Sabbath truth in the Bible and began searching for a church that kept the Sabbath, finally finding the Seventh-day Adventist church. When the KGB discovered what was happening they offered the young man a free apartment and car if he would just reject his religion. He politely refused. The wife’s parents disowned them, and would not speak to them for an entire year, even though they lived in the same village. They actually began cursing their own children because the wife’s father is a strong communist. The parents decided to stop cursing when the father broke his leg 2 times, was in 2 car accidents, and their family cow died. You can’t fight against God and win. After 9 years of faithfulness the young couple are seeing an incredible break- through. A young soldier who served in Afghanistan was recently baptized. A man who raised 15 pigs a year accepted the message and decided to be baptized. He sold all the pigs he could, but the night before his baptism he still had 6, so he went up and down the street giving them away. Now he raises cows and fruit. A court judge who was a classmate of the young man when he was a student in the university told him he would rather see him in jail than in church, but last Sabbath he visited church. The missionary leader and his wife go door-to-door in their village giving Bible studies when they aren’t working on their farm. And the wife’s mother even secretly visited my meetings in Chernivtsi twice with her daughter.
The church in Ringach is looking for a sister church in the US that could help them finish building a building they have already begun. They need an additional $15,000 to have a church that will hold 200 that are now coming to worship. There were also 170 non-believers that accepted the message last night and will begin regular Bible studies.
Today we had another beautiful baptismal service. This time in what used to be the largest Seventh-day Adventist church in the former Soviet Union.
A young man in his late 20s who is baptized came to me a couple of weeks ago and told me that he had fallen in love with Jesus but now he needed victory over tobacco. I had been giving 5 minutes each evening of counsel on how to gain the victory over tobacco each night before the preaching. I emphasized to him that now he belonged to Jesus his hands and his mouth could no longer be used to pick up cigarettes and smoke them, but that Jesus would give him power to do something useful and productive with those same hands and mouth. A few days later he came back praising the Lord. He said, “God has given me victory over tobacco and I have discovered I had a talent for art that I never realized I had. He presented me one of his very first drawings–a beautiful color picture of the face of Jesus.
Another lady who was baptized today had a beautiful experience of victory. She came to me a couple of weeks ago and told me how much Jesus meant to her now. Even her children commented that the home was such a happier place and how there was new music and fewer arguments. But then she said, “There is just one habit that I can’t give up, and I guess I will have to live with it all my life. Last year I started smoking after my husband was killed in an accident and I have tried everything but I can’t overcome it.” I said to her, “Wait a minute. I am thankful that Jesus is in your life, but Philippians 4:13 does not say, ‘I can do most things through Christ who me,’ and Philippians 4:19 does not say, ‘But my God shall supply 90% of your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.””‘ “If you have a habit that is tearing you apart and messing up your life, Jesus will give you complete victory.” Then I told her that she must find new, useful, productive things to do with her hands and with her mouth and ask Jesus for the power to do those in the place of the smoking. The next night she came to the meeting with 5 dollies she had crocheted all through the night. She told me she hadn’t gotten much sleep but she was learning to do something useful and productive with her hands. But then she said she had also smoked some cigarettes. I told her, “Whenever you smoke, you need to confess and admit to the Lord that you have done wrong and accept His forgiveness and cleansing. But then every time that you do something useful with your hands, realize that He is giving you a victory and instead of concentrating on your defeats, thank the Lord and praise Him for the victories He has given to you.” She smiled and said, “Well then, He has given me lots of victories during this last day.” Three days later she came back with complete and total victory over smoking, rejoicing and praising the Lord. We baptized her today and she is thrilled to be a part of God’s worldwide family.
I have not been bored here! By the time I leave I will have been involved (by choice) in the following experiences:
2 Evangelistic series
210 baptized before I left the Ukraine
Preached 108 times, including:
2 Weddings, 1 Funeral, 3 Lectures at Chernovtsy University-Law students, Medical students, Philosophy professors, 2 messages at Dept. of Social Services to staff, planning a 3-hour Youth rally outdoors in mountains, giving a 5-hour seminar to church Youth Leaders, speaking at a service to congratulate a recently ordained pastor, and messages at a factory dormitory, Opening ceremonies for a Neighborhood Bible Club, to students at the first SDA church school in the Chernovtsy Conference, and at a Romanian school.
Someone pointed out that Danesa Serns is very likely the youngest American to ever visit the Ukraine! In the past, Americans were not allowed into the country without special permission, and of course no one brought a little baby less than a year old. Since Ukraine has been independent for two years many Americans have come for Evangelism and business assistance, but no one can remember anyone bringing a baby. So our little girl is making history!
Why do we need to go over to help in the Ukraine? Why can’t their pastors take care of the work there? I observed two major reasons. First, we can attract the crowds. There is a mistaken, but widely-held belief in Ukraine that the US is a Christian nation and everybody, 70 years without God, flock to hear the Americans. Then the local leaders and members work faithfully and tirelessly to win and add them. Some day the novelty of Americans will wear off, but that time hasn’t come yet.
Secondly, the Ukrainian pastors are stretched to the limit, and appreciate our help. In the last two and a half years the SDA membership has gone from 7,000 to 50,000. But the leadership has the vision to maintain rather than stifle growth. Every American evangelist that goes brings hope and encouragement to the leaders and members as he assists in the tremendous harvest of souls for God’s kingdom.
As I saw the hundreds of thousands of people who need Jesus and want to hear the gospel of salvation in the Ukraine. I asked myself many times, “Why am I in Texas when the need is so great here?” After careful prayer and consideration I’ve seen that my main calling is to come back to where God’s work is harder, but to send as many as I can to the place where “the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few.” Matthew 9:36-38.
HOW CAN WE HELP? Here are three possibilities:
GIVE TIME – Go to the Ukraine and tell the people about Jesus. Or go as a student
missionary for a year somewhere in the world. Or go on a short-term mission team to Mexico during spring break. Or simply commit yourself to doing outreach every Sabbath afternoon in your neighborhood.
GIVE MONEY – There are many who are willing and qualified to go to the Ukraine or other
front-line mission fields around the world that need sponsorship. If you would like to help you can send a check made out to Ukraine Evangelism, Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, P.O. Box 800, Alvarado, TX 76009.
GIVE YOURSELF – Give yourself to God every day. Lay all your plans out before Him as
spend time in Bible study and prayer, asking Him to impress you with the priorities of heaven, and asking Him to cleanse you and use you that day in His service. He loves to hear and answer our prayers.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen”- Matthew 28: 19, 20.