Pluses and Minuses (September 2012 Update)

We are back in Kiev to begin another semester.  Our return trip had its “pluses and minuses.”  On the PLUS side, God gave us an amazing encounter in the airport at Atlanta. While looking for a place to sit down and eat between flights, Katya and I stood surveying the limited possibilities.  Then the couple at the table nearest to us asked if we’d like to join them.  We did and soon began conversations about our faith.  We discovered they were believers – from Rogers, AR – From Fellowship Bible Church.  We asked if they knew some people we knew from there and explained that my daughter had attended the Grove (church plant from Fellowship) but that she and her husband now attended New Heights in Fayetteville.  When they asked her name and we said “Meredith Cooper,” they said they knew Sean very well!  We had a wonderful time with them, and later we reflected on how wonderful (and mysterious) the providence of God is!

 

On the MINUS side … we flew on to Amsterdam to make our connection to Kiev.  When we arrived, we walked past a flight boarding for Kiev at 9:25 am.  Katya asked if we could get on that flight and I said, “No, we have the 12:55 flight.”  Since I have flown this route many, many times and always have the 12:55, I didn’t even bother to check the tickets until we sat down to wait for our flight (at 9:30).  I checked the tickets and guess what?  Our flight was the 9:25 one!  It was an expensive mistake ($500) and we had to wait until the 8:25 pm flight because there was no room on the 12:55.  “Pride goes before a fall.”  Next time I’ll check my tickets!

 

BIG PLUS … We arrived in Kiev and back home after 1 am in the morning – tired and knowing that we had no food or milk for the next day.  We opened the refrigerator and it was full along with a note from our pastor and his wife welcoming us back home!  We had them over for dinner (Tacos!) the next night and had a wonderful time just talking about our summers.  What a joy!

BIG Minus … after being home just one day, I awoke with a terrible pain in my stomach.  Eventually we headed to the clinic when the pain was too severe to wait any longer.  Interestingly, I was released from this clinic just one day before we traveled to America; now one day after return, we were headed back.  This time I had an acute attack of diverticulitis so I had a couple of days in the hospital while they gave me IVs and anti-biotics.  I was better in a couple of days but the bill was not cheap!

 

The following weekend, we had our annual church planning retreat (Friday-Saturday).  This year we really accomplished a lot and have many good ministry plans for the coming year (PLUS).  (We are especially excited about Home Group, ESL Clubs and our Church Retreats for this year.)  However, Katya and I also have many ministry commitments now that will mean much less free time for us (MINUS).  For example, because of church and family, we will be travelling to the right bank (between 1 hour and an hour and a half, one way; 3 hours each night) 5 out of 7 nights a week!  That’s 10-15 hours each week just riding on buses and metro.  We are looking for alternatives but we are preparing for a busy semester ahead.

 

I begin teaching in a week (September 10th).  I will be teaching Theology 3 (Christology).  Be praying for me as I prepare.  I will also be preaching at our church the next two Sundays.  Additionally, I am trying to keep up with Russian studies.  With 3 classes this fall and 4-5 next spring, I have a very busy schedule ahead.  I am grateful for the opportunity to serve (PLUS) but I need to remember to say, “no,” sometimes because the needs are greater than my time (MINUS).  Please pray for my preparations, my students, and my time schedule.

 

Continue to pray for our finances.  God always surprises us by meeting our needs in various ways, but we are consistently about $1000 below our needs each month.  For example, the day after I got out of the clinic, we received an email notifying us that a friend had given us $500—almost exactly what the hospital bill cost us!  God knew our need and put it on the heart of a friend who did not know our need!  How awesome is that?  Clearly He is Jehovah-Jireh!

 

Thanks for being our partners in ministry!  Katya and I are amazed that we have people like you helping us to serve God through your monthly gifts.  Your faithfulness and generosity continues to humble us and to give thanks to God for you whenever we think of you. “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” Philippians 1:3-5.

 

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Spring is Here — Summer is Close! (May 2012)

Spring has finally come to Kiev!  Or maybe we should say summer.  After some unusually cold weather at the beginning of April (around 30 F), the temperatures here have gotten to nearly summer levels (in the 80s) rather quickly.  No complaints here!  I really miss the warm weather of Arkansas and I am looking forward to the hot (and even humid) summer in Arkansas when we return home in June.

 

Our Visit to Crimea …

We had a little over a week this year for spring break so we decided to take a 13 hour train ride and head to the Black Sea and Crimea.  The temperature was chilly, in the 30s most of the time, but it was refreshing to have the time away.  During our time there, we got to relax and see many very interesting sites.  We visited castles and mansions and exhibits that belonged to the Romanovs and we were able to see the palace where the Big Three (no, not from the Miami Heat), Roosevelt, Chamberlain and Stalin met to discuss the ending of World War II.

 

We also had many unexpected surprises at churches.  When we came to the retreat center, Katya was surprised to see the director’s wife.  They had met this fall at a woman’s conference in Kiev and the lady invited Katya to come to visit sometime.  She did not know this was her retreat center until they saw each other!  Also, at church, we were able to see a number of KTS students that we did not expect to see there.  The next week, we were in Bakhchisarai for Easter so we tried to find a church on Saturday night.  Bakhchisarai is a Muslim community and no one knew if there was an evangelical church.  We even tried the internet but we could only find a possible address—no phone number, no directions, no information.  So we decided to just show up.  The church was full, the service was wonderful, and there were even two KTS students there!  What a surprise!

 

From Yalta, we traveled to Sevastopol.  We were able to visit Chersonesus, an ancient Greek settlement over 2500 years old.  It was amazing.  Then we visited some military sites like the Panorama of the Siege of Sevastopol (Crimean War, 1853-54).  The weather had improved and we had a couple of wonderful days of sunshine and fresh breezes from the Black Sea.  For our final day, we traveled to Bakhchisarai, an old Tatar palace.  It was quite interesting.  Afterwards, we were also able to hike through the beautiful cave cities of Chufut-kale.  We slept in a small hostel with sheep and cows grazing in the yard outside!  Even with the 13 hour train trip back, we returned refreshed and excited about going back again sometime in the future. (We haven’t had time to post any Facebook pictures yet…coming soon).

 

Classes and Graduation

I am almost finished teaching the theology classes on Pneumatology (the Holy Spirit) and Eschatology (Last Things).  It was a lot of working getting prepared but the class sessions have been great.  We have had good discussions and covered many important issues.  I will still have papers to grade in June before the class is officially finished.  Also, next week, I will begin preparing for Research and Critical Thinking class that I will teach in two weeks.  This class ends on June 1st.  Hopefully I can complete all the grading in June also.

On June 2nd, we will be having our graduation.  It will be an exciting time to see all the students (nearly 40) I have worked with over the last 4 years who will be graduating this year. Then the week after graduation, we will head to the US for our summer vacation.

 

Also, in July and August, I will be teaching a “Life of Christ” class at John Brown University (in Little Rock).  It has been a few years since I’ve taught this class so I will have prepare for it in the coming months too.  But I’m excited about teaching the class and I also know it will provide some finances to help us too.

 

Praises

Thank you for praying for our “English Coffee Club” (ESL) this year.  We have had more students than we planned for every meeting and the responses have been great.  We left them with something spiritual to think about including a Bible verse to translate and discuss.  Pray for the many seeds that have been sown!

 

Also, thank you for praying for our “Key to the Heart” seminar/retreat (about men/women relationships).  Katya and I were involved in getting speakers together and in organizing the details.  We delegated most of the details to university students in the church and they did everything with excellence!  Also, the messages and studies were great. All the messages had a common theme: It is more important to be serving the Lord than looking for a marriage partner.  Jim even taught a seminar on Ministry and Marriage, showing how the same character qualities necessary for a good marriage are the same skills that are developed in ministry.  Thanks again for praying for us!

 

Finally, keep praying for me and my Russian studies.  As usual, I have not had much time to work specifically on Russian.  I try to read daily and work on new vocabulary words but I need to put in a more concentrated effort.  We are planning to work on Russian every day while we are in the states and I will be giving greater priority to this in the fall too.

 

Finally, be praying for my daughter, Joy.  She has been going through some great difficulties and her husband has moved to New York.  We are looking forward to being home this summer to encourage her and also to be grandparents to the kids who desperately need a father-figure.

 

Also, be praying for us as we raise support and visit supporters this summer.  Our plans are to use most of June for this.  We will travel to see friends and supporters in KY, NC, VA, CT, NY and OH.  (If we can find time in July, we might try to see supporters in FL too and also visit family there—but we’ll see).  Pray for good travel together (we will be camping again most of the time to save money—and we like it!) and also for encouraging visits with friends and opportunities to share our ministry with new friends too!

 

Thank you for being our support team members!  We are so blessed that the few who do support us are so generous and so faithfulMay the Lord bless you for your partnership with us in this ministry!

Email: tri.org@gmail.com
501-588-2977

Teaching Resources International

20 Sunrise Place

Cabot, AR 72023-2047

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Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! (April 2012)

In most Slavic countries, Easter is a very big event (and very controversial—we have two Easters, Orthodox and Catholic).  One thing that Christians have done here since Christianity first came to Kiev in the 8th Century was greet each other on Easter morning… We you meet someone, you shout: “Christ is Risen!” The other person responds, “He is risen indeed!”

 

But even though nearly everyone will celebrate Easter here, very few understand its significance.  Most do not understand that Jesus died on the cross to pay for sins.  Most don’t understand that the resurrection was God’s proof that the sinless sacrifice of Jesus for our sins was accepted by God!  Thus, the grave and death could not hold him!  Very few understand the need to put their faith in the resurrected Christ for salvation.  Please pray for Ukraine as the country prepares to celebrate two Easters this year—April 8th and April 15th.

 

Class Preparations

I’m still scrambling to finish the PowerPoints and lecture notes for my class.  But I’m getting close.  Be praying that I can finish these in time for the translator to get them complete too.  And be praying for me.  This is the first time I have taught these sections: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit) and Eschatology (The End Times or Last Things).  It has been a joy to remember all the promises of Eschatology and to see what the Holy Spirit does in our lives.  Pray for me as I teach these classes beginning April 23rd.

 

Praises

Our “English Coffee Club” (ESL) has been wonderful.  We have had more students than we planned for every meeting and the responses have been great.  We always leave them with something spiritual to think about including a Bible verse to translate and discuss.  There are many non-believers present.  Pray for the many seeds that are being sown!

 

A Time to Rest …

We are looking forward to heading to Yalta during Spring Break for a much needed rest.  I am really tired and I will be teaching all of May before we head back to the states in June.  We decided to go to Yalta because it is the off-season and everything is cheaper (Right now the temperatures are in the 30s and 40s F).  We will be taking a 15 hour train ride (one-way), followed by a 3 hour trolleybus ride from Simferopol to Yalta (the longest trolley in the world).  We will be staying at a Baptist Retreat run by the parents of one of our students at KTS.  I am looking forward to seeing many historical sites from WWII and also from the Crimean War (1853).  I planned to work some while there but, my wife said that I cannot take any books (except for relaxed reading)!  She really wants me to rest!  Okay—I know I need it.  We’ll let you know how the trip turns out.

 

Prayer Needs

Be praying for our “Key to the Heart” seminar/retreat (about men/women relationships).  It takes place April 20-22.  We are organizing topics and speakers this week.  Be praying for the speakers, the seminar and for the young people who will be attending.  This is always a very important retreat because we minister to so many college-age students and they need to know how to have biblical relationships.

 

Also, keep praying for me and my Russian studies.  Lately I’ve been so involved in ESL lessons and lectures for classes that I have not put much time into Russian.  Fortunately, I get to hear it (and Ukrainian) every day.

 

Thank you for being our support team members!  We are so blessed that the few who do support us are so generous and so faithfulMay the Lord bless you for your partnership with us in this ministry! 

 

PS.  For some student prayer needs, go to the link on our website and learn what our students are doing!

Teaching Resources International
20 Sunrise Place

Cabot, AR 72023-2047

www.teachingresources.org

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Kyiv Theological Seminary March Update + Prayer Requests

Kyiv Theological Seminary March Update + Prayer Requests

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March 2012 Update From Jim & Katya

Some Much Time, So Little to Do… Stop, Reverse that! (March 2012)

 

This line comes from one of my favorite movies: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, with Gene Wilder).  It accurately describes how I often feel.  Both short on time and often getting everything backwards.

 

Time in Ukraine is different from time in the US.  And I’m not referring to the time zone difference.  I’m thinking about how time is viewed here.  For me, I have always tried to be very efficient, and, if I’m not early, I’m late.  But in Ukraine, time is much more fluid because there are so many intangibles.  And everything takes much, much longer than in the US.

 

So as I’m trying to get prepared for my next class, I’m looking at everything I still have to do and wondering, “Where does my time go?”  Much of it is consumed in with transportation issues.  If we had a car (I don’t want one – other headaches with upkeep and crazy drivers), we could get most places in about 15-20 minutes.  But with the transportation system, it takes us at least an hour—if everything runs on time.  Since we travel to other side of Kiev 4-5 times a week, this takes at least 2-3 hours away from my time.  But, зто жизнь (it’s life here).

 

Second, personal relationships and birthdays, and holiday celebrations are very important here.  There is a social obligation not just to congratulate people but usually to sit down and “drink tea.”  Drinking tea always includes eating—a lot, for a long time.  It seems like we have something almost every week.  That means 2-3 hours of transportation plus a couple of hours to “have tea” and congratulate someone. Зто жизнь.

 

But few things bother me more than the fluid way time is seen here in Ukraine.  Waiting in line here is normal and so you have to factor that in for almost anything also.  And when something is scheduled at a certain time, it will rarely start then—adding more time than I originally planned.  I could write much, much more about how time seems to fade away here but I don’t really have the time to do so! 🙂

 

Preparations

Right now, I am working on Powerpoints for Eschatology and Pneumatology.  I have to get these finished before April so the translator has time to get everything translated.  But I’m enjoying working on lectures about heaven, hell and the death of believers.  It is encouraging to be reminded that this world is not our home—we are only passing through.  (But this is hard to remember when I seem to be wasting time waiting in line!)  Fortunately, in heaven, we will have all of eternity and won’t be rushed by time and schedules.  Be praying for me as I work to get these lectures finished this month.

 

Praises

I am always amazed to hear the stories of the students that attend our seminary.  One new student is a retired Pentecostal chaplain.  He is only in the diploma program but he is taking classes that the degree students have to take—not because he has too but because he wants to learn.  He chose to come to our seminary (Baptist) because we see the importance of education and reading.  He hopes that he can help people in his ministry to understand the importance of theology, church history and proper hermeneutics.  How exciting to see his enthusiasm!

 

Prayer Needs

Thank you for praying for new support team members!  We added a number this fall and this has helped our finances.  We still need to add a few more so please keep praying.  We are so blessed that the few who do support us are so generous and so faithful!

 

Be praying for us as we start up a new approach to ESL.  One very talented lady in our church is beginning an “English Coffee Club.”  We will be trying to reach out to university students near our church with a conversational format that involves a coffeehouse format.  We begin on Wednesday, March 14th.  Be praying for us!

 

Katya and I are also organizing our “Key to the Heart” seminar/retreat (about men/women relationships).  It takes place April 20-22.  We are organizing topics and speakers this week.  Be praying for the speakers, the seminar and for the young people who will be attending.

 

Also, continue to pray for my time for Russian studies.  I am definitely making progress but not like I want.  Sometimes it is very frustrating.  Sometimes, I can understand a lot and even carry on simple conversations.  At other times, I feel like my brain doesn’t understand a word!

 

Thanks for your prayers for us and for your support!  May the Lord bless you for your partnership with us in this ministry! 

 

Thinking of Heaven’s Rest … Here is a quote from Richard Baxter about our rest in heaven:

We shall rest also from all the trouble and pain of duty.  The conscientious magistrate now cries out, “Oh, the burden that lies upon me!”  The conscientious parents, who know the preciousness of their children’s souls and the constant pains required to their godly education, cry out, “Oh, the burden!”  The conscientious minister when he reads his charge and views his pattern; when he has tried awhile what it is to study, and pray and preach; to go from house to house, and from neighbor to neighbor, and to beseech them night and day with tears, and, after all, be hated and persecuted for so doing—no wonder if he cries out, “Oh, the burden!”

And seldom does a minister live to see the ripeness of his people.  But one sows and plants, another waters, and a third reaps and receives the increase.  To inform the old ignorant sinner, to convince the stubborn and worldly wise, to persuade a willful, resolved wretch, to prick a stony heart to the quick, to make a rock to weep and tremble, to set forth Christ according to our necessity and His excellency, to comfort the soul whom God dejects, to clear up dark and difficult truths, to oppose with convincing arguments all gainsayers, to credit the gospel with exemplary conversations, when multitudes do but watch for our halting.  Oh, who is sufficient for these things?  So that every conscientious Christian cries out, “Oh, the burden!  Oh, my weakness that makes it so burdensome!”  But our eternal rest will ease us of the burden.

 

I guess that is the answer to my time-struggles here and now.  Still … so much to do now… so much to look forward to later!

 

And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.” Revelation 14:13

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Let it snow, Let it snow…February 2012 Update

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Christmas is Coming! (December Update)

The Visa-Go-Round continues (see previous updates to catch up on the story) … Realizing that it would be impossible for me to get my new visa before the old one expired, I decided to fly out of the country and then back the next day to start another visa process.  But, after buying non-refundable tickets, I was advised by many (including by one Ukrainian lawyer who is a believer) not to try this.  They said that I would probably not be re-admitted to the country because I did not complete my visa process.

So we decided to try to process my documents one more time.  We went through all the steps again, including having Katya’s mother and sister in person at the жек this time.  We wanted to get the documents submitted before my visa expired on Sunday, November 27th hoping that they would not consider me as violating my visa if they had the documents.  But, as always happens here, the strange and unexpected happened.  When the Baptist Union representative took my documents to OVIR, they could not receive them because it was the birthday of lady who receives these documents (no one else does this; she does not do anything except receive documents but it is obviously such a difficult job that they can’t train anyone else to do this).  But he was told that they would consider receiving my documents on Monday even though my visa expires on Sunday.  They did not … not on Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, but finally on Thursday, December 1st.  It takes at least two weeks for them to process them and then we have to go back to the local OVIR and the local жек (and both are not open every day and they are open on alternating days) to get them to process my final documents.  That means December 14th or later.  We have tickets to fly home on December 13th.  We have been told it would be impossible to get the documents in time (they have my passport so I can’t go anywhere until they are finished).  Keep praying …

I just finished teaching the second of two classes this month, Church History (November 7-18) and World History (November 21-December 2).  It was a very busy month and now all I have are about 60 papers from the two classes that I will be receiving and grading over the Christmas holidays.  I will also be working on notes and Powerpoints for my Theology 4 class that I’ll be teaching next.  It covers the Holy Spirit and Eschatology.

Katya continue to try to get the Registrar’s Office more efficient.  She is requiring students to check things posted on-line and making them register ahead of time for classes.  It has been difficult getting students (and sometimes professors) to change longtime habits but it is working.  All of the last group was registered by the 2nd day of classes!  The Executive Council is also working on hiring someone to help her with all she is doing.  But most of all, the school needs to have the money for a software program that integrates all records so data doesn’t have to be re-added and updated to multiple programs for every change.  Be praying for the Executive Council as they make decisions.

ESL Clubs have been going great.  It is one of the highlights of my week.  We work with a number of students every Sunday morning before church.  Please pray for us as we prepare to teach and build relationships with these students.  We have one more class meeting before the holidays.  Our lesson will be on American holidays so we will talk some about Christmas and Christ too!  Be praying.

We continue to lead our small group Bible Study.  The number of people attending varies a lot depending on jobs and classes (which students are in town).  But we have really enjoyed having people in our home each week.  I (Jim) have been writing the Green Sheets (Bible Studies) weekly for the church also and teaching the small group.  Continue to pray for us as we prepare and as we minister to those who are part of our small group.

I’m hoping to work a lot more on Russian over Christmas and also in the beginning of the new year.  My Russian has definitely improved even though I have not had time for any lessons.  Because I hear Russian every day, I am hearing and understanding much better.  We try to read a short story in Russian every night which helps me with pronunciation and some new vocabulary.  One night I was too tired to read so Katya said she would just tell me the story of the Three Little Pigs in Russian and I would listen and translate.  She started telling the story and mixed up a few things and could not even remember what the second house was built from!  When I kept correcting her, she said, “Do you think you could do better?”  And I said, “Yes!”  And she smiled and said, “in Russian?” Ugh!  I said, “I’ll try.”  To our amazement, I was able to tell the whole story with lots of details and only a few corrections!  So I am learning, but I have a lot to learn.

Please continue to pray about our support levels.  This month we added another new person to our support team!  I will be sending out some more letters this month to ask for their support.  We are hoping to add 9 more.  Please pray that God will put a burden on the hearts of some to become part of our support team and help with the work we do here in Ukraine!

Thank you again for your support and your prayers.  Hopefully, we will be home for Christmas to see some of you!

 

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Visa-Go-Round

Visa-go-round

(November Update)

Well, the visa saga continues.

After we returned from Poland, we started the next step in the process of getting my visa here for Ukraine.  We were told to go to the local OViR (Office of Registrations) to get the 45 day visa changed into a 1 year visa as required by law.  First, we have to find this office. We began with the website to get the location and the times they are open.  As usual, it was conveniently hidden away off the main road (why do they always do this?).  But we found it.  Only one problem—it is closed the day we come in spite of the fact that the website saying it is open.  While there, Katya read a number of the posters and discovered that I also need a medical exam proof of residence, and their national insurance—all news to us!

 

So, we return home and I check with the Baptist Union.  They say that they don’t know what documents are required so we should ask the local OViR Office because each one has different requirements (Now this at least sounds familiar!).  So Katya calls the office and they say they don’t know what is needed and they don’t process those kind of visas.  I need to go to the Central OViR Office instead of the local one.  They don’t have the number or the address so Katya finds it on the internet and calls.  They tell her they don’t know what I need unless they see my passport and current visa and letters of invitation.  We can’t tell them over the phone—we have to bring all the documents to their office (of course, on the other end of town from the OViR). 

 

So we go to OViR Central Office.  By the way, this is also well-hidden, even more than the local OViR Office.  Even when we ask for directions on the street, we are told to go through an alley, past a kindergarten and past some boxes and it will be there.  As a few tries and asking some more people, we finally found the offices.  I’m sure some Soviet planner decided in the 1940s that, if they were ever invaded by America, our forces would first find the OViR Offices and then America would have all the records of their people from kindergarten to the present.  But we fooled them!  Americans don’t even know what an OViR is so they would never look for it to begin with. But I digress …

 

We get to the Central OViR and (after the “compulsory wait”) the lady asked what kind of visa I have.  We tell her and she says she won’t receive our documents—the inviting agency must bring the documents.  She doesn’t want missionaries coming in to her office everyday with documents.  We need to contact Dema at the Baptist Union and he will bring the documents to the office.  “Dema who?” we ask.  How should she know? she says, there are many Demas.  SO we go to the Baptist Union and wait there.  Eventually we run out of time.  Now one of the Baptist Union men who helps missionaries with visas (not Dema) trying to figure out what documents we need.  He said he was told that the Central Office does not want foreigners coming into the office.  We are meeting this week to try to get this figured out. He said the process is complicated and expensive.  We’ll see.  Hopefully we will have some more information this week.  Keep praying …

 

ESL Clubs have been going great.  We have a number of students and we are working with them nearly every Sunday morning before church.  Please pray for us as we prepare to teach and build relationships with these students. 

 

Also, we continue to lead a small group Bible Study this year.  It has been going great too.  Most of those in the group know English so we have been having Bible Study in English.  We have been looking at origins in Genesis and have had some very interesting discuyssions.  Pray for us as we prepare and as we minister to those who are part of our small group.

 

I’m not working on Russian as much as I need or want.  I really need to be but I have so much to do to get ready for my November classes.

 

This month I will be teaching two classes back to back. I will teach Church History (November 7-18) and World History (November 21-December 2).  It will be a very busy month.  Be praying that I can be clear in teaching and that the studies will help these students as they prepare for ministry.

 

Please continue to pray about our support levels.  We are trying to add 11 people to our support team.  Our support has been consistently more than a $1000 short each month since January and we are managing by using savings and reducing costs everywhere we can.  But we would like to add more people to our support team.  Right now, we have only 19 very generous people (about 10 give regularly).  So we want to focus, on so much on the money that we need, but on adding more people to our team.  This month we added one new person to our support team!  I will be sending out some more letters this month to ask for their support.  Please pray that God will put a burden on the hearts of some to become part of our support team and help with the work we do here in Ukraine!

 

Thank you again for your support and your prayers.  It is because of you that we are able to minister here in Ukraine.

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Ready for Classes … (September Update)

We’ve been back in Kiev for nearly a month getting things ready for this semester.  Classes began a couple of weeks ago but my first class does not begin until September 12th.  I’ll be teaching Christology to third year students.  I’m working on notes for this class right now.  Be praying for me as I teach next week.  I spent much of the first few weeks getting our computers running again.  We had to replace our computer here in Ukraine and, the same week, the computer in Arkansas failed too!  Thanks to the help of Johnnie Baker in Cabot, our computers are now operating again (even better than before).  Katya has also been especially busy with admitting new students and with getting everything organized in the Registrar’s Office for this semester.  Thanks for praying for us as we have transitioned back into the ministry here after a wonderful summer in the US.
At our church (Open Hearts), we are preparing to begin ESL classes.  This is an important outreach for our church.  Many young people want to learn English and so they will come to ESL classes at our church.  Last year, we had nearly 40 students.  Through the ESL classes, we build relationships and invite the students to a Bible Study.  There are usually only a few who will come to the Bible Study.  But many of the students who are now at our church came to faith through this outreach (and through the summer ESL camp).  Please pray for us as we prepare to build relationships with these students.
Also at our church, Katya and I were asked to be in charge of Christian Education and Discipleship.  This will be a big responsibility for us.  It includes coordinating Sunday School, small groups, retreats and discipleship.  Also, we are planning to have daily Bible Study sheets to prepare people for the message each Sunday (“Green Sheets” for those of you at the Bible Church of Cabot).  We are beginning the book of Genesis next week.  Be praying as we start to preach through this foundational book of the Bible.
I’m continuing to work on Russian.  I’ve been trying to do 3-4 hours each day but I also have to spend time working on classes too.  It is difficult to juggle my time schedule between teaching, church ministry and language studies, especially when I need to be giving full-time to study Russian.  But I’m seeing improvement, especially in my listening and comprehension.
Most important thing to be praying for right now is my visa renewal.  This is something I have to do every year.  This year, my visa expires on December 1st.  That means I have to leave the country and go to a Ukrainian Embassy outside Ukraine to renew the visa before December 1st.  Right now, we are trying to get documents together to renew it in Krakow, Poland. This is the closest and least expensive place to go.  We are going to go in October because I will be teaching every week in November.  We are hoping that we can get the renewal date changed to something like August 1st so I can renew when I am in the states for the summer. Be praying that I can get all my documents processed before we leave.  I need letters of invitation for the Baptist Union and from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.  It’s not hard but it can take some time (and money!).  Also, pray for Katya’s visa process.  One complication we constantly run into is that she needs a visa to go to any of the EU countries (I don’t).  I need a visa to go to any of the former USSR republics (she doesn’t).  So nearly every time we have to travel somewhere (except the US), one of us needs to get a visa.  It’s complicated and a little expensive too.  Pray that everything goes smoothly.
Please continue to pray about our support levels.  This week I am beginning to send out letters to other friends about becoming part of our support team.  Right now, we have 19 people who faithfully support us here.  We would like to think in terms of people added to our support team rather than focusing on the money needed.  Be praying that we can add at least 11 more people in the coming months.
On our website, there are two links with short YouTube videos that show something about the impact this ministry is having.  Check them out when you get a chance! Church Planting Video clip … KTS Students graduating at Talbot Theological Seminary.
Thank you again for your support and your prayers.  I’ve always understood how important support was to missionaries – but now, living in another country, my appreciation has greatly increased!!! Thank you for making it possible for us to minister here in Ukraine.
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life.  Psalm 36:7-9

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Back in Kiev (August Update)

We arrived back in Kiev last week and returned to find out that we have no hot water for 20 days (annual pipe cleaning)!  No problem – this is a regular (minor) issue in Kiev and Katya has years of experience in living without hot water.  I’m learning—but it really has not been bad.  The hot water should be back on next week.  Plus three weeks of camping in National Parks and Forests this summer prepared me too.  Even so, I’m looking forward to hot water showers again!
We returned to the seminary to see many changes.  Some remodeling is being done to improve the bathrooms and so there is dust everywhere.  Hopefully it will be finished by the time students come next week.  Also, there are a lot fewer professors here this year.  A few retired last year and so they will not be returning.  Also, some have had to return to the states for medical reasons.  Finally, we have quite a few who will be gone this year on furlough, including our academic dean who will be in the states working on his dissertation.
In short, there are very few people at the seminary right now so it is pretty quiet here.  Also they are not serving lunch at the school yet so we have had the joy of having some professors over to our apartment for lunch.  What a blessing it is to be so close to the seminary!
Next Tuesday (August 23), we begin interviews and testing for prospective students.  This is a very important time at the seminary when we are introducing potential students to the school and its programs (degree tracks) and also interviewing them to make decisions about their entry.  We have programs in Bible, Pastoral Leadership, Youth Ministry, Chaplaincy, Christian Education and Missions on the bachelor’s level. We also offer accredited Master’ degree programs in Biblical Counseling, Youth Ministry, and Biblical Studies.  So please be praying for us as we interview students next week.
I will be teaching a full load again this year – three classes in the fall and three more in the spring.  This fall, I will teach Christology, Church History and World History.  In the Spring, I will be teaching Theology 4 (Eschatology and Pneumatology), Homiletics 2 and Research & Critical Thinking.  Even with all these classes, my main goal this year will be to work on learning Russian.  I have 3-4 hours a day scheduled to work on Russian (except for the weeks I teach).  Because my teaching schedule does not allow for consistent lessons, I will be trying to learn on my own with Katya’s help.  It will be much more difficult this way but it seems to be the only way with my schedule.  Be praying for me as I work on learning every day this year.
Our summer in the US was wonderful!  We were able to visit 4 different churches and see a number of friends and supporters briefly.  Most of all, we were able to spend time with family in Arkansas and then we had a great “family reunion” (all my kids and grandkids except for Joel, Alyssa and little Lucas) with Debbie’s’ parents and brother & sister in Sarasota, Florida.  We also travelled to the other side of Florida to visit my dad and the MacKenzies from Connecticut.  On our own, Katya and I spent 3 weeks in a tent visiting places like the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains.   It was wonderful!  The splendor of God’s creation was overwhelming.  We have more pictures than you can imagine (which you are welcome to see them on Picasa if you send me a request by email).  Our time this summer was both relaxing and refreshing after one of the busiest years I can remember!
We really did not have the opportunity to work on fund raising so we will be trying to do some this fall.  We are thinking more about adding new supporters to our support team rather than trying to raise a certain dollar amount.  This way the focus will be on people not money (I don’t like raising funds ).  We currently have 19 regular supporters.  We would like to have at least 30 people on our support team by December.  Pray with us over the coming months that we can effectively communicate with at least 11 more people about the ministry of Teaching Resources and involve them as part of our support team.  You have all been an amazing blessing with both prayer and finances through the last 16 years (amazing!) and we cannot express how grateful we are for your prayers and support!  Thanks for being part of our team as we minster here in Kiev!

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