Christ IS Risen

fffggTo those in the Western World who care about such events: “Christ is Risen!” And you are risen with Him.

In this day and age, I fear that many of us read too many words for us to be sensitive to the vitally important ones when they broach the horizons of our mind. My spirit is “dulled by the glut”.

Carefully worded: I am risen with Christ in that I am no longer dead in my sins. I am drawn to God. I take delight in worshipping Him and want to glorify Him and do what pleases Him. Why? Because I am just so wise and good and clever? Rubbish. God has given me the gift of making me alive with Christ! Ripper! Talk about a privilege and a half!

Good news, ladies and gents: Christ is risen!

Quintus John Gollan

QShould you prefer it, you may now refer to me as “Grandpa” anytime you like. I’m the proud owner of a new title which speaks of a quite delightful happening in our family overnight. Jesse and Daniella welcomed “Quintus John” into the world of the breathing on Friday the 26th. They are thankful and happy parents.

Quintus, if you find this and read it in the future, know that I prayed for you on the day of your birth that you would give much glory to God through this life He has given you.  You will be asked by Him to sacrifice.  Don’t fear it.  Go bravely into the unknown and revel in the sacrifice!  What a privilege to do that for the One who is as incredible as our Lord Jesus Christ is! 

We are all hopeful that this new little family will be able to come back to Ukraine in a few months. Providing visas and permissions fall into place, they plan to be here in June and stay for several months to a year. We feel as if it is another totally unexpected gift from God… and are so looking forward to it.

 

Quarantine again… (A rather severe change of topic!)

About 300 people are dying from Covid each day in Ukraine right now… and we keep on hearing of people we know who have contracted it. This week, the first person in our church community, (Andrei), had a test for anti-bodies done… and was surprised to hear that he’d already had it. Considering this news, we feel as if it is nigh on 100% that we basically all contracted it during the winter months… as many had symptoms at around the same time as Andrei did. If we are correct in our assumptions, then we can be grateful that no one had a severe enough case to require ICU care.

Quarantine doesn’t really affect us that much as a church, but I’ll still be glad when we again dispose with masks at services.

Pris continues to do physio in Kiev. Her neck is doing well. This new phase of physio is for her right side which has bothered her for years. She has just gone through a couple of weeks of fevers and migraines associated with readjusting the muscles – quite an ordeal! Last night she was bemoaning the feeling that she hasn’t been of much use to the Lord for the last few weeks. Perhaps. But I got to thinking that a person can still give a lot of glory to God without leading Bible studies and counseling people or helping with different tasks. My giving glory to God is not dependent on my “output”. It’s dependent on something else. Anyway, Pris is seeing some improvement and we are grateful.

Elle has started taking photos as she walks around town and suggested I put one or two in the blog. They are worth sharing… so here we go:springnika elle

IMG_2099Our daughter, Miriam Angel, would love to come home at the end of May. Because of covid there are several hurdles that need to be overcome. Please pray with us that if it is God’s good timing, He would make her path smooth, and that we would accept His will with joy. She has been seeing major relief from the health battles she has gone through – something that also gives great relief to the hearts of her parents.

We have opened our second men’s home. A couple of weekends ago, I moved the two ladies we had allowed to stay on after rehab into a room in town. (They are both doing well. God has shown them mercy and they’re growing in the Lord and glorifying Him.) We already have five guys in the former “ladies’ home” … and no doubt will add to that number over the next couple of weeks. Please continue to pray that God will bring men here in whose hearts He is at work, and that in His mercy and grace He will draw them to Himself.

 

 

 

 

Max is back… his fourth time. Often we send people wanting to come back to us to another home. Max is an exception. It’s encouraging to see a different light in his eyes now and notice a humility that holds promise of good years ahead.

During the last big snowfall/freeze, we “lost” our van. Mitya was driving by himself on a straight road and slid off the side into some trees. Thankfully, he just experienced a “shook-up” and not a “busted-up”. The van, however, has flown off to… “Van Heaven”. It served us well for the last four years and was on its last legs as it was. But still, it is missed. We were able to get $1000 for it… and have put that into savings towards a new one. We would be thankful for your prayers about that. Right now we go out to the village to pick the men up, (whenever they need to travel), in a few carloads which works fine… but is a stop-gap measure.

IMG-2067IMG_2102We’re at a bit of an interesting phase regarding finances. Over the last year, we’ve had just a few thousand come in towards the expenses for the homes we run for addicts… and our latest figures show it costs us about $8,000 a year for one home. We’ve basically exhausted the money we had for repairs of the church building, too. I share this in case anyone is feeling as if God has blessed them financially and is wondering how or where to sacrifice for His glory. 

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We are about to start an after-school day-care next week and will start with the kids from the crisis families we know. Recently two of them had their alcoholic mother die… and were sent away to an orphanage. Four of them that regularly come to church are still here though and we’ll start with these two lads and two girls – feeding them, helping them with homework, playing with them and doing a devotional with them. There are many more in our town, but we chose to keep the numbers to four for the first few weeks. I’m excited at the step… and to see Jemi giving of herself with enthusiasm so that this takes flight… as well as to see the number of people from our church who are willing to serve in different ways to love these kids.

Cheryl has been running a kindergarten type program in her home three mornings a week for the kids with Christian parents who come to church. She will likely move that down to the church building within the next couple of months… if we are able to complete the room for that as well as finish the plumbing. Cheryl does an amazing job, and the children are learning good character as well as some English. The parents sure appreciate that her standards back up what they are wanting to teach at home, too. God is glorified.

I’ll finish up hoping to hold your attention for a moment longer…

We are worshippers of God. We have just gone through the book of Hosea as a church and been reminded of the way the Israelites were worshippers of God. They were like most of us in that they weren’t full-time worshippers. (God accused them of being adulterers.) My point in mentioning this isn’t to heap more condemnation on our very worthy heads, but to remind you of a simple and beautiful truth: You are a worshipper of God. What a privilege to understand your calling! You give Him glory by worshipping Him in the minutes of your days.  When I see Christians doing that, it’s a mighty encouragement. 

May you and I worship the Only True Loving God well!

BBQ

zhenya kostyaRecently, I went to a birthday party. Igor turned 30-something and invited all the guys in the church to gather at a dacha in a nearby village. We cooked up chicken and potatoes and opened a couple of bottles of preserved tomatoes and pickles and took it in turns to dehydrate in the sauna. It was a special afternoon.

Just before we ate, I looked around at the men, (23 of them), and felt deep appreciation for that way in which God has blessed me with brothers who love Him, and then for the fact that all but one of them seemingly love God and are giving Him glory with their lives. There is little doubt that some of them will leave our Lord’s side. But I still felt as if this group was like an American Pit Bull Terrier - powerful and already spiritually muscular. I’ll enjoy seeing what the Lord does with them in the future.

These two guys to the right are doing great.  They are both now in the third stage.  Kostya looks like he should be a thug… but he’s been working and serving and is a funny guy liked by all.  We expect to soon bless his return to Odessa where he will hopefully click into a good group of brothers down there.

Zheka, (in yellow), is normally a breath of fresh air.  He is always talking about God and God’s Word and loves encouraging everyone to love God and do right. He says he feels as if God called him as a child, and he responded, but when he was a young man, he chose to live according to what his flesh desired.  After many years of that, he came to an end of himself and after a period of humbling, now loves God so much.  I feel privileged to have him as a friend and I glorify the God who has “prepared him for service”.

It feels as if Ukraine has had enough of quarantining restrictions. A few remain in place – but it’s pretty easy to live with them. People still wear masks when they need to go into a store… but most walk around outside without.

IMG-2060As a church, we are meeting all together and seem to be regularly reaching what must be our “all-time-high” attendance for Sunday mornings. For the first time this last Sunday, the thought came to me that perhaps I’d overestimated the size of the main hall… and we were going to have to somehow address the issue of needing more seating.

I’m pretty nonplussed when a person is introduced to me by one of our members and is told that I’m the pastor of the church. I regularly reply, “One minute… who is our real Pastor?” (Most people in our church know my feelings.) Recently it happened that I was in a building supplies store when the Orthodox priest walked in, followed by a New-agey/Buddhist sort of bloke. (We were prime subjects for a joke!) The Buddhist had heard about me and this time recognized me. I think in his mind, I must have some sort of deeper spiritual power or something to be “the pastor” of all these people. I shook his hand and realized that he didn’t want to let my hand go… and was trying to sense exactly what sort of power I had.

I wish I was the one in our church who was holier than everyone else. (That would be a nice gift to present to Jesus in eternity.) But I fear I may only number in the top 90%. And as far as being especially connected to God goes… I love God with all my heart, but I’m nobody special. Gifting? Ahhh… With no false humility here: I can determine no uniquely strong gift in me. I’m sure that my Buddhist friend was disappointed. :) The poor priest was ignored…

Pris is still doing physio in Kiev. From a pain-relief perspective, we are a bit disappointed that she is still experiencing pain in her shoulder. It is different pain from before… and we are hoping that somehow it is related to her physio. She got an MRI done on her shoulder yesterday… which didn’t show anything unusual. We continue to trust the Lord… and do exercises.

A couple of night’s ago, I got a call from a bloke staying in the third-stage house saying the house was burning. I jumped in the car and whipped over there… thankful not to see any smoke when I drove up. Apparently, one of the guys had put a plastic bag in the fireplace and it had melted and found some cracks down through the clay and bricks. The plastic eventually carried the fire to the beam under the floor. It caught well alight before Petya smelled smoke. By the time I got there, the house was thick with smoke and we could see flames under the floor. We threw snow on them as well as all the water we had and then set to cutting and chopping a hole in the floor. God was gracious and we put the fire out before it became uncontrollable. I’d prefer not to have too many more of these incidents though!

Today, I’ll pick up some fire-extinguishers which I ordered a few days ago.

Recently, in a large city in the east, a number of elderly people burned to death in a private un-registered home. The government since then has been checking up on homes like that… and our men’s home is supposed to be checked on soon.

Whoops! I was going to ask you to pray about that. But I just got a call that the checkup is already done and dusted. No problems at all. In all seriousness, our two homes are nowhere near reaching the safety standards of homes in the west. But the rep. from the fire department was impressed with the fact that we don’t charge anything for the guys living there and seemed to be content to go through the motions of doing his job properly.

In truth, we don’t really have a rehab facility. We don’t have doctors or psychologists on staff and aren’t registered with the government in any way. We do open up our home to drug addicts and alcoholics who want to escape their addictions and be introduced to God and His Word and who cannot afford a special clinic. There… that sounds pretty innocuous, doesn’t it? 

God is merciful and gracious and loving… and we are grateful to be in His will. Thank you for your prayers!

2021

IMG-20102021.  Has it occurred to you that this number will be nowhere near as satisfying to type as 2020? 

We enjoyed ringing in the New Year as a church. This year, we requested people come in a hat… any hat… and had fun seeing the results. Being the church in a small town is great. We are one big family who enjoy pretty close relationships with each other and seem to fit in a good measure of “silly times”.

We have the weirdest winter I’ve ever seen in Ukraine. Zero degrees Celsius in winter is a joke here! We still don’t have the heating set up properly in the church building, so I’m quite happy with the “weird”. At the start of the winter, I determined that if the temps dropped to -5 or below, we would stoke the furnace up and heat the building. I expected we would need to do that for most of January and Feb… but no. It’s hasn’t been happening… until a few days ago. Today, we have -18 and it’s “ooh-hoo-hoo” cold.

The Renault van broke down last week in Germany. I left with Sergei, a policeman, at midnight on Friday to pick it up. We drove the next 8 hours on fairly good roads but in dropping temperatures to the border. The trip back was way more adventurous, or perhaps better put, audacious. We shouldn’t have risked it. But we did, and God had much-appreciated mercy on us.

We ended up leaving the border at 8:30 and towing the Renault back with a car on its tray for the next 14 hours. Perhaps due to the freezing temperatures, we drove for over 10 hours before the police pulled us over. (Admittedly, what sane policeman wants to stand outside in -15 for more than a few minutes?) Thankfully, Sergei was able to talk with them “as one cop to another”, and they let us go on. The next policemen to stop us advised us to try to go around Kiev so as not to run the risk of the Kiev police stopping us once we reached Kiev where they wouldn’t be able to be so “friendly”. The next two hours saw us wending our way through back streets on slippery roads with deep appreciation for google-maps, but extreme tiredness definitely mitigating our gratefulness.  imageWe finally reached our destination… and took a minute in the deserted yard to thank God for His blessing.

Oh! We came upon a bus on the way home which had conked out. (Diesel fuel, if it hasn’t been treated, gels up at about -10C.) The poor driver had managed to fill up on some cheap untreated fuel… and was himself nearly frozen. It was a pleasure to help the poor bloke.  Needless to say, we all slept like the dead Saturday night.

Church yesterday was a cool one. I don’t know what the temperature was in the building, but even with the furnace stoked up and the fires going and four powerful blow-heaters blowing… we weren’t warm. I had everyone stand up and sing and pray three times during the sermon… just so that toes didn’t freeze.

Considering what is happening in some countries around the world, we are grateful we don’t need to consider governmental restrictions on churches when we decide how to meet. (The laws allow us 100 people in our building.) Remaining unified in the face of different members having different opinions about the importance/need to “comply” has been a bit tricky… but covered in God’s grace. I’ve been impressed and thankful for the wisdom of different members of our church family on this head.

On the 5th, we celebrated Elle’s 16th birthday. She had a few friends over and we went to Kiev, skating. It was an outdoor rink and had been decorated beautifully. The word on the street was that “everything would be closed from the 8th of January – quarantine”. As it turned out, quarantine WAS introduced again… and perhaps due to this reason, every lad and his girlfriend was wanting to skate! We had to wait for three hours until we could actually get on the rink. But it was worth it. (Although Cheryl surely wishes she’d stayed on the sidelines and not broken her hand!)

School is on quarantine for two weeks, and we gathered up a group of Elle’s friends and took off for an hour of sledding on a super-hill in the village before coming home to warm up with some borsch and buns. I walked off for a bit and looked out over the rolling hills and just shook my head at the creativity of God. We live in a beautiful part of the world.  Don’t you just wish you were here for a week or so?

 

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