Am I a glory thief

Psalm 115  Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory…

Here’s the quote:  “Men are glory thieves.”

All men? Am I a glory thief?  Yes.  And quite properly, it bothers me. 

Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth that God wants something different for some of us – namely, “God wants us to live for His glory”.

How many times have I heard that phrase!!! How many times have I said it, prayed about it, thought it!!! And yet I still catch myself far too often saying something or doing something that proves I still don’t get it. The older I get the more I understand just how often I live for myself and for my glory. I pulled myself up yesterday as I started to mourn the delivery of a sermon I felt quite good about when it was on paper. Did I feel bad about it because it made me look “sub-standard” or weak or foolish and I liked looking suave? If that was my concern, it was an sure indication that God was not my focus and that I was preaching, (partly, at least), for my glory. I’ve begun thinking more about it as I get older and have men showing me honor.  It scares me, for I know my heart.  May God have mercy on me so that I respond with revulsion when I realize I am stealing glory from Him. 

kidsdanFor the first time in months, we met inside again as a church yesterday. We’ve actually been loving the setup where we drag everything needed for a meeting out the front of the church building and sit in the shade. (We’ve been doing kids talks during the service for summer.)  Yesterday, much to my surprise, within 2 minutes of church ending, 90% of the congregation was standing in the sun outside!  We don’t know yet what we will do when we have quarantine imposed again.  We are considering a few different creative options, and may alternate between them for the weeks/months quarantine is in place.

Our “evening meeting” happened at the stadium last night. About half our church turned out to watch and chat as about 10 of us run around in the dust for a couple of hours. Being part of a close church in a small town is such a privilege. I love the fact that we do this.

We have marked out the area in which we want to rebuild our sauna at the rehab centre. The sauna is another thing that also provides great means for 20-30 men to sit around and have good conversations. We don’t think we’ll get this one up and going before the snow sets in… but you never know – we might be sharing sweat before the year’s out. That would be a dream come true!

I just got a call from Dima, whom I spoke about in my last post. He left us to go back to his family a few weeks ago, but has since moved up to Kiev again. He’s going to church and hanging out with Christians. He left us without our blessing, (something the guys in the adaptation stage agree not to do), even though we would likely have given it. It was a bit of a disappointing goodbye… but we are glad he’s a part of a church in which we have contacts. May God continue to show mercy to my friend, Dima.

viber_image_2020-09-20_14-06-23The other guys in rehab are doing well. Right now, I’m spending two days a week with them, (+ Sunday), and really enjoying their company. It’s kinda funny, listening to them talk about different jails and the hardships they faced in the jails. I’m very much “out of the loop,” and feel a bit like a choir boy from a titled family in comparison. In this illustrious company, I’m the guy who’s lived a sheltered life!

Pris is still recovering well from her operation. She just said that her voice is nearly back to normal… but still a bit scratchy. Tomorrow, we go to a clinic to start the physio she has been champing at the bit to get stuck into. All things considered; she’s been doing pretty well.

For the first time since we started the project, (nearly three months ago), we don’t have a car for sale in Ukraine. Hooray!  One truck is on its way to Europe, while the other is on its way back, so we’ll soon have more cars for sale. (I don’t think I mentioned that we were given a loan to buy another truck and trailer… which we did last week – pictured.) God is blessing it and we pray that this project brings Him glory as we fund different ministries that we, (and others), are involved in.

IMG-1709The work on the new building continues… The guys from the rehab centre are a big help… but also several people from the church have been volunteering. We hope to have the new chimney attached and the new furnace fired up by this Wednesday. If it works, it will be an exciting development.

Thank you for your prayers for this part of the world. Thank you for your prayers for those who are a part of God’s family here. And thank you for your prayers for us.

May God bless you.

Soccer in the Rain

IMG-1512_thumb[8]I was out walking a couple of days ago when it hit me… now is the time to start my yearly habit of dreading the onset of winter. In actuality, we are only now hitting the straps for the peak of summer, so I’m way early. Am I becoming more morose in my old age? That’s a way scarier thought.

On Sunday, I played soccer with the lads again. Dima and I are the old men on the field.  When he realizes some youthful skill on the field, I give him a yell, “Go, grandpa!” His quiet faith is a great encouragement to me, but also to the guys still in rehab. He is in the 3rd stage, working, serving and glorifying God. (He is 4th from the right in the photo).

Priscilla’s recovery is going well… we think. She still hasn’t got her voice back yet, but there’s nothing unusual about that. She just went for a walk to visit a couple of ladies she tries to meet each week… and is getting noticeably stronger with each passing week. An interesting thing about replacing discs in the neck which no one told us about is that Ibuprofen isn’t a drug you should be taking as it inhibits the screws joining properly with the bone. Ibuprofen is off the table… and so, we replace it with Paracetamol.  She half-jokes every now and again that she’ll need to go to rehab after everything settles down.  I’ll encourage the special lady to write some words for this blog when she gets home and will tack it on the end of this blog.

We are enjoying the blessings of God with the importing cars project. We keep moving forward and I find myself waiting for the “catch”. After all the months of not seeing success with the trucks… could it be that it is this “easy”? Last week, two new drivers took the truck/trailer to Germany.  We gave some precise instructions about coming back in to Ukraine that were ignored… which has put a bit of a spanner in the works as far as us trusting that particular driver.  (It all turned out fine, but could have resulted in some very serious repercussions.)  We will see how we go moving forward with him.  But for now, we’re a driver down – something the other drivers are benefitting from, as they will have more opportunities to work.

Here is something that encouraged me.  Many of you have read of Igor whose arm God allowed to be taken away a year and a half ago.  Last Wednesday evening we hosted a short Bible Study and volleyball in our yard and he sat down and began chatting to the lady whom I was sitting beside, recounting how God had blessed Him in so many ways by taking his arm--including the many opportunities to witness because of it.  He shared that he was in the local photo shop talking to 'Nina' about Christ and she said, "Oh, you are one of those people."  She told him how two years ago a man named Daniel had been in her shop during the time when there are tons of flies everywhere.  As she was serving him she commented on how annoying they were.  Then she said that later, he came back to her business and gave some netting for her door, (which she pointed out to Igor), to keep the flies out.  She linked that simple kindness to the Jesus whom Igor talked about.  Perhaps it will be within our Lord’s plans to gift this lady faith… that would be an even greater encouragement!

IMG-1514_thumb[8]After a good long stint, the pump in our well finally packed it in a couple of weeks ago.  Our well is about 20 meters deep with a meter and a half of water at the bottom.  The man who dug it over 15 years ago was an alcoholic, and if you look down it, you can see that it curves a bit as it goes down.  But if memory serves me correctly, I think I saved about $10 by using him rather than the more professional blokes.  (What wonderful logic!)  Anyway, Mitya helped me bring up the old pump and attach the new.  The homemade ladder you can see the top of in the photo allows me to go down the couple of meters necessary so that I can unscrew the pipe at the 90° angle and bring up the pump.  In my younger years, I would just skinny down there bracing myself with feet and back.  (That craziness is long gone.)  Our reservoir is again filling up with good water and we are grateful.

We said goodbye to Artyom on Saturday.  Poor Artyom had a weak moment and bought himself a gin in the local store.  He was nearly finished the adaptation stage in rehab and was doing so well.  This was his “second strike” and the guys know that we will not permit them to stay if they do drugs or drink alcohol while in rehab.  He was so regretful that it happened… but we have hope that this experience will ultimately be a blessing to his life.  Actually, we really hope that he follows our advice and joins himself to a rehab centre up north for several months before coming back to us to live… that would be an ideal scenario.

Last week, we drove down to the sea for five idyllic days of sand and salt-water.  Priscilla’s parents and a couple of friends joined us for this special time.  For some reason, the traffic police were out in force down there… and stopped me twice just to check documents.  The license I have in my wallet is out of date right now.  (My new one is in Australia until Shane and Jemi get back – I don’t trust the international mail right now.)  Thankfully, both times, the officers were more interested in the holograms and design of an Australian license than in the actual details on the license and after chatting for a bit, they sent us on our way… a car full of grateful holidayers.



IMG-1577_thumb[3]Igor's attitude and acceptance of God letting his arm be taken has been such a blessing to me as I recover still from the neck surgery.  (Dan talked about him above.)  I am healing at a slower pace (at least it seems that way to me) than in the initial weeks.  It is an adjustment to have no more than a slight hoarse voice.  Quite possibly those paralyzed nerves, (which frequently happens with this surgery, but is usually better within days), will begin to function again.  Meanwhile, I recognize that my voice is the LORD's.  I would love for Him to heal it and at times have to push away fearful thoughts of living without a voice, but one definite blessing is that another woman in our church has stepped up and offered to help teach the wives in the autumn. I am also listening differently - and I hope I 'hear' better too, whether it is lessons about God or pressing into Christ or hearing people's hearts.  It is a learning process.  I am glad to be in this time - hopeful that I will be patient enough to learn and not just keen to have it 'pass'.  =) 

Thank you for your prayers.  They are a great treasure.

Still wearing masks here in Ukraine

Normally, at this time of year, we are gearing up for Camp 120 on the island. (“Thank you, little virus, for the cancellation this year.”) We may do a “half-camp” with just the folk from our church yet, (in August)… but the chances of that are slimming. In lieu of that, tomorrow, Pris, (brave lady), and I are taking several of the young people out to the island for a few days.

Priscilla’s recovery is going pretty well. She’s still speaking in a whisper and tires very quickly. She also has very tight muscles in her neck and shoulder area which give her “a bit o’ curry” – especially in the nights. But it’s all to be expected, and thus nothing to cause concern. I dare a guess that she won’t be doing as much as she normally does when we go camping.

1594022630463178Elle is happy to be finished studies for the summer. Because of our trip to Australia, we shuffled around her study time a bit and she kept on studying while her friends were already on holidays. Actually, it feels a bit like a lot of kids here have been on holidays for the past several months. Doing school over the internet is one thing in the city, but quite another in villages like ours. Els has again started up the Sunday club for kids from difficult homes. She is reveling in the responsibility and loving the kids. It’s nice to see.

I talked with Mim today. She is still “stuck in Australia”… along with Shane and Jemi, working with “Uncle Josh” doing initial cleans on houses. She says that the earliest she could get back here is August… she thinks. But that is assuming she can get a visa and I think that’s where the rub will be. She is thinking to “detach” herself from heavy involvement in the ladies’ rehab and to give herself more to the ministry to children in crisis and general children’s ministry.

We have been taking the rust out of her car while she’s away. (Today, Pavel, the spray-painter, showed me a couple of new tricks of the trade. Perhaps we can get it to a condition in which it will do another 15 years… that’s likely wishful thinking).

Talking about cars… Pasha didn’t have any problems at the border bringing in a VW Beetle and a little blue Mercedes. Now we just need to sell one of them so that we can repeat the process and bring in another couple of cars. God has been blessing this project. We have started to count our chickens before they’ve hatched a bit and are even talking about expanding the ministry and bringing in more men who need God in their lives. May God give us wisdom!

IMG-1496Right now, we have six guys in rehab.  Interestingly enough, four of them have gone through rehab before and even taught at rehab centres. One of our volunteers was talking with me the other day and said that it’s a bit intimidating doing a Bible study with this particular group of guys. They’ve read a lot of books and spent a lot of time in the Bible… their knowledge outstrips that of half our volunteers. I easily understand the feelings of intimidation.

On Saturday, several of us went to the wedding of Ghenna, who finished rehab with us last year. It was a nice wedding, with both him and his wife giving glory to God for His grace in their lives. The guys who went with me were talking and said that about 90% of the 60-odd guests were former addicts. What a beautiful stat. And there were a number of very special people there.

Every now and again I feel an overwhelming sense of delight at the glory that a particular person gives to God through their demeanor, words and actions. There are a lot of us ordinary Christians in the world, but most of us never really reach the heights of the “uniquely beautiful”… that small percentage who are graced with the ability to somehow exude love and humility and peace. What an interesting thought, eh?  Another one:  Could I become such a person?

Recovering very well

prissThat went pretty well.

The operation went off without a hitch. Pris is walking around… albeit gingerly and with a walker. The doctor wants to keep her in there at least until the week-end… maybe through until Monday. (Ukrainian hospitals just about always try to keep patients in until they are totally sick of the place.) We feel excited at the thought that she may experience relief from the pain and gain a freedom she hasn’t had in many years.

I’m doing documents today… registering us with the local authorities. I’ll go back into Kiev as soon as I’m done and probably spend the night there tonight. There are three beds in her room and I’ll likely be permitted to sleep on one of them if the other patient is open to that.

And six hours later…

Here I am. Pris is doing great. I brought her three different kinds of salads and some borsch which Elle made. She’s happy. We’ve been for a couple of 15 minute walks. She walks like a 80 year old, but it will all come back… for 33 years. Then she’ll be 80. (The thought just occurred: if I survive that long, we’ll be a cute old couple tottering around.)

Surprisingly, the submitting of our documents couldn’t have gone smoother. I couldn’t believe that there was no line of people waiting when I got there! It took 10 minutes to register all three of us… easy, easy. Thank you, Lord.

Pasha left for Germany today to collect the two cars we have there… and buy another two, (less than a thousand Euro per car). Things are going well on that head. Last time he was at the border, he made a big stink about a bribe one of the officers there was trying to get him to pay… and he’s hoping that won’t affect his crossing at all this time in any negative way. We should find out by tomorrow.

igorrrOh!  Igor and Olya had their baby.  What a story they have.  Their lives have been totally and radically changed over the last couple of years… even to the extent that they wanted more children.  I brought Igor into Kiev with me the other day… so that he could share the gospel with the homeless and alcoholics.  His T-shirt read, “I was a drug addict, but God saved me”.  The shirt in this pic says, “Absolute best husband”.

I’m skipping Wednesday night Bible study tonight. The plan is for Tolic to share how the principles you use to understand the Bible affect different beliefs people hold… and to then teach good healthy hermeneutical principles. Tolic is a good teacher who is getting better. That’s exciting.

Thanks for praying for Priscilla’s operation and recovery. She’s going to be on light, light duties for a couple of months before again doing serious exercises. I’m so thankful for the opportunity she has to get this done now….

May God bless you.