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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!