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Cheap Plastic Forks

clip_image002I’m going to do an experiment at our next church picnic… and then use it as an illustration. We will set the usual pile of plates out, but have 10 good stainless steel forks and 60 cheap plastic ones in the forks pile. I am pretty certain that the “C.P.F.’s” will be the only ones left within 20 people visiting the buffet-style table. Most of us, despite God’s instruction to the contrary, “look out for our own interests at the expense of the good of others”. But then you have the 20% who are different. (And it is simply a delight when you realize someone is entering the 20%!) One of our young men here is one such. About a year ago, we picked him up in Kiev… a blubbering mess of a drunk who was desperate to come to rehab. I was so totally not in the mood for silliness or being put out by the stench and foolish words of a drunk… and had just enough grace in me to accept him into our car… but it was close. My attitude on the way home was anything but loving… but I admitted to myself and the guy in the car next to me that God would probably teach me another lesson and this drunk would become one of my most precious brothers in Rzhyshchiv. Well… guess what. :) I shake my head at the irony of it… and the powerful grace of God on display. Roma serves and loves and cares and would probably be in the top 1% of the 20%. He won’t take a stainless steel fork to eat his meal with. (There won’t be any left on the table by the time he goes up anyway as he will be one of the last.) God is glorified through his life.

clip_image004We do well. Pris and I, (along with Mitya and Sveta), on Saturday finished the Biblical counseling course we have been doing the last two years with Kiev Theological Seminary. We were given our diplomas and felt rather unworthy until we realized that we had listened to over 70 lectures and read several books and done quite a bit of work over the last two years! I’ve counseled a lot of people , and feel more confident now than I did as a 30-year old. But it’s one of those acts of love that I don’t ever want to get over-confident in. (Does a heart surgeon or a brain surgeon ever go into surgery with a lackadaisical attitude?) At least for now, there is no danger of me being blasé about Biblical counseling. I “go in” with trepidation. 

Angel and Pris went to Kiev again today to the doctor. Angel, after going through a horrifically bad spell, has seen her health pick up again. Due to the skin peeling off and the raw rash, she developed an infection that seems intent on staying around until treated, so she went to a clinic to get it tested today. Despite this problem, she is still 1000X better than a month ago, and for this we are very grateful!

When do you describe a church as strong rather than weak? Answer: When the wills of a majority of its members are consistently in submission to our God and know His truth. Are we strong? Mmmmm… nope. But we are becoming stronger in the most important areas.

I love preaching, but I have really enjoyed seeing the young men sharing their hearts as well, and this has been something they’ve done a fair bit of during the last six months. In many churches in Ukraine, four or even five sermons will be preached during a Sunday service. We’ve stuck to the western style so far, but we will start something new soon and will be having a mini-sermon a couple of times each month in addition to a main sermon. It’s hard for people to get used to a regular Ukrainian church after being a part of ours... for a number of reasons – not the least being the number of sermons. Mini-sermons ahoy!

The rehab ministry is… frustratingly wonderfully crazily rewardingly and… still running. We now have two ladies in rehab and Marie is surprising Pasha and Mitya with her maturity and wisdom. We are considering taking a couple of ladies with kids… reluctantly. Some friends have met this mother who has four kids who is a drug addict and wants to get into rehab. No one wants to take a lady with FOUR kids! I understand why.  We will take her if she calls back

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The men:

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Rascals! They are badly raised rebels who are learning to put on Christ… at times doing wonderfully, at times we pick up the smelly mess. We are sending one of the men to another centre this week, (one run by former prisoners). He has been with us for a year, and apart from the one time he found bottles of vodka at his work… he hasn’t drunk alcohol. But he isn’t growing in his faith and has been the cause of numerous conflicts and rebellious incidents. It feels as if we are giving up with this guy - and that’s hard to justify and not something I’m used to doing. May God have mercy.

We are overfull. And we’ve had seven calls in the last week wanting to know if we can take new guys – all young drug addicts. We are joyfully accepting back one of our former guys who got back into the deceitful and dark world of drugs. We’ve been concerned about him for several months and this is an answer to prayer. We have slowly come to the conclusion that the best thing for most of these guys is to stay here with us where it’s impossible to hide drug/alcohol use and where there is good accountability. We are overfull but no one has left because of it yet.

Yesterday was fun. The girls prayed about some money for a vehicle for the ladies rehab centre as it was growing and our van already packs in 14 people to take to meetings. Within 45 minutes of praying, someone had given $3000! It hasn’t happened too often that God has answered in that sort of timeframe!

God does bless us. By far, the most important blessings are spiritual; and yet we see God’s people in His Word also being grateful for physical blessings. It is a privilege to see Him using many different people, playing different roles in His church, and bringing glory to His Name.

Enjoy life! Live it with God.