Friday, July 07, 2017

Day 2 in Ukraine

I was able to talk with Mitch via Facebook Messenger app today. The kids were all excited to say hi and "see" their daddy. We also got to say hi to their host family and the rest of the team, and received a blessing from Pastor Grigorii.

Last night after arriving in Horol, our team got out some of the sports equipment they brought and taught the family how to play 4-Square. Mitch said they played for hours (which is funny considering how long they had been awake). Victoria made a time-lapse video, so I hope to see that. :) One of the translators whom we've been friends with for nearly a decade, AJ, said that he is very competitive and he loves the new game now. Mitch is really competitive too...I'd like to see those two have a game after Mitch is rested up. Haha. I wish I had sent Mitch's knee braces now. :)

{Here is an old picture of Mitch and AJ from 9 years ago on Mitch's first trip to Ukraine. I bet they both think they are still this young.}

Today the team unpacked and sorted all the items for VBS. They went shopping and bought some volleyballs. While our weather here has been hot, they are enjoying "perfect" weather there. Last week their weather was really hot, and someone asked Pastor Grigorii how they would keep the kids at VBS from getting heat stroke. Pastor replied that they would pray for better weather. Now the forecast for next week looks amazing! Mitch said that too often we tend to try to solve problems ourselves, and then when we can't figure it out we resort to prayer when we should have prayed at the start. We are thanking God for an answer to prayer with the forecast.

Mitch said they drove out to a new village today ("new" as in not the one that the American teams have visited in the past). Mitch said, "We played volleyball and the human knot. Then Sergiy shared the Gospel and we had some treats."
 The village does not currently have a church. A group came in and started a church, but then left. So the adults in the village are distrustful. Sergiy has been leading a missions outreach to this village. There is an abandoned church building in the village, and he has attracted a group of teens. They go out to the village every Friday.
 Mitch said the group of teens are a "rough" bunch. The translator, AJ, was a little embarrassed. He said, "They are not using nice words." Our team responded with grace. The teens are unregenerate, and honestly this is what we expect apart from the grace that is given by God in a transformed heart.
Please pray for the work that Sergiy is doing in the village. Pray that the teens would be receptive to the Gospel and that they would be transformed and made new. Pray that the adults would also have softened hearts. Sergiy hopes to remodel the basement of the church into a youth room with a pool table and other activities that will be enjoyable for the teens. They hope to be able to start a live, growing church there in the village again. Our American team will return two times next week--on Thursday and again on Friday.

I'm following The Bible Project's reading plan to read through the Bible this year (ReadScripture app), and this week I am reading from Ezekiel. When God commissioned Ezekiel, he gave him a wondrous vision and also the hard reality that he was sending him to the people of Israel (who were in captivity in Babylon), and that their hearts were hard and they would not listen. In Ezekiel 3:5-6, God said, "For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel--not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you." Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary, "had God sent him to any other people, though of a strange speech, surely they would have hearkened to him; they would at least have given him a patient hearing and shown him that respect which he could not obtain of his own countrymen." Our team has been sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language. The hearts of these teens have likewise been hard toward their own countrymen. I pray that God would use the excitement and interest of the Americans coming to waken in them patience, respect, and a hearing for the Gospel. I pray that like Ezekiel, Sergiy would be strengthened to minister among the people of the village, that he would be sympathetic and understanding and committed to preaching the Word. Even though the people of Israel didn't receive the message from Ezekiel and they had hard hearts, God also promised in Ezekiel 36:26, "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." This is what Mitch was talking about when he said that the teens were unregenerate, but that God could change their hearts. This is what we pray that God will do in the village with no church.

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