November 2022 News Update
What an amazing journey it has been since leaving Houston on October 7. We flew to Krakow, Poland. I spoke six days in a row, two hours each day, and in five different cities. The churches were all in the Brethren camp, having a grace gospel and a literal hermeneutic. The church leaders have a good doctrinal foundation, and I really enjoyed the fellowship. The response of the people was very enthusiastic, and I have been invited to come back to teach some courses in the not-too-distant future. The home which was our base in Poland was literally in the back yard of Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp. Since we were traveling to different cities each day to teach we didn’t visit there. I have been there some years ago and would like to see it again, but that will have to wait.
Another treat for us was to see our college student, Denis, along with his wife and son, who are now living in Poland. He drove to each of the places where I taught that week. He is a Belarusian citizen, but he does not want to return there for fear that he would be drafted and be required to fight against Ukraine. Because he is not Ukrainian, he was permitted to leave Ukraine after the war started. He has now obtained legal documents from the Polish government which allow him to live and to work in Poland. Denis was just a few months short of finishing his course requirements to graduate from Word of God College. He disciplined himself to take the remaining courses through videos and online correspondence. We are very proud of him; he is going to make a fine pastor-teacher. He and his wife are currently working among Ukrainian refugees who are attending a Polish church.
Following our week in Poland we had a truly wonderful time returning to Ukraine for a few days. We went to the western city of Lviv. This is a delightful old European city with cobblestone streets and many promenades. The leaves were turning gold, red, yellow, and brown, combining with those still green to paint a delightful landscape. But the greatest treat was reunion with many loved ones.
Vasya Munko is pastor of Word of God Church in Lviv, where he has ministered for more than 15 years. He was one of my earliest students in Ukraine, going back to the late 90s when I taught at Ukraine Bible Institute, and he was one of the first graduates of Word of God Bible College. After studying with us in Kyiv, he went to Mogilev, Belarus, where he worked with the church we had planted there. After a couple of years there he went to Lviv and started a church. He has done an outstanding job of verse-by-verse and categorical theological teaching to prepare his people to face the war and to minister to the thousands of refugees who have come into Lviv.
The facility where the church had been meeting is now being used as a shelter for refugees, mostly women with children, or some old folks who had to flee their homes. Mattresses line the floor in what had been the auditorium, and it is crowded. But at this point it is safe, warm, and dry. Another room is stacked with boxes of donated clothing and dry food stuffs. The church bought a washing machine and a dryer to take care of laundry. They have no kitchen in this place, but they have arranged for a nearby restaurant to cook the food for these refugees. We are so thankful for you have contributed to help supply these material needs. But the most important aspect of the ministry there is that the people are being provided with spiritual food on a daily basis as Vasya and others meet with them for prayer and Bible study.
On Sunday I had the joy of preaching at the church. Not only did we have a good turnout for face-to-face teaching, but there were even more who joined us online. Then we were overjoyed when a contingent of our loved ones from Kyiv drove to Lviv just to spend some time with us. Oleg Lozinsky, pastor of Word of God Church in Kyiv, came with his wife. Two other couples came as well, along with some of our young adults. It was a such a blessing for us to have a day with them. They are all doing well and standing firm in their faith.
Also, a young man currently serving on the front lines in the Ukrainian artillery had a few rest days and was able to join us. He left us spellbound with so many war stories, some of them were amazing testimonies of God’s grace in delivering him and his unit from immediate dangers, including being shot at by the enemy and having the bullets hit the dirt right in front of his feet. In other cases, his vehicle was actually strafed by hostile fire, but he and his team escaped with only minor injuries. One of the interesting points he made was that most of the Russian soldiers were continually drunk or getting high on drugs. Obviously, this is not a good strategy for effective warfare. Our man enlisted right after the war began in later February. He had no prior military experience and has received little training. However, he is a natural leader/administrator. He knows how to motivate people and how to get things done. Since he has proven to be conscientious, resourceful, and reliable, he has been appointed acting company commander. This is not something he wanted, but his superiors told him that they would tell him what to do, and that he needed to get it done. He has been a good testimony to his squad and platoon, witnessing to them, praying with them and for them. I believe God has plans to use him. For a couple of reasons I cannot give you his name at this time, but please do pray for him. He will also take with him “Bible Sticks” produced by the ministry, “Faith Comes by Hearing” located in Albuquerque, NM. These Bible Sticks, which are small MP3 players, have an audio Bible in the Ukrainian language. Along with each stick is a pair of earphones. This enables the soldiers to be able to listen to a reading of the Bible whenever they have opportunity. They also come with instructions on how they can download the Bible to their cell phones in virtually any language they want. We pray that these will be used by the Lord to comfort the Christian warriors in Ukraine and also to bring unsaved soldiers to faith in Christ.
Through the contacts we made in Poland we have been able to ship some sorely needed supplies into Ukraine. We have purchased some power generators for churches in areas where they have been without electricity for a long time. In addition we have been able to purchase food, which is being given to pastors to distribute among their congregations. In this way we know that the food is going to people who are truly in need.
After our brief visit to Ukraine we returned to Poland to get a flight to Zambia. The temperature was freezing in Krakow and it was necessary to de-ice the plane. When we arrived in Africa it was close to triple digits! It took us almost two days to get to Zambia because of layovers and changing airlines. But we arrived in Lusaka, the capital city, and drove out to the village of Chipembi. This was the first place I taught in Zambia back in the year 2001. I have gone back there every year since then, except for the time when Covid restrictions prevented me from doing so. The village is still without electricity, although they have been promised power for several years. They still lack running water as well. A number of years ago we raised money to drill a couple of wells in the area, but they have since gotten plugged up. So we funded a renovation of the wells in the village, and now they are enjoying fresh water again. The church there is strong, being pastored by Benjamin who has studied with us for the past 20 years. We had a great time in Chipembi, preaching to a church that was packed wall-to-wall and overflowing out the doors. Exciting!
On Monday we made a drive three hours north to Kabwe, the capital of the Central Province. This was our first time to hold a conference in that city. The response was very enthusiastic and they are eager to have us come back to teach them again. Our schedule started at 9:00 in the morning and went until 4:00 in the afternoon. Our venue was in a church building whose electricity came from a small generator outside. This did provide for lights and a sound system, but there was no air conditioning, and the temperature was close to 100 four days in a row. I was grateful to have help in teaching from Benjamin and from Charles, two Zambian pastors with whom I have worked for many years now, but I did the bulk of the teaching.
On Saturday we drove back to Lusaka and got on the bus to go to Livingstone. It should be a pleasant seven-hour drive, but because of some things that came up it turned out to be a ten-hour journey and we didn’t get in until late at night. We got up the next morning and went to Charles’ church where I had the privilege of teaching for an hour and a half. One of the unique features of this church is that people bring hard copies of the Bible, and when you tell them to turn to a passage, the auditorium comes alive with the crepitations of turning pages. In addition to that, almost everyone in that congregation has a notebook and takes notes during the message.
From there we went to another city, new to me, named Kalomo, about 2 hours north of Livingstone. We had people from about a dozen different congregations in this city, representing several denominations. These people, although they have been saved for some time and are active in church, have never been exposed to sound doctrinal Bible teaching. Our schedule was as the previous week, starting at 9:00 in the morning and going until 4:00 in the afternoon, with an hour break for lunch. The temperature here was also in the mid to upper 90s with no A/C. It was demanding, but oh so rewarding. The people were super attentive and wanted more and more. At the end of each day they had lots and lots of questions. They begged us to come back soon to teach them more. So, already we have made tentative plans to return next April to do conferences in those two cities. It is also gratifying that they have invited the Zambian pastors Benjamin and Charles to come back to teach in their churches as well.
After all of that we flew to South Africa. We had the great joy of meeting Tom and Cheryl Molinar, missionaries in South Africa. We have known about them for years and have had some correspondence with them, but we had never met them. So this year we tacked a few days onto our itinerary so that we could finally meet them. They hosted us at Kruger National Park, which is a huge game preserve. We spent two fabulous days driving through a tiny fraction of the park, seeing so many animals that it was overwhelming. We saw large herds of elephants, all kinds of deer and antelope, leopards, cape buffalo, rhinos, crocodiles, warthogs, and many amazing birds that ranged from big vultures to tiny oxpeckers that piggy back on rhinos and giraffes. It was wonderful way to unwind after the vigorous schedule of the previous month. Thanks, Tom and Cheryl, for your most gracious hospitality.
Now we are headed back to Houston. I don’t know what we will be doing in the near future or in what place(s) we may being doing it, but “have Bible, will travel.”
We thank all of you who have been praying for us. The Father has certainly been faithful in answering your prayers.
All by grace,