Our church planting mission here at KTS is to train and equip church planters to plant reproducible churches. God continues to open doors… this is truly amazing.
We currently have a session that deals with mentoring and Leadership… huge issues to deal with here in Ukraine. Several of our church planting classes include students from other programs in the seminary. We think this is good. It gives us an opportunity to share church planting on a broader scale trusting God will use it to challenge some of these men to be church planters as well.
Our class on mentoring and leadership has been taught by Dan Upchurch, our new colleague who is working with us, and Dr. Tony Merida pastor and soon to be professor of preaching at Southeastern Seminary and church planter in the Raleigh Durham area. God has used them in a great way. Dan taught the first week on mentoring. It was so encouraging on Friday when we had the students over for pizza to hear them talk about how important mentoring is to the success of their ministry and to the ministry of others..
Then yesterday I sat in on Dr. Merida’s last period class and sensed that God is moving in the hearts of these men. So, I gave a brief challenge after Dr. Merida finished and prayed for them. After prayer one of the men from another program other than church planting pulled me aside and said God has been speaking to him about planting a church in the fall. This young man is a dynamic leader and has really been touched by this class.
As I left yesterday once again I realized that what is happening in the church planting program at KTS is contagious and continues to take on a life all its own. I am praying that God will continue to use all of us to steward this vision in a better way.
Yes... its going to be time to start classes again here at KTS. Hard to believe that the summer vacation is almost over.
We have our last volunteer team for the season in country now. They are a team of four from Porter Memorial in Lexington, Kentucky, led by their missions pastor Larry Cranfill. Dr. Bill Hennard is their pastor. They are in Rovenki doing a medical clinic in Rovenki with one of our recent graduates. From all reports things are going well. We are grateful to all of our volunteers that have been here this summer.
Mary Ellen and I just got finished taking a walk through our new building here at KTS. Wow. It is wonderful. Lots more space. We now have nice new dormitory rooms for our students and some additional class room space that is badly needed. It is a blessings to be able to serve here at KTS with all the wonderful staff and faculty.
Today we celebrated Sergey, our assistants birthday. He was 28 yesterday. We invited our friends and co-workers here at the seminary to eat cake and drink cappiuccino. A good time was had by all.
Some time ago Mike Manna, the director of Youth Ministry International here at the seminary and I began to notice that some of our students were beginning to work together in planting new churches. This was exciting and it was something that was a "God" thing. Since then we have seen at least three new church plants that have one of his students and one of mine that have started new work. PTL!! Out of this Mike and I offer our basic 101 courses to each others students. It is working well.
Last night we had both groups over for pizza. It was a great time of sharing and getting to know better how God is using them in ministry here in Ukraine. We ended up in our living room in our circle praying for each other and believing that God is doing something here that is truly remarkable.
Pictured here are Anne and Dr. Al Wright with Joel following a Sunday evening meeting in their fellowship hall. I was blessed to get to preach in both morning services and again Sunday evening. There was such a tremendous spirit with this new church partner. Dr Wright has already taught at KTS in the church Planting Department and we are looking forward to the ESL team that will be coming from their church this summer. Thank you, First Baptist Waynesboro for giving to the Lord!
These are two words that get the blood flowing. Why? Because it is an opportunity for me to get out from behind my desk at KTS and out where the action is. It is always a good dose of reality.
Saturday I drove my little Chevy to Chegerine approximately 3 hours south of Kiev. I was accompanied by Michael K. our campus pastor who is working with me in the area of training mentors for our students. It was a beautiful fall day and the conversation added to a delightful trip back and forth to Chegerine. The purpose of our visit was to meet with my students (I have 5 from this area) and the regional pastor to talk about where they all are in the process of planting churches and to talk with them about an evangelistic outreach in their area this summer with a volunteer team from the US.
It was a good time to catch up on where they were and to hear from them about their vision for planting churches. It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet the regional pastor, a young man in his early 30s who is a graduate of KTS. I was thrilled at his vision and maturity. I think it was the beginning of a very positive relationship. It’s all about relationships!! We had a typical Ukrainian lunch and then headed back to Kiev, stopping by and seeing one of the student’s churches in the village.
We took a little side tour and stopped in Cherkassy and looked at the new home that my former assistant, and adopted Ukrainian son and his wife are building. His father met us and took us by so I could get some pictures of the new construction. We arrived in Kiev after dark and it was 8:30 PM before I walked into the door of our apt to the smell of candles and a great dinner by my lovely wife. All in all it was a great day.
Yesterday was a great day at KTS. We had a reception for all the new students at KTS and then we began a journey with our new class of students. I began teaching my introductory class Church Planting 101 to a class of 13 students.
As always I am amazed at the kind of men that God sends us to train and equip . Most of these men are in their early to mid 20’s and are committed to ministry and to planting churches. I even have an American brother in my class who is coming because he is wanting to take this material and train some other men that he knows about planting churches. The opportunity to invest in these men is always a challenge and one of the greatest privileges that I have ever had in my life. These are the kind of investments that are recession-proof and can not be effected by the Wall Street bust!!
Continue to pray with us about more students for our program.
Everyday God gives us something to be grateful for here in Ukraine. I would like to point out two of these for you today. (1) Sergei- one of my students and the only one of my students from Belarus. He came to us with the strong recommendation of a trusted IMB missionary. He moved from Minsk to another city of 400,000 nearly two years now. This city only has 4 Baptist churches and only a handful of other denominations. He has a team and a vision and will be planting his church this fall. He came to see me here in Kiev yesterday. It is a 10 hour train trip by the way. He delivered a copy of his post assignment for one of my classes... 70 hours of work on the demographics of his city. As we were sitting talking about his work I found out in the last year his team has led 10 people to Christ and have already baptized 5 of them. What was most exciting was one of these baptized had been prayed for, for over 5 years by Sergei and the mans wife. After accepting Christ this man has just recently led another man to Christ. PTL. God is working.
(2) Joseph- is one of my students who lives out in Western Ukraine in the mountains. I talked to him yesterday and he gave me a very encouraging report on the people he works with…Romas. One of the men in the Roma village, Kolya, has recently converted to Christ and is a brilliant witness for the gospel. He is a strong leader in the Roma village. He has cancer and has had it for sometime but this has not slowed him down. My student said that Kolya has just returned from Budapest after receiving medical treatment. Kolya told him that the doctors are amazed at his progress. Kolya shared openly with the doctors that Jesus Christ has made all the difference in his life and his family. PTL The above picture was 2 years ago soon after Kolya had come to the Lord.
Thank you God for young men who are out on the front lines planting churches in this part of the world. Thank you God for allowing me to be a witness to what you are doing here.
We held our first open house at KTS this past week and it was a success. Our purpose in having the open house was to invite prospective students to come and see the seminary and meet students and faculty. We rolled out the “red carpet.”
They were met in the lobby with a table of cookies , coffee and tea. Mike Manna director of YMI along with the Church Planting Program had our coffee machines available for people to get a great cup of espresso or regular coffee. We had our residential students register prospective students and serve as guides to take our guests to visit classes and see the seminary. Our students did a wonderful job.
Guests were then invited to chapel where they joined our residential and modular students for worship, testimony of one of our students and a message from our vice president Konstantin Goncharov. After chapel we had an informal time where prospective students were able to meet program directors and learn about each of the academic departments.
Following that a more formal time included greetings from our president Anatoly Prokopchuk, the academic dean, Sergei Terachinka and each director also spoke. After this program students were free to look at the displays of the different programs set up in the chapel and meet with the registrar to begin the application process. The official Open House ended with lunch in the dining hall.
Then the prospective students left and we went back to the work of the seminary… for us that would be “Training and equipping young men to plant reproducible churches in Ukraine and the former Soviet Union.” I was so proud of one of my church planters… Sergei from a city several hours south of Kiev. He drove up with a car full of young men and women who are looking at the seminary. Seeing Sergei take ownership of this program increases my pride in my students and makes it all worthwhile to me.
It is Easter today here in Ukraine.
This holiday is very significant here as it is in America. However, the traditions are different. Easter here for many Ukrainians involves getting your Pascal (Russian for Easter) bread and eggs blessed by the priests at the Orthodox Church. Afterwards they will spend time in the parks with family and friends eating and enjoying one another’s company.
Mary Ellen and I are spending our 5th Easter here in Ukraine and took the opportunity for a very relaxing day. The weather was beautiful, warm with bright blue skies and puffy white clouds. On our way to church this morning we taken back with the lack of traffic and people. Many have gone out of the city to visit relatives. We went to the New Life Church for a wonderful service filled with drama and music that reminded us of what Easter is truly all about: celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
After church we went to a favorite restaurant for a late breakfast and then on to a Ukrainian Sunday afternoon walk, including a ride up the venicular, an incline railway connecting Podol (one of the oldest parts of the city down by the Dnippr River) with the upper part of the city near many of the oldest churches in Kiev. We walked around on top and looked out at the river and the city far below us. What a beautiful sight!! We walked over to St. Michael’s where the priest was blessing the bread and eggs and sprinkling holy water on people in front of the church. Mary Ellen got too close and got a few sprinkles☺ Took the venicular down the hill and walked to one of our favorite coffee shops for espresso, tea and some pastries.
Now we are back at the apartment relaxing. It will be a long holiday weekend here and the seminary is on its Easter break all next week. So we have a chance to relax some and get ready for the final assault before we graduate our second class of church planting students in May.
I will close with the traditional greeting on Easter here in Ukraine. Cristos Vaskres (Christ is Risen!!) Vieasteenew Vaskres. (He is risen indeed!)