Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Plane Has Landed

We have returned. The plane is pulling into the terminal.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial

This is one of the stops we made last night.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Thoughts from Oleta and Bettie

We're still here in the airport, so here's some stories from Oleta about her experiences here in Ukraine on this trip.

The most wonderful thing if I had to pick one would be the night that we went to a large pizza restaurant. The people were sitting all outside with the umbrella tables. I asked Wally if the meeting was going to be outside. He said, no, the meeting was inside. We walked in and it was a large restaurant full of people. He said we are going to the back room. They had a large room in the back and had accordian doors. We walked through them and the room was just full of people, four or five children and about 50 or 60 adults.

I sat down and Wally said it was time for me to speak. So I started out by telling them I wanted to tell them about Jesus and how he has changed my life. I told them that God had sent us to tell them how much he loves them, and that he has provided a way so they can know for sure exactly where they will go when they die. I told them how He has prepared a place for us and there is only one way we can go there. In Ephesians it tells us that in Him we have redemption through His blood, and if we will accept Him He promises us to come in. He made it simply enough for a child to understand. We must invite Him in, otherwise He will not come in.

The next step is to turn and to go His way because turn means to repent and to not go the way we were going ever again. And I asked them to please do no say this prayer unless you mean it with all your heart. Then I asked them if they went to sleep tonight and if didn't wake up where they would be. Many of them began to cry. They all repented except their Christian friends who had brought then. That was the most special meeting for me.

That night about 15 decisions was made. During the days that we were here I had 41 people make decisions for Christ.

Here's Bettie's message.

I just want to say the most important thing to me is knowing God and loving Him. I came to the Ukraine because I love the Lord so much I want to share that love with everyone that crosses my path. I worked with Larry and he and I both prayed before we came that God would send people across our path that God would want us to share His love. God did send many people across our path. Many people came to know Christ through this message. After all we came to do the will of the Father and by doing the will of the Father many people were saved.

God led us to people of all backgrounds, to the Orthodox faith to the little children, to those who never heard about Jesus, and we shared the simple message that Christ died on the Cross and rose in three days and is alive to give us eternal life also. We shared with them that the shedding of his blood covered all of our sins, and that His price was the only way to get to Heaven and have life eternal.

One of my favorite encounters was when Larry and I was invited into a home where the lady as Orthodox faith. We shared the greatest story ever told about Jesus who died for her, and she started to cry. I went over to her and got on my knees and took her hand, and wiped away the tears. I asked her if she would like this free gift of salvation offered by Jesus. I told her it was like someone giving us a gift wrapped with a beautiful ribbon and if we refused to take that gift it would break the person's heart who was offering it to them. I asked her if she wanted to repeat the simple prayer to ask Jesus into her heart and to know that she would go into Heaven when she died. She said 'da' or yes. She repeated the prayer after us and we rejoiced. She thanked God for saving her soul.

We shared with her that the only time angels rejoice in Heaven is when one soul comes to know Jesus, and to always remember that Jesus is in her heart and would be with her until the very end, to strengthen her, to encourage her and to comfort her broken heart when it was broken and to guide her in everything every day. All she had to do was ask Him.

Then Larry and I went to our favorite pupil to share this love with, and those are the little children of the churches and had invited all of her friends. We shared the salvation bracelets and the story of Jesus loving them. Their little eyes just sparkled. We asked them if they would like to receive Jesus today. It was with a simple prayer, acknowledging that each one was sinners and believing that Jesus had died for them, shedding his blood, and just confessing with their little mouth and believing with their heart that He would save them and they would have eternal life in Heaven and also He would be with them in this life on earth. Many of the little children came to know Christ that day, and their parents were their to listen. You could see the joy on their parents' faces as the little children became believers.

The trip was wonderful. We had gone to lift up the name of Jesus because the Bible says if we lift His name up we will draw all men to Himself. He kept his promises becauase many women, men and little children came to know Christ. We are on our way home wishing that we had been able to reach more souls, but Jesus is saying to my spirit, your mission is completed, you have seen everyone I intented for your team to see and now it's time to go home. And now it's time to continue spreading the gospel among your own people. You do this by dying to self and asking the Spirit to walk through you. Just be and let Jesus say the words along with the Holy Spirit and God's will be done.

I love you all.

They've begun boarding so it's time to go.

Welcome to Second Baptist Pastor Mark

2012-07-15111 from Dwan Ward on Vimeo.

You just have to love the Internet. We're eight time zones away from Marion and listening to Sunday's sermon.

More Thoughts on Black Sea Camp

View 2012 Ukraine Mission Trip in a larger map

We're at the airport in Lviv right now waiting for our flight to board, so here's a few thoughts about the camp.

In the upper portion of the view you can see the fence on the north side of the camp. The red roofs and the roofs are buildings in the upper camp. Where the dark green grass changes to a lighter color is the edge of the bluff.

Down below the camp is a bit narrower. We were staying in one of the square buildings with a brown roof. The large white-roofed structure is the dining hall. The buildings to the right and left are private vacation homes or rentals. The camp apparently controls the green space in between down to the water front.

We had a wonderful time at the camp. Keenan, Adam and I led small groups of 15 or so each afternoon. Joe assisted and preached one morning. Keenan and Aubrey sang almost every service. Keenan even played the drums one night. I sang one and a half songs Wednesday morning. The half song was the refrain from the new version of "It is Well With My Soul" which I sang in Russian.

Marcus and the girls assisted in the small groups, took part in the athletic events, played with the small children staying near us in the family quarters and gave their testimonies during the evening campfires after the two to three hour evening service.

Swimming in the Black Sea was enjoyed by all (except for some of us who didn't managed to pack a swimsuit.

On Wednesday night, Slavic, the regional youth leader took his leadership team and our four adults out for a pizza dinner in Yuzhne, a nearby town to the west. They wanted to know what we thought of the festival and how we could work together in the future.

Dennis Blankenship, your presence was specifically requested by the Ukrainians.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Central Park in Chernivtsi

Samantha McNurlan and Alexander (Sasha), one of our interpreters posed in front of the fountain from where we shared God's love with many people.

Many came to the park with their children, grandchildren, spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends or were passing through and would sit and rest from the loads they were carrying from the market. It is a beautiful park. We were entertained by several weddings that used the park over the weekend.

We came here several times over the six days we worked with the twelve Baptist churches. God's Spirit was blessing us as we shared. The people are very gracious and listened. We gave the witnessing bracelets. The Orthodox religions are a major stronghold with the Ukrainians. Our prayer is that they will think about the truths that we shared from the Bible and God's Spirit will encourage them to read the Bible for themselves and not look to tradition to save their souls.

The weather cooperated and was in 70's and low 80's with a breeze. Two evenings we had rain. One day we had to leave the park because of rain. Everything here is very green and we are praying that God is blessing our homes with rain.

Keenan and Aubrey Singing

Here's part of our group the last night at camp.

112 Decisions Made

We've just arrived in Lviv after leaving Chernivtsi this morning. Tomorrow we fly to Warsaw.

Last night all of our mission team met together for ths first time since last Saturday. After reports from both the Ukrainians and our members we learned that there were 112 decisions made for Christ on this trip.

We're getting ready for our last dinner in the country in a few minutes. It's our traditional stop at McDonalds.

I'll be updating more later.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Great Week at Camp

It's Wednesday night at the 7th Regional Festival of Bukovina Youth. I was wrong earlier. They do this event every three years.

It's been a great four days here at the camp which targets anyone from 14 to 30. We've been told there were anywhere from 300 to 350 present.

The evening worship service is about to start. They are doing sole instrumental solo performances now. When it is over we will begin our trek back to Chernivtsi and rejoin the other half if the mission team.

Just read my emails for the first time since Sunday. I'm glad to know we have a new pastor on the way. Mark Mohler and family, welcome to Marion and Southern Illinois.

The hotel in Chernivtsi has WiFi so I'm hoping to add more tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Youth Team Arrive at Black Sea Camp

The view is impressive and so are the 221 stairs between the upper camp where the services are held and the lower camp where our rooms and the dining hall is located.

Although the camp is located just east of Odesa, Ukraine, most everyone here has a tie to the Chernivtsi area. The name of this event is the 7th Regional Festival of Bukovina Youth. Bukovina is the name of the area of southwestern Ukraine and northeastern Romania.

It's mostly college age students with some high school age and some young families. It's structures much like Joe's New Camp that our youth are so familiar with.

There appeared to be a number if decisions made at tonight's services.

The weather is warm but is expected to cool off in the next day or so.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Singing and Witnessing in the Chernivtsi Park

Saturday is always a mixed-up day as we meet the local mission team members in the morning and do something in the afternoon. After six trips I think we've done something different every trip.

Today the Odessa youth team hit the central park in Chernivtsi with some singing and others witnessing and handing out the plan of salvation bracelets. Sandy and Samantha joined us with their interpreter as our interpreters for the camp are already there. They brought Pastor Victor along who is one of the local pastors.

That's Keenan from DuQuoin on the guitar with Aubrey as the other major vocalist. They're joined by Vitalic, one of our drivers lip-synching at one point as well as Sandy from Second and Natasha of Chernivtsi, a member of the Source of Life church who's helping with music playing the piano with a messianic Jewish congregration. I'm the one behind the iPad shooting the video.

It's pretty early in our visit and everyone was still getting warmed up. At one point you'll here Sandy ask someone, "Do you want a bracelet."

Other groups went downtown and some I think were heading to a market to witness.

The youth teams leaves in 27 minutes for Odessa. We're driving overnight to stay cool as the van lacks air conditioning.

Eva and Peggy Sue got a surprise today when they learned they will be a witness team with Pastor Nicoli and will be visiting probably some of the Romanian-langauge villages in the area. Tom and I went with him a few days last year as did Ron Ellis. They thought they were doing a backyard Bible club.

I got a surprise today. One of the 15-year-old interpreters helping Sandy and Samantha told me I looked familiar. I told him I'd been here two years before. Later he told me I went to his parents' home last year with Tom and we gave our testimonies. I remember that visit. We had three or four families with at least 10 or 12 listening as we sat ourside in the backyard. He's now a member of the Source of Life Church that's our major partner over here.

I think I've got Sandy set up to use Blogger as she brought her iPad as well. If everything works out she'll be able to provide updates as to what's happening with the crews in Chernivtsi. I'm not sure our connectability will be at the camp, or if we will get into Odessa much so I can update. Right now I'm in the santuary at Source of Life church charging the iPad and using their WiFi listening to Keenan play some more music. Our vans should arrive in nine minutes now.

Derek, I know, was heading out to one of the villags like he did on the last trip. He's got the same interpreter as well. I'm not sure if Bettie and Larry are going to be staying out in a village or using the hotel as homebase.

Everyone's doing well. Keep us in your prayers. We're keeping the new minister preaching in the morning at Second Baptist. May he be the one God has planned for our church.

Ready to Start Day 1 in Chernivtsi

There's nothing like a good's night sleep in a nice hotel - and we certainly did experience it last night at the Hotel Andinna here in Chernivtsi.

For everyone reading who's been on earlier trips and stayed at the Cheremosh. There's certainly no comparison.

Breakfast this morning was eggs sunny-side up, ham, bread and something to drink, including Pepsi-Cola in a glass bottle if you didn't want juice, coffee or tea.

Today we're scheduled to go to the big church here in a few minutes to meet the other pastors, interpreters and drivers. Some old faces we saw last night when we arrived at the hotel.

The Odessa bunch leaves later today for the camp. It's about a 10-hour drive we're told.

Keep all of us in your prayers.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Group Arrives in Ukraine

We have all arrived safely and with all of our luggage.

Wally and Brother Vasily are here to meet us. Soon we will get on the bus for the 5-hour trip to Chernivtsi