Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Like no baby dedication I've ever seen

Darren Carlson (TLI Director), Josh, and I went to a Pentecostal church in Kibera on the last Sunday of our trip. Definitely a cultural experience. Loved it! Wish I could drum like those guys! I think we should add them to our worship team... what do you think?

Teaching Trip Summary

I returned from my trip to Kenya and Ukraine on the 17th and have been getting back in the groove of life, work, and family. Since our friends, family, and supporters are scattered all over the world I thought a blog post might be the best way to give a review of my trip, a summary of the things God did, and what I learned during my travels.


I traveled to Kenya with Training Leaders International (TLI) for ten days teaching and training church leaders and pastors in Nairobi. We worked with an Anglican evangelistic ministry called Church Army Africa and spent our first three days teaching lay leaders from the Anglican churches of Nairobi.

A Vicar (Anglican pastor) may serve 3-4 congregations, and so these men and women carry much of the load of ministry within their local parish. We talked through a Biblical Foundations curriculum from Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis (part of John Piper's church) which covered basic elements of systematic theology, Biblical interpretation, and Christ-centered life and ministry. Church Army produced a video about TLI's ministry and you can see us in action. I was sick the day they did the interviews and missed out on that, but you can see a few shots of me teaching and a number of my students appear in the video. It was a joy to serve them.

The next four days we spent in the slums of Nairobi. My teaching partner Josh and I went to Korogocho slum, one of the toughest in Nairobi. The conditions are difficult to describe: extreme poverty, mud houses, sewage ditches in the walking paths.

We also watched hundreds of adults and children picking through the vast city dump sorting trash to sell to recyclers for a few pennies.

Yet God's Church is here. We spent two days teaching at a training center for pastors who live and serve here. After our sessions we were invited to visit the churches and homes of the pastors. We prayed for blessing on their homes, families, and ministries, and we received their hospitality: a bottle of cold water in Jesus' name. These were amazing men who love the Lord, His word, and His Church. It was a blessing to serve them.

This is the view of the church in Kibera slum where we went on our last Sunday. The church is the bulding on the left with the flag. I am standing on a log bridge over an open sewer that runs alongside the church and down through the slum.


From Nairobi I flew to Kiev where I was met by my friend Vlad and his wife Zhanna who now serve the church in Priluki where we used to live.

They re-did the central plaza in Priluki with nice new paving brick and upgraded the Lenin statue from his old bronze green to a shiny coat of gold paint. Hmmm.

I spent five days in Priluki and it was great to be back "home" and to see our church family again. I gave some lectures on the historical background and context of the New Testament and spent some time in personal ministry...and enjoying Ukrainian hospitality and food.

My Friend Max invited me to his dacha Saturday.
His wife Tanya made homemade Pelmeni. Yum Yum Yum!

Then I spent four days in Chernigov reconnecting with some of my old missionary teammates. It was good to see their growing families and spend time renewing our friendships. Jake, Danny, and Conor came to Ukraine in their early twenties and have spent about ten years planting churches and laboring to see Christ formed in the men, women, and future church leaders of Ukraine. They are great brothers, and I love and respect them so much.

Conor, Jake, and Bogdan discussing the passage they will each be teaching in their home fellowships.

We all love books and always have great conversations about what we have been reading, thinking, learning, and experiencing. Our conversations always seem to circle back to our passion to see the Gospel proclaimed in Ukraine and the Church to grow and be strengthened.

In the course of our conversations we discussed the possibility of a TLI teaching trip to Ukraine next year, and also some ideas for ongoing theological training for churches and pastors. One of my desires is to see the Bethlehem curriculum I used in Kenya translated into Russian. It is an excellent curriculum in four volumes, and it would provide a basis for a solid theological education for pastors and churches. It uses Wayne Grudem's systematic theology as its main text book, which Jake's publishing ministry, In Lumine, just began printing and distributing in Ukraine. Cool huh? (Check out In Lumine's titles and current projects) So I would like to see if we can secure the permissions and copyrights to translate and use this curriculum in Ukraine. It is a big project but has massive potential! That is something big to pray about. Would you join me in praying? How 'bout taking 30 seconds to pray for the future of theological training in Ukraine right now?


I came away from this trip with lots of incredible memories and experiences, of course, but also a huge thankfulness to God for the privilege to go and serve these brothers and sisters, and a humble thankfulness to those who gave financially to support my teaching trip. My trip also strengthened my convictions and stirred my passions in a couple of core areas.

First is the incredible power and durability of the Gospel as it enters various cultures and social and economic contexts. Through this trip I have learned even more about the challenges of communicating the Gospel and strengthening leaders and churches in a cross-cultural context. Yet I am even more convinced of the power and the durability of the Gospel and God's intention to use weak, culturally-challenged vessels of clay to show and communicate His power, grace, and love. Cross-cultural missions was and is God's idea.

Second: I am more convinced than ever of the need for theological and ministry training for the leaders and the people of the Church, foreign and domestic. I am well aware that mere knowledge does not make a pastor, and training alone does not qualify a man to lead the church. Theological training is not a silver bullet. It does not guarantee an effective pastor or healthy church. And yet I have seen in my ministry experience in the States, my experience as a missionary, and again on this trip that where theological training is not emphasized or is not available, there is a corresponding weakness in ministry, and a vulnerability to many errors.

Third: On a personal level, I found that I still have a deep desire to be personally involved with the training and raising of church leaders in the parts of the world where opportunities for training are limited. I also found that I have an abiding love for the people of Ukraine and a passion for the growth and strength of the Church there. What God wants to do with that in the future is up to Him. For now He has given me the opportunity to study. I will finish my Masters in Theology in May. Please pray for me and my family as we consider and seek God's will and direction for our future ministry.

Prayer Requests

  • Praise and Thanks to God for the financial provision for me to go and serve!

  • Financial provision for this last year of school, and perserverance and fruitfulness in my studies.

  • Wisdom and direction for me in considering future teaching opportunities and trips with TLI.

  • Pray for the potential translation project of the Bethlehem curriculum into Russian. Pray for God's will, his direction, his favor, and his financial provision for this project and its potential fruits.

Thanks again to those who supported me financially, and thanks to all who prayed for me and my family as I traveled. Thanks for your prayers for me as I was sick in Kenya. I really felt them and God gave me much grace to endure, and gave healing to my body. Thanks also for your prayers for those in Kenya and Ukraine. Pray that the the teaching, the conversations, and ministry continue to bear fruit and build up the Church of Jesus Christ for their joy, and for His glory.

TLI and Kenya

Training Leaders International put out a video that shows the purpose and practical aspects of their ministry. This video highlights the team that went to Kenya this summer. There is a small glimpse of Ethan in the video, so keep your eyes open to that. It was so great to hear from the Kenyan lay leaders who took part in the training. Here is the link to the video:
A picture is worth a thousand words!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Flopsy Bunnies

We have had a little varmint running around our garden for a few days. Finally Peter John chased him around this afternoon, and we discovered there were three wee rabbits in there. One ran under the fence and escaped through the rhubarb patch, and the other two were caught by Ethan and Peter John with the aid of a couple of buckets after being cornered against the fence under a sunflower. Here are the triumphant varmint catchers in a photo. Afterwards the kids and Ethan drove them out to a nearby field and let them free. Stay away from our lettuce, wee rabbits! Too bad they are wild and probably bug infested. They would be so cute to keep.

It's Good to Be Together Again

Ethan made it back safely Friday night. His airplane arrived in Minneapolis at 8:45pm, and we drove to Fergus Falls arriving at 12:30am. What a blessed and fruitful mission trip. Thank you to EVERYONE who prayed and supported him.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Helping the "Untouchables"

Jesus Heals a Leper (drawing by Rembrandt)

Today some brothers and sisters from the church in Chernigov, along with Ethan, visited a hospital for TB patients (some who also have AIDS). In Pastor Jake's newsletter, he stated there are perhaps 30 children living there along with 700 adults with tuberculosis. The hospital and the people living there are in very sad shape, and the church has begun visiting there, hoping to help. Today they brought a load of balls for the kids to play with. A nurse thanked them for the balls, but said the children are living without toilet paper or underwear. Tomorrow they plan to return with these much needed supplies. My heart broke for these kids when Ethan shared this with me. May God's love and mercy be given to these people who are virtually the "untouchables" of Ukraine. May we remember to pray for them!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ethan took a marshrutka (passenger van where you buy a seat for commuting) to Chernigov this morning and plans to visit with friends there. He will be staying with Jake Knotts, the pastor of Christian Bible Church .
He will see our friends, Danny and Anneliese Foote, today who are passing through Chernigov, and he hopes to see Conor and Koren McNamee this week. There are also wonderful saints in the church there whom he would enjoy seeing again.

Thank you for your prayers for his time in Priluki. It was a good time of ministry and also revisiting old places, and seeing many people whom we love and pray for. He spent two evenings teaching, and then Sunday he preached on Psalm 67, a favorite of our family's. I am looking forward to talking to Ethan when he gets back about his time there. A couple of blessings from the past couple of days included spending Saturday at Max's dacha outside of Priluki, and spending time talking to Lyosha, a theology/Bible professor who is from Priluki, who was visiting. On Sunday afternoon, many people stayed after church to fellowship, eat pizza together, and visit with Ethan. What a blessed time!