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2007 - May/August PDF Print E-mail


239 Duke Road

Columbia, La. 71418

(318) 649-7720


May - August 2007 Newsletter



Hello to all!  It’s been a quick summer, filled with all kinds of activity and rush, and although we’re glad that we’re about to get to a resting place, we’re also somewhat sad to see things coming to an end.  So much has happened!  Some good things and some bad, but God is teaching us new things and hard lessons each step of our way.  We are really learning what it is like to be in a “strange land“.  Although we have many sweet Christian friends who have stayed beside us and supported us, we have also been affected deeply by the hard ways and tough atmosphere of this land.


            I want to be honest.  When I left the USA, I was so little touched by alcoholism and substance abuse products that I could say very little about the subject, but what I did know, I was quick to speak about.  I despised it all because of the few times in my life that my family and I were affected by it, and I hated anything pertaining to it.  It was hard for me to separate the person who was trapped by it from the sin itself, and my heart was closed to anyone who was.  Since coming to the Ukraine, especially in village life, I have begun to see up close and personal what it is all about.  Because there are so few who don’t do these things, most people we work with in the village have been at one time, or still are, affected by alcohol and drugs.  Some of them have changed since we have been here, but others have struggled, and still others seem to have given up completely. 


            There are a few people we have become extremely close to, and our lives have been touched by the effects of what they perceive as normal life.  In fact, our whole family has been affected by it, but by the grace of God, His steady hand is guiding us and helping us more and more every day.  I recently heard of a seminar being taught on “giving up our rights as a Christian servant” and I have been thinking about that subject the last few days.  It is so hard to give up someone that you love, and literally turn them over to God.  We want so badly to hang on to them and protect them, even when we know they’re doing wrong.  Sometimes we even develop such an attachment to people that we find ourselves literally hiding things for them and helping them, and not so much participating in all that they do, but remaining close to them as they do these things.  I have even found that it is a temptation to continue “spiritual” talks with them, hoping to at least keep them close enough to remain a part of our lives so that they won’t totally walk away.  We have become convicted by this, and realize that we may be also doing as Eli the priest, in that he allowed his own sons to remain in the temple, and commit sins before the people, and the Bible says that these boys even “caused the people of God to sin.”  It is with broken hearts that we have had to let go of one of our closest friends, praying that God will deal with his heart, and that some day, he will return with the right heart.  We pray that this day will come, and when it does, if he should return to us, we want to also have right hearts before God, and be prepared to lead him in the right way.  Please pray for us, and pray for the people of Ukraine.


            The summer has been a busy one.  Shane returned from a short visit to the USA in April, and had only a few weeks to get the remaining business part of the Ukrainian organization established and ready to go.  Once he got the contract stabilized from the coal mine, it was time to go full force to prepare the camp grounds for the upcoming camps.  It was a big job!  There were so many things which had to be done, and so little time to get it all done.  By the grace of God, most things were accomplished on time, and even the big swimming pool liner was placed by the middle of the first camp.  Believe me, this summer in Ukraine made the pool well worth the expense and effort of getting it prepared.  We’ve had extremely hot temperatures every camp with only a few cool days in each of them, so the pool was used almost every single day since it was put in.  We were able to keep it clean the whole way through each of the camps, and only drained it between camps to prepare it with new water.  We have also found a pool store where we were able to buy chemicals, and although we have only a little pump with a home-made filter made from a pillow case, the water has stayed somewhat pretty.  It is usually cloudy, but within the normal range for chemicals, and has only turned a slight green before we purchased the chemicals.  Otherwise, it has been beautiful.  All the kids, and even the workers, have really enjoyed the water in this kind of heat.  The heat is really unusual for Ukraine temperatures. 


            We were also able to get a nice new roof put over the whole stage area.  The wind had blown a lot of the old roofing completely off, and it was in extremely bad shape.  The coal mine sent some of their workers and a lift, and we supplied the materials, and it didn’t take long to get the job done.  The workers have worked really hard to clear out bushes and some trees which were causing some problems, and the place looks nice and clean now.  Fences were repaired in many places, old well and toilet holes were collapsed and filled in, and new toilets, benches, blenchers, cabinets, and tables were built.  Old benches all over the camp were repaired or replaced, and all the rooms were freshly cleaned and painted, and supplied with the newly built cabinets, new curtains, and many of them had windows and floors replaced.  Gazebos, swings, and playground equipment was repaired with new boards, bars, and tin for the slides, and things were looking good with fresh coats of paint.  We were able to build new basketball backboards and placed newly built board covers for around eight well holes around the camps after the sanitation department requested it be done.  The Ukrainians love bright colors, so by the starting of the camp, almost every single thing that could be painted was all kinds of different colors. 

We had many newly built wooden beds, and although some people wanted them especially, they were slightly hard with the thin little camp mattress, so some discovered that they were much more comfortable with two of the mattresses.  We were able to purchase many new mattresses, pillows, sheet sets and pillowcases, kitchen equipment, a new freezer, a commercial stove, and we were able to supply plenty of sports equipment for six camps, including new nets for the soccer and  volleyball goals.  Much sand was hauled in for the sandbox and volleyball fields, and for lots of places that our workers needed to repair concrete and put new concrete walks.  The camp has also been beautiful with lots of flowers and roses all around the camp grounds, and every morning, we were able to gather with all the dorms for exercise and the Ukrainian anthem and a scripture reading and prayer time at the flag pole and library.  The library was a hit with many of the kids at camp, and we were able to keep it supplied with all kinds of activities, games, and books.  Thanks so much to North Monroe team and others who re-supplied some our games and fun things that can only be purchased in the US after we had a few rounds of bandits who stole some of the supplies and ransacked the building.  We were also sorry that some of the craft items which were brought by the teams were taken from the storage area during the camps.  After Vera was informed of the bandits, she quickly supplied one of the cabinets with a new homemade lock from a bent nail, and after that, we had no more trouble.  We are so thankful to God for the provision He has given, and we pray that He will continue to provide so that all these ministries will be able to continue from year to year. 


            The Youth Congress Camp was held with young people ages 14 - 28 meeting together for a discipleship time and evangelism in our area.  We were pretty pleased by the sweetness of these youth who gathered for this purpose, and the services were wonderful.  Although we had no interpreter, we were still able to understand some of the preaching, and really enjoyed the singing.  This camp is a continuing ministry from the Franklin Graham Crusade which took place in Kiev a few weeks ago.  As I was walking home on the very first day, one young man was coming from the store in our little village, and he was so excited as he began to tell me who he was and to invite me to come to their services that night at the camps.  I told him that I was understanding him a little bit, and that I was actually Shane’s wife, and he just laughed, and told me he did not realize that I wasn’t understanding him.  He walked on laughing, but I was so encouraged by his excitement and desire to invite people from our village.  One night, as we sat in our yard at our home, we listened to the choir that had gathered to sing at their services.  It was probably the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard ringing out over the mountains in the still of the night.  Although I did not understand their words, many of the songs were the old hymns, so I knew the English equivalent, and the meaning of the songs being sung.  It sent chills over my arms as I listened to the beauty of the hymns that we have not been privileged to hear very much of since we arrived here in Ukraine.  I was so encouraged with the gathering of these youth from all over the surrounding areas of Ukraine.  This is one of the visions we’d like to see happen here in our area.  Many hundreds of young people being taught the words of God to prepare them to go out and reach the people of Ukraine with the gospel of Christ.


            There is no shortage of ministry need here, that's for sure. Things can sometimes seem awfully bleak.  For the summer camps this year, we had two families to stay all summer, one a WYAM (Youth With A Mission) missionary family, and also two young WYAM missionaries came with them. If not for these faithful ones, camps would have been much harder than they were. God blessed through all of them.  Forrest and Darcy, one of the families, had considered buying a house in a village right next to us, but after looking closer at some of the cracks in this two story home, they stopped the process and have decided to wait.  This couple are really servants, and we pray that God will bless their efforts wherever they should settle with their WYAM mission.  They adopted two Ukrainian children about five years ago, and had been sensing God's call to serve here for the last few years. They came to Ukraine about a year ago, but they started out living in Kiev and attending the YWAM missionary training programs. Forrest will be going to a six month training program again this fall, and then they desire to start a YWAM missionary base possibly somewhere in the surrounding area. They will be bringing in Ukrainian missionaries who will be going through the same type of training that they are going through now, and during this training, these young missionaries will be doing mission work in that area. I think it will really be a blessing, and also an answer to prayer for the existing Christians.  We have learned that on the mission field, sometimes, religious lines have to be crossed in order to work together for God's purpose and plans, and although we try to work closely with those who are likeminded as us in scripture interpretation, we are not on a "country club" gathering mission as it sometimes feels like in the US, but it is truly a battle for believers.  Christians need to work together as much as possible. All of these WYAM missionaries, including the two young people from Kiev and one from Kurzikstan, were sweet spirited, and obviously true Christians. I think even Dima, one of our main interpreters in the past, may go this Fall to this six months of discipleship training, and we believe that it could really be a challenge and a blessing for him to do that.  From what it sounds like, this training is a time of personal observation and learning to give up your own rights and draw closer to God in a more personal way. Forrest said that many who come there to go through this training time, after getting deeper into their observation of their relationship with Christ, even realize that they have not even truly been saved and made a real commitment to Christ, and become true believers during this training time.  It sounds like a heart searching time for anyone.


            Our prayer is that God will use these new ministries which He is drawing to our area, and also this camp grounds, as a tool for the whole Lugansk Oblast which has many thousands of un-reached people.  We pray that we are able to have other discipleship events there, and that it will be a place to train and teach many young men and women as they grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.  One other church camp is in progress for this year, and then we will be hosting a medical ministry team who will be working with the doctor who works in our summer camps.  Then, in October, the Hope for Orphans ministry from Alabama, who hosts a summer program for young orphans from Ukraine in their homes, will be coming to have a type of fall camp with all the orphans from the Belerichinka Orphanage where we work during the year.  Many of these orphans also attend our summer camps, some of them more than one time each year.  This ministry team will be bringing a group of carpenters to help do some work at the orphanage at the same time that another team works with the children at the camp grounds.  Please pray that the weather will remain a little bit warm until after that time so that it will be comfortable for them since our buildings are not winterized, and it would be extremely cold for them there if the weather turns cold early in the year.


            At one time, we believed it was somewhat a waste when the children from our area attended more than one of the summer camps which are provided for free, but as we observe the patterns, we have realized that this may be one of the keys to helping to disciple and train the next generation of believers.  When these little ones attend for only one camp, they are only affected for a short time each summer, and then they return back to their original environments, maybe somewhat affected by the Christian witness.  Yet, when these children attend more than one camp, or even all three camps, not only are we able to feed them the gospel message about the salvation of Jesus Christ, but we also are able to affect their lifestyles and their attitudes, and we’re able to help them grow and mature in their Christian faith.  Then, when these children return home, they are more affected, and more grounded in their walk with Christ.  I am beginning to believe that these children who are grounded will be the new generation which will reach others in this area for Christ in the future.  As we observe the churches which are in existence now, and see the pattern of believers, many of these young people were affected by the Christian camps in their past, and several that we know who are faithful in their walk with Christ today actually made professions of faith in these camps in the past.  Some of these believers who made professions of faith have even been workers such as dorm parents who were bringing their group of children to classes each day, and to church services at night, and who heard the word preached, and surrendered their lives to Christ. 


            This year, one young man in particular made a profession of faith in the first camp while Bro. Sammy Shipp was here ministering, and he is already showing signs of wanting to grow and change.  In the second camp, he gave his personal testimony, and so many were touched by what they heard.  Then, he spoke again in the third camp, and so many of these young people were touched.  They all like this young man, and most respected what he had to say.  Although he will have some tough times ahead because of circumstances that happened before his salvation, he is making baby steps towards growing in his faith.  He asked to be baptized in the second camp as his first step of obedience to God’s word, and after camps were over, he even attended three days of the services at the Youth Congress camp, and also helped work in the little store we were running.  He attended church on Sunday, and wants to start the discipleship training which Shane will be teaching in the Fall.  We praise God for the way he is already using this young man to touch the lives of others, and we ask that you pray for him.  This young man has already had a tough life, and the environment here is sometimes hard, so we just pray that he will learn to walk in the power of Christ.


            Thank you so much to Sam and Angel, the other couple who helped in the three summer camps that we were in charge of.  They arrived in May, and returned at the end of the third camp.  They were a big help with camp preparations as they painted and helped build and carry things, and make preparations for Bible Studies and dorms.  All the kids loved these two sweet young people, and I believe that they also loved the kids.  Angel was a blessing as she taught classes for the middle aged girls in two camps, and helped with crafts and library time in the other, and even tried to teach some American type cheers to the girls.  I think some of the concept probably caught on as many of the girls began to bring their homemade pom poms to the soccer competitions and stand along the sides to cheer the boys on.  We had quite a scare with Angel becoming sick with a bad stomach bug that first camp, but our faithful and sweet Dr. Tatiana from camp kept her well taken care of, and Sam phoned home a few times to get advice from his dad, who is also a doctor.  In the end, after much prayer, and a drug from one of the Ukrainian pharmacies, Angel recovered, and we were thankful, but I think Sam was most of all.  We could see that he was concerned.  This was a big step of faith for this young couple, and I believe that God will surely use them in the future.  Sam taught every camp with the middle aged boys, and also taught basketball and was taught Russian each day by his interpreter.  The boys really loved Sam also, and he was a big influence and help to the young man I mentioned above who made a profession of faith in the first camp.  Both of them participated in the night activities and even learned some dances with the children to perform on the stage, including the American “Cowboy Dance” that has become so popular with the kids at camp.  We appreciate all the work these two did, and we pray that they will always be as faithful to God’s calling as they were this summer in giving their whole vacation time from the university to serve with us here in Ukraine. 


        We had a great blessing during our last camp as Valena, one of the little orphan girls from Belerechinka, was being adopted by a couple from the US.  She was going to our camp at that time, and the family came to stay there while they finished the adoption work, and we got to see all the first steps of this family being put together.  They just settled in and made themselves at home with all of the kids, and when things were finished, we were able to see them off.  She was so happy, and we were so moved with emotion to watch them go.  Shane was able to pray with them before they left, and it was such a sweet time.  The man emailed back to us thanking us for all, and said that Valena was settling in well.  She was actually one of the children who was supposed to go to Alabama this year for a cultural camp with a Christian ministry, but this family found her before that happened, but  I think she will have a good home from what we saw of them.  They've already raised two children of their own and seem to be good people.  She would have so little opportunity as an orphan child here in Ukraine, with so little help getting started in life without a family.  Hopefully, living in America, she will have much opportunity, and we pray that we were able to plant seeds of the gospel in her heart that she will always remember on her way.  It was an exciting time, and we were so glad to be able to provide this family with a place to stay and to get to know her through interpreters we already had there at the camp.  Pray for this little girl, and for the family who adopted her.


From Shane’s point of view:

            We are pressing on in the grace of God, and God is blessing in many ways.  We had several difficult months of “hurry up and wait” with the beaurocratic business patterns.  Finally, after several months, we were able to register as a “charity” organization which enables us to legally rent property and hire employees. It has been a long process, and it was tempting to skip the process, but I think we did the best thing for future ministry here. God has given us good relations with most officials, and some of them are actually supportive of our efforts here.


            We have finished three large kid’s camps, with over 700 kids registered , ages 6-14 years old. I estimate around 140 kids and workers expressed saving faith in Christ.  One worker explained that she had helped in the camp for several years, and had heard the teaching, but this was the first time that she had experienced the Spirit opening her heart and understanding in such a way.  We do face a dilemma in follow-up. Actually, true follow-up seems to be years away as there are few, few local churches who have any type of children/ youth ministry. 


            We are trying to hold a challenging balance between culture and Biblical Christianity. There is plenty of religion and tradition here, even a form of the Baptist faith, but it is not necessarily Biblical.  So far, it seems we are accomplishing a goal of mutual respect and a better understanding of Biblical faith. While stressing the need of letting go of religious tradition, I came to realize that I have been packing considerable religious baggage myself.  The Lord convicted me of the need to “only preach the word,” meaning that I had to let go of some traditional Baptist ways--if the Bible doesn’t say it, I am learning to let things remain as a personal conviction. This has simplified the message.  I am convicted now more than ever that the word of God, apart from my personal beliefs, is enough to bring people to the saving grace of God.  It has been amazing to see God use and do things that I had never expected to see done, and it has been amazing to see His choice of folks through whom he has chosen to speak.


            We have baptized only one convert this year--a 22 year old dorm parent in the camp. He is a former orphan camper who has grown up, just finished college to be a school teacher, and is now working at the orphanage.  He has expressed a desire to be discipled further, and to carry the word of God.  He grew up in the orphanage with his brothers and sisters after his parents died of alcoholism.  He was into drugs, alcohol, and had typical sexual habits for the young folks of our region.  Because of a past relationship, he now has difficult circumstances, and I don’t know what he will do, but he has accepted his financial responsibilities.  The community is watching him to see if his new faith will affect his “whole” life.  He gave his testimony at the camp, and it was one of the most touching I have ever heard.  Only God can help him clear the hurdles of his past and do right in the future. 


            I am waiting for God to open the door for the “prophet’s school.”  We have Believers, but only few show genuine interest in the discipleship needed for future church leaders.  I hope to have a base group for the Fall.  I expect only 3 or 4 will commit themselves for deeper study and the time sacrifice needed to better understand the word of God. So many are looking for the 5-minute Bible course that can be absorbed while sleeping.   Due to lack of workers our outreach is dependant on our personal visits. Probably few, if any, of our present works would survive at this point, apart from our personal visits.  Alec (our Chinese convert), Yeager (one of our first year converts), and Annya (a faithful sweet girl) show much progress as disciples.  Dema, our first interpreter, plans to go to YWAM Discipleship training this Fall.  I think it will be good for him, and we hope he will better able to discern how God is leading him.


            Some adults in the villages are considering baptism, and some in the city. There are only a few warm days remaining this month, and it will be really cool for baptisms.  With them taking so long in considering, I don’t think they are ready yet.  I have a personal standard of our groups growing to 30 before we consider them a church, or registering them as such.  This will also depend on their ability to financially support their group, and of course the possibility of a pastor.  You can legally register a group of eight as a church, but I think this is a small number to consider as a church standard.  I may have to reconsider this number as few churches here have a regular attendance of thirty.


            God has sent encouragement and hope through a YWAM missionary couple who have helped us with all of the summer camps.  They are our age, and adopted children from Ukraine about five years ago.  They have felt led for a few years to come to Lugansk as missionaries.  After spending the summer here they continue to feel led to try to open a YWAM base here in the future.


            We also had two YWAM youth missionaries helping us in the camps this Summer.  They have the same disposition of two sweet young men I remember from  Mongolia.  One of them, a young lady from Kiev, the other a young man from Kerzikstan.  They are both jewels with precious spirits, humble servant’s hearts, and a rich desire to serve the Lord.  We would have had a rough time without them.  They came at the right times, with the desire to fulfill the various needs we have throughout the three main kid’s camps. They were both quiet, but God spoke volumes through them to all of us through their servant behavior. 


            I have had to dismiss one our most beloved converts.  He has struggled since the beginning.  It seemed he was doing better for a while, but with the summer programs, it seems temptation and pride has dealt him much misery.  I have talked with him numerous times as he is our son in the faith, and we have loved him the same. It seemed it would kill Marilyn and I that it had come to this.  He has tried to straighten up and come back, but it seems he is still not where he needs to be.  I have prayed, and God has spoken to my heart that he is not ready yet.  It seems he will have to simmer a while in his present misery before he “comes to himself”.  We pray that God will keep him and bring him back soon with repentance that leads to Godliness, we have almost no music without him and I really count on him as interpreter in the Bible studies. 

            Sometimes we are really lonely here.  Although surrounded by friends, we miss our culture and Godly fellowship and being able to talk on a personal basis. We do and are growing to love our people more.  It seems now that speaking Russian effectively is not so far away, but I must take more time to learn grammar and rules.  I also miss going other places, especially the fellowship in working with a team, but I have resolved to the fact that consistent pounding is what it seems it will take to crack the rock here. I am praying with Alec about going to China with him so he can tell his family about Jesus, but it doesn’t seem that the time is quite right yet. 

            Mary is living in Louisiana now with her grandparents.  We miss her, and I know she misses us.  This is a pretty bland place for a decent teenage girl that loves sports, school, and normal American life.  The loneliness is compounded by the language barrier. She tried hard here, but we felt it best to let her go to school there.  Even if she spent more time with the youth here they, would be trying to pull her into things that we could not allow.  I hope she will spend the summers here with us.  Caleb also misses home, but he seems to be doing well.  He has chickens, ducks, rabbits, big gardens, a scooter, and plays soccer with the boys his age. He takes care of most things around the house, including preserving the produce from the garden. The number one thing he misses is his 4-wheeler.  I have heard they have them in Kiev now.  I might try to see if we can find one.  It would be helpful for many things.


            We continue to struggle with music ministry and with finding meeting places. There are few folks interested in renting to a Christian group, especially one trying to work much with youth.  I can understand their concerns.  We will be facing the cold of winter soon with no place to meet in the city or in one of our village groups.  We have been meeting in a home in the village, but the folks tend to feud a good bit, and meeting in the home has cut the attendance.  We continue to look in the city, but no place is available yet.  Prices have skyrocketed here the past year.  Homes that sold for less than $20,000 two years ago are now selling for $50,000.  Our ministry has become much more expensive here than before.  The camp ministry is the most effective way to reach large groups of kids and adults, but it takes lots of work and finances.  We trust that out of the kids passing through these camps, God will raise up future leaders.  Most of the young people we know who are believers here were introduced to Christ through the camps or in interpreter classes in preparation for the camps. I also have the dream of one day having a Bible institute in the camp.  It certainly offers a good place to train youth with life skills, as well as Bible training.  We are seeing some difference now, but it has been slow in coming.  However, it seems that God is awakening a moral conscience in the folks that were not there before.  I notice several who seem to be ashamed to be seen drunk now who seemed unbothered before, and I think our villagers are holding one another more accountable for bad behavior.  I try to teach them that straightening up is not enough, but that they must trust Christ.  It seems trusting Christ is a concept they will struggle with for a while to come.


                                                                        Keep pressing on

                                                                        Bro. Shane, Marilyn, Mary, Caleb      

Last Updated ( Sunday, 13 July 2008 )
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