Ten years ago, I left the U.S. on November 2 and arrived in Russia on November 3. I did not know how long I would be in Russia. All I knew is that I was to be part of a team to start a Russian charity (now known as MIR) and help run it for a while.
Over this past decade, God has been teaching me lessons. Some of which I’ve learned and some of which He continues to teach, to get them through my thick head. I am, even at my age, still a child in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Here are a few thoughts as I reflect back —
Many who read this may not be Christians. So, I want to emphasize at the start that the reason I live the life I live is because Christ has called me to walk with Him. He’s a good shepherd.
God is love. Everything He does, whether we understand it or not, is done because of His love for us. His guidance, His teaching, His provision, His correction — all are based in love. Deep, abiding, self-less love.
As we walk with Christ, God will provide what we need when we need it. If I don’t have something, then I don’t need it. If I see that I will need something in the future, then I can be confident that God will give it at the right time. He knows what we need before we even ask.
As followers of Jesus, our lives are not our own, they belong to Him. He is the head; I am not. Olga and I often say that we don’t want to choose our lives, rather we want to receive the life that God has for us. There is much freedom in this.
God really can do more than we can ask or even imagine. I know this from personal experience. So, if you’re praying about your future and have a few options in mind, remember to leave one or two blank spaces for the things you can’t imagine. God may have a completely unexpected turn just around the corner.
God has prepared good work in advance for us to to do, when we walk with Him. This is a comfort, since many of us don’t know our future and are concerned about the coming years.
I’ve learned a few things about God’s nature —
God is a redeemer. When I miss an opportunity, fail in an endeavor, or waste time or opportunities — God can redeem it all, and He wants to.
God brings order out of chaos. He did this at the time of creation, and He continues to bring order to our broken lives.
God brings life where there is death. Death always hurts (death of a relationship, death of a heart’s desire), and God is able bring life to what is completely dead. He loves to do this.
I am so very very thankful for and to the people who have supported us over the years. People have given much to help us do the work God is calling us to do. And this is not just about money. Some have kept us in prayer for a decade. Some have given much-needed advice when we’ve been in difficult times. Some people started giving financial donations ten years ago and have given faithfully all that time, without ever once being asked. At other times, unexpected donations arrived at just the perfect time. I am really amazed at God’s provision through the people He calls. This has built our faith.
Relationships are more important that projects. Jesus said that people will know that we’re His followers by our love for one another. He did not say people would know that we’re his followers by the projects we complete. Love is more important than worldly success. Almost all of our ministry is therefore built on relationships and partnerships. And it is heartbreaking when relationships fail, really heartbreaking.
God promises that He will entrust us with more if we are faithful with a little. Olga and I have tried to be faithful with what He’s given us, and we’ve seen growth over the years. I moved to Russia with two suitcases and an incomplete job description. Now our ministry, based on relationships God has built and empowered by His grace, encompasses various kinds of work in Russia, Estonia, Belarus and Montenegro. It is not up to me how big the ministry becomes; that is God’s decision. We need only be faithful with what we have.
I’ll close with a prayer that has been very important to me for the past 20 years. Olga and I prayed it together on our wedding night. Written by John Wesley in the 1700s, I first heard this Covenant Prayer in a small Methodist church in the countryside on New Year’s Eve.
Christ has many services to be done. Some are easy, others are difficult. Some bring honor, others bring reproach. Some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests, others are contrary to both. Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.