A Postcard from Montenegro — Deep Love

mne_kids_club-7

Yesterday, after two very good and full weeks, we said our goodbyes to a team from Athens, GA. Most of the team members were from the Wesley Foundation at the University of Georgia. Jane Kilgo, from St. James UMC in Athens, GA, also joined the team. The team is pictured above with the Kid’s Club at church.
mne_baptism-3
It’s impossible to say how loving, encouraging and gracious the team was. Many people were very blessed by their time here, including the team members!

The team was involved in many different aspects of ministry, all with the focus of serving the Brethren Assembly in Podgorica. The pastor, Vladimir Cizmansky, is pictured at right performing a baptism which we were honored to attend.

Vladimir and his wife Marijana are both great examples of disciples of Jesus who pour out their lives in service to Christ and others.

mne_kids_clubWe were also helped in many ways by Violeta Pavetic (the sister of our brother-in-law). Violeta is picture at left with some of the kids from the church. Violeta is jewel of a person and a great friend and co-worker.

In addition to running the Kid’s Club, the team ministered in many other ways. They taught an English class at church; ministered at a small fellowship in Kotor, a city with about seven known Christians; and helped local missionaries in Bar, a city with about five Christians. Continue reading

God’s Love in Action

Olga and I have three young ladies from our church staying with us, Zhenya, Anna and Natasha.  I’ll post some pictures of our ‘new family’ soon.  Natasha works at Crimson Sails, a Christian children’s shelter.  Here’s one story of the way the Lord uses His people to save the lost. This is from Street Cry’s update

Dasha (in the photo at left) was sent to this Christian shelter by her district police station officer.

Her alcoholic mom’s alcoholic boyfriend attacked Dasha with a knife.  She managed to escape almost without injuries with her grandmother’s assistance. With no time to even get dressed properly, and without a coat or boots, this young child ran through the snow and frost to the police for help.

As the police inspected Dasha’s home, they found a destroyed apartment, with almost everything sold in order to buy alcohol.  There was no food and not only Dasha did not have a desk to do her school homework but she did not even have a bed where she could sleep.  The court case began by denying Dasha’s mom parental rights.  While the case proceeded, Dasha was placed in the Christian shelter.

Very soon, she received Jesus and began attending Sunday school at our church.

Continue reading

Proposal

Today, as I was gathering photos for the site, I ran across this picture.

I proposed to Olga in the garden at dacha.  It was her grandmother’s birthday, August 28, and we were there to celebrate with her.

Earlier that morning Olga and I both felt God’s clear call for us to be married (that story will be told in a future post), so I knew that I’d ask her to marry me that day.

Before I proposed to Olga, I asked Olga’s mother to bless our marriage.  She had to sit down when she realized what I was about to do!  After she gave her blessing, I gave her a camera and asked her to take a picture when I proposed.  She was crying and it was hard for her to focus on us as she stood on the porch overlooking the garden.

It was a film camera and by the time we developed the film we’d forgotten that she took the picture.  It turned out pretty well:

Proposal

By the way, this was the first time I told Olga that I love her.  We were both guarding our hearts and remembered counsel from an Elisabeth Elliot book: only say I Love You when the next sentance is Will You Marry Me.  It’s good advice.

The Love of the Lord

The book of Revelations starts with messages to seven churches.   And the very first message really touched my heart.   It was to the church of Ephesus.

It said, “I know your deeds, your hard work and perseverance.   I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.  Yet I hold this against you:  You have forsaken your first love.  Remember the height from which you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Rev. 2:2-5a)

As I was reading this I could almost see the Lord saying these things.  And I imagine how lovingly He said it.  The Lord says:  I know everything.   I see your tears and your sufferings.  I see your efforts.  I know life is not easy for you.   I know the things you have to go through to still go on.  I know it all, and I suffer with you and feel all the pain that you have.  But let Me help you. Remember the way you loved Me when you first met Me?  Remember the time of your first love to Me, when everything was so simple, when there was nothing you would not do for Me?   Remember the joy we have shared?  Please, don’t walk away from it.

To me it seems that the Lord is more concerned for our love to Him.   He knows everything we face, and He knows how hard our lives are.  And He is there to help us through, to lead us and encourage us.

But then He looks us right into the eyes and says:  Please, could you just love Me the way you did it first?   Could you again do the things you did first?  I love you.

This life is not easy for us; we do have to endure many things.  And it would seem funny that the Lord asks us not to forsake our first love.  I don’t really know how to say it; the Lord does not rebuke us for doing all those things, He encourages us to go on.  But He knows the right way to go on.  And this is the way of love.  Love should tell us what to do.  If we don’t have love, everything else is not important.  The Lord gently tells us:  Come back to your first love, this is the only way to continue.

A Postcard from Russia — Welcome to America

airport.jpg

Once again we welcome Russian orphans to stay with host families in the US for Christmas. This year we brought the most ever: forty eight g50.jpgchildren arrived on Tuesday night. Actually, the children arrived in Atlanta at 3am on Wednesday, since their plane was delayed by several hours by the bad weather in New York. Pictured above are a few of the children as they were preparing to leave Russia.

Masha Oshkina, MIR Executive Director, and Svyeta Kouzyakova worked very hard for these children to come. The Russian government has changed the rules regarding our hosting program, and it took much more faith, work and perseverance than ever before. The MIR staff poured out their lives for the sake of these children.tx14.jpg

The world is going through a time of uncertainty. Many supposedly stable institutions are being shaken. We, however, have great hope and assurance since the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. He continues His work; He is faithful. So even in this time of instability, God is moving in His people to open their hearts and homes to these orphans.

Christmas is the time when we celebrate how God gave His son to us — Immanuel, God with us. Now is a time of giving; it is time to give of ourselves. Lives are being saved, hearts are being healed, people are laying down their lives for the sake of Christ only find that they receive a more abundant life.

Discipline

Do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him. For those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines. (Hebrews 12:5,6)

A theme for me over the past few years has been Discipline.  The word has always had a negative connotation for me; to be disciplined was a bad thing.  But recently the Lord has been bringing His discipline to my life, and it has been very good.  I won’t say it has always been pleasant, but it has been a blessing.

The first step to understanding the goodness of God’s discipline is accepting Christ’s authority. Jesus teaches the truth about man and God, and there is no other way to understand things of eternal worth than by being a follower of Jesus—a disciple.

How to think about discipline: one very simple analogy has come to mind.  When you comb or brush your hair, you bring discipline to it: order, beauty, and rest.  It’s a daily discipline that brings obvious results.  Failing to practice this discipline also bring obvious results.  One must exert a certain amount of force to discipline hair, and it’s always successful when the hair “submits.”  And certainly, we don’t comb our hair to punish it or because we are angry with it.

This is a limited analogy, but it helped me to understand that God does not discipline us to injure, limit, or punish us.  He disciplines us because He wants us to be beautiful, at peace, and conformed to His perfect will.  “God disciplines those He loves.”  God loves you, and His love will be shown at times through discipline.

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)

Make no mistake, being disciplined will be unpleasant or difficult much of the time; it involves a death to self and acceptance of God’s will.  I’m sure you fail in self-discipline or self-control—we all do to some extent.  All of us have qualities which are not pleasing to the Lord, which are sinful, which hinder our ability to know Him more fully and serve the people around us. God says, “Anything that is not of faith, is sin;” and “Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”  As hair submits to the comb, as a good child submits to loving discipline, so our souls must submit to God’s guidance.  And God’s promise is that He will give us abundant life; a life that is much better than our life before His discipline has had its effect.

Here is how this has worked out for me in the past.  At one point, I realized that I needed discipline in an area of my life, and I was not able to follow through on my desire to grow in this one area.  So, finally, I prayed and said something like “Lord, I do not have the ability to do what is right, I need self-control and self-discipline, but I don’t have it in me.  So, I submit to your discipline and ask you to discipline me according to your will. How would you like me to conduct myself?  What are specifics that will bring godliness to my life?”  Then, I sat there with a piece of paper and a pencil and wrote what I felt the Lord was calling me to. I wrote down four simple things.  Then I set my heart to submit to Him.  These four things (which are not what I expected to hear) have brought discipline to my life in a very good way.  I’m sure that there will be more discipline to come, and I welcome it.

I encourage you to seriously seek God and be willing to accept His discipline.   When we know that something is God’s will, we have much more power to persevere.  Be willing to change; don’t tell God what to do, and don’t play games with Him.  If you falter, remember that His mercies are new every morning; as you grow, thank Him and give Him credit for the good things He does–for He works in us to will and to do His according to His purposes.  As a loving child, wait patiently for your Father’s kindness as He raises you to be the person you were created to be.

Worship

In my daily life with the Lord I find that the part I enjoy most is worship. I am the kind of person who enjoys peaceful and simple songs that speak directly to God and not just about Him. In my prayer time I like to have a tape with a couple of songs that will speak of my love to God. I believe that in His presence we find all we ever need. When I feel His presence all around me, there is nothing else I want. And worship helps us to enter His presence better that anything else.

God said that He was looking for those who would worship Him in Spirit and in truth. He is still looking for these kinds of people. He is still looking for the people like David, people after His own heart, those who will pour their lives before Him.

One song says “In His presence, that’s where I belong, in His presence, that’s where I am strong”. I do believe that our place is in His presence. The Lord longs for us to come and worship Him. He longs for all the people to say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and He will teach us His ways”.

We may do a lot of things for the Lord, things that He has called us to do. But if we don’t meet the greatest need of our hearts, we will not last long. We will dry up. And us coming to His presence is the greatest longing of His heart. After all, He has created us for HIMSELF. He needs our presence with Him.