Jay Z and the Sunshine Band
I know! I Know! The title of this update doesn’t make any sense, does it? But you need to know that Gateway has a new celebrity in town and his name is Jay Z – well, that is what the brothers have been calling JD throughout this week. Not because they know that there is a rapper by the name of Jay Z, but because in the Ukrainian tongue it is extremely hard to pronounce the English letters J and D, especially one after the other. It is quite funny, but they are all doing their best, but just can’t quite get JD out. At other times they just call him DJ and move their hands like they are working a DJ record. Of course, Jay Z, I mean JD is taking it all in stride and it is just another way that he is being loved and appreciated by the brothers and sisters here.
To say that our time here has been full and busy is an understatement. I have had to write three sermons while here on topics that were requested upon our arrival, so I have been using most of my down time to be in the Word and seeking to help minister that Word to our brothers at the conference as well as at a Youth Conference last night. Each day we have arrived back at our rooms (which have changed many times) extremely tired and, thankfully, we have been fortunate to rest well. We are by no means suffering for Jesus, but the work of ministry has been toil for His glory…and He has been faithful to use our weakness as a means of bringing praise to himself.
The conference in Rivne actually took place about 70 miles outside of Rivne out in the country in the middle of nowhere. But as I was able to look on the map we were nearer the city of Lutz at a camp where Roman, our host, learned about the Gospel when he was younger. Upon arrival we were met by the pastor of the church and conference center and I was reminded that there is still an “old school” ministry mindset in the churches here. He was a more traditional pastor and was excited to show me around the facilities. He told me that they had an attendance of 350 people, had three adult choirs of over 40 each, two youth choirs and three children’s choirs, each with over 30 children. I thought that it was a little unusual to explain the health of ones church by listing off the choirs but I remembered that the old Russian (Ukrainian) churches in many places had slipped into a more traditional and formal form and philosophy, sadly due to influence from the USA. That was confirmed when I was taken into a potential room to sleep that had a large closet filled with choir robes. Now, one thing I can say is that on one night the choir was practicing, and there is a real beauty about the minor key sound that is so much a part of Slavic music.
We were thankful for the men who attended our Workshop, about 55 in all. For many of them, this was the first time, and they came with a little fear and uncertainty, but hey, we were out in the middle of nowhere…where were they going to go! This conference was extremely well organized and Surgei, the administrator, attended to our needs and the details of the schedule. We all jumped right into the material and the brothers eagerly participated. The discussions and small group times were vigorous in the right way and the testimony time at the end confirmed that God had opened their eyes as to how to approach a Gospel, in particular Mark. The common thread, however, is that most of these men are bi-vocational and are left with a difficult task of working a full time job, being fathers and husbands as well as ministers of the Word. Both Jay Z and I had to keep that in mind when we talked about practical matters.
Last night we attended a Youth Conference of the churches in the region of Rivne. I was asked to speak on the topic, The Value of the Word, and I chose Proverbs 29:18. There were between 350-400 students in attendance, all well behaved and attentive, respectful of what was going on. There was a band that played some well-known songs, even singing “How Great is Our God” in English at the end for us. After the sermon Jay Z and I were included in a panel discussion about “Valuing the Word” in practical ways with two other pastors from Rivne. It was a great time and I pray that God used our efforts to help encourage these youth to spend time in His Word.
Please pray for our ministry today. Jay Z will be speaking at Salvation Church at their new “winter” meeting place and I will be speaking at Reconciliation Church which is meeting in the building that Salvation Church was meeting in as they continue to form this new church and secure a new and more permanent location. Pray for Yuliya, in particular, as she will be my translator.
We love you all and can’t wait to see our families and our church.
God has been good to us and we praise Him for giving us strength for our ministry here.
Rod (JD) and Yuliya…