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July - August 2004
Youth conferences in Ukraine
In July, the kids and I went to Ukraine for two different youth conferences. The first one was held at a nice campground in Chernigov that once belonged to the "Young Pioneers" - the official Communist party youth organization. It is amazing to realize that we have the freedom to proclaim God's Word in a place that was dedicated to the propagation of atheism and Godless communism for such a long time. I preached in one of the meetings there.
This conference brought together over 90 young people from several missionary churches all over Ukraine. These Christian kids were challenged to give their whole lives to the will of God. I think almost everyone there made some kind of decision. Several young men surrendered their lives to be preachers. A few of the young people trusted Christ during the week. Many of them decided to be a witness and a testimony at school this year. The spirit was excellent! I was encouraged to meet so many fine young people who have a burden to reach their own people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All four of my own children made some kind of a decision about serving God with their lives. I'm so glad we went.
We went from that conference to another one in Kharkov - an unusual outreach ministry to unsaved kids. They were invited to come to a summer sports conference where they would learn to play American baseball, which is an unknown sport over here. People have heard of it, but nobody plays the game or has ever even seen it on television. The idea generated a lot of interest! Flyers were distributed around the area, and it was made plain that the baseball training would be sponsored by a Baptist church, and that religious instruction would be part of the program. Children had to have parental permission to attend. About 50 kids attended the entire week. They heard Gospel preaching every day, and had baseball training afterwards. Baseball can be used to teach a lot of practical lessons about life. I was able to preach once at this conference, too.
The kids really responded to the game of baseball! There was a big game between the two teams on Saturday afternoon. My kids really enjoyed the opportunity to play. I got to play, too! I pitched an inning, and I played catcher for awhile. Most important, though, was the way the Ukrainian kids responded to the Gospel. About 35 of them gave their hearts to Jesus during the week. Sunday night was an "awards ceremony" at the church. Many of the parents came, and they heard the Gospel, too.
Back home in Oryol, we continue to distribute more of the thousands of New Testaments that came to us from BIMI's project "Bibles to Eastern Europe". We have given away about 9000 of them this year in our city. We like to go to some of the public squares where the war memorials are. It's a tradition here for newlywed couples to go to all the monuments on their wedding day and place flowers in honor of those who died for their country. (I think that's a good tradition!) We enjoy meeting the wedding parties next to the monument with congratulations and a gift - a New Testament! It's not uncommon to meet 8 to 10 wedding groups in one day and give each person their gift.
School will soon be starting, so we see a lot of new students coming to attend the many colleges and universities here in Oryol. We will be there to give many of them a New Testament and a Gospel witness.
I wish I had the space to tell you all about the two weeks that we were stranded in Ukraine in August due to paperwork problems. We made good use of the time helping some of our missionary friends in Kiev, Kharkov, and Simferopol. You can read all the details on our website.
We continue to have Sunday meetings in our home. Ten different people have visited our services so far! Pray that more would come, and that we will be able to find a better meeting place soon.
In the service of the King,