Our Missions Endeavours
To the Ukraine with Love
Although my heart for missions goes back to the years 1989 – 1995 when I was connected with New Covenant International, practical expression was only given to the God-given burden late in 1995. Initially it mostly involved outreaches in the rural areas of KZN, South Africa.
In 1996 I attended my first C.I.S. Hub Conference in Cape Town. All the churches that were involved in the Ukraine got together there annually to strategize for the following year and beyond. The church I was then attending started supporting New Generation Church in Dnepropetrovsk at that time. I attended the same conference again the following year and by that time I felt that the Holy Spirit was urging me to go there. Later that same year our pastor took four congregants with him and headed for the Ukraine to personalize our growing relationship with the church in that distant city. Unfortunately I were not able to travel with them on that occasion for financial reasons. The team came back with inspiring reports about what the Holy Spirit was doing in that part of the world. In 1998 our church brought the pastoral couple out to South Africa so that they could be introduced to the whole church. It was an emotional and blessed time of bonding and relationship building.
In July 1999 I was finally able to head for the Ukraine and I ended up having to lead the group. Two other people joined us. It was a trip that expanded my horizons beyond what we could ever have imagined.
Due to circumstances beyond or control, another seven years would pass before we could go back there. In September 2006 we were on our way there again and what a trip it turned out to be!
The Lord scrambled our itinerary the day we arrived in the capital, Kiev. It led to me travelling further to the city of Luhansk (pronounced Lugansk) which I hadn’t even heard of before.
At the start of my second trip to the Ukraine, I asked the Lord to confirm that our being there was not just a good idea but, in fact, a God idea. He did so in a most remarkable way when we got to Dnepropetrovsk. After I preached there on the Sunday morning and folk came out to pray the sinner’s prayer, I made my way back to my seat in the auditorium. That was when a man approached my interpreter and indicated that he wanted to speak to me. He then began to share the following testimony with us:
“Under communism I was brought up to believe that God is dead. I was advised to forget about him and rely on Mother Russia for all my needs. Seven years ago I heard the gospel for the very first time when I was invited to attend a meeting at this church. There was a foreign speaker on the stage that day. What I heard from his lips was the best news I had ever heard in my life and I was converted on the spot. But I never responded to the altar call when the invitation was given because I did not want to be selfish.”
When pressed for an explanation, he told me that he went home and shared all the wonderful things he heard that day with his wife and teenage children. He told them that he knew for sure that God was not dead because He felt His presence in that place. Not only did he come to the realization that God was alive but also that He sent His Son into the world so that all men could know what He was like. He then persuaded his whole family to accompany him there the following Sunday so that they could all repent together. Then he dropped a bombshell by telling me that I was the foreign preacher on the stage that day and that he had lost all hope of ever seeing me again. He could not thank me enough for travelling all the way to his city seven years earlier. He also wanted me to know that he and his family had been faithfully serving the Lord since that day!
If I ever needed encouragement and confirmation from the Lord, that was it! Hearing his words more than made up for all the expenses we incurred in travelling there. Early in 2008 the pastoral couple from Dnepropetrovsk visited South Africa again and I was privileged to have them as guests in my home for a week. God Almighty never ceases to amaze us, especially when he connects like-minded people around the world. To Him be the glory in the church.
I had had the privilege of visiting the troubled eastern region of the country one more time in 2013. We could never have imagined that just five months after our last trip to Lughansk it would become the epicentre of a civil war. I have no doubt that we were meant to be in that city at that time to encourage the believers there ahead of time, because the Almighty knew what lay ahead for them.
God has a world vision ( Part 1 )
When one studies the Bible, one finds expressions such as these: “all nations… all the world… every kindred and tongue and people” and “the uttermost part of the earth.” In other words, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all men everywhere.
Our Lord was very serious when He commanded his disciples to evangelize the whole world – it was his parting instruction to them! This is what He commanded them to do:
“You are to go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Those who believe and are baptized will be saved but those who refuse to believe will be condemned. Those who believe shall use my authority to cast out demons, and they shall speak new languages. They will even be able to handle deadly snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it will not hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick and heal them. When the Lord Jesus had finished talking to them, He was taken up into Heaven and sat down at God’s right hand. And the disciples went everywhere preaching. The Lord was with them and He confirmed what they said by the miracles that followed their message.” (Mark 16:15 – 20)
Jesus was always mindful of “the next towns” (Mk.1:38) and “the other sheep” (Jn.10:16) because He understood that no man has the right to hear the gospel twice when many have not even heard it once! Paul had the same vision, speaking about “the regions beyond.” (Acts 16:6-12). How far beyond does your and my vision extend?
Many limit their vision to their town/city or community, arguing that it is a waste of financial resources for churches to evangelize further afield. Now tell me this – if all Christians and all churches have this kind of mentality, who is going reach those who have never heard the gospel?What does God’s word say about such reasoning?
“Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you… and you shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem (locally), and in all Judea (regionally) and in Samaria (nationally) and unto the uttermost part of the earth (internationally).” (Acts 1:8)
Notice that this scripture does not say first in but both in. In other words, the church should be engaged in the noble work of evangelizing locally, regionally, nationally and internationally simultaneously! What would have happened to Africa if David Livingstone reasoned that every Scot must first be converted before he set sail for that continent? You may ask the same question about William Carey and India, Hudson Taylor and China, Judson and Burma etc. Why did Paul leave for Asia minor before everyone in Israel had been converted to Christ? The answer is simple – Jesus said that “the world is our field!”
When an aeroplane takes off from an airport, at first you can only see hangars and runways, then when you are a few hundred metres higher, you can see the City. After a further climb in altitude, the city will be a mere spec in the distance. Astronauts can see the whole circle of the earth from space. Now try to see the earth from God’s vantage point in Heaven! God loves “all the world” and He sent Jesus to redeem “every creature.” God has a world vision!
God has a world vision ( Part 2 )
Hopefully you read part 1 and you are now convinced that God does indeed have a world vision that embraces all men everywhere. You should by now also be convinced that the responsibility for world evangelization lies with the church – that this is its main task. The church needs to accept its responsibility to evangelize the world in the light of Mt. 24:14, which says:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations… and then shall the end come.”
All nations here literally means “all ethnic groups” (Gr. Ethnos), but not necessarily every person in every ethnic group. Many Bible-believers think that there is only one thing that has prevented the Rapture from taking place before now and that is the fact that there are still unevangelized people groups in the world. We may not all agree on whether the “beginning of sorrows” (Mt. 24:14) is the last generation of believers in the Church Age (Lk. 21:32) or the first half of the Great Tribulation, but we all know that the last soul that must be saved in the Church Age (see Rom. 11:25) has yet to be brought in. The good news is that modern technology has made this task much easier. Of the 44 unreached “people groups” identified in Southern Africa during May 2000 by World Mission Centre, there isn’t one that doesn’t have the Word of God available in their mother tongue. It is difficult to get accurate global statistics, but rapid progress has been made made on a wide front, even in Muslim countries where Christianity is banned. For example, a modern Farsi translation (for the Iranians) was completed as recently as October 2014. The church is now nearer than ever to achieving tits purpose and it does not need much discernment to work out where we are now on God’s prophetic clock. Christians today have good reason to believe that the Church is now close to fulfilling its mandate.
It is sad indeed to find that there are still churches and church leaders who don’t have a heart for the nations. It means that they don’t have God’s heart. (Ps. 2:8). Churches that are only “inward looking” are not only failing to obey the our Lord’s Great Commission but they will also not share in the excitement and blessing that will come from winning souls. Perhaps it is because there are still so many churches like this that so many Para-church organizations exist. Names like YWAM, OM, OPEN DOORS, Jesus Alive Ministries, World Mission Centre and many others immediately spring to mind. I certainly don’t regard such ministries as “Para-church.” They are very much part of the church of Lord Jesus Christ. I see them as the outreach arm of the church, and that arm seems to be a lot more active than the rest of the body. People involved in these organizations are just as committed and submitted as most church leaders are and their sacrificial commitment to the cause of Christ cannot be questioned.
Many church leaders reason that though they see the importance of being involved in the task of world evangelization, their churches are simply too small and their financial resources too limited to make a meaningful contribution. Let me burst that bubble right now by telling you that by networking with other small churches in a coordinated strategy, every small church can be part of something big in the Kingdom of God. Did you know that nearly 80 South African churches of different denominations have greatly impacted the Ukraine during the last two decades simply by networking together? As a result, a strong church has been established in this former Soviet Union state. Each of these 80 churches on their own couldn’t make much of a difference, but together they have changed that nation to a greater extent than any other nation or ministry has done.
Similar activity is taking place in every one of the former Soviet Union states today, with the result that millions who were taught for 72 years that “there is no God,” are now hearing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are embracing it with a hunger and a desperation that is heartbreaking to see. When my wife and I first went to the Ukraine in 1999, we changed more in two weeks than at any other time in our spiritual lives. Now you know why God caused the iron curtain to fall – not just that the Jews could get out, but also so that the gospel could get in.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who bringeth good tidings.” (Isa. 52:7)
God has a world vision ( Part 3 )
Jesus knew how to personalize things. For instance, He very quickly turned the general question “who do men say that I am?” into a personal one: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt.16.13-16). His parting command to His disciples was just as personal: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mk.16:18) His disciples were left in no doubt whatsoever that this was a command to each of them as well as all of them. They understood that witnessing or testifying was not optional, it was obligatory. It is the reason why individual believers are empowered by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8).
Now the question that demands an answer is this: “Are you and I obeying the command of Jesus and going?” If not, why not? Should this not be the natural outworking of the Holy Spirit’s infilling? Many would argue that they have no opportunity to go when the truth is that they simply have no inclination to go. It is amazing how opportunities present themselves when one is willing to do something for God. We may not all be able to drop what we’re doing right now and fly off to Siberia at the drop of a hat, but we certainly can go to our nearest rural village and tell someone about Jesus.
You and I will not fully enjoy being saved until we put our salvation into shoe leather and get going. Consider the 70 disciples sent by Jesus to preach from village to village. (Lk.10:1 & 17-20). They came back rejoicing! Would they have had a reason to get excited if they had not gone out as commanded? There would have been no story to tell, no great experience and no victory to shout about.
The angels rejoice over every sinner who repents (Lk.15:10) and the soulwinner can rejoice even more as we are more directly involved. The believer who goes is far more likely to see God “confirming His Word with signs following.” (Mk.16:17-20). Such believers will always have fresh and exciting stories to tell. They will be “having a blast,” as someone once put it. There will be nothing dull, or boring, or unfulfilled about living such lives! So, next time you hear of a team going to one of your neighbouring town or states, or further afield for that matter, why don’t you apply for some leave and make yourself available. It will change your life forever and beat any holiday you may have had in mind. If you really can’t do that, why not let your pastor know that you would like to join the next team going down the road to do hut to hut visitation. Rest assured that it will do as much for you as it will for those you minister to. You might even to see God move in ways you’ve never seen Him move before as you dare to obey him and venture in faith. If you can’t do either, then at least pray or pay for those who are able to go. By so doing you will share in their reward. (Jn.4:36).
When Catrien and I first went to the Ukraine 1999, we saw for ourselves the effect of the gospel of Jesus Christ on those who had never ever it before. You literally see the light switch on in their eyes as they grab hold of the good news. They have a hunger for God that is hard to describe. Us Westerners have became so blasé that we forget how powerful the gospel is (Heb.4:12) and how it can change a life. (2 Cor.5:17). We will never forget how eager the people there were to repent and receive Jesus as Saviour. Thereafter, they couldn’t wait to follow Him through the waters of baptism. I assisted in the public baptism of 51 new converts (in rivers) just 9 days, heard their amazing testimonies and saw the joy on their faces. When we think of those people now, we see a disciplined and committed people. Therefore we have great hope for that nation. “The fields are truly ready to harvest” in that part of the world, and in many other places. Bringing in the harvest would be so easy, but for the lack of labourers. (Lk.10:2). Wouldn’t you like to share in the joy of end-time harvesting?
Remember: “He that wins souls is wise” (Prov.11:30) and “blessed” (Ps.119:2) and “will rejoice forever.” (1Th. 2:19-20). How many souls will you be taking with you into eternity?
“They will come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.” (Ps. 126:6).
Only one life, it will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ, will last!