Planting Seeds … (May 2019 Update)

April is a time for planting seeds for us. Ministry involves many steps and many aspects. Paul tells us: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” Sometimes we plant, sometimes we water and sometimes we see the harvest. All are essential. But without planting seeds, there will be no harvest.

In the beginning of April, we started our seeds. We have to do all of this indoors because we cannot plant outside until early May. One of the most exciting times for us is when the first seedlings begin to push their way through the soil. Then we know – there is life! And we know that the seeds we planted will one day produce a harvest. Our next most exciting time is when the plants begin to produce fruit. But we also know that not all the seeds will come to life. But all our labors are worth it when we see the seedlings begin to sprout!

The same is true in ministry. We sow seeds in the hope of a harvest. Not all the seeds we sow in people’s lives will result in a spiritual harvest. But what joy when we begin to see life and an even greater joy when we see those sprouts begin to produce fruit! In Matthew 13, Jesus told his disciples a parable about the sower and the seed. The sowers sows his seed everywhere. He even sows in places that a normal farmer would not waste his seeds. He sows everywhere and waits to see where God will give the harvest.

We try to do the same. We sow many times never knowing about the harvest that our students will produce. But we sow in the hope of a great harvest for the Kingdom of God! Sometimes we sow intentionally. Sometimes we sow “accidentally” as people simply observe the lives we live and are drawn to the Lord. But without planting seeds, there will be no harvest.

Sowing Seeds in Ministry …

This past month was mainly a time of preparation. In gardening, times of preparation are essential for a good harvest. Most of April was spent getting classes ready for May. In May, I will be teaching Critical Thinking 1. This class teaches students to do research and to write clearly and logically. It is really one of the most important classes that we teach at the seminary because it forms a foundation for thinking that helps, not only in writing, but also in teaching Bible Studies and in preaching sermons. Be praying for us as we teach this class in the middle of May.

Also, May is time for graduation. It is a time when we see our “seeds sprout” and prepare to go out into the world to use what they have learned in ministry. We usually have 30-40 graduates with degrees in Pastoral Ministry, Church Planting, Youth Ministry, Christian Education, and Chaplaincy. We will also have graduates in our Master’s Degree programs in Biblical Counseling and Bible Studies. It is a time of great joy to see these students completing the work they began 4 years ago.

At the beginning of May, Katya and I also participated in a Missions Conference at the Word of Life Conference Center in Kyiv. This was a conference to encourage students to think about being involved in missions. One of the great joys of my life and ministry is to see so many young people from the churches I have served. We currently have young people and friends from these churches serving in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Mozambique, Indonesia, France, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine, and other places around the world. It is so exciting to read about their work and ministries each month.

The conference had many encouraging messages about missions and we especially enjoyed talking with many of the students. I was also surprised to see many of my students and former students from Kyiv Seminary and from Lviv Seminary who were present at this conference. Katya was part of one of the first Word of Life Bible Clubs in Ukraine in the early 90s. So she was also able to spend some time with some friends from that club who are on staff with WOL now. We are hoping and praying that many of these students from the Missions Conference will also follow the Lord in missions somewhere in the world. From planted seeds to seed planters – that is the goal of missions!

Sowing Seeds in Family …

Katya is continuing to teach Kristina and Nadia in Home School. We are grateful for these lessons and for the impact it is having on their lives. They spend time each week, not only learning about God’s wonderful creation, but also learning verses from the Bible. We know they don’t understand everything, but we also understand that we are planting seeds that we hope will grow up to salvation one day.

We are also planting seeds for our girls to be lovers of books. Our Home School lessons include a lot of books and the kids love them. However, many times, when we say, “It’s time to read,” they continue playing and say they would rather just play. I’ve learned to sit on the couch with the book and say, “Okay. I’m going to read (title of the book)” and then start reading. Immediately they drop their toys and come running to sit on the couch or they say, “Wait a minute” and then come running. We hope we are planting seeds for reading – that they will fall in love with books and great stories – and especially with the greatest book of all – The Bible!

This year we had a special Easter celebration including a Seder meal. It was really a special time for the girls as they asked the questions and saw the Jewish pictures in the Passover meal. Through it, they not only learned about God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt (they loved singing, “Go Down Moses”), but they were able to see Christ in the Passover too. Then we had an early morning celebration of the resurrection of Jesus and a family time together afterwards.

April is a really beautiful time in Ukraine when all the flowers begin to bloom. The Ukrainian name for the month of April is Kviten which means “flowers.” We love seeing all the cherry and apricot trees in our yard blossoming. The blossoms don’t stay long but they are a reminder that we will have fruit in a few months!

Prayer Needs …

On April 8, my father passed away in Cincinnati, Ohio. We were glad that we were able to see him in December but we knew when we left, that it might be the last time we would see him. Like many missionaries, the distance and costs involved in traveling home for funerals makes such trips prohibitive. But we are blessed to live in an age when we can return home every 2 years. Many early missionaries left their homes and families knowing they would never see them again. But it is still difficult to lose a family member. Please pray for us in the weeks ahead, especially for my younger brother who has cared for my father over the last few years.

Also, be praying for Katya’s mother. In February, she had some strokes and she has been trying to recover since then. She is improving but slowly. Also, pray for Debbie’s mom and dad, Bill and Sally McCullough. Sally has been very sick and weak for a few years and her health continues to decline. Bill has been caring for her for years and he is getting weaker too. Pray for them. They have been a real blessing to my life.

Last month, our dear friend, Scott Clark, died from brain tumors (I mentioned this last update). All my children were deeply impacted by his life. Scott and Jo often cared for Joel and Todd when Debbie was sick. Joy and Meredith both worked for Scott. As Joy and I were talking this week, we both talked about how many lives he impacted. He planted many seeds that bore fruit for the Kingdom of God. Some of the impact was intentional. Some was accidental – his life and words impacted people just as he lived his life. Joy and I both said that we hope we can plant seeds and touch lives that way he did.

What about your life? Are you planting seeds? Are you intentionally living for Christ and making an impact on lives? Are you living your life in such a way that, even when you are not intentionally planting seeds, people see your life and are impacted by it! In gardening April (in our climate) is a time for planting seeds. But in the Kingdom of God, we are always planting seeds everywhere. There is no “season” for sharing the gospel – “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). There is also no “season” for planting seeds in people’s lives. Pray that we may be “instant, in and out of season!”

Pray for Ukraine …

On April 21st, Ukraine elected a new president, Volodomyr Zelenskiy. He was elected with 73% of the vote. Zelenskiy is a comedian with no political experience. He created a TV series called “Servant of the People” in which he plays a history teacher who becomes president. It is hilarious and also very insightful about Ukrainian politics. He takes over in a very difficult time in Ukrainian history with an ongoing war in the East and Russia threatening Ukraine with the possibility of all-out war.

The previous president, Poroshenko, really did a pretty good job. He improved the economy, built up the army, created alliances with European countries, and improved the police force. He did a lot but the one area where he did not do enough was in the area of battling corruption. Zelenskiy’s strong message was that he would fight corruption and the people of Ukraine overwhelmingly supported him.

Please pray for him and for the Ukrainian government over the next few months of transition. Also, continue to pray for our servicemen serving on the front lines in the East. The Russian-backed forces attack every day and usually 1-2 Ukrainian soldiers are killed. There are nearly 300 Ukrainian soldiers held in Russian prisons, including the 24 sailors captured in international waters by Russian ships last summer. We also have many chaplains and students serving in the East that are trying to share the gospel in these difficult circumstances. Please remember to pray for them also.

Thank you for praying for us! We want to continue to plant seeds here in Ukraine hoping that there will be a great harvest for the Kingdom of God!

By His Grace,

Jim and Katya

Kristina and Nadia

Necessity … (April 2019 Update)

When I think of the cross, many terms come to my mind: unbounded love, justice, forgiveness and satisfaction. But one term stands out to me. And it is one that we rarely think about at Easter: necessity. In Luke 24, the risen Christ says to the travelers on the Emmaus Road: “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory? Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”  “Was it not necessary?” Jesus asks.   Continue Reading »

There Is a Season … (March 2019 Update) 

In our devotions, Katya and I have been reading through the Wisdom literature, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is especially challenging unless we remember that life “under the sun” is basically a life that does not account for heaven. How empty life is without accounting for God. It affects our morals, our perspective and even our joy. It also affects our patience. When we only see life “under the sun,” we see pain and suffering and injustice. And it causes stress and discouragement. But when we see life “under heaven,” then we have a proper perspective, which gives us patience, which results in joy – even in the times of suffering. Because we know that life “under the sun” is not all that there is (Eccl. 3:15-17).  Continue Reading »

What is Man? (February 2019 Update)

“What is man that thou art mindful of him and the son of man that thou dost visit him? For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels and hast crowned him with glory and honor” Psalm 8:4-5. A biblical (as well as rational) view of man is that man is special and unique. His is different from all the animals in so many ways it is impossible to list them all. And these differences are not merely differences in degree. They are substantial in quality and in number.

So “what is man?” In Genesis, we are told that God created man “in His own image and likeness; male and female, He created them.”  What does this mean? For one, it means that God created man different from all the animals. Only man is said to be “created in the image of God.” In Genesis 9:6, God spells out the difference vividly: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” Animals may kill animals; men may kill animals; but man may not take the life of another man for one reason: he is in the image of God. As much as you may love your cat or your dog, and even though they may feel like family, they are still animals. Only man is in the image of God. And that makes him special, unique and valuable.  Continue Reading »

Giving and Receiving (January 2019 Update)

I always remember telling my children: “Christmas is not about receiving; it’s about giving.” I hope it helped them to remember that God gave us the greatest gift of all by sending His only Son for us.  That’s the message of Christmas. But reflecting on this past Christmas, I think my annual reminder to my children was not totally correct. Christmas is about giving and receiving. We emphasized the giving because we wanted our children to focus on the people they were giving to, not the presents they were receiving. But Christmas is about giving and receiving. And sometimes, receiving is the hardest part. Continue Reading »

Christmas and Sin … (December 2018 Update) 

When we celebrate Christmas, sin is probably the last thing we think about. After all, “’tis the season to be jolly.”  Right?  Yes and no.  First of all, Christmas is about sin. The reason for the season is because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Without a right understanding of sin as part of Christmas, we have no real reason to rejoice. 

The Christmas story actually begins in Genesis.  Adam and Eve lived in a God-created paradise. God gave them only one requirement – to not eat of the tree of life.  Satan deceived Eve telling her that God’s word was not true.  If they ate, they would surely not die. So they ate and God put Adam and Eve and the whole world under a curse that still affects us all today.   Continue Reading »

Oh the Depths! … (November 2018 Update) 

In Romans 11:33, Paul reminds us about the greatness of our God.  He says, “Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of our God!” In crossing the ocean by ship, this verse continued to refrain in my mind, “Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of our God!” For 7 days, we were at sea with no land in sight (except at the beginning and the end of our journey).  Just waves and waves of a constantly rolling, deep, deep ocean.  Each day as we looked out on the ocean, we were reminded that, as deep and vast as the ocean was, the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God are far deeper and more vast than any ocean.  Continue Reading »