February 2022 News Update
February 21, 2022
Proverbs 25:25, “As cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a far country.”
We are alive and well in Ukraine. We are so grateful for all of you who have been praying for us, and we have been encouraged by many of you writing to tell us of your concern and how you are standing with us in prayer. Surely, through your intercession at the throne of grace we have been obtaining mercy and finding grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
It should come as no shock if I tell you that you can’t trust much of what you see or read in the media. There is so much that is hype and hyperbole and partial truths or outright lies that it is really hard to know what to believe. So let me give you my perspective.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is not imminent, it happened in 2014. Since that time there have been close to 40,000 casualties, with the number of Ukrainians killed at more than 14,000. Close to 2 million people have been displaced. Contrary to many reports, most people are not fleeing to Russia but are moving to the west to the capital city of Kiev and other cities or other European countries in many cases. The US State Department has been issuing Level 3 and Level 4 threat warnings for more than seven years now. What is happening now is not something new.
It is true that there has been a large Russian military build-up all around Ukraine – on the eastern border, on the northern border in Belarus, in the south in the Crimean Peninsula, and in the west in the Transnistria region. No one knows for sure if this has any real significance or if it is just grand theater being produced for Putin’s aggrandizement. It may be that he is doing a lot of posturing in order to achieve political goals that do not include a full-scale assault of Ukraine at all.
Let me tell you what I observe in Ukraine. In the Donbas region of southeastern Ukraine several cities are under the control of Russian separatists. There have been continuing skirmishes for years between these Russian-backed forces and the Ukrainian military, accounting for the casualties mentioned above. However, for the most part, Ukrainians are not living in fear of an all-out assault.
I have traveled to many place around the country, and except in that one region there is no indication of a country on the brink of war. And except in that region a person can travel freely by car or public transportation without being stopped at checkpoints. There are no soldiers or military vehicles along the way. I have flown domestically into and out of cities in Ukraine with no problems, no increased scrutiny at the airports.
In the capital city of Kiev the airports are open, with more concern about the Corona virus than a military invasion. There are no long lines at the airports with people frantically leaving the country. In fact, the last couple of times that we have flow into Ukraine recently, the incoming planes were full. Apparently people are not afraid to come here. There are no special forces at the airports or along the highways. Businesses are open and there is no evidence of panic buying. The shelves are fully stocked. There are no long lines at the gas stations. Churches are not overflowing with people cowering in fear because of a perception of imminent danger. People are not huddled in their homes and we hear little talk of war. By all appearances Ukraine does not look like a country that is unduly alarmed by all of the news coming out of the US and western Europe.
Obviously things could change rapidly. We have no way of knowing if they will. We receive notices from the US Embassy here, almost daily, warning us to leave the country immediately. I have even received telephone calls from the State Department in Washington to ask if we are still in Ukraine, and, if so, do we plan to evacuate. The last time they called I asked if they had some information that was different from what I could get from the media, and they said no. So I want to know what has changed in the past week or month or year?
There are some who are making decisions based more on fear than fact. KLM airline has suspended all of its flights in and out of Ukraine because their insurers have refused to cover any losses that might be sustained due to a war. This results in economic loss both for them and for Ukraine. Other companies headquartered in the West have also suspended working here. This has also had some impact on the economy here. As you have probably heard a couple of countries, including the US, have pulled their embassy staff out of the country. But the vast majority have not done so.
We are not oblivious to the potential danger, and we have considered what steps we might need to take in the event of war. We have some food stockpiled, some gasoline and a power generator. We know where the border crossings are should it be necessary to leave. But we have no plans at present to evacuate. In fact, we do not anticipate leaving unless forced to do so. Our thinking is this: what kind of example would we be, what testimony of faith in the Lord, if we tell our people to trust in the Lord and then we bail out at the first hint of trouble? This is our life, our ministry, our home – until the Lord moves us!
Please continue to pray for Ukraine, for its leaders to have wisdom, for its military to have courage, for its people to turn to the Lord in their hour of testing. Pray for us that we can continue to preach the gospel, to keep on training our Bible college students to prepare them for ministry. It is our privilege, our joy to serve the Lord here.
“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” Psalm 91:2
Jim and Phyllis
January 2022 News Update
Thirty years ago on Christmas Day the Hammer and Sickle was lowered for the last time at the Kremlin in Moscow. The Communist Party was dead. Thirty years ago this month the Soviet Union was dissolved and the republics in the USSR became independent nations. This opened the door for Christians from the west to enter into those countries which had been denied access to the gospel of grace and Bible teaching for 70 years.
In 1993 my wife, Phyllis, and I went to the former Soviet Union as missionaries. We have done evangelism, planted churches, and started Bible schools. Our primary focus is to train pastors, teachers, evangelists, and missionaries. Since 1996 the work has been centered in Kiev, Ukraine. This has been a wonderful place for ministry, with great freedom to openly preach the gospel, plant churches, and to teach the Bible.
Ukraine has experienced great turmoil in the past 30 years with differing factions vying for power, with political and economic problems. In spite of all these things the country has prospered and enjoyed much liberty. However, since 2014 with the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, the country has suffered some severe blows. Russia forcibly took over the Crimean peninsula with its highly valuable ports and naval base on the Black Sea. In addition to that, Russian-backed separatists, in armed conflict, took control of the Donbas region in eastern and southern Ukraine. The conflict has continued for seven years now, resulting in the death of thousands of Ukrainians, the exodus of more than a million people from that area, and much suffering for those still there.
Since last year tensions have escalated due to a large buildup of Russian troops along the northern and eastern borders of Ukraine. Only recently has this caught the attention of Europe and America. What does this portend? I don’t know. Will there be a Russian invasion? I don’t know. What I do know is this:
No matter what the situation in the world, our divine mandate has not changed. We are in this world at this time for God’s purposes, not our own. We have not been called to comfort or east, to success or prosperity, but to represent the Lord Jesus Christ. In an era of political chaos, economic instability, pandemic, paranoia and fear, we must keep our eye on God’s objective and press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ. There is but one question that must be answered: how can I please the Lord in this situation?
Therefore, we press on, that we may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus laid hold of us. Our hope, our confidence, our stability comes from knowing God and His Word. We cannot control conditions in the world, but we can trust in the God who is sovereign over all. Therefore, let us redouble our efforts to walk worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, to bear fruit, and to increase in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10).
Our work here continues with the Bible college, church, and Bible conferences. We have a very busy schedule for this spring, not only in Kiev, but also in several other places in Ukraine where we are able to hold conferences and teach in other Bible schools. We also have trips planned for teaching in Armenia and Zambia in the next few months, and possibly Estonia if the Covid cops will allow us entry. We have not been vaccinated for the Covid virus, and will not do so. This presents problems for us in travel since some countries require a vaccination to enter. Even here in Ukraine it is necessary to have either proof of vaccination or a PCR to fly or even travel by train. It has been necessary to curtail a few teaching opportunities, but in spite of that we still have a full calendar.
We are so thankful for God’s abundant blessings to us in giving us the privilege of serving Him, continued health and strength, and faithful partners in ministry. Thank you so much for your prayers, your encouragement, your support. We praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for you. Please pray for our health, safety, and open doors for the ministry
By grace alone,
September 2021 News Update
What a marvelous adventure this Christian life is. Of course, there are struggles, but, oh the joys that come to us in serving the Lord.
In July Phyllis and I returned to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where we had our first church ministry. Grace Bible Church was planted in 1971, and I had the privilege of being the founding pastor. The church had a Golden Anniversary celebration. A number of the charter members are still in the church, as well as some of their children and grandchildren. It was a great time of rejoicing in what the Lord has done in and through the ministry of that church. It has touched literally thousands of lives through various ministries over the years, and also produced a number of people who have gone into ministry. We are also rejoicing that the church has remained true to Word of God with a free grace gospel and emphasis on verse-by-verse Bible teaching. They have continued to grow under the ministry of Pastor Mark Goad, and just recently sold the building we met in for many years in order to put up a new structure, the old one being too small to accommodate the congregation.
Back in Kiev we are beginning our 29th year as missionaries in this part of the world. Word of God Church is doing well under its Ukrainian leadership, growing both in number and spiritual maturity. The Bible college is back in session. Although our enrollment is down this year, we still have a full schedule. It seems that a lot of people have gotten into the distance learning mode and do not want to leave home in order to study. Of course, we believe that face-to-face teaching is best, but we are in the process of developing online courses. This is a big undertaking, but it seems necessary at this point.
I just finished teaching a two-week module at Word of God Bible College on the subject of Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) and will be teaching courses on Old Testament historical books (Joshua through Esther) and another course on the major prophets (Isaiah through Daniel). In addition to the college, I preach once and sometimes twice on Sundays, plus two online classes during the week. Other than that, I am free!
Many of the Covid-19 restrictions are still in effect, but people are becoming less fearful of becoming infected, and the government mandates are being eased. It is still necessary for Americans to get PCR tests before entering the country, but vaccination is not required. The vaccination papers are necessary in a number of European countries, and this makes for some frustrations. I had plans to go to Estonia to teach for a couple of weeks there, but they require vaccination papers, so I postponed the trip. I tested positive for Covid early this year, so, I assume, I am now immune and have no need for vaccination.
We are so thankful to the Lord for His mercy in giving us health and stamina, His grace in allowing us the privilege of serving Him here. We also praise the Lord for all of you who pray for us, encourage us, and support us. Thank you.
By grace alone,
December 2020 News Update
What a year this has been. I doubt anyone will forget 2020 with all of the tumultuous events, the chaos, confusion and panic: impeachment, riots, pandemic, and the election fiasco, lockdowns, quarantines, shuttered businesses, restrictions on church attendance, travel bans, etc., etc., etc.
What a great time to be alive! What a tremendous opportunity to manifest the grace of God, His provision to a lost world, and to give a reason for the hope that is in us. What a comfort to know that our sovereign Lord is ruling over all. The world is not spinning out of control but is moving in the exact direction that He has planned. In His book they all were written, the days fashioned for us when as yet there were none of them. He saw this year in eternity past and made perfect provision for His children to go through it with peace and joy, with confidence and assurance. He put you where you are at this very time for His own purposes. We have opportunity to shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. We do not despair. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair (2 Corinthians 4:8).
In the midst of everything we had to make many alterations to our usual way of doing things. We had to cancel our annual trips to Africa and South America. I was scheduled to teach for two weeks in Estonia, but that had to be postponed. I was planning on teaching a course in eastern Ukraine, but that was scrapped at the last minute due to the Covid-19 panic. For several months our church could not meet face-to-face because of government restrictions. So we held services at our house with 10-15 people in person and the rest joined us live stream on the Internet.
Because people were confined to their homes for weeks on end, we started having Bible classes online every night of the week. This has abated somewhat so that we now have livestream classes four times a week, but the church is now able to meet in our usual place on Sundays.
I have been teaching a group of 15–20 people on Sunday evenings in a town about an hour and a half from our home. We are hoping that this will develop into a local church there. I had an interesting experience there the first Sunday in December. There were two teenagers, a brother and sister who wanted to be baptized. The man at whose house we meet has a small above- ground swimming pool. Even though the temperature was only 15 degrees, we had the baptism outside. I was delighted to do this, of course, but this is not an experience I look forward to repeating with any regularity.
Classes at the college continue unabated, although it has been necessary to conduct some of them online. This has required us to do some juggling in schedules, though, due to the time difference between Ukraine and the US. American professors would start teaching at 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning, which is 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon here. So, the students here finish at 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening. But this was really a minor inconvenience.
As we come to the close of this memorable year, we give thanks to our loving Lord who has enabled us to carry on the work. We have been blessed with good health and abundant provision. We also give thanks to all of you who have been so faithful in supporting us in prayer and with your financial support.
We do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10).
All by grace,
May 2020 News Update
May 6, 2020
Greetings from Ukraine. We are alive and well and enjoying good health. The country has been shut down for months now, but the government has announced that it will begin to ease some of the restrictions next week, but continue the quarantine for at least two more weeks.
The US Embassy here has been very good about sending out notices of changes made by Ukrainian government concerning regulations that have been put into effect. They even held a virtual town hall meeting last week with the Charge d’affaires and Counsel General addressing the regulations and policies of both the US and Ukrainian governments.
The Corona virus has not been too serious here. As of 5/6/2020 there have been some 325 deaths attributed to COVID-19. The economic impact, however, is tremendous because so many small businesses have been shut down. Restaurants have been closed, but they will be allowed to serve take-outs starting next week. Quite a few of our people have not been able to work for more than 2 months now, and this has put a real strain on them.
We hope that by the end of the month we will be able to resume normal meetings for the church. During this quarantine period we have been holding church from our living room via the internet. We have also been having Bible classes every night of the week from our home. It seems that people are willing to get online every night for Bible study and some social interaction with others in the church. What is interesting to me is that we have more people watching online than we have ever had in church. We even have people from several other countries joining us regularly. We pray that this will be a time of spiritual growth as people realize that God is the sovereign in control of all things, and that we are totally dependent on Him.
I had to cancel my annual pastors’ conferences in Zambia and Brazil due to travel restrictions. A couple of other conferences planned for Ukraine were also shut down because of regulations concerning the number of people who could congregate.
Our Bible college has continued with all of the classes being taught online. This has required some modifications since many of our classes are taught by Americans. The time difference between here and America is 6-10 hours, depending on the time zones. So, our students have classes in the evening while it is morning in the US. But we are glad for the technology that makes the distance learning possible.
We pray that the Lord will sustain you and keep you during this time of trouble, but most of all that He will continue to work in you, that you might fulfill His purpose for you at this time, and that He will be glorified through you.
By grace alone,
Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Psalm 46:1-2, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear …”
March 2020 News Update
We are back in Ukraine after a two-month tour in southern US states. It was a blessed time for us as we were able to spend Christmas with all of our kids and grandkids for the first time in 15 years. After that we went on the road, traveling through 8 states and visiting 14 churches. It was a wonderful trip, seeing many old friends; but also we visited a number of churches we had not known before, making many new friends.
But back in Ukraine now things are really heating up for Bible teaching. Mark Musser is not only teaching a course at the Bible college but is conducting conferences in three different churches during two weeks. During this time I will be teaching a seminar at a church recently planted by one of our graduates. Then, I will be teaching a module at the college during the last two weeks of the month.
April will also be a busy schedule. I will travel to Eastern Ukraine to teach a two-week course at a Bible college the first part of the month and then fly to Zambia for conferences in three different cities. Of course, all of this requires a lot of preparation and organization before the teaching ever begins.
Many people ask about the political situation in Ukraine. Whatever is going on here has not affected our ministry at all. There is still conflict in the eastern part of the country, and in spite of a “cease fire” agreement, there are still occasions of shooting and shelling between Ukrainian and Russian-backed forces. We get frequent warnings from the embassy to avoid certain sectors and cities because they are dangerous and some people have been taken hostage and held for ransom. Obviously, we stay out of those places
We praise the Lord for His abundant mercies, giving us the health, strength and provision to be able to carry on such a rigorous schedule. We ask for your prayers for our continued health and safety, especially as we travel to other countries.
We also thank God for your participation in this ministry. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
By His lovingkindness and tender mercies,
November 2019 News Update
Phyllis and I will celebrate our 51st wedding anniversary next week. It has gone by so very quickly, but has been such a tremendous blessing all the way. Still in love and loving each other more with every passing day. The Lord has blessed us with two wonderful children and four grandchildren. We are going to spend Christmas with all of them this year for the first time in 15 years. That will be a special time for us. We do love our work on the mission field, but we do miss being able to spend more time with family.
Before we return to the USA at Christmas we still have work to do here. I will be returning to Armenia to teach a spiritual life course with Mark Musser. The people in a couple of the churches there had such a positive response to the Word of God when we were there last month that they have asked for more teaching. It is really exciting to find Christians who want to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As soon as I get back from Armenia I will teach a survey of the Major Prophets at Word of God Bible College in Kiev.
When we get back to the US we will be visiting churches in the South and Southeast. Here is our schedule. If you are able to come to any of these churches we would love to see you or hear from you. Jim’s mobile number is 256 655-1908.
Please check out our calendar to see our travel plans while in the USA. We may be coming to a church near you and would love to see you!
By Grace alone,
Jim and Phyllis
October 2019 News Update
October 1, 2019
What a great month we had in September. The first two weeks I taught Soteriology at Word of God Bible College. We studied redemption, reconciliation, imputation, justification, faith and the gospel of grace. Our new students were very excited to learn these essential truths.
Right after these two weeks Phyllis and I flew to Yerevan, Armenia. We were hosted by Mark and Caren Musser who are now living and ministering in Armenia. I taught every day for two weeks. The Bethlehem Evangelical Church provided the venue for Ron Minton’s International Baptist Bible College. There were students from several different area churches. I taught a course on dispensations and covenants. This was new information for these people who have not been exposed to serious Bible study. The distinctions between the Old Testament life under the Law and the New Testament life under grace were brand new concepts for them. There was confusion about Old Testament salvation and whether we in the Church had to keep parts of the Law. Many of them were so glad to hear about the tremendous blessings that stem from our union with Christ. The teaching of spirituality vs. carnality was a new doctrine to them. So many of them expressed joy when they came to understand how to walk by the Spirit. It was a great pleasure to teach there. They were unanimous in urging us to come back and to teach them again.
I was also able to preach at another church on Sunday. I spoke on the warning passages from the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews chapters 5-6 there is a warning about being lazy or unmotivated about learning and applying Bible doctrine to our lives. There is a command to not be spiritual babies, but to go on to spiritual maturity. I was pleasantly surprised the next day when the pastor called me to tell me that the church talked about the lesson and declared that they didn’t want to remain babies and only drink milk, but wanted to grow up in their spiritual lives. What a positive response!
We were also able to visit a number of sites in and around Yerevan. We went to a museum of ancient Armenian documents. This was interesting because Armenia was the first country to declare itself a Christian nation back in the 3rd Century. A missionary who went there in the early part of the Church Age discovered that they had no written language, so he invented an alphabet for them, still used today, and the first book ever written in their language was a translation of the Bible.
We went to see some ancient churches and monasteries which indicate the influence of Christianity. Even though they repudiated the Council of Chalcedon, which clearly states the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union, nevertheless, the gospel was prevalent in that country since the early days of the Church.
It was also a treat to be able to see Mt. Ararat every day from Yerevan. It is certainly an impressive mountain, reaching almost 17,000 feet, with glaciers on the top which are hundreds of feet deep. The closest we got to the mountain was on the border of Turkey. Mt. Ararat is almost always engulfed in a haze, we did have a couple of days when we got a rather clear view. We went to a museum where they claim to have some items which were made of wood taken from the Ark. I have my doubts about this since they also claim to have a thorn from the crown that was put on Jesus at the cross, as well as the head of the spear the pierced Jesus’ side. Highly unlikely!
We are back in Ukraine now and busy preparing for teaching upcoming courses this fall. We are so grateful for the health and strength which the Lord has graciously provided for us that we can continue to work here. We thank you for your prayers and support which enable us to preach the gospel and to teach the Bible in so many places.
All by grace,
June 2019 News Update
We rejoice in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the multitude of His tender mercies. The past four months have been packed with so many opportunities to teach the Word of God.
In February I filled the pulpit every week at a local church in Kiev while also teaching at Word of God Church. In addition to this I worked with Mark Musser in two other churches to put on DM2 workshops in Romans and Colossians. Altogether this amounted to more than 30 hours of teaching. But this would pale in comparison with the next three months.
In March I made my annual journey to Brazil, putting on conferences over a span of three weeks in four different cities, often teaching 4-6 hours a day.
After returning to Ukraine I had just a few days to rest before going to western Ukraine for a two-week course at a Bible college. I returned to Kiev for a wonderful celebration of our Lord’s resurrection, then left a few days later to go to Southern Africa. We had conferences in three different cities in Zambia and then went to Malawi for another week of teaching there. I travelled with three Zambian pastors I have been training for several years. It is a great joy to see how these men have matured in the faith and who are now able to help with the teaching.
While in Africa I had an allergic reaction to something and developed a rash that covered my entire body. Along with that I got some kind of infection that required a course in antibiotics to get rid of once I returned to Ukraine. But I thank God that He enabled me to complete the teaching in spite of the maladies.
Upon my return I taught a two-week module at Word of God Bible College. In the middle of that we had an ordination service for Oleg Lozinski. Oleg, who has been with us for 15 years, serves as director of the Bible College and as pastor of Word of God Church. Bob Bolender, pastor of Austin Bible Church, along with his wife Sharon, came to Kiev for the ordination. Mark Musser, long-time associate with our ministry, now living and working in Armenia, also came to participate in the ordination. It is so gratifying to see people, such as Oleg, that we have trained, actively involved in ministry.
Then on the last day of May we had a graduation ceremony at Word of God College. We graduated six students this year, and already several of them are slated to begin ministries in their home churches.
We will be in the States for two months to take care of business matters, get medical checkups and travel to several states to visit churches. It would be wonderful if we could visit all of you, but there just isn’t enough time.
How we praise God for giving us such a wonderful ministry as well as the health and stamina to do it. We know that this is all a matter of grace. We are also thankful for all of you who pray for us. We are confident that through your faithful prayers we have been sustained. Your faithful support is so much appreciated. Thank you.
By grace alone,
Jim and Phyllis
November 2018 News Update
“1 Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! 2 Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3 Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100)
What a wonderful privilege to serve our Creator God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. The ministry here has been fruitful and the source of much joy as we see the Word of God at work in the lives of so many people here in Ukraine.
The Word of God Bible College in Kiev continues to be the primary focus of our work here. We have a dozen students this year, and this is one of the finest groups we have ever had. They are serious about learning the Bible and applying it. We anticipate that they will have significant ministries when they have finished their studies with us. Some of them have already been approached about pastoral work when they graduate next spring.
Word of God Bible College 2018–2019
One of the greatest joys is seeing our graduates serving the Lord. In two DM2 conferences that Mark Musser put on in Ukraine we had six former students involved in the teaching. Vasya Munko, one of our first graduates, pastors Grace Bible Church in Lviv. He taught some of the DM2 modules, interpreted for me at a seminary course I taught in Western Ukraine recently, and will teach a course at the college in December. Igor Smolyar, another graduate is currently teaching a course in the pastoral epistles at the college. Sasha and Ira, husband and wife team who graduated last year from the Bible college are heading up the youth group at the church and doing an outstanding job. Zhenya Savchenko, our first college graduate, pastors Living Water Church in the nearby town of Baryshivka. His church hosted one of the recent DM2 conferences. Oleg Lozinski, director of the Bible college, is currently teaching a Bible college course in Armenia.
I have taught more than 80 hours of Bible and theology in the past two months, not including teaching on Sundays at Word of God Church, and pulpit fill in other churches. In December I will teach another 32 hours at the college. We praise the Lord that He has given us grace to be able to carry on such a demanding schedule.
Another cause for celebration: Phyllis and I will be celebrating our Golden Wedding Anniversary on the 30th of November. Fifty years! A wonderful marriage.
We are so grateful for all of you who pray for us and support this ministry. Thank you. May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and blessed Christmas.
By grace alone,
Below I have also included a letter from Mark Musser who has labored intensively in our ministry here and in other places as well. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.
A GROWING, MATURING MINISTRY IN KIEV
I just returned to Yerevan, Armenia after spending a very fruitful two weeks in Ukraine. It was such a pleasure to arrive in Kiev after a mere 2-½ hour flight, and then be able to get quickly into the ministry there with no jet lag! Since 2004, I have traveled to Kiev almost 30 times from the Pacific Northwest and the long flight does takes its toll on the body – but this fall – it was a hop, skip, and a jump over Turkey and the Black Sea to Ukraine.
Over the years, I have done a lot of teaching at the Word of God Bible College in Kiev, which continues to be blessed with serious students. While the Bible college is not large, usually comprised of 10–15 students, it is an intensive two-year program that even includes Greek and Hebrew studies.
We have several new students this year at the Bible college, one of them used to live in Yerevan!. Several of them are from the Lviv area in western Ukraine and are mature believers. Four of them, two couples are even now being petitioned/recruited to help serve in other churches in the country after they graduate. Please pray for future ministries and good decision-making on the part of Vasya and Larisa Chaplaev and also for Yuri and Nadia Chugai. They have been such a pleasure to teach and their enthusiasm for God’s word is very high.
This time around, I taught New Testament Survey, which was well received by the students. I will return in early spring to teach Romans, and then again in late May to teach a survey on Daniel-Revelation. In addition to teaching at the Bible college, I helped lead two DM2 workshops that included a number of different teachers, including Jim Myers, two other Americans and seven Ukrainians – six of whom are graduates from our Bible college. This is a really good sign of how the ministry is maturing in Ukraine as we are starting to see more Ukrainians involved in teaching the Bible. These DM2 workshops are not easy to do, involve many hours of teaching, discipleship, and study for everyone involved. They have proven to be very effective in giving hands-on teaching experience to our former students. This fall, we taught the book of Galatians in Kiev, and then the book of Colossians in Baryshivka.
Andy Stacy, who has taken the pastoral reins of Grace Redeemer Bible Church in Olympia, also joined us with great enthusiasm for the second year in a row as he helped teach both Galatians and Colossians. When it was time for Andy to go back home, he had a hard time leaving as he really enjoyed the Bible workshops and getting to know the people better.
Bob Bolender III, yet another graduate of our Bible college also joined us and helped us teach! Bob is increasingly becoming interested in the pastoral ministry. He is married to Elvira, another graduate of the Bible college in Kiev! Elvira joined in the work by doing some of the translation. Elvira is Russian, but came to Kiev through the ministry of the Ryabchenko’s who have been serving as missionaries in Turkey ever since they graduated from the Bible college a number of years ago now. Elvira moved to Turkey and met the Ryabchenko’s, who then encouraged her to go to the Bible college.
With such testimonies, when I think of our mission in Kiev, I often think of Acts 19 where the apostle Paul, after being forced to step away from the synagogue because of his strong emphasis upon the law-free grace gospel, started teaching in Ephesus by using what Luke calls “the school of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9).
Right before I headed back “home” to Yerevan, we had also had an especially fruitful day on the last Sunday I was in Kiev. This included attending the church service in the morning, finishing up DM2 Galatians in the afternoon, and then finishing up with a baptism service in the evening. After Jim introduced the baptism service, Pastor Oleg Lozinsky then baptized three people, after which it was an honor for me to give a short sermon on the significance of baptism from the Scriptures. It was a special day indeed and very reflective of the maturing ministry in Kiev.
But this is not all – Oleg Lozinsky then got on the plane with me to travel to Yerevan as he was invited by Dr. Ron Minton to teach a course at International Baptist Bible College (IBBC). Dr. Minton, who lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine, is president of IBBC and has a number of different college branches in several cities in Ukraine and other international locales. He and Jim often teach at each other’s respective colleges. He recently opened up a new college branch in Yerevan, hosted by a church called the Bethlehem Church. When he found out I would be living in Yerevan, he asked me to teach my Christian Family course there. Now, however, it is Oleg’s turn.
Oleg, one of our first graduates at the Bible college, is now the pastor of the Word of God Church and also the dean of the Bible college. Oleg has matured in his faith, particularly over the last several years as Jim has given more and more responsibility over to him – which has made him thrive spiritually. It has been a pleasure to attend some of the sessions being taught by Oleg. He is having a great time teaching his course.
Oleg teaching at IBBC in Armenia
Oleg is receiving lots of good questions as they are hearing grace-orientated truths for the very first time. After classes, some linger and discuss with him many theological, spiritual, and biblical questions – for up to 2 hours!
May 2018 News Update
May 1, 2018
Fast and furious! That sums up the first four months of 2018 for us, and there is more to come in May. Teaching at Word of God Bible College in January and February, then a month of almost non-stop teaching in Brazil and two weeks in Zambia has filled our calendar – not to mention the hours of prep time and travel. In Brazil I spoke in nine different cities, usually two hours a day, but sometimes four and even eight hours in a day!
Conference at Camp Betel, Sousas, Brazil
After returning from Brazil I went to Lviv in western Ukraine for a two-day conference with Mark Musser where I spoke about the biblical roots of the holocaust.
A week later I headed to Zambia from April 7-23 for two weeks of teaching in Livingstone, Lusaka, and the village of Chipembi. Typically, the conferences there are six hours a day. We packed a lot of teaching into our time in these three places.
Recently discharged Army Ranger Captain, Tyler Beck, joined me there and did some of the teaching. He is a young man with a heart for missions who wanted to get a first-hand look at a mission field. It thrills me that there are Americans in the generation of young adults who are doctrinally oriented who want to serve the Lord. After returning to his home in Houston he wrote:
Having never personally observed missionary work, I am very grateful for the opportunity to watch, listen, and participate. Especially relieving to me was the confirmation that many missionaries and pastor-teachers stay mission focused, not allowing themselves to be distracted by the worldly needs of their audiences or themselves. I was thrilled to see the 100% focus of you and your fellow soldiers on the accurate communication and clarification of Biblical truths, rather than focusing on changing Zambians’ worldly circumstances. We know that wherever there is yearning to understand the Mind of Christ, there will be sound Bible teaching. The Lord is utilizing your sacrifice to build up the faith of many Zambians. I distinctly observed this while meeting many of their church leaders and witnessing the eagerness of the renewal of their thinking with regards to some specific issues…. I could tell, by their frequent applause in some cases, that they were very ready to finally hear sound teaching on those issues.
Teaching in Lusaka, Zambia
Back in Ukraine I will teach a two-week course at the Bible College and then an all-day conference at Word of God Church. Then we will wrap up the school year and head to the States for our summer ministries. Phyllis has been working hard to coordinate all of our travels and speaking engagements.
Mark Musser, board member for JFM Ministries since its inception, has been doing a lot of work here recently. Mark worked with us in Belarus for a year and then was with us for six years in Kiev. After planting and pastoring a church in Olympia, WA for 10 years, he and Caren and their son Paul will be moving to Yerevan, Armenia at the end of summer. Caren will be teaching at an international school and Mark is hoping to establish a beach head for ministry there. Also, because of its proximity to Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, he will be able to work even more closely with our ministry.
He finished two weeks of teaching at the Bible College here in Kiev and then went to Belarus to minister to the church we there many years ago. If that were not enough, he also led a Discipleship Makers conference in a town not far from Kiev and headed up a two-day conference in Lviv, Ukraine. His wife and daughter joined him here and taught women’s conferences. Amazing family!
We are so grateful for your prayers and your support. We are privileged to serve the Lord in these different areas where we have opportunities to teach the Word of God. But we know that we are merely part of a much larger team, and we could not do this without you. Thank you.
Finally, I will share an urgent prayer request. Please read the following article and remember to pray for Ukraine. https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/12228/ukraine-russia-invasion
By grace alone,
December 2017 News Update
We bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people, for unto us a child has been born, and unto a Son has been given. His name was called Jesus, for He saves His people from their sins. So we proclaim the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. That light is the light of men, the true light that lights every man coming into the world. Thanks be to God for His ineffable gift.
The year’s end is upon us. How the past 12 months have rushed by. Of course, time isn’t going any faster and perhaps we are all going slower, but one thing is certain, our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. Our time is a gift from the Lord to be used wisely to accomplish His purposes and we are commanded to redeem time. As stated in the epigram:
Only one life, ‘twill so be past
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Whatever time the Lord gives us in the future, may it be spent to accomplish His purpose. This will, indeed, make it a happy and blessed new year.
But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God. My times are in Your hand” (Psalm 31:14–15).
Upon our return to Ukraine from our summer tour in the US, we immediately immersed ourselves in the work. We opened the new school term at Word of God Bible College with my teaching a course on soteriology, the doctrines of salvation. In October I taught a survey of the 12 Old Testament historical books. Right after that I worked with Mark Musser and his team in teaching Galatians and Life of Christ modules of DM2 material. Then it was off to the east of Ukraine (five and a half hours on the express train) to the city of Kharkiv to teach a two-week course, “Man, Sin, and Salvation” at Ron Minton’s International Baptist Bible College.
Phyllis and I went to Israel for two weeks to attend a Christian Leaders conference held at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. This was a 50-hour conference designed to educate Christian leaders about the Jewish holocaust that took place under Adolph Hitler. This was a very sobering conference as it presented facts about the slaughter of more than 6 million Jews as well as prevailing attitudes among Europeans at the time who knew what was going on and either approved of it or chose to ignore it. The anti-Semitism seen in Hitler was also widely held among many other nations in Europe. In fact, more than one fourth of the Jews were murdered, not by the Nazis but by groups and individuals living in countries occupied by the Germans and who were sympathetic to their philosophies.
The single driving force behind Hitler’s schemes was his long-held hatred of Jews and an intense desire to rid the world of every single one of them. In his book “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) he declared that he believed he was doing the work of the Lord in seeking to destroy the Jews. Just before he committed suicide he wrote in his last will and testament:
“… But before everything else I call upon the leadership of the nation and those who follow it to observe the racial laws most carefully, to fight mercilessly against the poisoners of all the peoples of the world, international Jewry.”
Set down in Berlin, April 29, 1945, 4:00 o’clock
We see anti-Semitism rising again in Europe, and, indeed, around the world as evidenced by the recent vote in the UN against America’s declaration that it would move its embassy to Jerusalem. Ultimately this is a statement of rejection of God and His choice of Israel. Yet, it is through Israel that the world is to be blessed, for the Savior of mankind came into the world a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David.
May the Son of Abraham, the Son of David, whose birth we celebrate at this time of year, bring you peace and joy, confidence and stability, and purpose of life in the coming year.
One chilly and rainy evening while we were walking back to the hotel in Jerusalem, I noticed a long line of media vans with satellite dishes sprouting from the roofs. I commented to Phyllis that something was going to happen. Then we were surprised to see the American flag being projected onto the walls of old Jerusalem, followed by images of the Israeli flag, and then both together. We didn’t know what was happening at the time, but it was thrilling to see it, nevertheless. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me to get a photo. When we got to our room we turned on the news and watched President Trump make his announcement of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem. We did get a couple of pictures the next day which express the attitude of so many in Israel.
Our schedule for the coming spring is ambitious, with two courses to be taught at Word of God College, three weeks of teaching in Brazil and two weeks in Zambia. What a privilege we have to teach the Word, and what mercy the Father has bestowed on us in giving us the health and the stamina to continue serving Him.
We thank all of you for your prayers, your encouragement, and your support.
Only by grace,
Jim and Phyllis
September 2017 News Update
We have begun our 25th year as missionaries in eastern Europe. We have been so blessed over the years as we have had the privilege of serving the Lord in this part of the world. The greatest joy is in seeing people come to faith in Christ, growing in their spiritual lives, and then going on to serve the Lord in their own ministries, both in Ukraine and in other countries.
We are back home in Ukraine after a summer of ministry in the US. We visited 24 churches in 12 western states in 2 months. I drove the entire circuit (about 10,000 miles) except for a flight to Ohio. The Lord provided us with a good vehicle that performed beautifully, even in the 118 degree temperatures in Phoenix, and the high mountains in Utah and Colorado.
We started out in Texas, visiting several churches and also getting to spend a little time with our son and his family. Then we headed west, going through New Mexico, Arizona, California (where we spent some time with our daughter and her family), Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and finally back to Houston. It was wonderful seeing so many friends along the way, as well as being introduced to some churches we had not visited before.
We had a wonderful visit with Ukrainian friends who are now living in Vancouver, Canada. At the end of tour I flew up to Ohio to attend the 55th reunion of my high school class. So many of them have gotten to be old folks. I, on the other hand . . .
We got out of Houston just as the hurricane Harvey was coming in. I am grateful we were able to change our tickets and get a flight out before they closed the airports. There were some hitches along the way, and some of our luggage got lost for about a week, but we are so glad to be back in Kiev and working in the ministry here.
Our Bible college has started. I have already taught the first two-week module. We have six new students who all are very enthusiastic about studying with us. This is going to be another very full teaching schedule for me. I will be teaching six different courses at the college this year, plus a course at another seminary. In addition I will be doing some teaching with Mark Musser in DM2 conferences here in Ukraine. In addition, in November, Phyllis and I will be taking a 10-day course for Christian leaders being conducted by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. I am planning to go to Zambia in the spring, as usual, and to Brazil if we can work out the schedule.
Word of God Church is flourishing under Ukrainian leadership. I still teach some classes, but most of the teaching is now being done by Ukrainian men who were trained in the ministry here. They are doing a wonderful job in administration and leading the church in evangelism, prayer and ministries.
We give thanks to our heavenly Father for all of you. We are so grateful for your prayers, your encouragement, and support. You make it possible for us to carry on this work.
By grace alone,
Jim and Phyllis
June 2017 News Update
May 31, 2017
We are almost finished with our spring semester. It has been a whirlwind of activity since the first of the year. I taught two courses at Word of God Bible College, and two courses for the International Baptist Bible College. One course was in western Ukraine and the other in the far east of Ukraine. I wrote earlier about our trip to Brazil (April News Update), and after that I spent two weeks in Zambia and Malawi.
It was my first time to go to Malawi, a small country just to the east of Zambia. A couple of pastors had attended our conference in Lusaka, Zambia last year and invited me to come to their country. I flew into Lilongwe and took a six-hour bus ride to Blantyre, after waiting at the bus station for four hours. Needless to say, I was rather travel weary when I arrived. After a night’s rest I got up the next day and taught 8 hours. The next day was a bit of a breather with only 4 hours. The response was really positive and they clamored for more. I hope that I can return next year. In Zambia I did two week-long conferences, one in Livingstone and the other in Lusaka. I taught a survey of the Old Testament. Most of the people knew nothing about the Old Testament except for a few stories, such as the flood, David and Goliath, and Daniel in the lion’s den. They were really excited to learn about Israel, the divided kingdom, the captivities, and the reason why the prophets wrote their books. They asked for a New Testament survey for next year.
I just returned from my trip to Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine. This is one of the cities where there was fighting with Russian-backed separatists a couple of years ago when Russia took control of the Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainians have control of the city now, but it is only about 10 miles from occupied territory. There were numerous military check points along the road, and my train was two hours late getting in because we had to wait on sidings a couple of times due to military trains taking precedence on the railway.
The pastor of the church where we held the conference had an interesting story. When the fighting was taking place, he sent his family to Kiev. He stayed behind to be with the people of his church. One night he had gone to the church to be on watch. He got a call in the middle of the night that his house had been shelled and was completely destroyed. Had he stayed home, he might have been killed in the shelling. The church building was never attacked, but a school building not far away was taken over by the Russians. This became the site of a short but fierce fight between the two armies. The Ukrainians prevailed and the insurgents were defeated. What has not been widely reported in the news is that the conflict continues. Just in this month there have been at least 27 deaths and several hundred wounded. Since the conflict began there have been close to 3,000 deaths and more than 20,000 wounded.
Below is a photo of the school building. To my right is the pastor of the church. The other two men are pastors from western Ukraine.
In Lysychansk I taught eight hours a day for three days in a row, and finished up with four hours on Saturday. That is a bit of a challenge, but I was so pleased with the students who endured to the end. The response was enthusiastic and they want to know when I can come again.
Word of God Bible College will end the school year this week. We will have graduation ceremonies on Friday, our annual banquet, and then a special service at Word of God Church on Sunday.
Phyllis and I will fly to the US on June 5th and start our summer schedule. This year we will be visiting churches in the western part of the US, going to churches in Texas, New Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Oklahoma. We are going to squeeze in a short vacation and see our children and grandchildren along the way.
Click here for our summer itinerary and the churches we will visit. You can also find this on the Calendar on this website.
We praise the Lord for His mercy and grace that allows us to serve Him. We have been blessed with the health and strength to carry on. We are so grateful to all of you, for your prayers, encouragement and support. Thank you.
By grace alone,
Jim & Phyllis