Week One had me presenting all over Ukraine: in Kiev, Kremenchug, Gorshni Plavni, Poltava, Dnepropetrovsk, and Odessa. I started with a two-day FaithSearch Discovery teaching in Poltava Orthodox Seminary with Missions Emphasis – the only Orthodox school in the country to train missionaries. These young men and women will be using our material in their ministry for many, many years. I did my best to provide them with the most-recent and most-convincing evidence from History, Archeology, and Paleography.
Three comfortable nights in their dormitory gave me a chance to recover from the long flight and the first leg of my ground travel. The roads in Ukraine are… even worse than in Russia. The bus driver was cursing and swearing out loud all the way from Poltava to Dnepr, shifting (manual transmission) up and down the gears as he slalomed around the potholes and cracks. Sure enough, he burned out the clutch a few miles short of our destination. He waved down another bus and transferred his passengers into it very matter-of-factly – it surely happens often here. Switching buses in the dark, in the middle of the highway was indeed a bit of a challenge for me as I still have to move slowly and carefully. Praise the Lord for graciously providing me with helpers and a spare seat for me.
Teaching a three-hour class right off the bus and through the rest of the evening gave me back all the energy I had lost on the road. My audience that night was a city youth group (and their non-believing friends) – full of energy, burning with interest and curiosity, firing great question and comments! I could hardly sleep that night as the images of that day – my early-morning tour through the beautiful city of Poltava; the terrible roads; and the shining eyes of my evening audience – were all flashing in front of my eyes.
Back in my first stop in Gorishni Plavni (formerly known as Komsomolsk) I was asked to stay after the church service and give a talk to a group of teens at their Sunday school. As I talked to their parents before the class, many of them asked if could present my FaithSearch Discovery impromptu, right there. Which I did for a full classroom of kids with their moms and dads. Some of them had just come to pick up their children and were even not believers! It is always fun to see the transformation on the face of a skeptic progressing through the course of the presentation: from a grin of arrogance, to a moment of disbelief, and then to the full-blown, well, surprise by faith!
One other powerful testimony came from a middle-aged businessman. As I finished my teaching at a Baptist church one evening, I was then invited to a late dinner with him. He insisted that we have a time to talk after the presentation and these were the first words he said as we sat down: “I had a dream. And it came true tonight. I have always wanted to know that what my heart tells me is true and that I can also believe it with my head.” God bless his heart! I rarely see the fruits of my labor as I move down my itinerary and leave the follow-up ministry to our local partners – churches, missionaries, Bible teachers – I work hand-in-hand with. I am so grateful to the Lord for occasionally sending me these encouraging “angels”!