I arrived home from my trip with Eric Mock (SGA) and Pastor Dan Kirk to teach biblical counseling in Ukraine and Israel almost two weeks ago. I’m over the jet lag, back into my regular routine, and have had some time to reflect on the trip. Here are some things for which I am grateful:
- I am grateful for the sufficiency and power of the Word. In Israel there had been no previous exposure to biblical counseling and there were some “what are they talking about?” expressions initially. But when you just open the only Book and start explaining it, there is an inherent power and authority in it that is not replicated in any other book; and it was a joy to see the students respond almost immediately to that authority. There was room for 36 students in the classroom (the largest room) and we had 36 students pretty much every day, teaching from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. This class was also significant because the school has historically been integrationist and we were the first Americans to ever teach the Russian speakers in that school.
- In Ukraine students came from all over the country, many from areas of suffering, to be taught the Scriptures. This was their second course in biblical counseling and they enthusiastically embraced it, were highly involved and participating in discussion. They asked excellent questions that indicated they were well-trained, and they were headed back to churches to be involved in daily church ministry. In Ukraine, 86 students signed up and most days we had about 75 students in class for a day in which we taught from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (and then took questions for 30-60 minutes).
- I am grateful for the fellowship of believers. In Ukraine, the first night there, we sat down for a meal that ended up in a 3-hour time of fellowship around the Scriptures as we shared with people whose language we did not know the joys and difficulties of life in Christ. The same thing happened in Israel. And Dan and Eric and I, coming from three different churches, from very different personal backgrounds, repeatedly shared long conversations of fellowship in Christ. The Lord has made us one brotherhood of believers, united to His Son.
- I am humbled by grace. The schedule was somewhat overwhelming and relentless — teaching/preaching 25+ hours each week (divided between the two of us) and for 10 consecutive days was tiring, but we experienced much grace for physical endurance. Then there was this grace: both my sets of grandparents emigrated to Canada from Ukraine as German Mennonites in the 1920s, fleeing from the Bolsheviks. To be able to go back two generations later and be involved in teaching my “kinfolk” is a grace I never expected. Further, to be graced by this loving church Body to be sent to go there for the purpose of training and equipping those brothers is also an amazing grace in my life. Finally, to have a wife that is not only willing for me to go but also encourages, exhorts, and compels me to go is an immeasurable grace in my life.
- I am awed by God. After we were finished teaching, Dan and I were reflecting on the two weeks of teaching, and Dan asked, “What did you teach that helped or ministered to your own heart?” I was stuck for an answer in that moment, but as I’ve reflected further on the question, I would say, “I was compelled by the work of God and the character of God.” We were told at least twice that the church in Israel is a first-generation church. It is young; it is small; but it is strong and growing and the gates of Hell are not prevailing against it. The church in Ukraine has faced much opposition from the culture; it is strong and vibrant and thriving. The seminary there is strong and doing an excellent job in equipping believers to do the work of ministry. I’ve already mentioned the power of God’s Word to help and encourage believers. And the unity and the love of the church — it’s compelling that you can spend 4-5 days with people and when you leave exchange hugs and see sadness in their eyes when you leave and feel your own sense of regret for wanting to help and do more. This is God’s grace and God’s power and God’s sufficiency. Everything we do is for His glory — we do it for His honor; and everything we do reveals His glory to each other — we manifest His glory to each other.