Pastor Rob Harrell, Pastor Rick and Diana Lowe, Connie and myself, had the recent opportunity of travelling to Western Ukraine by way of planes, trains and vans. We finally arrived at our destination in the wee hours of the Sunday morning, May 22nd. It was a beautiful facility that is being developed by a Russian oligarch. It was perhaps the nicest facility that we have ever had a conference in, and also one of the least expensive due to the strength of the dollar against their currency. Early Monday afternoon pastors and wives began to arrive by train from Eastern Ukraine, which is a war zone. We heard some very sobering stories from these young couples regarding how quickly life can be snuffed out, and how uncertain life is in their part of the country. We had right at 90 attendees present. We (Connie and I) were the only ones over 70 years old and only one other person, which just happened to be on our team, was over 60. It was great to invest in this young generation of pastors and wives. It might also give you some context in which to understand some of the comments mentioned in the testimonials below. The conference lasted from Monday evening until Friday evening, with 3 or 4 sessions each day, including some Q & A sessions. I think that we all left part of our hearts with these dear saints who are enduring much.
Our conference theme was “Facing the Future without Fear.” Rick, Diana and Rob all ministered very effectively and tied their messages to our theme very creatively. I know that you are anxious to read some of the testimonials, so here they are:
“Many thanks for this gift in the form of a conference! It helped me to rethink the importance of the relationship between spouses. I was inspired by the ministry taking place in a region where there is a war. My wife and I further affirmed that the Lord is with us in times of trouble! We and our children are supported by the international community.”
“As missionaries we are faced with attacks, fears and difficulties. We have been stressed, and realize that in all we need to trust in the Lord and be not afraid. Thank you for the excellent instruction and encouragement. Thank you for the encouragement to appreciate and support each other, and have more romance in our marriage!! Thank you for giving us a great time to be together. We are grateful that the lectures were very accessible and creative and full of illustrations. It was a very good instruction in the boundaries of service and priorities as to prevent cracks in the ministry and family. Thank you for the rest and refueling. We hope and believe that we will meet again. Thanks to this conference, we have found new friends!! God bless you!”
“Many thanks for your work. Staying here and hearing these lectures was a great spiritual feeding, strengthening me, and giving me firmness in the faith. For our family, we realized that we need to change in our relationships. I really liked that the time was aimed at strengthening the relationship between husband and wife. God will bless a husband and wife in service. Thank you so much! God’s blessings!”
“Dear brothers, sisters! Thank you very much for an unforgettable meeting! Of all the conferences and seminars I have been to, this was the best thing in my life. It helped me to look at my husband, my family and my ministry in a slightly different way. You have inspired me very much!! I am confident that we will meet again, if not on earth, then with our Heavenly Father.”
“We passed one of the best weeks of our lives!! We have been married 34 years. One would think we have the experience of marriage, but we heard a lot of things that were interesting and useful. In our opinion it was a very correct combination of lessons and rest. The speakers gave practical advice. Especially important were the themes of heaven, and how to overcome fears about the family. We understand that this event required a large expenditure. Thanks to everyone who helped this happen! We give glory to the Lord!”
Only eternity will tell what really happened and what the long term benefits will be, but we believe that God used us to bring much needed encouragement and the challenge to these couples to stay in the fight and finish strong. Again, this would not be possible without your generosity and faithful praying for us!!
There will be two more conferences this year, one in the Republic of Georgia, followed by pastors and wives coming from Azerbaijan to Georgia. As I have previously stated, I am stepping down at the end of the year from my position as Executive Director for health reasons, but we are excited about how God is raising up the leadership to continue this much needed ministry! We have already welcomed new board members David and Beth Butler.
May God bless you all with a wonderful summer! Our prayer for each one of you is that you will fight the good fight, finish your course and keep the faith until He comes or calls you home.
Pastor Steve for the team
If you would like to read more stories and see other photos, visit our Ukraine trip webpage at MissionMakr.com