Ukraine 2004 (Scroll down for the updates in order)
Posted October 3, 2004
“Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good.” Psalm 107:1 God is so good’ to us! We have spent the last few days in villages with children who have not seen puppets before. They laugh and giggle when they hear our English and cannot hide their joy when we give them the small gift of a balloon. Best of all, they believe.
It seems that the worse the places are, the hungrier the children are to know about Jesus. Yesterday, we were at a bad orphanage. You could see the pain in the children’s eyes. Smiles did not come quickly to their faces. Gradually, as they watched the program, they warmed to us. More important God warmed their hearts to His words. Loudly, with enthusiasm, we heard dozens and dozens of children calling on God, asking Him to be their Father. Their voices were strong and clear as they asked Jesus to be their Savior. How can words describe our joy?
As I write these words I am sitting in a village church. Sam is preaching and each time I listen I see God doing a greater work in His life. David spoke with such authority about How God had given him his father’s faith. Sam challenged people to use the gifts that God had given them.
The church is full of many children and I gave a missionary report aimed at encouraging them. There are also many “Babushkas” older ladies with serious faces and bright colored scarves tied under their chins. At first, it is easy to dismiss them because they are so serious, but then you remember that through the 70 years of communism, many of them were believers. Against all threats and suffering, they held onto their faith and today in Ukraine, their faith became the seed that grew today’s church.
After the service, the response was so sweet. The babushkas with the serious faces were all smiles, hugging us, kissing us. One dear lady who barely came to my shoulder, kissed my hands and said, “From the depths of my heart, I thanks you.” We are rich in their kindness and humbled by their gratitude.
Last night, all of us were blessed as Brittany spoke at a youth meeting and shared her testimony. Her face glowed as she spoke of coming to faith in Christ years ago at a puppet show. She praised God for allowing her to join the puppet team and come to Ukraine. Praise God.
Now, we have trained our last team and just now, we finished our last show. We wanted to be at an orphanage, but ended up at a village church. As always, our Father knew best. All of the people in the church were excited and begged us to bring them equipment so that they could start a puppet ministry. Already we plan our next trip.
Monday, we travel to Kiev for a time of fellowship with other believers. It is our first day off, in over two weeks. We are tired and blessed and broken by all we have seen. Ringing in our ears is a praise song that we have often listened to, “Ancient words ever true, changing me, changing you. We have come with open hearts… Ancient words will guide us home.” We rest in Him.
Tuesday, David, Brittany, and I fly home. Sam remains to work with and Irish team on their first trip to Ukraine. Hold us in your prayers.
In Jesus, Linda for Sam, David, Brittany, Sergei, Moshe, and Oksana
Posted September 30, 2004
How can so many amazing and funny and heart breaking things happen in just 2 days? It is because of prayers. Please rejoice in this list of blessings.
At a village school, the children cheered when found out that the puppet show was free. We heard children start to pray and stop because of their friends, pray for boldness. Brittany expressed amazement at children hearing about Jesus for the first time.
At one school, we were not allowed to pray with the children and we had to be careful with our words. Still, we were able to share Jesus and tell the children how they could put trust in Him. A teenage boy wanted to demonstrate his English to me, but he didn’t understand what his word meant. He said “Scooby-do. Elephant. I kiss you”. Every week, 50 people gather at 7 a.m. to pray in the village at the church. The first half hour, they praise God for His goodness and thank Him. Then, the second hour they pray for their requests. How awesome! This is Pastor Peter’s church and they prayed for us!
A little boy begged me for a second copy of the little booklet that we gave to him. It had the story the of Jesus and he wanted his brother to have what he had. Hope!
In one of the villages, the witches are strong. Many people in that place openly put their trust in satan, not Jesus. It is a very dark place and the children have difficult home situations. There is so much more to write about and after 4 shows and a 12 hour day, I promise to write more tomorrow.
Pray without ceasing!
In Jesus, Linda for Sam, David, Masha, Sergei, Oksana, Brittany.
Posted September 28, 2004
Rats!!!!… You never get comfortable with the smell. It is common in many of the orphanages and villages, but the children do not seem to notice. They smile and laugh and pray and we are more blessed than they are.
God has wonderfully answered your prayers for this area. Because of opposition from the Russian Orthodox church, many of our programs were cancelled. At first, the pastor, Yuri, was concerned that we might not have but two shows a day and we ended up with 4 each day. Praise God!
Sunday morning we attended church in the Ordgenikidze town with pastor Yuri. I presented a missionary report and afterwards, a lady with tears in her eyes kissed my dirty hands. David shared his personal testimony and shared stories from Africa, Ireland, and Ukraine. When he finished, the pastor stopped our presentation and said, “That was a powerful testimony. Let’s pray.” Sam preached a wonderful sermon on the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. When he finished, the pastor gave an invitation and 3 people responded. A young man came forward, knelt before the congregation and confessed his lack of love for God, asking to be restored to the fellowship of the church. Another young man and teenage girl came forward and knelt, asking Jesus Christ to be their Savior. It was so sweet to see people on their knees, calling out to God, broken by the reality of their sin. We all agreed that we want to see this in America, England, and Northern Ireland. Pray!
Our programs have taken us to places where the stories of Jesus are unknown to the children that we are sharing with. Most just stand and stare at us as we pray because they have not seen people praying. Try to imagine what it is like for an unwanted, unloved, orphan child to hear that there is a God who loves and wants them. More, they learn that God wants to be their Father. As Brittany shares about how Jesus takes away her fear, the children listen.
In the village first populated by released criminals, we shared in two programs. One of them was on the streets and for the first time ever in Ukraine, we had rocks thrown at us. In the middle of the Bible story, a bus driver who had previously said that he was not going to move his bus, decided that he had to go immediately. We stopped the program to let him pass and the children gathered again. As the puppets sang, a rather grumpy woman insisted that she move her car. The children gathered again and we finished. They are hungry to hear that there is hope.
Some things make us cry and others make us laugh. One day David and Brittany enjoyed a ride with a farmer in his horse drawn cart. Sam, David and Sergey stayed in a village house, where the lady of the house presented them with a bucket covered by a cloth to use as a bathroom. Tradition has it that if a man asked you to marry him and you do not wish to accept his proposal, you can give him a pumpkin. We drive down the road listening to Russian opera and American praise music, eating fresh picked apples, and laughing.
We have trained our second new puppet team and given them their equipment. As David tried to teach them to dance with the puppets, they insisted that they could not or they would be kicked out of the church. When David suggested that they “sway” instead, everyone laughed, and agreed that this was possible. Pray that they will learn their new skills quickly.
Now, we are in the Zhitomir region, and the team is tired from 26 puppet shows. and presentations since we began 7 days ago. Please ask God to pour his spirit on this time and to give us strength. Ask Him to make us wise.
Linda for David, Sam, Brittany, Sergey, Masha, and Oksana
Posted September 25, 2004
I talked to Linda and Brittany by phone this afternoon. The team is doing well. No sickness and the airline found and delivered the lost bag.
USA Prayer request……
I talked to my son Matt in Melbourne, FL. this afternoon. He and Jill are riding the storm out at a friends house about 5 miles inland. This storm appears to be very bad. Most of the people only have tarps on the houses. It is predicted to come ashore tonight with 125 mph winds. Please pray for everyone in Florida.
Posted September 25, 2004
“I am sorry I was born to this world.” These are the words of a thirteen-year-old little boy named Sasha, who lives on the streets of Kirovograd. Our friend Pastor Victor Doroshenko works with the street children there. They often end up in a local shelter and after three months, the children are placed in an orphanage. We have shared in programs at many of these.
The children write letters to their parents promising anything, if they will only come and get them. The Pastor had copies of some of these letters. It helped us to better understand the children that we are sharing with and we hope that these stories will better direct your prayers.
One little boy begged, “Please, if you love me come and get me.” Even though their parents forced them onto the streets because of their own struggles with alcohol and drugs, the children keep hoping and believing that their parents will come but they never do.
A little girl named Angelica wrote to her mother. She said, “Mom please come and take me home. I will go to school. Please forgive me. I won’t be disobedient anymore.” Her mother never came and she was placed in an orphanage.
Some children wrote, “They beat me. Please come.” A common punishment is to take the child’s clothes and make them kneel for up to two hours. We saw a picture of two little boys suffering such a punishment. They lived on the streets and their feet were black from exposure. It was terrible.
One letter stated that the believers give us candy when they come, but the older children steal the candy and our bread. A child said, “Since I came to this place, I have not seen meat.” Many of the children are desperately hungry both in the shelter and in the orphanages. Some even ate rat poison. In many of these places there are lots of rats. The smells awful, but the children live there all the time. We are working in dark places, where the greatest need is the light of Gods word. Please pray for us to be faithful and tireless as we share.
Some children, learning to pray, wrote actual letters to God. They wrote:
- God let my father come out of the prison so I can have a family.
- God, I ask you that my mother would buy me clothes and shoes and that we would have a home.
- God, I ask that you would make all people to believe in you and that everyone would go to heaven.
For most of these children life will never be any better, it makes the promise of heaven very sweet to them.
One little girl was abandoned at the hospital by her mother. When she was well, her mother did not return. Still, hope dies hard in the heart of a child. When she received a new doll, she smiled and named it for her mother.
We left Kiropvograd rejoicing at the new puppet teams enthusiasm. Pray for them to learn quickly.
Now we are in Nikopol. The Russian Orthodox Church opposes Evangelical Christians so much that they sent three men to beat up the pastor that we are working with. All three men. ended up on their knees with him, asking Jesus to be their Savior. They have not sent anyone else. Pray for this place.
Love in Jesus,
Linda for David, Brittany, Oksana, Masha, Sergei and Sam
Posted September 23, 2004
In a place called Znamenka, there is an orphanage for mentally and physically handicapped children. When a child is born with these problems, the parents are offered and encouraged to immediately place the child in the care of the state. Few decline. God sent us over 150 such children and their teachers. One little boy had no hands and many struggled to walk, lots of the children had vision problems. Some will never grow up in their minds, but all are precious to God.
After the program, we were told that everyone was amazed that the children sat and listened, quietly, paying great attention. One of their teachers said that they had never seen that happen before. They could not explain it, but we know it to be the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
In a very small village named Adjanka, we met in a church and shared in a program for over 40 children, most of whom were not Christians. The pastor begged us to come again.
Even further out is a smaller village called Pischany Brod, we shared with two programs, one at an orphanage the other at a school. A group of five boys told us that they wanted to come to the puppet show, but their teacher would not let them come. We said, “Take us to your teacher.” Down three flights of steps and two long halls, we had plenty of time to pray. When the teacher said yes, the boys cheered! These boys especially listened to the Bible story. Please ask God to call Sergei and his friends to faith in Jesus Christ.
Beyond Pischany Brod is a place named Dobrovelichkovk. The name is bigger than the place. When we finished the program, the orphanage director encouraged the children to remember what they had heard and to believe in God. Many that day had prayed out loud asking Jesus to be their Savior. They believed!
Your prayers make a big difference. They make a difference in the lives of the children and they change us. Every time that I have come to Ukraine, I have been very concerned about the customs officials at the airport. The truth is that they scared me, but not this time. All I could think about as I entered the airport was, “You don’t scare me anymore. You are not in charge”. Great peace flooded my spirit. Even my Ukrainian friends noticed the difference. I want God to continue to change me and teach me to put greater trust in Him. Thank you for praying for the children and for praying for us, it makes a difference.
Tomorrow, we have a puppet show at an orphanage, final training for our Kirovograd puppet team and a three hour drive to the next puppet show. Please hold all of these things in your prayers.
Linda for David, Brittany, Oksana, Masha, Sergei and Sam
Posted September 21, 2004
What would you do, if you were 9 and trying to feed your mentally handicapped little brother? Today, in the village of Kroopskae, we met a little girl who stole food left at the gravesides so that her brother could eat.
Another little girl lost her mother and father to a bomb explosion. Desperate to feed her children, she searched the fields for metal scraps that she could sell. One day she found an old WWII bomb and brought it home. She did not realize that it was live, only that it was big. A neighbor’s child set it off, killing himself and the parents.
Several children at the same shelter lost their parents to alcoholism; one arrived as a refugee from Tajikistan and was given away when her parents could not feed her. Two brought themselves to the shelter to escape bad homes and worse at orphanages.
In this place, they are loved and taught about God. Please pray that all of the children at this shelter will put their trust in Jesus. They have had such terrible things done to them and only if they accept God’s forgiveness can they forgive the ones who hurt them.
Today we stood at the river where the first evangelical Christians in Ukraine were baptized. The hope of the Gospel spread from this place.
At another shelter in Kirovgrad, the Pastor asked who would like to pray. Many wanted to talk to God and their prayers were full of thanks to God. Time and again they thanked Him for a warm clean bed and the believers that He sent. The shelter was full of children who were literally pulled off the streets, living in any warm place that they could find. Often this was the basement of an apartment building, any abandoned place, or a sewer.
In all of these places, the needs are enormous. Another 80 dollars per month would enable the first shelter in the village to accept another child. If you are interested in this type of ministry, we recommend you contact Ian Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has a wonderful ministry in England called Bringing Good News (www.bringinggoodnews.org) that already works in this place in Ukraine. Each day they make a difference in the lives of many boys and girls who hear about Jesus and enjoy a warm bed because of their work.
In a village school, the children and many parents crowded into a very small space to hear about Jesus. At each place that we visited today, many children could be heard praying out loud asking Jesus to be their Savior. I do not always hear this in Ukraine. God is answering your prayers in a mighty way.
Please pray that our missing bag which contains sound system and many puppets will arrive safely.
Please hold us daily before the throne. We have just finished the first day.
Linda for Sam, David, Oksana, Brittany, Sergei and Masha
Posted September 18, 2004
Tomorrow, Sunday, September 19th, Brittany Hornbuckle (a USA girl’s puppet team member) and I leave for Ukraine. Sam Shaw, our Irish puppet director, and David Thomson, our long time English partner, will meet us in Ukraine. We will partner with Oksana and Vera, dear friends who love Jesus with passion. Pray for all of us to serve well and watch for other Ukrainian friends in the emails that you can pray for also.
Please ask the Lord to get all of our bags safely to Ukraine. Ask that they arrive with us and that we have no trouble at customs. We will have 9 large bags 70 lb. and 4 carryons.
It has been a little over 2 weeks since we returned from Ireland. All of us were stunned with all that the Lord did on the streets, despite rain, hecklers, and drunks. Huge crowds listened and even clapped as they listened to Christian music, watched puppet shows, and heard Bible stories. We praise the Lord for the wonderful privilege of working with the Irish band “Reality” and pray that we will have the privilege next year. It was awesome!!! Their sweet spirit and passion for ministry made all of us miss them terribly when we came home. Please pray for them to see God open more doors for their ministry in Ireland and across Europe.
Since we have been home, the Lord blessed us with opportunities to share at churches, women’s meetings, train counselors in witnessing techniques, three puppet shows at a fishing rodeo, and a show and outreach at our home church, Highlands, in LaFayette, GA. God is so good!
Hold in your prayers two retiring and very faithful team members, Aaron Stewart and Jesse Southerland as they begin new college programs. There are no words for the love and gratitude that we have for these two sterling young men. Ask the Lord to make them bright lights for the Gospel and allow that we may work together again.
Mike and Linda Summer
Posted September 10, 2004
Praise the Lord!!
Their house survived with some non-structural roof damage and some water damage, but it is intact and in good shape.
They will have to replace the roofing and probably the inside Sheetrock walls in and part of the ceiling in two rooms. However, many of the immediate neighbors lost their entire roof and the inside of their houses was exposed to 16 to 20 inches of rain. There are truck sized dumpsters everywhere, full of roofing, carpet, bedding and small appliances. AS we worked to repair Matt’s roof, we could blue tarps and roofing company trucks everywhere.
Praise number two!!!
They are also in one of the few neighborhoods that have electricity restored.
John Agnew (family friend from home) and I brought down roofing materials, food, gasoline and drinking water yesterday.
Today we got semi-permanant patching done on most of the main roof. Tomorrow, we will finish patching the porch roof and several minor damaged sections of the main roof. The roof will still have to be replaced, but we hope that the patches will last several months, until the roofing “rush” slows down.
Thank you again for your prayers. As Jill said about their house on Monday night after seeing their house and then seeing the damage in the rest of their neighborhood.. “Our house was surrounded by angels.” After seeing the destruction today myself and seeing that most of Melborn is still without electricity. I can only agree with her.
Mike Summer for Matt, Jill, Linda and John Agnew