David acted in a video for PromoRepublic!

One of the things that I’m privileged to do here in Ukraine to better my contacts in the film industry and gain more experience as a director is acting in local ad’s for startups. I haven’t done it very much, but I’ve already been in three different videos. Here’s the most recent one and probably the one I had the most fun with:

The company that produced this clip is Perfectionist.video

Christmas Cards for Soldiers

Our church just wrapped up a really cool project to bless the soldiers that are defending Ukraine in the East right now. (BTW – please pray for them! This war is far from over!) We sent them several pounds of dried fruits and Christmas cards from our children’s ministry, a local Christian school, and from individuals in the church. Here are a couple of pictures of the stuff we sent them:

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Katya has been getting better and better at watercolor painting lately, and she decided to make several cards for the soldiers herself. I’m so proud of her! Here are a couple more pictures of her work:

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Please keep praying for Ukraine and for the war in the East!

The Importance of Application

The leadership team from our church and I went to the Global Leadership Summit this week. We had an amazing time. There were lectures from Juliet Funt (from WhiteSpace at Work), Laszlo Bock (former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, co-founder of Humu), Fredrik Härén (author of The Idea Book), Angela Duckworth (Professor at the University of Pennsylvania), and Gary Haugen (CEO of the International Justice Mission), among others.

It was an excellent opportunity to reconnect with leaders in other organizations, companies, and churches. I was even able to introduce one of my friends, Zoryan Hudziy, the CEO and co-founder of InVeritaSoft, to Lilya, a 14-year-old girl from our youth group, who wants to someday own her own business.

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The folks from our church that went to the conference. Lilya is the girl to the left of Katya.

The lectures were amazing. In the two-day summit, we received so much information that it’s a bit of a blur as to which lecture happened on what day. This leads me to the question: What should I do with all of this information? If we do not apply the principles we learn at conferences to ourselves and our organizations, the money we spend on registration and the time it takes to go is a waste!

Anatoliy Sapsai, a local leadership expert that works with Innovista, reminded me on the drive back from the conference that approximately 90% of the people that were there will make virtually no application from the things they learned. For one thing, there was so much information, that it was often hard to keep up; however, that is not the only factor. We also simply have a tendency as human beings to hear something, agree, and just walk away and forget. James in the Bible even warns us about this:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Jamess 1:22-25 ESV

This is a problem that predates leadership conferences, that is for sure.

So, how do we break this cycle? How do we actually make use of the information that we learn at conferences, at leadership summits, or even just at church or in our daily devotions when God shows us that we need to do something? The answer: application.

Application

I like to define the process of application as three things: learning well, planning well, and executing well (which is the hardest part). This is why I actually come with two different notebooks when I go to a conference or summit. The first notebook is a knockoff of a Moleskine classic notebook. I love Moleskine notebooks, but they are even more expensive here than they are in the States, so my wife usually buys the much cheaper versions. I use that notebook to just take general notes and use as my prayer journal. I have a stack of them about a foot high at home that I can look through to see what prayer needs I had, sermons I listened to, and where I was over the past few years.

Learning Well

This first notebook helps me to learn well. I don’t remember what study it was that “proved” such a thing, but even just my own experience shows me that, when I take notes while listening to something, I retain the information and even understand it better than when I just sit and listen. We as human beings need some form of engagement in the learning process, and, for me, that at least requires me to be taking notes.

Here’s a quick link for that Moleskine note book. These are affiliate links, so a portion of the sales price goes to support our family and ministry.

Moleskine Classic Notebook, Large, Ruled, Black, Hard Cover (5 x 8.25) (Classic Notebooks)

Planning Well

This is the part that James in his epistle leaves out, but I think it’s implied. This is why I have my second notebook, which is much simpler. It’s a spiral-bound, graph-ruled notebook. I use this notebook almost exclusively as a to-do list. Here is a picture of one of the pages that I wrote notes on after the conference:

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In addition to the pages upon pages of general notes I took in my “almost Moleskine”, I wrote down three full pages of notes like this of things that I can do to apply what I heard in the lectures.

Someone might say, “Well – there you go! You planned.” I don’t think so, though. I have it on my schedule this week to go through this list and pick the most important things on the list to do, either personally or as a leadership team. Why only the most important things? It’s because of the 80-20 rule. The top 20% of things on the list will give me top 80% results.

Execution

Here’s the hardest part. I don’t think it’s just hard for me, but for everyone. This is what James was talking about in the end – be doers of the Word! Execute! This is why I’m thankful for tools like smartphones and Google Calendar. Life has been going at a furious pace this year, and I have started to plan my schedule for daily activities up to a month in advance, thanks to having these tools.

Since I began this practice of having two notebooks and planning out my time in advance, I’ve become much, much better at executing the things that I’ve planned. Although just sticking something on my calendar doesn’t guarantee that it will get done, planning a specific time to do something makes it much more likely that it will get done. The most precious resource we have is time, as Moses wrote:

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

One of the things that helps me to actually get the things done that I schedule is not overloading myself. This is why it’s so important to pick only the most important things on that list. Also, I try to be intentional with planning areas in my life other than work and ministry. I try to plan in time to rest, time to do family stuff, time to go on a weekly date with Katya, and time to pray and read my Bible. We live in such a fast-paced world that, if we do not plan these things, we are asking for our spiritual and family lives to fall apart.

It’s as Benjamin Franklin said:

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Please pray for wisdom for us. Pray for us to execute the things that we learned from this conference, so that we can grow individually and as a church team.

Pictures from Missions Trip (Novhorod, Nov 2017)

We had an amazing trip to Novhorod-Siversky. Here is what Anastasia, the local coordinator, wrote to us after we left:

Hey, guys! I wanted to tell you about what happened “behind the scenes” while you were here.

My boss at the hospital (Anastasia is a surgeon there), is a strong atheist. When he heard that you all traveled here to do concerts for the youth, he said, “Wow – your friends are amazing.” It doesn’t make any sense to him that friendship can be so strong and sacrificial.

The security guard who locked the doors for us after one of the youth groups was so shocked that we left everything clean, cleaned up their equipment, and didn’t steal or break anything, that he told the guard at the next shift, saying that he’d never seen anything like it.

The pastor of the local church never hugs anyone, especially girls. I was amazed at how strong and naturally he hugged David, Alex, and even Sophia and Oksana while you were leaving.

Grandma (the pastor’s mother-in-law, who is well over 80) and the pastor were literally glowing when you came over for dinner on Friday. It’s been a long time since grandma was that happy. She has been weak for the past few weeks, but she was running around and even dancing like a little girl.

My landlord said that the girls that stayed with me were great. They didn’t make any messes, didn’t invite boys over, didn’t burn the place down… Haha!

Two of the girls at youth group are just on fire with the idea of continuing youth group with me. What’s even better is the pastor is trusting me to lead it! He is even letting us play games before worship and the Word! He will even be there to support us!

You guys may not be able to see the difference before and after the trip; however, I feel a huge difference between before and after the trip. You brought a lot of new light into the city (the concert was called “Turn on the lights!”). Thank you all for being a part of it! You are all very close to my heart!

Here are some pictures from the different outreaches we did:

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Road trip! After taking the train from Lviv to Kyiv, we drove from there in the Kyiv church’s van to Novhorod-Siversky.

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We ate dinner together at the church once we got there with a couple of women from the church.

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Band practice!

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Concert #1 – That was so much fun!

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I (David) got to preach at the concert with Anastasia translating.

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Youth group on Wednesday with Volodia (on the far left) teaching.

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Games at youth group!

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Playing worship at youth group.

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Group picture!

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Praying at another youth group on Thursday afternoon.

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Concert #2 on Thursday evening. That was the most fun!

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I played a song specifically for the soldiers in the east right now, and I was shocked that one actually came to the concert. He thanked me for the song, and I thanked him for his service.

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My friend, Conor, an American missionary that pastors a church in Chernihiv, preached the Gospel on Thursday at the concert.

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Having dinner with the pastor and his family.

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The man that has his face covered was the security guard from the hall where we had the concert the previous day. He told us that he was amazed that we left the place clean, didn’t steal anything, and even cleaned up the cables that someone had left before us.

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Friday youth group! Alexander, Conor’s assistant from Chernihiv, preached the Gospel there.

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Dancing and playing games at youth group.

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A funny picture of Sophia, the drummer / singer from our band. Sophia – you know I had to put this one in there! 😀

Musings on God’s grace in cultural learning…

Being a missionary is a never-ending process of learning and growing, especially in regard to culture. The picture above is from a cross-denominational prayer meeting that we have every month with the pastors from Lviv, Ukraine. It is so cool to be with these brothers in Christ! When pastors from Baptist, Charismatic, Pentecostal, Seventh-Day-Adventist, Salvation-Army, non-denominational, and Reformed churches can get together to pray for one another about real, pressing needs, to share just “what God showed me this morning in my devotions”… It’s a miracle, honestly. God has answered prayers and done things through these men that wouldn’t be possible without this meeting.

I have a very unique place in this meeting. I’m an American that assists one of the local pastors. Normally, it’s the other way around. In general, when an American missionary comes to Ukraine, he starts a church or heads a ministry, and the Ukrainians “learn from him”. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but I think I get more credit with these brothers here, because I am here to learn from them. I’m the novice, and they are the teachers.

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This is a picture of me (on the left), and my pastor, Ruslan (on the right), by a rock at the top of a hill on a hike we took with the youth group. The relationship I have with Ruslan is a lot like one would have with an older brother. He’s like a father for my wife, Katya; he led her to Christ at a camp many years ago and has known her since then.

One of the cool things about our relationship is that we can both speak into each other’s lives. We have that permission and trust. Learning from him, learning from Katya, learning from my in-laws, learning from the other members of the leadership team all of this is teaching me how to be a missionary specifically in Lviv.

…and I mean specifically! When I go to Kyiv or other cities here, I sometimes feel like I’m in another country. Lviv is one of the few cities that speaks primarily Ukrainian. This is in contrast to Kyiv or other cities, where most people speak Russian. I actually sometimes get culture shock going to those places! I’ve talked to friends, Ukrainians, from Lviv, and they experience the same thing!

This constant learning of culture and finding the best ways to express the Gospel to that culture is called “contextualization”… More about that later.

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This is most of our team. From left to right: Tomasz, a Czech missionary; Olya in the baby blue jacket, the church administrator; Bara, another missionary from the Czech Republic; Katya, my wife, is to my right; and finally Paul, another brother in the church, is on the far right.

I love these guys. We’re from many different backgrounds and often have huge differences in opinion, but that helps us to serve many different kinds of people.

Tomasz and Bara, for example, work with a student-missions organization called Josiah Venture. They are especially good at working with youth, teaching language courses, and starting relationships that eventually turn into opportunities to share the Gospel.

Olya is studying at Coram Deo, the biblical counseling organization where my wife studied. She’s great at working with young girls and helps me and Ruslan keep our heads screwed on straight with the church’s documents, finances, and other administrative duties.

Katya’s also great at working with young women and leading small groups. Olya and Paul were actually in her small group years ago when she taught “Series 2:7”, a Ukrainian-made new believers course that sets out the foundational doctrines of our faith.

Paul has a heart for underprivileged families and has been serving them at our church for a couple of years. His wife leads the children’s ministry, and she also studied at Coram Deo.

All that to say, I’m a blessed missionary. The fact that these people follow me blows me away sometimes, because I have so much to learn from them.

Please pray for our team! We’re growing. We’re learning together. We have growing pains, but that’s part of the progress we are making. I’m proud of these guys.

There’s a book that I recommend about this topic, cultural learning and preaching the Gospel. It’s called “Center Church” by Timothy Keller. It isn’t solely about contextualization, but that’s a big part of the book – finding what works for the particular city and culture that you are working in.

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City

This is an affiliate link, so a portion of the sales price goes to support our family and ministry.

If you have suggestions for other books to go through about contextualization for missionaries and church leaders, please comment below.

Please pray for Novhorod!

David is leaving soon for a missions trip to Novhorod-Siversky, a city in northern Ukraine on the border with Russia. Don’t worry – it’s far from the conflict zone! Please pray for hearts to be open to hear the Gospel and for the ministry we will have in the local churches.

The picture above is of David preaching with Anastasia, the local coordinator of the trip, translating at an evangelistic concert in Novhorod-Siversky in May, 2017.

Here is a message from Anastasia:

Novhorod-Siversky is a small town on the northern border of Ukraine with Russia. It’s in one of the poorest regions in all of Ukraine, with one of the highest alcoholism rates in the country. Families often drink together with their children, and the children pick up the poor habits of their parents. Young people often die there from alcoholic liver cirrhosis.

Most people in Novhorod are Orthodox with a heavy accent on traditions and rituals and very little about Christ and God’s Grace. If you speak with people there, you can tell that very few of them have ever heard the Gospel about Jesus.

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David and his friends, Aaron (left), Sofia (center), and Rostyk (far right) playing at the concert in May, 2017.

As far as Evangelistic churches in the city, there are only two of them. They are very small; one of them has forteen members, while the larger of the two has twenty-five. 90% of the people in those churches are over 50 years old. Because of the vision of those churches and the difference in age, it is very hard for them to reach the youth in their city, and the youth don’t have any desire to come to church.

However, young people in Novhorod are very responsive to invitations to fellowship with Christians of the same age. Music is the language of the heart, and they are excited when we invite them to concerts. This is one of the ways that I see we can share the Gospel with them.

So, let’s do it together!

– Anastasia Furtak

We will have pictures of the trip when we get back. Thank you all for praying for us!

The Leadership Team at church is going through the 21 Laws of Leadership

Leadership is something that we all need to reach our full potential. Whether you are a part of a small team in a startup or an employee of a massive corporation, you need to be led well. Even if you’re the head of a huge organization, you need training, mentors, and coaches to see the best results in your own leadership… In other words, we need to be led.

Our leadership team at church is in the process of realizing and applying this truth. Leadership is a great way to be more like Jesus, as He was the ultimate leader of the last 6000 years. At our church, to work on this, we decided to go through the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell after I (David) read through it on a weekend and suggested it to the pastor. His response was to ask me to lead a directed discussion of each chapter every week with questions and application to make us better leaders.

Our church is at a turning point. There are many situations that have happened over the past two years that have required a greater level of leadership than we previously had. Ministries have been either rebooted, rearranged, or even canceled. Team members have been both added and subtracted. We see a great need to strengthen our foundation as a team, not only to survive these situations, but to thrive and grow in them.

This book has been great for that. It has shown me personally and our team in general a few different areas where we are either weak or have a total “blind spot” in leadership. The laws in particular that I want to work on are 7 and 12, which primarily focus on “people skills” and delegation. I don’t really have much experience taking a person from smaller responsibilities to greater ones, and I need to learn that discipleship process better.

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However, this book isn’t the only thing that we are using to challenge our leadership team for growth. In October, we went as a team to a local leadership conference, and we will be attending the Global Leadership Summit together in November. We also have plans for continuing growth and application of the principles we learn after all of this.

That brings me to laws 1 and 2 from Maxwell’s book. Law number 1 stipulates that, as a leader, you are the lid for your team. Your team cannot go any further than your leadership abilities can bring them. Law number 2 is the law of process… In other words, with concerted, daily effort, you can, will, and must become a better leader. Leaders are people that grow and learn.

Please pray for our team to grow as leaders. Pray for me as I attempt to lead them and be as close to Jesus’ example as possible. If you would like to get the book from Amazon and go through it with your team, you can click on the link below.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (10th Anniversary Edition)

This is an affiliate link, so a portion of the sales price goes to support our family and ministry.

If you have suggestions for other books to go through as a team or any other input, please comment below. 🙂