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Katya and I are finally in the States after three years of not visiting family and friends here. We went to Texas first, and a couple of days after we got to Dallas, we heard that our “sister” (she’s actually a very close family friend and Katya’s sister’s roommate) was diagnosed with double-pneumonia. She has already had trouble breathing for several months and has been sick with autoimmune hepatitis for several years.
The next day, as we were making our way down to San Antonio, she died. Oksana really was a part of our family – she was there for Katya’s mom and sister when Katya’s dad died the last time we visited America. She was an amazing servant in the church, a good friend, and a very generous person.
Please pray for our family and friends back in Ukraine and for us as we can’t really mourn with them.
We’re starting a new sermon series on prayer! I’m really excited for it. Ruslan (our pastor) let me kick on the sermon series by talking about Christ’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. I don’t know how many of our readers speak Ukrainian, but if you understand it, here’s a video of the sermon:
Praise the Lord. Another sermon down. One more to go. Here’s what “The Life of David” looks like right now:
- 1 Samuel 16 – God has His Own timing
- 1 Samuel 17 – Who is your Goliath?
- 1 Samuel 18-20 – Love, Jealousy and Obedience
- 1 Samuel 21-24 – Temptation and God’s promises
- 1 Samuel 25-27 & 29-30 – You offended me!
- 1 Samuel 28, 31 & 2 Samuel 1 – The death of Saul
- 2 Samuel 2-5 – Civil War
- 2 Samuel 5-9 – After you God’s friend?
The last sermon, #10, will be on David and Bathsheba. I’ve learned so much about preaching, planning, and God’s faithfulness through this series. I had the privilege to preach sermons 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 9.
Those scripture passages are HUGE! I don’t know if I would do it this way again. It might be best to break this story up even more to about 12-15 sermons.
That’s what I mean by “know your limits to go further.” I’ve gotten some great feedback / constructive criticism during this series from one of our teachers at the seminary and from my wife, Katya. They and others have encouraged me in this process, exhorting me to bring more focus to the messages.
For instance, I could probably teach three different sermons from 2 Samuel 5-9, the passage I thought from today. A lot of pastors actually try to do that, trying to squeeze every exegetical lesson from the verses they are expounding on.
I don’t know about you guys, but, when I do that, I end up having a wide, hour-long puddle of a sermon, instead of a narrow, deep well that the congregation can draw water from. It’s hard to drink from a puddle in the same way that it can be hard to receive deep, impacting truth from a sermon that is about everything and nothing at the same time.
All that to say, I’ll learning my lesson. Today the sermon was about 60% of the length from last week, much more focused, and (imho) just as deep / impactful.
Please pray for this week… I might talk to my pastor and ask him to take this one. WAY too much going on right now.
(English at the end)
Це – передмова недільного богослужіння 17.02.2019, день після того, як Іра пішла до свого Спасителя. Надіюсь, що це якось дасть трошки надії або спокою всім, кому боляче від того, що Іри вже не серед нас.
Ось вірш, який я прочитав на початку тієї проповіді:
Як розуміти – такі слова?
Голова щось не може збагнути!
Що він сказав? Ні – це не вона…
Такого – не може бути!
Як, ну як – така молода!
Як пережити злу новину?
Як довіряти, коли година прийшла?
Не хочеться навіть так думати.
Як можна радіти, коли їх вже нема?
Коли вже тут ти їх не побачиш?
Нашу Надію не знає земля
Ісусе… мій Господи – це Ти
Please be praying for the churches and families here that lost an amazing friend, sister, and minister – Ira Zakharova. She recently moved to the Front to serve in children’s ministry there. While she was back home, she died from what sounds similar to a heart attack. (I’m not a doctor… They said that a blood clot stopped her heart.) This is a very hard time for all of us.
The audio above and poem are some words that were said at our church in memory of her and finding encouragement from Christ’s words in John 11 about the Resurrection.
We miss you, Ira.
Missionary life has its ups and downs. The past few weeks have had both. Health problems in the family, hard news from relatives, missing “home” (what does that mean, now that I’ve lived here for 8 years?), and being apart as a couple… It means a lot in these times to have reminders that people “back home” in America remember who we are and why we’re here.
Above is a Christmas card that I just got from the staff of my sending church in Indiana. I know about 1/2 to 2/3 of the people that signed the card, but even the signatures that I don’t recognize mean something to me.
It came at the right moment.
Pray for your missionaries.
If you would like to send cards (or books!) to missionaries here, please contact Diana Faulk at Horizon Indianapolis. She’ll hook you up:
+1 (317) 823-2349 – Church office
7702 Indian Lake Road
Indianapolis, IN 46236
God has an interesting way of getting us to our knees sometimes. There are some things that push us over the edge (like last week’s sermon prep) and force us to say, “God, I really need your help with this one.” Today, part of that was talking to our friendly, neighborhood “dog lady.”
BE WARNED – I’m going to sound like I’m complaining / venting… Well… That might be partially true, but this post has a good ending, and I realize that this is an area that I need to change in.
There’s a lady in our apartment complex that lives on the first floor. She seems pretty nice, if not a little eccentric. If anyone remembers Wanda Gilmore from the PBS Wishbone TV series growing up (is that weird that I remember that?), that’s what she reminds me of… except that she loves dogs instead of plants. Unfortunately, I don’t know her name, so I’ll just affectionately call her “TDL” or “The Dog Lady.”
She keeps several “previously-stray” dogs in her first-story apartment. You can often hear them barking as you walk by. There are many different breeds and kinds, some old, some young, one or two are blind, one has had multiple surgeries. She lives for those dogs, to give them a home. I somehow think that she probably doesn’t have anyone else.
The poor dog that has had multiple surgeries, Bagheira, often would kind of guard the front door of our building. She would lay there and just hang out, sometimes waiting for TDL, sometimes just because she liked it. Bagheria has never been very nice to our dog, Candy, and growls at her every single time we walk by. I’ve tried several times to make friends with the dog, offering her cookies or other food, and nothing has worked.
The problems happened when people were leaving home fellowship one night and I chose to walk Candy while seeing them out of the apartment yard. In the confusion of everyone walking out, making sure the kids were all accounted for, etc., I neglected to keep a close eye on Candy. Bagheria has only ever growled up to that point, so I didn’t think it was a problem that she was at her usual spot. Then, it happened – Bagheria attacked my dog.
Now – no dog attacks my dog. Not if I’m close by. They all get to know that really quick. In addition to that, there were kids nearby from the folks that come to home fellowship, so I was terrified and felt that I needed to take swift, pointed action.
I started to chase Bagheria with Candy’s leash, eventually throwing it at her (this all took about .7 seconds), right as TDL came out the door to see what was going. She’s been suspicious of me ever since. I feel that it’s impossible to have a positive interaction with her. That all happened about a month before Christmas.
We met downstairs about an hour ago while I was walking Candy much later than I normally do. It didn’t really go well – she started to raise her voice at me basically right off, asking me to stand aside while she made her way past. I immediately obliged, telling her that she didn’t need to shout. That’s something that I still haven’t gotten used to about Ukrainian culture – everyone likes to yell here. EVERYONE! It’s like it’s the only way that you can get your point across.
The rest of the conversation was about how she was terrified of me, because I habitually don’t let her go past. I apologized and told her it wasn’t something I was purposefully doing (that’s also something that doesn’t seem to “count” here…), and that I will try to keep that in mind in the future.
When I got home, I was thinking about how I’m preaching this sermon series and am trying to serve in the church, while I’m doing a bad job being a missionary to my neighbors. (Any other missionaries feel me here?)
TL;DR? Please pray for her and that we can be a light to her. I was thinking about how she might be lonely or may even be “self-medicating” something by keeping all of those dogs. Either way, I want to be a better neighbor (…without being a pushover). We need wisdom, I need grace and tact (two things that I often lack), and we need the Holy Spirit to give us the right words to love her much better than I am right now.
Thanks for praying.
P.S. – The sermon series is going alright. I’m working on sermon #3 about 1 Samuel 17. Here’s an advertisement that I put together for it:
It says “Fight in the Valley: David vs. Goliath”, quoting Goliath “Am I a dog…” and David “I come against you in the Name of the Lord of Hosts!”