I’ve been dialoguing with Josh Mack, a missionary in Pretoria, South Africa (his dad is the author and biblical counselor, Wayne Mack, who is also a missionary in South Africa now. Josh has co-authored a few books with his dad). Josh is pouring himself out in mercy ministry. What he’s facing is heart-breaking, and what he’s doing, by God’s grace, is incredibly encouraging… This is a recent update on his ministry:
     
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Open Arms Ukraine – January 2009

Graduation Dresses

For a kid in high school, prom is usually a highlight. For the children at the Pravda orphanage their graduation is their time to shine. The girls wear prom dresses, the boys in shirts and ties, and for that day, they are the stars. This year, economic crisis in Ukraine has escalated the prices of dresses even more than usual as orphanage support from the government has decreased. We have decided to see how we can help make this day special for the children at Pravda and are looking for your support. If you have a used prom dress, jewelry or dress shoes that you would like to donate, please contact us through e-mail (openarmsministry@gmail.com) or by phone [(510)435-3625)]. Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated as they can help us buy dresses here in Ukraine for these beautiful young ladies. Together we can share God’s love in this way and help make this graduation a day they never forget.

Aids Talks/Abortion

Ukraine ranks #1 in all of Europe, which includes 43 countries, for the prevalence of AIDs among adults. According to the UNAIDS report in late 2008, Ukraine and Russia are stated as the region with “the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world with prevalence doubling since 2001″ (avert.org as quoted from UNAIDS statistics). With this reality, we have seen an increasing need for awareness among the children we work with as many turn to sex at a very young age. On January 16th, we held a two part lecture series for the oldest classes at the Pravda orphanage and we are set to do the same for the next classes in the coming weeks.

We have also received permission from the Sambir Juvenile Colony to hold the same lecture series for the young men there who are preparing for life outside those walls. Every day decisions are made, but we hope that with education some of those decisions may be altered for the better.

Alongside the AIDs lecture at Pravda, we will be holding an abortion program January 24th with a young pregnant woman from a local Sumy church as the speaker. She will work with the oldest classes and share with them about the realities of pregnancy and what takes place with an abortion. Our goal is to inform these children of the truth behind the terminology used while shedding light on God’s truth in these subject areas.

Orphanage

Ever year we are faced with a new class of graduates from the Pravda orphanage and therefore our relationships there are of the utmost importance. If trust is not built with the children before they are placed in the trade school system, it is hard, if ever, to build trust to bring them to help. With this reality we have been building a team of Ukrainian volunteers from the local church who will be traveling with us monthly to the Pravda orphanage. They will focus their time on creating programs and building relationships with the 2 oldest classes that will hopefully lead to continued relationships beyond the children’s time there. Our goal and vision is to see long-lasting relationships developed that will lead not only to tangible help and support when the children are released from the orphanage, but also to a personal understanding of salvation in their lives.

OpenArmsMinistry@gmail.com * PO Box 277, San Lorenzo, CA 94580-0277 * (510) 435 – 3625

Hi friends!

It’s officially a new year and I thought I should take the time to write you guys and let you know how things are going. We got back to Ukraine in the beginning/middle of December and have been busy getting settled back into life since then. Getting settled and getting used to the cold weather! It was over 90 degrees for about a week when I was home and I don’t think it ever got lower than 73 degrees… so I struggled a little with the cold here. There has been snow on the ground and pretty much constantly in the air since about the 23rd of December I think. It was 10 degrees with a windchill of -4 outside this morning, when I looked up the weather online and watched the snow falling down [or falling sideways rather, thanks to the wind] from the not-so-warm-comfort of our 63 degree apartment kitchen. The heating in our apartment isn’t all that wonderful. It’s gotten probably 15 degrees warmer inside since Melissa and I self-insulated our windows with cotton and tape one day, but it’s still decently chilly. We enjoy watching our thermometer at night as the bedrooms get down to the high 50 sometimes.  : )

Cold weather aside, things have been good here. Something we really felt God calling us to when we were home is sharing our knowledge and experience in orphan ministry with the local Christians. We’ve had meetings with a couple different churches about getting more people involved, not just in our ministry, but even in their own orphanage ministries. We are actually going to be sharing with a church on Sunday night about what we’re doing and how they can be involved. We have been able to gain a lot of wisdom and experience through all our time spent at the orphanage as well as with the kids that have graduated, and we really are hoping to be able to use that knowledge to help start more substantial and lasting ministry with Ukrainian Christians and their orphanages. Please keep us in your prayers and we dive deeper into this venture and try to share what we know of Ukrainian orphange sub-culture with native Ukrainians. Pray that we are received well and that God would be working in the hearts of His people to move to action.

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Matthew Parris, a “confirmed atheist”, recently shared his belief that Africa needs God at TimesOnLine:

“Travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing… The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall…  
It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.”

Mr. Parris concludes his article with observations that may well be true, but miss the greatest truth: Christianity is not just liberating and life-transforming for Africans because of their traditional philosophical/spiritual framework; it is liberating and life transforming for everyone, in every culture, in every time… 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

To read the whole article, click here.

~Donovan

HT: Pyromaniacs

OPEN ARMS

November 2008 

A Face of Open Arms

18-year-old Losha Yeremenko is a kid who simply loves to laugh, but behind the smile there are countless scars cutting deep after years of pain and abuse. Second born in a family of 6 sons, Losha quickly learned how ugly life can be. Electrocution in puddles of water was just one of the methods of abuse his alcoholic father would inflict on him and his brothers. At merely 7 years old, after his father’s death and his absent mother loss all parental rights, Losha and his brothers were left to the orphanage system. In his years at the orphanage, Losha watched two of his younger brothers get adopted, while he received twisted forms of punishment, such as being taken on more than one occasion to be drugged and “treated” at a mental hospital. The loses and pains of this time are hardly mentionable for Losha.

After finishing the orphanage, Losha was sent to trade school in the village where his mother still lives. His alcoholic step-father there has made countless attempts to end Losha’s life, even succeeding in getting a knife stuck in Losha’s leg only months ago. His schooling was one of the worst we have seen and his very situation put his life in danger. With this reality Losha made the decision to try for change by transferring to Sumy. We fought with him in the process, as multiple schools initially accept him only to kick him out simply because he is an orphan. Finally, God cleared the way for Losha to enter an upper division trade school in Sumy. This is far better schooling than anything he has received and it allows our team to work much more closely in Losha’s life. Now, Losha is praised by his teacher as one of her hardest workers, he gets up at 6:30am to make it to school on time each day, and no one is threatening his life.

It is continually surprising to watch as he opens his heart through years of relationship. The countless pains he has endured have made Losha one of the strongest kids we know. He is unashamedly loyal to those he holds dear and a protector at the core. In the midst of his strong, silent spirit resides a tenderness that is a rare gift to those he shares it with. We are completely honored to have him as a gift from God in our ministry and we look forward to the ways God will move in his beautiful heart.

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Tim Challies says you can. The well-known Christian blogger, author, and discerningreader.com reviewer recently spent some time in the Dominican Republic seeing what Compassion International does first-hand. You can read the blog posts he wrote on his trip here.  

A good friend of mine from my time at The Master’s College, Peter Habyarimana, now works for Compassion. The Lord used this ministry greatly in his life and has now given him the blessing of serving in it. You can read a mini biography for Peter below (from the website of an event he spoke at): 

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Anika is back in Bellflower! And she’ll be here until December 9th…  : )   

Somehow I managed to forget to post her latest letter. I’m sorry about that. Here it is (a couple week late):

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Persecution in India

October 24, 2008

Christians in India need our prayers! For information on the persecution, see the “Urgent Prayer Request” link in the right column of the Good News India home page.

I really didn’t intend on posting one controversial post after another… : )

I know many Christians are very leary of hip-hop culture and hip-hop music, and I understand many of the reasons why. Much rap and hip-hop is packed full of sin-exalting content, and the culture seems to be dominated by the same idols exalted in the music. The truth however, is that every culture has aspects that must be rejected, some that can be tweaked and “redeemed”, others that are neutral, and still others that are good. As with any other culture, Christ can be exalted in hip-hop culture.

There is an important principle I learned about in my missions classes at college – one of taking biblical truth into a culture, and allowing it to transform that culture and be expressed within it, rather than imposing one culture upon another. We all apply this on some level – it’s why we’re okay with men wearing something other than robes and sandals (like Jesus wore), and why we don’t recline around a table every time we enjoy the Lord’s Supper together (as Jesus and His disciples did). We understand that these externals are not inseperably tied up with the core of the gospel. 

What does a Christ-saturated believer in hip-hop culture look like? And what does he rap about? I encourage you to watch this interview with Trip Lee, a young Christian hip-hop artist: 

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Pastor Tim Interviews Trip Lee on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod

 

The song below is an exposition of Philippians. It is as packed with biblical truth as any song I’ve ever heard, in any genre:

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Hi friends!
 
I just wanted to let you all know that we are back, alive and safe. We’ve been back about 2 and a half weeks already [weird]. Sorry I haven’t updated sooner. Things are going good! Life rolls on in Sumy, crazy as ever. Literally, an hour after we got back into Sumy and to our apartment, we had a call and 3 kids showed up at our apartment and we were back in it. And we haven’t stopped since. 🙂 Always adventures, always doing things I never expected. I still love it, even on the bad days.
 
This is gonna be a super short update, mostly just because I wanted to let you all know that I actually blogged! Shocking, I know. But yes… www.ukrizfoshiz.blogspot.com is up and running. I’ll try to post on it somewhat regularily. If you want to keep up with what’s going on and hear random stories and things, feel free to check it out. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll still send out updates through emails every now and then, but this way, you can just get the main details and you don’t have to read all the little things unless you want to because I’l try to keep those to what goes on the blog.
 
Also, on the blog note… I have no idea what is going with our website right now. Mostly drama, if you ask me. But we also have an Open Arms blog if you didn’t already know. We have been posting on it weekly-ish keeping you all up to date on life here for us as a whole. www.openarmsukraine.blogspot.com if you want to have a look. Hopefully, someday in our lives, we’ll have a real website that can be up and running that we can really send people too… but the blog will be a little more informal way to let people know what’s going on with us. So yes, davi. [And on the website, if you or someone you know is interested, and I mean really interested in committing to actually getting our website up and running and looking somewhat decent, please let me know. We’ve gone through about 5 different people who’ve said they’d design it for us and have yet to get anything really up there. Oy.]
 
Ok friends… that’s it for now. Thanks for the prayers and love! Feel free to be talking us up to as many people as you possibly can! We could really use some more financial support. And if you want to help, ask me and I will let you know how! Thanks again! Love you guys!
 
Anika
         
For more posts on this ministry, click here.