4 Weeks Gone By…

Four weeks of school have already come and gone. This year has been so much fuller than my first year (and from what I’ve heard, more so than last year as well). The past 2 weekends we have gone to town for different church services, had numerous guests at the school – both planned and unplanned – and just received so much from God already. We all feel a stirring in our spirits and are so expectant for all that God has for this year. Just today, we had an unexpected visit from one of the top soccer players in Cyprus. He is a Brazilian, but is currently playing with one of Cyprus’ teams. Our school leader met him at the worship night last weekend, and he said he wanted to come and visit our school. He and his family came today, and he shared his testimony. It was so special to meet them, and to see their heart for God and ministry. They moved here not only because of his soccer contract, but because they felt God leading them here to start a church. Since moving here, they have started the church, but have felt very alone. It was such a God appointment to meet them! We were able to be encouraged by his testimony, encourage them in return, and form a relationship that will provide continual encouragement to them and their ministry.

I feel like God is doing so much in me this year. He is so gently shaping me and leading me into being the person He created me to be. Recently, one of the students was cracking almonds and he learned that you can’t just smash the shell off with the hammer, you have to

The bench

gently tap it or else you will smash the almond. That is how I see Him changing me this year, gently tapping and chipping away all that is not of Him. On Saturday I went on a walk by myself. There isn’t much time or space here to be alone (this definitely isn’t a season of ‘solitude’), but I felt like I really needed to just get some alone time with God. The villages here have a lot of randomly placed benches on the side of the road, and I came across one that has now become my spot. As I wrote in my journal and reflected on the past few weeks, God began to show me more areas where I am lacking Him. I’ve realized lately that I criticize myself quite a bit, and God spoke to me saying, “I’m not just a creator, I’m the perfect creator. Everything I make is perfect and just the way I want it.” So, even if I don’t criticize myself physically, criticizing my likes or my tastes is still saying He created me wrong. He created me with my own character, my own likes and tastes, and He created me perfectly, just the way He wants me. I feel like with each week here, I’m discovering more and more of who I’m supposed to be, and who He created me to be. It’s so freeing, so fun, and such a beautiful process.

Next Monday we will be leaving for Israel. I am so excited about this trip. I am looking forward to connecting with different people and ministries there, serving them and blessing them. All of us second year students are really looking forward to having a month together, getting to know each other better, and serving along side each other.

This whole journey of coming back to GTS has been so amazing. Having all of my tuition paid is such a miracle, and it has been such a testimony to the faithfulness of God. I realized this past week that it hasn’t even been quite 3 months since I started fund-raising, and already God has provided 90% of the needed funds (only $1000 left to pay the school)!!! Every time God takes me into a new season of fund-raising, I am so humbled and blessed by those who support me and stand with me. Your support is not something I take lightly. I know that the money you have is money you have worked for, and I am so grateful that you would give to help enable me to follow where God is leading. I don’t always understand His ways, but I know that because of your support, you share a blessing in what God is doing. The lives that will be touched in Israel, in Ethiopia, and in the future ministry God leads me to, are because of your support.

With gratefulness and expectancy for the future,
Krista

Girl Time (from Lindsay)

7 young women under the age of 30.  Each born with a calling & purpose – a good plan the Lord has for them to give them hope & a future.  These are the young women of our church here, Living Word, and we have a great burden to see them step into all the Lord has for them.  The idea was born to create a young women’s group that will gather twice a month with the purpose of encouraging, challenging, and edifying one another.

Every other Saturday, Bria & I will get together with as many of these ladies as want to come at different places around town – coffeeshops, cafes, malls, parks (when it’s warmer!) – to spend time together, laugh together, cry together, pray together.  We hope to sometimes do Bible studies together, as we are able to find ones in the Ukrainian language. It was a great encouragement to see the excitement in the eyes of some of the girls as we invited them to be a part of this group.

We know that some of these girls have very little money, being students or working jobs where they might make as little as $4 a day.  We want these times together to be something they look forward to, where they know they can go out and have an enjoyable time with their sisters in Christ, growing in their faith through it.  So, the decision was made that at each outing, we would give each young woman a small amount of money, so that everyone is able to buy something to eat or drink.  Our church has graciously agreed to give us a small monthly budget that will help cover that cost, but not fully.  We would also like to invite you to be a part of this dream of seeing these young Ukrainian women step into their Godly destiny, by helping us cover the financial costs of this ministry (we especially need people who will make a monthly financial commitment to this ministry; one-time gifts, though, are also helpful).  You can make a donation by mailing a check, made out to “Blessing Ministry to Ukraine” (with a separate note attached, indicating it is for the young women’s group) to

Blessing Ministry to Ukraine
PO Box 1944
Stafford, TX   77497-1944

You can also make a donation through paypal by clicking the “Make a Donation” link found on Blessing Ministry to Ukraine’s webpage, and send us an e-mail at blessinggirls@gmail.com to let us know your donation is for the young women’s group.  The minimum we need for this ministry to be fully funded right now is $15/mo.  Any leftover finances each month will be saved up for special activities, trips, and birthday celebrations.

We are getting together for the first time this Saturday for a breakfast meeting.  Please keep this group of young women in your prayers; pray that they will make this group a priority, pray that they will have a heart to seek the Lord with all that is in them, pray that they will grow in the Lord & in relationship with each other, and pray that they will step into all the things their Father has for them.

It’s all so clear in the looking back (from Bria)

What am I worried for?
My heart is, and always is, Yours.
No matter what life brings,
You are good, Lord, always.
My soul, put your trust in the Lord,
And hope in the One that is sure.
No matter what life brings,
You are good, Lord, always.

That’s the chorus of a song that I’ve begun writing out of the overflow of my heart since we left Krakow and returned to Lviv. Yes, we are back in Lviv now…with visas!

Why do we worry? Seriously. Why.do.we.even.worry??? Didn’t God promise that He has, and is sure of, the plans that He has for us? And that they’re good plans? And that we can put our hope in them…in Him? But, so many times – including this latest visa situation – life starts to squeeze me just the tiniest bit and suddenly I’m freaking out. Oh, silly me. Of course on the outside I try to maintain a strong faith (and that’s not necessarily bad, I don’t think; we should command ourselves to calm down and trust…and even act on it, whether we feel it or not). But, honestly, there were definitely moments – like when our visas were expired and we didn’t have what we needed to get new ones and Lindsay and I were, once again, forced to vacate Ukraine for an unknown period of time; and in those moments, despite how high I tried to hold my head up on the outside – on the inside I looked like one of those characters in a cartoon who’s running around crazy in circles yelling, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

It’s funny how calm and clear everything looks, though, once we’ve come through the situation and are able to look back on it as a whole picture. It’s funny how, in the thick of it, I somehow always forget (or my heart refuses to be comforted by) the truth that God always sees the whole picture. He only sees the whole picture.

For months…for 5 months, to be exact…we’ve been trying to get new visas for Ukraine. We’ve been praying. Our church has been praying. Our relatives have been praying. You’ve been praying. Everyone and anyone we know (and even some we don’t) has been asked to pray for us. Begging God to make everything work out quickly.

And don’t I feel sheepish now? – now that I can see exactly why God was delaying everything.

Mom fractured her right foot in Israel, back in November. Apparently, it was one of the absolute worst fractures a foot can sustain, and takes the longest to heal – going on 3 months now, and she’s still not back to normal. Up until just a week or so ago, the pain in her foot was so intense, that she couldn’t put any pressure on it whatsoever. But just a couple of days before God released the documents we needed and she and Dad traveled to meet us in Krakow, for the first time she was able to use an orthopedic boot and “walk” on her foot with light pressure using her crutches! Our folks had to travel by train, and had Mom not been able to use the boot and to semi-walk, there just would have been no way.

And the goodness of our God doesn’t stop there. Not only did He mercifully delay our documents so that Mom’s foot could heal more and she’d be able to travel, but then we got a massive surprise at the Ukrainian Embassy when we turned all of our papers in. Ukraine has an agreement with America that is, in a nutshell – whatever Ukrainians are required to pay for visas to America is the same price that will be required of Americans for visas to Ukraine, and vice versa. However, for some unknown reason, a few months ago the price required of Americans for religious visas to Ukraine shot up to $379! Our American Embassy in Kyiv assured us that negotiations would be taking place to uphold the agreement between our countries, but despite these negotiations, there has been no change in the price for months. Many of our American friends have had to renew their visas during this time, and have been forking over nearly $400 for each visa! Up until just a couple of days before we applied for our visas in Krakow, Dad had been checking the price listed on the website, and there it remained – $379. So last Wednesday morning, we all headed to the Ukrainian Embassy with all of our documents in-hand (praying that there would be no changes in the laws like we’d encountered the last time we’d tried, in Israel!), we filled out the visa applications, and passed all of it through the little window to the Embassy worker. And he said, “Ok, now you’ll just need to go over to our bank and pay $600 – $150 for each visa.” $150!!!!! I think it took everything in us to not bust out in a worship/dance party right there in the Embassy.

By delaying our documents all these months, God saved us over $900 for our family’s visas!

What am I worried for?
My heart is, and always is, Yours.
No matter what life brings,
You are good, Lord, always.
My soul, put your trust in the Lord,
And hope in the One that is sure.
No matter what life brings,
You are good, Lord, always.

I wish I could say that the process is over for now, but unfortunately, it’s not. Because of the recent law changes, now foreigners in Ukraine are required to register, once they are given visas. It’s another long, run-around, bureaucratic process that will require more documents, more money, and more faith. But this time, I don’t have to act out the faith before feeling it. My heart is full of confidence in the Lord – as it should have been last time. It doesn’t even matter how all of the little pieces might look to me. I know that my Heavenly Father sees the whole picture. And He’s already got His plans entirely worked out.

Freedom

From Krista, a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ, following His footsteps into the nations, which are my inheritance. May He grant you peace and joy according to His great pleasure over you.  (This was another homework assignment. We had to write our own personal greeting like Paul did when he wrote letters.)

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4

This past week our guest teachers were Martin & Rebekah Neil, a couple from England. They carry a heart for the nations, have traveled all over the world, and he is an amazing drummer. He often uses his drums to form a relationship with different people groups, as drums can be found in almost any culture on earth.

Feeling called to the nations myself, I loved their class. The first day they taught, they talked about God’s heart for all nations on earth. Even beginning in Genesis, He promises Abraham, Issac, & Jacob, that He will bless them, but also that He will bless all the nations of the earth through them (Gen. 12:2-3, 26:4, 28:13-14). After recently being convicted by God about picking and choosing which nations I would be called to, my heart was moved and connecting to everything they said. When we read Acts 2:5, I couldn’t believe I had never really noticed before that it says there were men from every nation in Jerusalem at that time. I can’t even fathom what that would look like or how that would be possible in that time. But, if I believe God’s Word is true (and doesn’t exaggerate details), then that means I have to believe it’s true. But what’s even more amazing is that God, in His love, waited to pour out His Spirit until a time when at least 1 person was present from every nation of the earth, and He let them know what was going on by letting them hear the explanation in their own languages.

God has also recently been convicting me of having a spirit of the fear of man. Over the past few years I have noticed it at different times, got a little frustrated, and forgot about it. But lately, it’s infuriating me. Why do I care so much what people think of me??? I mean, God is so great, loving, and wonderful, and yet I often care more about what people will think of me instead of just giving God what He’s asking of me. The times I see this most is when I’m worshiping. A desire begins to well up inside of me to worship with abandon, but I get too worried about looking weird or crazy, and I hold back my worship from God. How crazy is that?! So, now that I’ve recognized it, I’m fed up with it and it’s just got to go. Last night, we hosted a worship night in the capital city. Before we got there, I asked one of my classmates to pray over me, for freedom in worship and victory over the fear of man. As worship started, I found myself at the very front, worshiping God with more freedom and abandon than I have in a long time!!! We came to a line in the first song that said, “Chasing fear away”. I’d already been feeling more free, but when we got to that part, I decided it was time to just chase

Worshiping God together.

the fear away. It was such a great feeling to not even care about what I looked like, what people around me were doing, or anything else – I was just worshiping my God! I know this is going to be a process of breaking free, but I feel like God is already giving me new freedom. For me, one of the biggest parts of overcoming this fear, is just loving God more. Because, if I love Him more, I won’t care what people think.

We’re just starting our 4th week of school, but already I see God doing so much in me. It’s hard to articulate it all, as I feel like it is going to be a slow and gentle work over the course of the entire school. But I feel it on the inside, and see small signs of it on the outside.

Praise God, My tuition has been fully paid!!! Thank you so much to everyone who gave for that! God has been so faithful to provide and I’m so grateful for the each and every one of you who has prayed and given. I still have the outreach fee to pay, which is $2160 and due in April. If you would like to help me be able to pay the remaining balance for outreach, please go to the ‘About’ page on the blog, for donation details. I am so grateful for all that God has already begun to do in me, and so expectant for what He still has planned! This journey has been such an amazing journey, and I know it will continue to be amazing here during the school, and even beyond these 5 months.

May you daily see His blessings and freedom in your life.
Blessings from Cyprus,
Krista

View from a nearby mountain

Shabbat with some of my classmates.

Over Hurdle #1!

Lindsay here.

Praise the Lord – today, we received the last document we need to get visas!  As it turned out, Dad & Mom had a legal way to stay in Ukraine a little longer, but there was no option for Bria & I, except to come to Poland, which is where we have been for almost a week.  It has been really cold, but we’ve been having a blessed time of spiritual & physical rest & renewal.

Dad & Mom are getting on a train tonight to come here and we will go first thing in the morning to submit all our documents for new visas.  Please pray the the request would be approved & the visas issued in a day, with no further hassles.  We are anxious & ready to get back to L’viv and continue in the ministries God has called us to.

We appreciate your prayers & support more than words can say!  We could not be here without you.  May you have a blessed Valentine’s, celebrating the people God has placed in your life to love, and be loved by.

We love each of you & thank God for you!

Lindsay