On Monday at 11:00 a.m. we began our meeting with the Baptist Union Brothers in Ufa, Bashkortostan. The sessions started with a devotional from Nikolai, one of the brothers, followed by our personal greetings and a cataloging of all the great things that God has done with our Antioch Initiative partnership. Here are just a few of the ways we have worked together:
We have taught 16 times over the last seven years, brought a music team, three summer camp teams, two other ministry teams came while I (Rod) was teaching, a Youth conference, a women’s conference and hundreds of hours ministering in the churches as we could. Churches have been started, some buildings have been built, the camp facility has been purchased and upgraded, two rehab centers have ministered to the addicted and many evangelistic efforts have taken place.
It was a good time to reflect on God’s goodness and all the changes that had taken place in the lives of the brothers. Some were wifeless when we first came and now are married. Most have had children (and continue to have them) during our partnership and lives continue to grow and be affected by our joint efforts.
Sadly, however, there has been a split in the Baptist Union during the last two years which was brewing for a couple of years before that. It has been hard for us to hear from a distance the kind of struggles these brothers have been facing, but we felt that it was necessary to talk frankly about it while the brothers were together.
So, Henry began our discussion by taking us to Acts 6:1-7 where a division had developed between the Hebrew and Hellenistic widows. Henry emphasized that the church had been growing and in that culture there were many widows both young and old. Therefore, to minister effectively to them some men needed to be chosen who exhibited certain godly characteristics:
- A Good Reputation – They needed to be trustworthy in their personal life, with their finances and in their families. All three of these areas would have a bearing on how they would do ministry with the widows.
- Full of the Holy Spirit – They had to be controlled by the Holy Spirit and not by ideas and agendas that were outside the purposes of the Word of God.
- Full of Wisdom – They needed to know what to say and when to say it.
He also emphasized that the men chosen to help the widows were all men with Hellenistic names, men with whom the Hellenistic widows would understand would take care of them.
The question to the brothers in the room was this, “If you were a part of the early church on this occasion, would you be asked to serve these widows? Do you have the qualifications to serve the church and be used to bring healing to a division within the Body of Christ?”
Let me say, that Henry hit the ball out of the park. His humility and gentle nature complemented the penetrating power of his message. Praise God for Him.
So, that was on Monday.
Today (Tuesday) we knew that we needed to begin our discussion of the division by asking questions about what happened and why. But, while Bud and I taught Scripture and led those very important discussions Henry was gone. You see, when you arrive at the Customs desk in Moscow they print out a little piece of paper that you have to sign that you are supposed to keep with your passport and that is the evidence that you have gone through customs and are allowed in the country.
Well, Henry, on Monday, when we were gathering our passports to give to Arkaday so that we could be registered, found his passport, but couldn’t find this very important document. So, late afternoon on Monday Henry went to the airport in Ufa to try and get a new one. When they arrived they were closed. So, this morning at 9:00 a.m. they went again to the airport where Henry was able to fill out some new forms and was granted another document. They took that document to the classroom where we were teaching only to realize that they had left Henry’s passport back at the airport. So, Henry, now for the third time, went to the airport to retrieve his passport. Everyone was laughing at this point, but it could have been serious.
Praise God that all of this worked out and that the people from the government were willing to correct the problem without any bribery and in a timely manner.
On the classroom front, without going into details, we were able to hear from our brothers and we all believe that it was a most successful day. Bud did a great job preaching from Ephesians 4 emphasizing the need to put off – renew the mind – and put on, and, in particular put on kindness and forgiveness.
So, for all of you who have been praying for us we thank you! God is definitely at work and we believe that our meager efforts are being blessed.
Tomorrow I preach to the brothers. I am torn as to what to preach. So, I would appreciate your prayerful support for God to give me wisdom.
So, as I finish this post I want to give you a couple of things to think about…
First, this is a kebab of ground beef and lamb meat mixed together cooked over an open flame and then covered with a pastry and served with rice and a slight sour creme and horseradish. It was delicious!
Next, this is the typical “first course” for our daily lunch – boursh, which is a beet-root soup with cabbage and potato. Again, it was hearty and delicious…
Talk to you soon!