Ukraine Up Close

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I’ve just returned from a trip to Hungary, Moldova, and Ukraine– a trip to 3 countries for 3 different reasons. Each experience was remarkable to me in several ways. Let me say a brief word about Hungary and Moldova, and then a bit more about Ukraine which is experiencing a severe crisis at the hand of Russian aggressors and separatists.

In Budapest, Hungary, I was invited by Trans World Radio to give a seminar on story-telling and broadcast interviewing. I throughly enjoyed spending 2 days with TWR staff from several countries. TWR has a tremendous ministry in many parts of the world and it was a privilege to meet and spend time with a few from around both Western and Eastern Europe. It was actually a chance to renew a few friendships with some I had met previously.

In Moldova, I connected with our team from Mission Eurasia (the new name for Russian Ministries of Wheaton, IL on whose Board I sit). The School Without Walls project called together 500 young, Moldovan professionals for the purpose of encouraging them to live for Christ through their profession, whatever that might be. The event was a tremendous success. My appreciation for the scope of what Mission Eurasia does has expanded once again.

While in Chisinau, Moldova, I was able to also connect with the ministry Stella’s Voice whose story I told in an interview with Philip Cameron recently on FIRST PERSON. What a treat to see some of the young women again whom I met in the recording studio in Wheaton, not long ago. I won’t tell more of their story here, but it’s worth checking out:  www.stellasvoice.org.

From Moldova, the Mission Eurasia team and a few guests piled into vans for the long trip to Kiev in Ukraine, stopping in historic Odessa on the Black Sea on the way.  Mission Eurasia’s headquarters in this part of the world is located in Irpin, just outside of Kiev. From there, a side trip for 2 days on a high-speed train took us into Eastern Ukraine to the city of Slavyansk where Russian separatists first began the fight for control of Ukraine in February of 2014.

Slavyansk is now under the control of the Ukrainian army (such as it is– the country is broke after the former Pres left and emptied the treasury of $70 billion; the separatists control the rest of the Donetsk region, mainly in Donetsk and Luhansk. It is a very severe situation with many killed and refugees streaming away (about 1/3 of the population remains in those places). We heard many stories of how people had to leave with just what they could fit into a car. Pastors we spoke with would be killed if they tried to return.
IMG_4880 12.15.15 PMSlavyansk is completely battle scarred, looking like a town from a WWII movie. However, they are rebuilding and it is amazing how much progress they have made even though the government is completely broke and does practically nothing. The big story is how the church (we visited evangelical churches mainly) are stepping in. They are repairing homes all over town with new roofs, walls, etc. which were shelled. Every home in the neighborhoods had hundreds of bullet holes. We saw two hospitals shelled into rubble. One church had an orphanage caught in the crossfire and it was destroyed, but now nearly rebuilt with the church, assisted by Mission Eurasia.
Good News Church has about 1000 members. It’s property was confiscated by the separatists (Russian mercenaries, many from Chechnya) and it was used as a barracks and ammunition storage facility during the months of the battle. They also used the church property as a staging area for tanks to fire upon Ukrainian army positions on the heights above the city, drawing fire upon the church in return. I have seen video of Russian Orthodox priests standing on the corner of the building praying that the shells would hit their mark against the Ukrainian army.
The most amazing thing we saw was how Good News Church is rebuilding trust by loving and serving their neighbors. This battle pit neighbor against neighbor and caused everyone to distrust even their closest friends who may be sympathetic to the other side. Well, the church moves in and repairs homes, without asking where their loyalties lie. It’s incredible– loving their enemies.
Most inspiring is the work the church is doing to rush medicine and food (again with Mission Eurasia help) into the areas where the fighting is still intense. The pastor, Peter Dudnik, is a true hero who personally drove carloads of people to safety during the fighting and now heads the humanitarian efforts. He was honored by President Petro Poroschenko for his actions, but again, the Ukrainian government is able to do little to nothing. The church is the first line of help. I talked with one young man in Peter’s church who was taken by the separatists for several days, had his eyes duct-taped, and a gun put on his temple with the trigger clicked as psychological intimidation. He was released in some confusion that he attributes to a miracle of God.
Now, I come to the refugees (technically displaced persons). We visited several camps. One was a summer kids camp in under-heated buildings where over 100 people are living with the threat of winter close at hand. The church is frantically retrofitting a large, run-down building to house them, but they have a long way to go before it is habitable.  Church volunteers from all over Western Ukraine are coming to help (I stood in a circle with them and recorded the Lord’s Prayer as they started their day reciting it.)  About 60 kilometers away, we visited another small church’s efforts to turn a run down, former school into a facility for refugees near Dobropillia.  Heartbreaking. I wept as I talked with a grandmother holding a 5 year old on her lap in a room with peeling paint (probably lead-based) and drafty windows. She cannot explain to her grandchildren why they can’t go home.
This area is about 100 kilometers from where the Malaysian plane was shot down.
Back in Kiev, we visited another refugee center run by a dedicated Orthodox priest (ironically of the Moscow Orthodox persuasion).  The Ukrainian Orthodox church broke from the Moscow church over this crisis. We actually had a private, 90 minute sit down with the Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarch Filaret who was extremely bold and outspoken. He called Putin a liar and in the control of Satan. He warned the U.S. and Europe to wake up before WWIII breaks out.
It has been an incredibly eye-opening trip. Another organization close to my heart, Far East Broadcasting Company has a radio station in Slavyansk which is in Transformation Church, and operated by a friend, Victor Kurilenko, who is blind. During the battle for Slavyansk, the separatists broke into a church service and took four young men out. After the city was regained by the Ukrainian army, they found their bodies in a common grave. The radio station’s tower was toppled, taking them off the air.  They are now working to get back on the air soon.
The bottom line in all of this for me is to see the church revealing it’s true calling in loving it’s neighbors. These people who have so little are putting us to shame.
Mission Eurasia is doing everything it can to provide assistance with it’s I-CARE program. If you would like to offer financial assistance to Mission Eurasia, click here. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

FIRST PERSON Update

As a kid, I use to lay in bed at night with a transistor radio and earphone (yes, just one mono earphone in those days) and listen to radio stations. My favorite was WJR in Detroit and one or two other stations that featured great talk shows. I could only dream that someday I would get on the other side of the mic and be the host of shows like the ones I listened to lying in bed in a rural farmhouse.kidwradio460

Now, looking back over several decades of hosting shows on Christian radio stations from coast to coast and beyond, it still amazes me that I have the privilege of doing what I do.

For almost 4 years now, we’ve been producing FIRST PERSON, a weekly interview show which has the simple formula of people telling their story of God working in and through them. I happened to look at the list of programs today in the archive and saw that there have been over 200 FIRST PERSON interviews to date.

From the beginning we have placed those conversations on the website FirstPersonInterview.com in the audio archive where you can stream any program online. You can also use the smartphone app Stitcher to listen each week.

What you may not know is that FIRST PERSON is also available as a weekly podcast on iTunes. You can subscribe at no cost and have each week’s program downloaded automatically to your device. You can choose 1 or all 200 shows to download and take with you anywhere you go. Subscribe via iTunes here.

Let me know how you choose to listen to FIRST PERSON– and whether you prefer to listen in just one ear, or two.

Crisis in Ukraine

While I have traveled in Eastern Europe and Russia, I have never visited Ukraine. However, I have many Ukrainian friends and my heart aches for their country which seems to be on the verge of civil war spurred on by Russia. I also have many Russian friends and this puts everyone in a very difficult, but prayerful situation.

I work closely with two wonderful organizations which are deeply involved in ministry in both Russia and Ukraine, Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries (which despite its name serves the church in all corners of the former Soviet Union), and Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) which has radio stations in both countries. Let me bring you up-to-date with what they tell me about the situation.

Slavyansk MapFirst,  Victor Akhterov of FEBC writes:

The FEBC station in Slavyansk, Ukraine, was shut down by the rebels two weeks ago. We were told that “this Biblical nonsense in not needed here.” On Sunday, May 4, after the government forces of Ukraine re-captured the tower, FEBC station resumed broadcasting to people who are distressed and scared. Dozens of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk residents lost their lives in recent days. FEBC does not take sides and is staying out of politics altogether, instead bringing hope for people of Ukraine by helping them meet the Lord.

I know your prayers and financial support of FEBC during this crisis would be appreciated. You can give a gift here.

Then, Sergey Rakhuba of Russian Ministries has an urgent appeal for Ukraine:

In recent days, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine has continued to intensify as clashes between pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian activists have become more deadly.  In Odessa, 48 casualties were reported and in Slavyansk (in the eastern part of Ukraine), more than 20 people have been killed during the full-fledged military operation.   
How should the global evangelical Christian community respond to these events in Ukraine, that some speculate could spark the beginning of World War III?  We at Russian Ministries have been wrestling with this question as we consider the role that God would have us play at this critical time in the history of Russia, Ukraine and the world. 
We believe that, first and foremost, Christians must pray for God to intervene in a might way.  As I see the unrest and violence growing in the eastern part of Ukraine where I was born, I am heartened to see growing crowds of Ukrainians on the streets who are praying, many on their knees.  I am glad to report that evangelical congregations in Russia are also praying for the restoration of peace in this part of the world.  During this time of crisis, we urge the global evangelical Christian community to join our Russian and Ukrainian brothers and sisters in prayer. At this time, please pray especially that the gospel would enlighten the thinking of all leaders in Russia, Ukraine and around the world. 
You can read the rest of Sergey’s report here. A special Emergency Fund for Ukraine has been established if you would like to give towards Scripture distribution and humanitarian aid at this critical time.
Keep praying for our brothers and sisters. Thank you.

Dr. Robert Bowman 1915-2014

slider-bob_bowman-1000x400px-600x240A couple of years ago, I was privileged to join the Board of the Far East Broadcasting Company.  By then, Dr. Robert Bowman had long since retired but I got to meet him on at least two occasions and express my appreciation for his pioneer work in establishing FEBC, starting in 1945.  Dr. Bob Bowman was a giant in my mind who never lost his heart desire to “Reach the World for Christ through Radio”.  Since joining this ministry, I’ve met many of the men and women who serve Christ today in dozens of countries through FEBC and I have  profound respect for their ministry which reaches deep into people’s lives.  Dr. Bowman died last week, at nearly 99 years of age.  Thank you, Lord, for gifting this man and equipping him for Your service in the Kingdom.

 

Eric Metaxas and Dr. Erwin Lutzer

The Role of the Church in Today’s Culture

Sunday March 9, 5:00-7:00PM

Join Pastor Lutzer, author Eric Metaxas, and moderator Wayne Shepherd for a dialogue about the Church’s role in today’s culture. They’ll discuss the story of the Church in Nazi Germany and how it relates to our witness in today’s post-Christian America.

metaxasThe conversation will be wide-ranging and powerful, covering such important questions as:

Why was the Church of Germany willing to buy into Hitler’s agenda?

What insights did Bonhoeffer have that the Church needed to hear?

When should a Christian no longer obey the state?

How can we make a difference today by engaging our culture?

How do we develop the courage to go against the tide?                      lutzer_crop

Questions will also be taken from those in attendance. You’ll leave inspired and challenged to examine your own legacy and impact on today’s culture.

This event is free, and everyone is welcome. For those unable to attend in person, the event will be streamed live here.  To follow live Tweets: @Media_TMC.  To submit questions via Twitter, use #ChurchAndCulture.

PARENTING TODAY’S TEENS AWARD

DSC_1829PARENTING TODAY’S TEENS (PTT) which I co-host with Mark Gregston will be receiving the 2014 Radio Program of the Year Award at this month’s National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) convention in Nashville. While you hear Mark and myself on the air, there is a great team behind the glass making this show so effective. Our Executive Producer is Roger Kemp who, along with KT Losie and the team at Kemp and02nrb_reception_copy-400x0 Company, plan each show and line up the radio stations who air both the weekly program as well as the daily, 1 minute version.  Each program is produced by my good friend and partner Joe Carlson. PTT is sponsored by the Heartlight Ministries Foundation and complements Heartlight Ministries which is a residential counseling program for teens. Working with Mark and the whole team now for several years has been a wonderful experience and we rejoice together that God has blessed us with this year’s award!

By the way, if you are attending this year’s NRB, there will be a reception for PARENTING TODAY’S TEENS on Monday evening.  See you there!

 

FIRST PERSON

First Person sans photoIt’s been awhile since I mentioned any update here about FIRST PERSON, the interview program I started for radio stations a few years ago.  When launched, FIRST PERSON didn’t have a single commitment from any radio station that they would include it in their on-air schedule– not surprising because we had no dollars to pay for any airtime. With my wife’s encouragement, we began anyway believing that it was the Lord who was leading us to start the program.  Anything less would have been to reject the Lord’s leading and direction. Today, FIRST PERSON is heard on over 200 radio stations and their extended translators– and we still pay no air time expenses, it is graciously provided by radio ministries who see it as a unique program worthy of their support as it serves their listeners.  On our website we’ve recently begun to post a list of radio stations which carry FIRST PERSON each week. Hundreds of listeners visit the website www.FirstPersonInterview.com each month to learn more about the people and ministries that are highlighted, or to listen to a past program archived online.

FIRST PERSON is also released as a podcast on iTunes and other podcast portals such as Stitcher, so that it is very easy to subscribe and have the program delivered to your computer or mp3 device automatically.

It would be hard to mention everyone by name who has contributed to the success of FIRST PERSON,  but I especially want to thank my good friend and producer, Joe Carlson who has faithfully served, mostly as a volunteer, to bring you FIRST PERSON each week.  Dale Davis of Pre-Eminent Media has also been a great help in getting the word out about FIRST PERSON and securing stations.  So, a special shout out to these two friends.

Thanks for listening!

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Christmas (and beyond) Radio Projects

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Christmas is a season of giving and I’ve recently been a part of some significant radio projects which I feel are worthy of your support.

1.  Angel Tree – Started by Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship, Angel Tree is designed to give gifts at Christmas to the children whose parent(s) are in prison. The gifts are given in the name of the parent so that the child makes the connection with his or her parent. This year, as in the past 2 years, I hosted the syndicated ANGEL TREE RADIO SPECIAL with Prison Fellowship CEO Jim Liske.  But in addition to the Angel Tree radio program, I invited Jim to join me on FIRST PERSON so that we could tell his personal story as well as tell the Angel Tree story of love and spiritual connections made possible by your gifts. You’ll be able to hear Jim on FIRST PERSON on Dec. 14, 2013 and afterwards in the audio archive at FirstPersonInterview.com.  If you’d like to give to Angel Tree, please click here.

2. Gift Of Hope – My friends at Russian Ministries have conducted Gift Of Hope/Project Hope for several years.  Samaritan’s Purse is unable legally to conduct their Christmas Elmira-giving-to-Ilina-who-came-first-time-in-the-church-in-Vladikavkaz-NC-240x300gift program in the countries of the former Soviet Union, but by supplying the funds to the local churches, Russian Ministries can equip local believers to provide boxes of gifts and a children’s Bible or Christian material to orphans and other needy children. I featured Project Hope through an interview with Greg Yoder and his daughter, Anatasia, on a recent FIRST PERSON program which you can listen to here.  Learn more and give your gift at this website.

 

3. The Word to the Muslim World – Beyond Christmas, we are wrapping up production of a radio special in association with Open Doors USA to raise money for the printing and1616471074.custom distribution of Bibles in predominantly Muslim countries where the church is often persecuted. The phenomena of Muslims seeking Christ continues around the world and we want to provide them with copies of God’s Word. Be listening for this radio special coming to a station near you soon in 2014.

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The Gospel of John at the Winter Olympics

sochiRussian Ministries is taking on an incredible initiative right now to fund the printing and distribution of a special Russian/English edition of The Gospel of John for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  These can be printed and handed out for only $1 per copy.  In addition to that, a donor has made it possible for every gift to be matched during this special effort!  So, for every dollar given, 2 copies of John will be provided.  And a network of churches and students of the School Without Walls throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union will be personally be sharing John with not only athletes and fans, but also to many others in major cities.

I wanted to do what I could to help spread the word about this evangelistic effort, so we’ve created a special 26:00 minute radio program featuring both Sergey Rakhuba and Wally Kulakoff of Russian Ministries.  In addition to the program, there are spots which radio stations can use to partner with Russian Ministries in providing not only John, but the printed plan of salvation as well.  We have the commitment of one group of radio stations who plan to partner with Russian Ministries, and we’d welcome even more stations to join us.  Stations can contact me for additional information.

Anyone is welcome to give a gift for The Gospel of John at the winter olympics.  Just call 1-888-462-7639, and extension “0” for the operator.  Or give online at www.russian-ministries.org.

If you would like to listen to the Russian Ministries Radio Special, it’s available online by clicking here.

 

 

 

“Most Important Story” Evangelism Tools

  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 The Most Important Story 

Christian Group Achieves Milestones in Print, Apps

and Potential Merger

gokit_ad(Naperville, IL)  Syndicated radio host Wayne Shepherd announces the achievements of the ministry group “Most Important Story” as they reach milestones in print distribution, smart phone apps, the launch of the Go Kit!, and now speculation of potential mergers with major ministry partners.

“Most Important Story” is a suite of evangelism resources developed by Dr. David Hunt, owner of Envoy House Publishers, who create and distribute the MIS family of material.

“David and I have been friends for many years and have traveled the world together in a ministry context.  I have seen firsthand the effectiveness of these resources and am pleased to have played a small part in David and his team reaching their goals,” says Shepherd.  Recently Shepherd recorded Hunt for the “First Person” radio program, which will air August 17th.

The 32-page “Most Important Story” booklet has recently crossed the mark of 91 million copies distributed to children around the world in 118 languages.  The booklet was converted into a smart phone app with voices, narration and music and tells the same story of Jesus but in the digital arena. The app is now in English, Spanish, Arabic and Farsi languages, which completes the initial launch.  The print and app combine into the Go Kit! for short term missions and children ministry workers who use a tiny projector and display the app on a big screen to a group and then distribute the print books to the onlookers, creating a never seen before experience in evangelism. After months of R&D, the Go Kit! is now launched.  These milestones have led Hunt to prayerfully seek the next step for the materials.

The outcome is that this powerhouse of evangelism assets could potentially now be combined with a major partner.

Hunt clarifies, “It will look less like a merger and more like a the greatest expansion of the brand and its distribution since its inception.  Having achieved the milestones in print to the only apps like this out there —  I am looking for the right person and company/ministry to take these materials exponentially further than we have done. We are looking to partner with someone who has a heart for the children of the world and are committed to evangelism and discipleship using Scripture.”

In addition to the booklets, apps and Go Kit!, the suite of materials also includes a one-of-a-kind New Testament, an illustrated children’s Bible, coloring and activity books which allow a child to “color their way through the Bible” and the Gospel of John.  All materials are in multiple languages.

Shepherd summarizes, “Whether a merger or an outright acquisition, The Most Important Story will go on to impact even more children the world over than ever before.  David often quotes Ephesians 3:7, ‘By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving Him by spreading this Good News.'”

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