Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kiev 2010

One thing we love about Ukraine is that Christmas is January 7th so Christmas decorations stay up until February. They really help cheer up the darkness of winter here in January. The Lord was gracious to us as we all had a relatively light case of the Swine Flu in December. Rumors were swarming about the Ukrainian flu so it was a little scary and lots of prayers were going up! Other than that we had a great semester of ministry and family togetherness with Carra spending her semester here in Ukraine.

Carra was able to get some field experience in teaching English to speakers of other languages by helping some native born Koreans with their English at Spencer's school. She loved those students and was really encouraged that this is the area she would love to serve in the future. She returned last week to Moody for her senior year. Please pray she has a wonderful semester of learning and spiritual growth.

Our New Year has started off with a bang! We will continue working with our new staff, hosting overnight trainings and trying to encourage our church family in any way we can. Spencer will be graduating from Kiev Christian Academy in June so he is having a great time his last semester with the wonderful friends God has brought into his life here in Kiev. Pray for him as he balances college applications, a very tough school schedule, basketball, family and friends.

We are praying fervantly that the Ukrainian elections this week do not affect missionaries' Visas or the freedom of the Ukrainian Church in the spreading of God's Word throughout Ukraine. We feel Ukraine is a pivotal nation in Eastern Europe, so vital spiritually and politically to this part of the world. We love you all and miss you greatly!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ministry & Family Activities - October 2009

Here is a pictorial update of our ministry and family activities for the month of October.

Joshua, Seth and Katherine were able to participate in organized soccer for the first time in their lives and we had a blast as a family going to all of their games. Jill was really into the whole "soccer mom" thing!

Jill and Mark were able to speak at the recent Kiev Parenting Seminar called "The Joy of Parenting" on October 17.  It was  a great privilege and honor to speak to Ukrainian parents on Building Godly Character in our children.

Mark recently traveled to Novohrod Volynskyi in Western Ukraine with a key volunteer couple to oversee a marriage seminar, over half of the couples in attendance were unbelievers. We left the seminar very encouraged by the response from those that attended. We are praying that as we follow-up with these unbelieving couples many of them will put their hope and trust in Christ and become involved in the local church.

Mark and his ministry teammate Scott Stemple recently traveled by overnight train to Dnipropetrovsk to meet with pastors and other mission leaders about our FamilyLife marriage seminar coming up in December. It was a whirlwind trip as we hopped on the train Friday night at 11:00 p.m arrived in Dnipropetrovsk on Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. and left to return to Kiev Saturday night at 11:00 p.m. to arrive just in time for church on Sunday at 8:00 a.m.,such is the travel life here in Ukraine.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Winter 2009

We have had a great semester even though it was full of the flu and stomach virus for several months, God allowed us to have great family time during some long dark winter nights and some exciting ministry opportunities.

We had 4 conferences in Odessa, Zhitomar, Novograd Valinsk and Kramatorsk. The Kramatorsk conference was a joint effort with Brian and Heidi Kinzel from our church so that was a special blessing. We were able to take Katherine and Evan and the Kinzel children Alissa and Gabriel and ride on an overnight train so that was fun and a little exhausting for the adults. The train has little beds for each person, but you can imagine it wasn't a full nights sleep as the train stopped and started all night. We were able to stay with 2 wonderful Ukrainian families. The wives were sisters who live next door to one another, pastor's daughters, who remember their father and grandfather being persecuted for preaching the gospel and they themselves being baptized at night in the river to avoid detection by the government. One of the daughters is married to a pastor who attended seminary many hours from their home in Irpen to become trained to preach the word of God. Brian Kinzel discipled him and helped him attend Shepherd conferences in the United States. The legacy of this family in their community is incredible. Their church is growing and They are a great witness to us of the difference God's word can make in Ukraine. Below are the sisters with Jill and Heidi, the other 2 girls are their daughters.

This is pastor Vilodia in the yellow shirt next to Brian and Mark with his brother in Law and his son.
They were all such great examples of Ukrainian hospitality serving us great Ukrainian food and even better conversation! Below are some men at the conference, it went very well. The couples were very attentive and were so interested that they want to have Mark and Brian come again and cover more material. We taught 4 messages on God's biblical plan for marriage and Mark helped with Q and A! Mark also did an introduction in Russian.

We are really enjoying our Church. We have 3 pastors Alexei and Andrei pictured below, and Brian Kinzel. It is exciting to us to see these men faithfully preaching God's Word in Ukraine where expository preaching is almost unheard of. Sometimes it's the dead of winter and we have no lights or heat so they preach by candlelight, which is kind of pretty. They never get paid a full salary so they work other jobs, study in seminary, preach and take care of their families. Their desire is to Shepherd a Biblically based Church. Their wives are incredible and constantly serve with their amazing skills of making our Little Church beautiful for almost no money. Our music is Pastor Alexei's daughters who play violin and piano along with Heidi Kinzel playing flute. It is beautiful. The Hymns we sing are famaliar to us and we can read Russian so we can sing a litttle.
Our church family is so loving to us and full of young families who love the Lord. Evan loves his sunday school which is taught by Americans who teach in English and Russian and do some really fun crafts for the kids. We are really praying for more Ukrainians to come and for funding for all the exciting ministries we want to offer here in Kiev. Our church is called Word of Grace. Pray for us!

Spencer had a great Junior year academically at Kiev Christian Academy, the missionary kid school he attends. We had a fun time attending his induction into the National Honor Society. He has a tough schedule but is really enjoying the teachers and students. Pray for him as he makes college decisions over the next couple of months! Home schooling the other four is going well. Thankfully Evan, our four year old, really loves letters and has a great memory so his schooling is looking good, a real blessing to Jill who is a little tired of teaching phonics and wasn't looking forward to doing it for the 6th time. God always knows what we need! We love you all and miss you!

Remove Formatting from selection

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pray for Our New Church

These are just a few pics of people in our new church in Kiev. Brian and Heidi Kinzel are missionaries from Grace Community Church and are here teaching pastors in Irpen Seminary and planting churches. They have 5 children. Their son Luke is a good friend of Spencer's from school and they have a daughter and son Katherine and Evan's age. Their oldest, Derek will be in Chicago next year, where Carra is, so we have alot in common besides Theology! On the left is our pastor who is just wonderful! Andrei and his beautiful wife Luda have 3 lovely daughters. The church has about 8 young families which we think is a great foundation to build from. So pray we will grow and flourish in Kiev this year!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kiev Conference 2008

The conference was packed, but Ukrainians don't seem to mind that as much as Americans.

The Romantic desert comes at the end, we always love noticing the difference in the couples at this time compared to when they first arrived.
We received many prayer requests from conferees all throughout the conference and we were able to pray for them throughout the conference. The requests were identical to those addresssed by conferees in America.
The Whole World needs Jesus in the center of their families!

Our Ukrainian Speakers Alex and Lena (above) Vitaly and Johna(below) There are 4 topics addressed, God's Plan for Oneness in Marriage, Resolving Conflict in Marriage, Romance in Marriage and The Gospel Presentation. Both couples did a great job!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Fall Semester

Getting off the plane again in Kiev was very different this time. There was no feeling of panic, we understood about 40% of what we were hearing as we stepped into the airport and the people looked, well like people rather than foreigners. Most of all we knew we had a home full of our own things to recover from the jetlag! It was stocked full of groceries, toys and starbucks coffee (Thanks to the BCLR youth group)! We were excited to see Kiev friends that we missed and a had new resolve to work hard on the Russian Language. It was actually surprising that we felt so comfortable in what seemed like such a strange place just a year ago.

This year is different in that we are adding 7 conferences to make a total of 13. Our conference cities are Kiev, Lviv, Chigarene, Simferopal, Odessa, Rovno, Zhitomar, Vinnitsa, Donetsk, Ternopil, Novgorod, Cherkassy and Uzhgorod. We are very excited about how hard our Ukrainian volunteers are working to bring their fellow countrymen to the conference and minister to them in the name of the Lord. They are so excited to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and to reveal God's plan for marriage and family. Their passion is both inspiring and humbling. The Kiev conference is October 25, we are thankful for a full house of 140 couples, many unbelievers. Pray for our Ukrainian Speakers Alex and Lena Travnikov and Vitaly and Johna Borody. Also pray for our American co-workers Scott and Cymp Stemple who will be presenting the gospel to the conferees. We are so excited to see what God will do this year!

Also we are hoping to become involved in a church that is beginning in Kiev. We are trusting the Lord that we will be able to serve in a Ukrainian church without translation so that we can come alongside another American family to plant a Bible centered, expository preaching church. Serving in and modeling a life built around Christ and His Church is one of the reasons we moved here so we are very excited about this opportunity and may be letting you know how you can help this church to grow and prosper here in Kiev. Pray for us as we take this exciting step!

We had a wonderful time seeing you all in America. We were able to see our families and church family, it was so encouraging! We were able to stock up on medicines, syrup and peanut butter! We feel much better! We were able to go to Chicago and meet Carra's wonderful friends at Moody. We couldn't ask for a more godly group of girls to encourage and help Carra while we are out of the country. We even attended some classes and were very impressed with her professors and Biblical training. God is so good to us! Pray for Carra as she had mono this summer and hopefully is recovering rather than relapsing. Also she is a Junior this year majoring in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and has to do an internship teaching English in a foreign country this summer. Pray the Lord will guide her as she makes these preparations.

Spencer is having a great school year in 11th grade, taking a very tough schedule of honors classes and studying for the SAT and ACT. Pray as he begins to make college decisions. We are grateful God has provided a wonderful group of friends for him who are seeking to grow together in the Lord while having alot of fun! One thing we love about his school is the emphasis on service to Ukrainians, pray he will continue to be servant hearted during these projects and have an attitude pleasing to the Lord.

Finally our homeschool year has started off wonderfully since we haven't had to move this year!!!! Yay!!! Miraculously everyone is on grade level and doing well after the doubling up and summer school we had last year in the midst of chaos. To God be the glory great things he has done! Pray the children will really take off in Russian as they meet with a tutor 1 hour a day, 3 days a week. Pray we will be faithful to speak Russian together as a family and not be afraid to use what we know. We hope to make alot of friends this year both Ukrainian and American so the children will be happier to be here. Some days they love it here and others they miss their friends and family deeply. It is hard to convince them that if they lived in America they would still have to do school and chores! They remember it as a place to swim with friends and go to VBS!

The Lord is good and we see it as a privilege to serve among these wonderful people.
We love and miss you all and are so grateful for how you helped us this summer and continue to be used of the Lord to keep us serving Him here in Ukraine.

The Claxton family

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Conferences in the Villages

Last weekend we had 2 marriage conferences in the villages of Vinytsia and Zhitomar, both went really well, the room was packed and the people were extremely attentive. The Ukraine conference has 4 sessions: Message 1 - Five Threats to Oneness, Message 2 - Resolving Conflict in Marriage, Message 3 - The Gospel Presentation, Message 4 - Romance in Marriage.

During the conference the couples also do various projects together including writing a love letter to one another. This is powerful in Ukraine because it is a culture in which emotion is seldom shown, particularly by men. In both cities the men seemed uncomfortable at the beginning but as time went by seemed more softened towards their wives, the wives were beaming by the end of the conference. We noticed that many of the older men were especially appreciative by the end of the conference toward the speakers saying how important this message was to Ukraine right now. We were also very encouraged by the number of young newly married couples who seemed so excited. It is very exciting seeing how open these people are to the message of the Gospel and to God's plan for the family. In a country with a divorce rate of almost 70% that is only 2% evangelical christian, we are seeing alot of fruit in just 6 months.

Probably the biggest joy was working with the volunteer team in each city. These couples did alot of work to get the conference to their cities and even provided music, food and fireworks!
It was cool (classnee in russian!) to see how different the conferences were because of the different personalities of the volunteers. They really owned the ministry and felt that it was their people they were bringing the gospel and Biblical principles for marriage. This is what we love to see because these are the people who invite the conference attendees into their homes and churches after the conference and disciple them when we are gone back to Kiev. The conference gives them about 300 contacts, pastors here are thrilled to get these contacts and are very supportive of the conference so far. We are praying that those who responded to the gospel would grow in faith and that those who were equipped would disciple others, specifically we would like you to pray that many of these conference attendees would respond when we contact them in the future to take part in home Bible studies and help plan for the conference to come back to their area next year. Glory to God, great things He has done and may the name of Jesus Christ be worshipped all over these villages!

Also be praying for the youth of Ukraine as Josh
McDowell ministry will be here in May, pray for a great attendance and for many teenagers to respond to the Gospel. Mark is helping to set that up along with youth pastors all over Ukraine.
We miss home so much, but time is passing quickly as we stay so busy in ministry! We will be visiting in August so we are excited to see you all!