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!


Saturday, February 16, 2008


A Wonderful Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The 2 houses across the street at our new home, What a contrast!

The Interstate to Hungary

The Ice Fishing lake by our house

Our Wonderful New Home!!!!!!!!!!

The Nutcracker at the Opera House

Fun, Fun, Fun in the Snow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We Have Moved, Again!

We have not had internet for a month as we have been in transition between homes. Our life has been so crazy lately. We had a wonderful Christmas with Carra, then the day after she left we moved out of our Bucha home and stayed in a church for 2 nights. ( Hotels here are only for the very wealthy, even a small room costs hundreds of dollars a night.) We then drove for 2 days to Hungary for a training near Budapest. The teaching was incredible, Erik Thonnes did a great job and will forever be one of our favorite preachers as he fed our souls at such a critical time in our lives! Spencer had a great retreat with other MKs and a team from a church in California did a vbs type of program with the kids. The kids learned about the lives of children in the 10/40 window, and met so many friends from all over Eastern Europe. I never imagined that I would be meeting and discussing the great commission with people from Serbia, Albania, Belarus and Russia! Pray especially for Belarus and Russia as many evangelical missionaries have been "invited" to leave those countries, some have served there for over 5 years with no problem but now cannot get their visas renewed. More on that later.

After the conference we drove back for 2 days. The drive was not uneventful, as you can imagine 9 hours a day on bad roads with 5 kids. We had 2 throw up events and a little accident with a gas pump. We were so happy that we got through the border pretty quickly and we stopped for gas right inside of Hungary. Our back window was blocked by our luggage so as we were leaving we backed into a huge trashcan/gas pump owned by the gas station. So we had to sit there for an hour giving a Hungarian gas station attendant our insurance information. So much for getting through the border quickly! Then once we got back to Kiev we stayed in the church again for 5 days. If you can imagine one big room with 5 beds with 7 people, no internet or TV, for 5 nights; and it was finals week for Spencer. (Poor guy had to shut himself in the bathroom to study, but he did great!) Needless to say we were ready for a little less family togetherness by the time we were finally able to move into our new home on February 1.

Our house is Wonderful. We were becoming quite discouraged as we were looking at homes in Kiev. A very small 2 bedroom house with almost no yard is around $2,ooo per month. We assumed this is what we would have to settle for. We were looking at one bigger house and getting very excited about it only to have our friends translate for us that it was $5,000 a month!!! Never Mind!!!! But, our friend noticed as we were sadly driving away that the house around the corner had some people moving out. She called the landlord and asked if we could see it and how much it was. Miraculously, Praise the Lord, it was 6 bedrooms at $1700 a month.
We have friends renting 2 bedroom homes for that price. So here we are, with a guest room just for you to come stay with us. We are down the street from the best grocery store in town and walking distance of some really cool open air markets.

Our neighborhood is very strange, every other house is falling apart but then the others look like huge Florida beach houses with landscaped lawns. Ours is not falling apart but looks very Ukranian with white brick and these curved iron bars surronding the porch. We have a great yard. In Eastern Europe houses are surronded by a fence so they are all like little fortresses, you pull your car into your fence and lock your whole property every night. People ring the doorbell at the entrance to your fence. So it is great for kids to play outside protected in the front and back yard. It reminds me of feudalism. We think some foreign diplomats live down the street and probably some Ukrainian government officials. Another strange "coincidence" is that an American family lives down the street who work at Spencer's Christian school and the wife went to Moody and lived in the exact dorm, floor and wing (Houghton 9W) as Carra now lives on!

Well we are finally getting settled now that we know we will live in this house for at least a year and have a renter in our Little Rock home who has signed a 2 year lease which began in February as well. (Thanks to Janet and Skip Savary for arranging this!) Isn't God amazing!!!!!! As we have been talking to other missionaries we have been advised that owning your home in America is a wise thing, many have rented out their homes for over 15 years. So we are grateful that our house didn't sale and rented out so quickly to allow us to move in here. God knows how things should be and takes care of us even though we have no idea what we are doing! We were even able to go to a furniture store by ourselves and communicate with Russian speakers who knew no English and purchase some furniture! In Ukraine You buy say, a couch, you pay 100 grievna (which is about $20) then they deliver the couch for free and collect the rest of the grievna. They are very trusting. There are not rental agreements for renting houses, it is all by your word. So pray our Landlords will let us stay here for the price agreed upon the whole time we are here. Sometimes they will just tell you one day that your rent is now raised $500 a month or that you have to leave by next month. We have a verbal agreement that won't happen for at least a year, but there are no laws regarding these things yet. Pray for us to be okay with whatever happens and just trust the Lord as we are really weary of moving and want to focus on ministry and language study over the next couple of years.

We will post pictures soon, we are doing great and are very grateful how our Lord, Jesus Christ is providing all our needs exceedingly abundantly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love and Miss you all!!!!!!!!!

Mark and Jill

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sometimes There Are No Words, But There Is Always A Song!

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in,
Lord, Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name