Field Stories: A Decade of Change

Written by Eric Oldenburg

After finishing language school in the spring of 2006, Josie and I made a 5-month trip to the US to give birth to Dietrich. It was now December, we were back in Ukraine and I was excited but quite nervous to be teaching my first class at Kyiv Theological Seminary beginning in January. I spent the bulk of my prep time in the US and in Ukraine reading, writing course outlines and compiling a reader to be photocopied for each student. I even had my favorite specialty paper cut to A4 size in the US and shipped to Ukraine so that it would look cooler than any other reader they’d seen. I hunted down the best white board markers I could find, anticipating the diagrams and logical syllogisms I’d be scribbling in an attempt to equip these brothers and sisters in how to defend the faith. My 15 apologetics students were in their fourth and final year of seminary study and I wanted to teach with excellence for them. That semester we met Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 AM-10:00 AM for 15 weeks in classroom A25. It was a tiring but wonderful semester and I can still remember vividly some of the highs and lows of that teaching experience.

Fast forward to early 2016.

I’d now taught apologetics half a dozen times throughout Ukraine, been the speaker at a number of apologetics conferences and been the teaching assistant for the Talbot MA apologetics courses taught at our Kyiv Extension at the seminary. Some of the jitters of being a newbie had subsided, I still did lots of reading for course prep, but there was a massive change. I would not be seeing these students face-to-face. I needed no white boards or markers because there would be no classroom. I wouldn’t grade papers and exams with a red pen and hand them back the next class period. This final apologetics course, taught the semester before we moved back from Ukraine the US, again with 15 students, would be delivered completely online. Instead of standing in front of these students and lecturing, I digitally recorded myself sitting in my office and then handed the material over to the seminary tech guru to turn it into a YouTube video. I would then think up a question that each student had to answer in a public online forum. That cool paper reader was replaced by dozens of PDF files uploaded for the relevant week. I usually recorded my material in the morning. The students watch the videos whenever suited their schedule the best. Almost 10 years had passed and my teaching experience was altered radically.

Let’s start with the downside of this technological change. At the end of my 15-week traditional classroom course, I knew the 15 students quite well. I didn’t just see them in the classroom, I was able to eat lunch with them, go to chapel with them, bump into them in the seminary hallways and discuss the Bible in small groups with them. That kind of close, everyday, variegated life experience is lost in an online format.

But that major downside is met with a number of upsides. With online forums requiring each student to answer, I got to read the thoughts and reflections of each student, rather than hearing only from those bold enough to speak up in the traditional classroom. In some ways, the online experience develops relationships more deeply than the traditional classroom. Another plus of the online version of the class is that I could teach students from any academic year. Because I was not only teaching 40-hours over a one or two week period during the semester when only one group was in town, my course was equally available to any with the time in their schedule to take it.

Which approach was more effective? Wrong question! Each educational approach has its strengths and weaknesses.

Which approach do I prefer? Who cares?!?! My goal is to passionately equip whomever God gives me as a student and I want to do that in whichever way He makes available.

Were students trained to defend the unchanging truth of the Gospel in both the traditional and virtual classrooms? Yes, and I praise God for the opportunity and privilege to serve in Ukraine for 12 years as a missionary of Granada Heights Friends Church.

Advertisements

The Unchanging Gospel for a Changing World

The book of Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow” (13:8).

When we look at peoples daily lives from hundreds of years ago to now, there are changes that we never expected or realized were happening. Sometimes we look to the future of what technology can do, and we’re simultaneously terrified and excited.

So how much more awe inspiring is it that our living King Jesus is the same person He was then, as He is now, and as He will be in the unknown.

Join us during the month of October as we explore this topic in light of global missions at and through Granada Heights Friends Church!

il_340x270.1017705092_q3ku

Field Stories: Radio’s Impact in Kyrgyzstan

Far East Broadcasting (FEBC) is an organization that has been trying to break down barriers of persecution, geography, and isolation by using technology like the radio and internet to share the Good News to the world. Over the last 70 years, FEBC has a reach of more than 3 billion people, in 105 languages, across 49 countries. 

Below is an excerpt story from FEBC’s website:

On a recent trip to film and photograph the installation of FEBC’s newest station in Toktogul, Kyrgyzstan, members of our FEBC team met with a small group of Christian locals in a nearby town. Ethan Froelich, the photographer and writer on the trip, shares his thoughts of meeting with the small, First-Generation church:

Crowded into a small living room around a big table heaping with homemade jams, butter, salads, bread and soup, everyone was smiling. The 10 members of the town’s only known Evangelical house church had rushed over, so eager to see us.

The town of Karakol is small, with a population of only 20,000. Once part of the Soviet Union, the town is now quite depleted, as children who are born in the town leave when they reach adulthood to find work elsewhere.

Being a Christian in Karakul

After eating a huge meal—typical Central Asian hospitality—we asked the group of people around the table what it was like to live in Karakol as a Christian.

Vlad, the leader of the small house church, responded first:

“It’s hard, there is a stigma attached to being an Evangelical Christian here. Because the town was a Soviet town for so long, people were taught in schools not to believe in God, and so most people are atheists. The Soviet ideology was most important, and many people were proud communists here, including my father.”

He went on to say that getting new members to attend their house church is quite difficult, as many find it hard to identify with Christianity. Those who are ethnically Kyrgyz are generally Muslim, and ethnic Russians are often atheists or Orthodox. For many Kyrgyz Muslims, to become a Christian means to be disowned by your family.

Irina, Vlad’s wife, and several other people also spoke about the Muslim influence in their town, saying that more and more people are starting to wear the hijab and become much more religious than before. Irina and Vlad both work in the school system and mentioned the increase of students outwardly displaying their Muslim religion.

A young girl named Valentina, 16, then spoke up about what it was like to go to school and talk to her friends about her faith.

“When I go to school and people ask me if I’m a Christian, I say yes, and sometimes people look at me strange, but my friends accept me.”

The Need for Spiritual Teaching

Vlad is the pastor of the group, but as a First-Generation believer he has very little spiritual training. There are no sermons by pastors in his language, no Christian bookstore around the corner, no pastors in nearby towns that he can ask for guidance, and no Christian radio stations on the air (yet). When we asked the group what they needed most to grow in their faith, they said they needed teaching and Christian material.

But when we told them the new station was just days away from launching, they were overjoyed.

“We are so excited for the new station in Toktogul. When it goes on the air, we’ll have Christian media here for the very first time,” Vlad said.

You could see it in the eyes of each person sitting around the table, sharing their stories: they desperately want to bring others to Christ and minister to others in the best way they can, but they don’t know how.

For the first time, they would have the means to be strengthened in their own faith, while also sharing the radio station with their friends, who aren’t Christians.

Original post from FEBC’s website: https://www.febc.org/meeting-with-the-first-generation-church-in-karakul-kyrgyzstan

Short Term Debriefing Questions

Taking a summer trip to teach English or help encourage a church in another part of the world can have an impact on someone’s life and future choices. But sometimes they come home and we may not know how to interact with them or know how to help them process their time away from  home.

Asking good questions is a way for people to both connect and help the process of deciphering all God did in and through them.

Below are ideas of questions we can ask:

1. What part did you like best about your trip?

2. What did you learn about the country? The people? The culture? What do you miss about them?

3. What were you glad to leave behind?

4. What do you remember most about the people you served there? What would you rather forget?

5. Tell me about a special story, event, or person you met.

6. Tell me about something that surprised you or you didn’t expect.

7. Tell me about one thing for which you were most thankful to God.

8. What was the hardest part for you? The most disappointing?

9. What did you see God do in the people you met?

10. What did God do through you during the outreach?

11. Tell me the most important thing you learned about God and His character.

12. What did God show you about yourself? (i.e. physical limitations, spiritual gifts, basic values, etc.)

13. Tell me about what you learned about missionary life.

14. What did you learn about the world and missions (globally)?

15. What were your expectations before going? How were they met or not met?

16. Was there anything you would have done differently to prepare?

17. What things will be different for you now that you’re home? Difficult for you?

18. How do you feel about being home? Can you condense it into one word?

Questions originally posts on Send International’s website here: https://www.send.org/resources/details/debriefing-questions

Faith Promise Story: At The End of Your Rope

At The End of Your Rope

Written by Abby Sevens

Giving does so much to the heart. It makes us say, I have enough. God will give me more. This is His anyways. He can make it do good without me. He is the giver and He is the receiver. 

For the last seven years, my husband, Philip, and I have done Faith Promise in what I think is a non-typical way. We pledge an amount in October, and then we write the check for the full amount in January of the next year. Sometimes the writing of that check drains our bank account to an amount that makes us nervous. And while we could pull funds from our savings account to reimburse ourselves, we’ve decided to use this time to invite God into our finances. 

You see, God has blessed Philip with a steady job that financially meets all our needs. Unfortunately, this means that we quite often forget to talk to God about our daily needs. Seems that I, like the Israelites, have this inborn defect of not calling upon God unless I’m in trouble.

So every year after we write our Faith Promise check, we remember to ask God to meet all our financial needs. And He does. Always. 

One year, when I was still teaching at Heights Christian Junior High, I was overpaid for 8 months. Another year Jerry Stevens paid for a brake job on Philip’s car. Tax write-offs for the births of our son and daughter seemed to come at the right time. And this year: we had an influx of side jobs for Philip, the donation of valuable items for me to sell on ebay, and a new renter to live with us in our house.

In August of this year, Philip and I sat down to review our finances and we were surprised yet again to find that even after the cost of some expensive dental work, an anniversary trip to Catalina, and the children’s hefty school tuition, we still came out just fine. 

After such financial meetings, I always want to roll my eyes at myself. Why did I worry? Why did I ever fret? Why didn’t I remember to trust God with my finances? It’s questions like this that remind me that “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (Matthew 5:3 The Message).

 

Missions Conference Speakers

Meet our speakers for our 2017 Missions Conference!

On October 8th, we have the gift of hearing from Sung Kim:

Sung is the associate pastor of youth and missions at Gateway Friends Church in Diamond Bar, CA. He and his wife, Grace have four sons – Isaac, Luke, Benjamin and Noah. He received his M.Div at the Talbot School of Theology and during his studies, he took a year off to serve in East Asia where he assisted in the process of Bible translation. Sung’s passion for missions and missionary care started after he returned from the field and experienced life overseas.

IMG_3875_1.JPG
Sung with his wife and 4 boys in Cambodia

On October 15th, we are blessed to hear from Skip Lanfried:

Skip serves as the Global Freedom Pastor and as such leads the Friends Church local and global outreach efforts at the Yorba Linda main campus. Skip has served as a Pastor in a large church setting starting in 1998. His passions are to see the local church engage fully in the great commission and to help bring an end to the trafficking of children. Skip has been married to his wife, Lara, since 1992 and they have an adult daughter and an adult son. Skip received a Masters of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1995 and completed his Doctorate in Ministry degree in 2015 focusing on developing a spiritual formation model which will lead people into a lifestyle of compassion towards those who are suffering. Skip believes in simple things done well and the power of ordinary Christ followers to change the world.

Skip.jpg

On October 22nd, we have the honor of hearing from our very own Mike Sanborn. Mike will lead us as in our annual Faith Promise Sunday.

Come expectant to learn and hear great things through God’s servants!

Short Term: And Beyond

Written by high school leader, Allison Hotz

And Beyond is our annual youth ministries missions trip. I have been going on these trips for the past nine years. Needless to say, I have observed and learned a lot from these short term trips over the years.

The basic structure of And Beyond is based on Acts 1:8; in short, spreading the gospel locally, regionally, and beyond. Our local destinations have mostly been in the community of La Mirada. We’ve weeded yards, gone to convalescent homes, cleaned people’s homes, washed windows, and visited shut-ins. Our regional destinations have included Fresno (food bank and rescue mission), Los Angeles (Union Rescue Mission), and Santee San Diego. The more distant locations or “And Beyonds” have been Mexico, Chicago, Oregon, Washington, and San Francisco to name a few.

The time spent on these trips is very intentional, but as the trips are only a week long, mountains are not going to be moved dramatically. Our work and service often isn’t work that will last past our time present – we prep food in a kitchen or pick up trash. But even so, that doesn’t mean this trip is without value.

The value is found in the fact that community is built  within our own group. Which is important, because we will continue to do life together after this week is over. The value only increases as we are changed as individuals. We learn, observe, and grow from our experiences. We are forced to get outside ourselves and outside of our own little world. And this has been the case for me, even as a leader on these trips.

And Beyond has taught me to see with new eyes. To see the needs of the people around me. Many of the ways in which we serve on this trip are similar to what we come across in every day life. Some of them were literally in our local community. But why did our intentional serving have to start and end with that week? And why did we have to go to distant locations to find it? We actually tell our students this every year, that And Beyond actually starts the day we get back. We are hoping to equip them with a lifestyle of serving others. But our service doesn’t have to be in a soup kitchen every time. It can be with the people we rub shoulders with every day. And after of couple of years of going on these trips, this is what I started to understand. I started to be more and more aware of the needs of people around me. And where I could, I would step in and stand in the gap. I didn’t have to go out searching for ways in which to serve, they were already around me. I just needed to see with different eyes, have ears that heard even unspoken needs, and have a heart that was willing to jump in and serve when able.

I am still growing in this area, though. It is so easy to get caught up in my own busy life that I don’t slow down enough to see the needs around me. But I am so grateful for the And Beyond trips that taught me how to be a true servant. Isn’t this what Jesus modeled for us while on this earth? He saw the physical and spiritual needs of the people around him and he stood in the gap for them. May we simply follow in his example of how to serve the world around us.

Short Term: Ben and Josh Saucy

Written by Ben Saucy

Summer of 2017 was nothing short of a blessing for my brother and myself, Ben and Josh Saucy. We had the opportunity to be used by God in a mighty way through a, two month, short-term missions trip. We worked with an organization called Uncharted Waters Sports Ministry located in North Carolina. This organization partners with Churches to use sports to reach elementary aged kids for Christ. Although within the two-months, my brother and I were able to travel to four different states including Oklahoma, Ohio, Illinois and California. Within the two months, our team of five worked with 10 different Churches and over 820 elementary aged kids. Of those kids, 110 of them made first time commitments to follow Jesus. God is good!

However, in reflecting over the summer, there is one story that stands out as purely a blessing from the Lord. At the end of June, we were doing camp for a Church in Libertyville, Illinois in the Chicago area. While there was a boy named Vitaly who was Russian. He was a quiet boy, kept to himself but didn’t really talk to anyone even though he knew English. In growing up in Ukraine for 13 years, Josh and I became pretty well versed in the Russian language. So both of us, at one point, approach Vitaly and speak to him in his native heart language. His reaction when realizing we knew Russian was so ecstatic! He opened up like he had been wanting to the whole time, just needed the right people to who gave him the comfort he needed. So throughout the week he hardly ever left our side. Then, on the last day of camp, Vitaly’s mom came up to my brother and I and asked, “Are you Ben and Josh Saucy?” Turns out, her husband, Vitaly’s dad was one of our dads (Mark Saucy’s) first students in Ukraine back in 1995. In figuring this out, the mom proceeds to tell us that she had remembered our family well and that their family had been praying for our family especially recently during the recent passing our mom, Bonnie Saucy. It was so humbling hearing this from people we don’t even remember and really never knew. Absolutely encourage for both Josh and I to see the Lords caring hand reach across the country from people we didn’t even know. It was also amazing to see the complete circle of influence our family has had on theirs; starting with our dad ministering to Vitaly’s father in seminary to now my brother and I ministering to Vitaly across the world 12 years later. Only the Lord can orchestrate such a turn of events.

This was only one of the many stories that my brother and I brought home from the summer. Of course there were challenges and ups and downs, but it was stories like these and reaching kids for Christ that always trumped our times of weakness.

unnamed
Ben and Josh with Vitaly and his family.

Field Stories: Cambodia

Moving to a new city involves a lot of tasks: packing boxes, unpacking boxes, changing your address on documents, saying good bye to current friends, and hello to new ones. But moving across the world requires all the more tasks, commitment, and endurance.

Two of our own EFCSW missionaries families are making that move to (and transition into) Cambodia right now. Robert and Sarah Radcliff arrived in Cambodia in September 2016 and Elise Paty joined them and team in March 2017. They are joining two families – The Swards and Hernandezes – who have been on the field and supported by us for many years.

The first two years on the field have a focus on language and culture learning. Robert and Sarah are half way through their focused learning and Elise will be a quarter through momentarily.

The Radcliff’s and Elise have spend much of their time studying language – formally in a classroom and conversationally with friends and tutors. This comes with ebbs and flows of feeling confident in their abilities to communicate desires, and the feelings of being a toddler unable to fully express themselves. Endurance and perspective help them to continue to be learners in all that they do.

Through learning the language they are also being exposed to cultural tendencies and expectations that the Cambodian people have. They get to learn how to navigate situations differently than we may in the States. This is critical for long term impact in their life and ministry in coming years. Elise said in one of her updates, “In thinking about my own experience of knowing God and growing in my faith, I have been deeply impacted by friends walking alongside me and encouraging me by their consistent friendship demonstrating the gospel. I hope that as I learn more Khmer and gain a deeper understanding of the culture, I can connect with Khmer people on that level to be a clear communicator of the gospel.”

When we see these transitions in our own lives, of moving and learning, may we remember what God is doing in Cambodia in and through our missionaries. May we pray for them to have endurance and strength as we hope for the same in ourselves during transitions.

Curious what Elise’s daily life would be like while learning a new language? Check out her language route below:

 

If you want to see more video updates from Elise, her vimeo channel is here.

Robert and Sarah also have video updates here where you can hear from them personally and get a glimpse into their journey in Cambodia.