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$925 was raised and donated to our ministry partners in Ukraine for the Coats for Kids Ministry. Coats and winter clothes are distributed to the Deaf children and Deaf community at 5 different Deaf schools throughout Ukraine. Your donations made the travel and distribution to these different cities possible! Not only were coats distributed, but the Gospel message is presented, youth are invited to summer Deaf camps, and the love of Christ is shared in tangible ways! Thank you for helping make this a success. We look forward continuing to partner with you as this becomes an annual event for DeafBridge! Watch the video below is ASL (with captions if needed) and Thanks again!
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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are suffering and ministries have been put "on hold". But God is still at work! The work of the Holy Spirit is not interrupted by this storm. People still need the Lord and should not have to wait to "hear" the life changing message of the Gospel! Watch the video below as Chris shares a testimony of how the Holy Spirit can work even when it seems like we can't. Captions are available on the video for those who don't know sign language.
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After their time in Chernivtsi, Chris, Paul, and Pastor Oleg made their way to Romania. They went to meet with a pastor and some other believers to share their experience in starting Christian camps for the Deaf. These Romanian believers wanted to follow the Ukrainian outreach model for the Deaf camps that has proved to be such a successful strategy for evangelism and discipleship. The church in Romania hasn't truly experienced growth for 25 years and the workers were very few. It was a good week of praying together about the future of the camps but also a time to look at the needs for church planting and leadership development throughout Romania.
One of the big needs in Romania is for more workers in the field. There are very few believers in full time ministry. The church is weak and the need for evangelism and discipleship is great. This was another amazing story of the Holy Spirit leading! Chris and Pastor Oleg set out for an evening of relaxation at a swimming pool in an unfamiliar area. Some students had invited them but the information was incorrect and they were not able to go swimming after all, so the evening plans were canceled. As they talked, Emma informed them that a former evangelist, Sandor, lived close (just a 30 minute walk). So Chris and Pastor Oleg felt the leading of the Holy Spirit and decided to go to his house. He answered the door and looked shocked and amazed to see Chris and Oleg standing there! Chris felt prompted to ask, "What have you been doing with your life? Are you still serving God in ministry?". They quickly learned that Sandor had been so hurt by ministry and other believers because of his bold evangelism style that he had turned his back on the Lord and three years ago, left ministry altogether. Chris and Oleg were able to talk, encourage, and pray with him. That is when they learned just how God had orchestrated this entire meeting. Three days before, Sandor had a vision from God that two men would be coming to visit him and that he needed to be ready. He wondered who and why. Then just hours before, the Lord told Sandor to put an extra large pot of water on the fire. He thought this was strange and a waste since his family didn't need that much, but he got the water ready anyway. That is when Chris and Oleg showed up unexpectedly at the door. They were able to minister to him during their visit and he experienced breakthrough! He rededicated his life to the Lord, forgave those that hurt him, and is looking forward to being used by God to bring others back to faith in Christ just as he experienced. His wife was also excited to have her "old" husband back and on fire for the Lord!
The trip to Romania was very eye-opening. So many people are hurting. The Deaf Church is hurting and weak. The need to train up national missionaries for church planting in Romania is huge. Please pray for the Deaf of Romania and for believers to follow God in evangelism and discipleship. Praise God for His breakthrough with Sandor! Pray for clear direction as Sandor, Emma, and other believers that Chris met with seek God's direction for their own lives and call to minister to the Deaf of Romania.
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While our missionary training taught us some about evangelism and strategies, we learned above all, to be led by the Holy Spirit. Daily we ask God to lead us to the people and places he wants us to encounter. We have experienced again and again what can be referred to as "divine serendipity". And this trip to Ukraine has been no exception! After returning to Kyiv after the camp in Kharkiv was over, plans changed and Chris did not head immediately to the next camp. It was during downtimes like these that Chris was able to meet several more Deaf men in seemingly random or chance encounters on the streets in town. They were all non-believers and had never been to church. They didn't even realize that there was a church available that would accept them. Throughout the trip Chris met several Deaf that where unknown to the pastors. The Holy Spirit was moving and leading Chris and the others to engage in unexpected spiritual conversations. It was exciting to be able see God at work in this way!
Chris continued to seek God and ask Him to provide opportunities for evangelism. God is faithful, yet this time, the moment of Divine serendipity came unexpectedly through mourning. After visiting the village of Pastor Oleg's family, the group traveled through our former "hometown", Chernivtsi. Chris was excited to visit friends and follow-up with those that we had only started to minister to during our brief time living there. But the excitement turned to sadness when a Deaf man died without knowing Christ. Chris had never met this man but was heart broken just the same. It struck deeply because we were missionaries to that city, and at the news of this man's death, Chris met his entire family, wife, children, friends, almost all Deaf and all who didn't know Christ. Chernivtsi doesn't have a Deaf church or Deaf Pastor, so a hearing pastor planned to preach at the funeral through an interpreter. This was not ideal but was all that they could do. Chris and Pastor Oleg and their group met the family as they were visiting friends in town. They were then invited to share a meal with the family, the hearing pastor, and others as they planned the funeral. Chris caught the attention of the hearing pastor. He turned and jumped to his feet and gave Chris a huge hug! The hearing pastor was Pastor Simon, our pastor and dear friend from when we lived here before! Seeing Chris and Pastor Oleg was an answer to his prayers! Chris was asked to preach the funeral but it was decided that it would be more culturally appropriate for Pastor Oleg to preach. Chris was then asked to be a pallbearer which he humbly accepted.
Oleg preached a very Spirit led sermon and the family and friends there had so many questions about God and faith. It turned out to be an incredible evangelistic event and also a confirmation in our hearts of our calling to these people. As I (Stacey) am typing this, I am realizing that there are so many more stories of the Holy Spirit at work that Chris has shared it is difficult to summarize into words. Please keep covering Chris and those ministering with him in your prayers and ask God to continue to provide more Divine encounters through which His Word can be shared!
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. ~Isaiah 61:1-3
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Near the Russian border in Kharkiv, Ukraine Chris was able to participate in a Deaf camp. This particular location was a new addition to the usual summer camps. Being in Eastern Ukraine, it was the perfect spot to bring in children and families affected by the war happening along the border. While there were many believing families that attended, the effects of the war have caused many to seek God for the first time. The week was filled with intense spiritual battles but Praise the Lord for all the mighty ways He worked at the camp and beyond. A group of teen girls had made a deliberate choice to follow the darkness and wanted nothing to do with Christ or Christians. In fact, three girls practiced satanic worship by lighting a ring of candles and partaking in occult rituals while all the other campers were sleeping. However, God turned this into a late night training opportunity as Chris taught the camp staff and Pastors about spiritual warfare, the power of the Holy Spirit, and overcoming darkness. With a lot of prayer and the unconditional love that they were shown during the week, their hearts began to soften. Many of the campers were very opposed to any kind of "religion" having been raised with a Russian mindset and hurt by the war and hurt by religion. Again, the love and kindness and genuine caring they received this week made a difference. They began to listen to the lessons and their hearts began to soften. In the end, one girl from this camp gave her life to Christ. The teens once worshiping the darkness have turned away from the occult and are seeking Truth. Many other seeds were planted! Please pray for all that attended- that the Holy Spirit would continue to speak to their hearts. In late September/early October the pastors will return to the areas where these campers live and will hold follow up events. Pray that the seeds that were sown will take root and soon be ready for harvest.
And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” ... Luke 8:4-8
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We are so excited that the first step has been completed. DeafBridge is now an official nonprofit ministry organization that can begin "conducting business". Thank you for praying for us during the process. Yet, the process is not finished. We are now ready to apply for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. This is the longer and more complicated application process. Thankfully, we have a wonderful Christian CPA that will be leading us through these next steps. Please continue to pray that all goes well and moves along quickly!
Meanwhile, Chris has been seeking the Lord in prayer for wisdom and guidance as he has been working diligently at putting together the curriculum content that DeafBridge will be using for training Deaf nationals in church planting and Christian leadership for Deaf churches and leaders throughout the world. We are praising God for all of the wise mentors and bothers and sisters in Christ that He has brought along side us to help in creating these materials. Chris has also been approached by Deaf believers and leaders in different parts of Eurasia and the United States asking for this training and help with evangelism and/or church planting. Please continue to pray for wisdom and guidance from the Lord and that we will be sensitive and responsive as the Holy Spirit leads.
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Only 2% of the Deaf around the world have been introduced to the Gospel. Introduced! This means far fewer know the full story and even less are following Christ as their Savior!
When we first moved to India, we met several Deaf adults that saw the Jesus film (without captioning or interpretation) in their youth and spent the next several years wondering who that man was and what was "special" about him. We were able to teach them God's Word and help them understand the rest of the story.
In Ukraine we met several Deaf who were only introduced to the Gospel and then pressured to follow the legalistic rules of the church. They didn't understand what it meant to be free in Christ or how to have a personal relationship with Him. So instead of learning the full story of the Gospel, they left the church and hated "religion".
Deaf believers in Jordan are staying hidden and not growing in their faith for fear of persecution. Many other Deaf are falling into cults and being fooled by false teachers because they don't fully understand what it means to follow Christ.
Matthew 28:19-20 tells us to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Making disciples is what is largely missing among the Deaf of the world. Many deaf ministries focus on translating the Bible into sign language, but don't teach it. Many hearing ministries overlook the Deaf altogether or assume they can be under the hearing church, so the Deaf are "taught" in a language that is not their heart language based on a culture (hearing) that is not their own. They learn to go through the motions but their life isn't changed. They are not being discipled.
Discipleship is vital if Deaf believers are going to grow in Christ and become leaders in their communities. It is our vision (the vision of DeafBridge) to see Deaf communities transformed by Christ and equipped to serve as partners in the Great Commission. This is a HUGE task, but our God is bigger! The Deaf need to know the full story. Please pray with us as we seek to be used by God to make disciples and pray also about how you might be able to be involved in helping us fulfill the vision God has given us. To learn more or to receive our newsletter, please visit our "contact us" page.
Thank you ~ Chris and Stacey/DeafBridge
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I mentioned in the previous blog post about Alyssa's mission trip to Italy to work with Russian and Ukrainian families that have migrated there for various reasons. Here is a follow-up from Alyssa:
I am thrilled to report that the mission trip to Italy went extremely well, and the one to Prague had a great turnout. I want to share a little bit with you about how God placed just the right people on our team, our journey to Italy, and our experiences there.
One of the key members of our missions team was a young teacher named Nastya. Nastya accepted Christ two years ago and was baptized last year. Shortly after, she lost her father who was not a believer. This took a huge toll on her, her mother, and brother (also non-believers.) Nastya deeply felt called to go on this mission trip with us, but with a teacher’s salary of $1,400 a year, she was stuck. She had to make the choice between buying her mom and brother a washing machine, or going on the mission trip to serve the many non-believing Slavic children and families in Europe. So, Nastya began praying that God would make a way for her.
Another girl on our team, Anya, is one of the most godly and joyful women that I know. She has her bachelors in finance, masters in missions, has lived in Nepal as a missionary, and will be the director of admissions at a Baptist seminary in Ukraine, and is only 25! This same girl’s mom, and three siblings got ran over by a car and all passed away years prior. Now she takes care of her dad who is an alcoholic, works in a movie theatre two days a week (making $20 in a week), but spends most of her time doing ministry. She also felt called to go on this mission, but has very little money, and has debt from her braces. Anya felt called to go, but had no way.
All of the people in our team have similar financial situations because of the unbelievably low salaries in Ukraine. Many had the money to go, but that was ALL they had. God had called them and they knew that He would make a way for them. A sad truth regarding several skilled, godly people in our community, is that when they heard how much of a financial burden it was to go, they were no longer willing. God specifically chose those who were willing to go minister to those who have NO missionaries or churches, and who were willing to spend every last dime they had to get there.
God was familiar with their stories, and heard their prayers and concerns. He knew their willing hearts, and answered their cries through YOU, my brothers and sisters in Christ! God provided them, through Northside, what we needed for the trip and more! And someone had heard of Nastya’s need of a washing machine and provided her with a new, free one!
When we met with our team, preparing for the trip, I told them that they didn’t need to pay out of their own pockets to get there. This brought tears to everyone’s eyes because the Lord had heard their prayers. They all said “Слава Богу” simultaneously, meaning “Glory to God”!
On June 20th, we began our journey to Italy. We drove through Hungary, and Slovenia. We probably stopped every 30 minutes (or so it seemed)! We stopped in Naples Italy, to do 2 church services for the Slavic people there. It took a full 48 hours from Ukraine, one car breakdown, and many, many bathroom breaks later, but on the 23rd we finally arrived in Eboli, Italy. We spent one day setting up the camp before everyone came.
On the 24th about 200 Slavic/Russian speaking people came to our small campground. There were families from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Germany, and America. The age range was newborn to late 70’s. There were some very strong Christian families, and then there were those who had never stepped foot in a church in their entire lives. Some would even step out of a sermon to take a smoke break.
There were several people that came to the camp that had cancer and were getting healthcare in Italy. Of those, one 18-year-old girl didn’t have much longer to live. There was a family of 4 girls from Ukraine whose mom had died in Italy of cancer. The oldest girl was 15 and having to take the role of “mom”. I was personally able to guide her and give her some wisdom from the Bible. Other moms were able to care for the girls for the week and they were able to hear of the love that their Heavenly Father has for them. They, along with others, learned of the wisdom and simple instructions in the Bible that are there for them. Others were impacted by hearing of the amazing grace that God has for them, and that they don’t have to work for their salvation (like Russian Orthodox believes).
Among our camp were people that had been in jail and alcoholics who learned of the mercy and forgiveness that our loving God has for them. Many of these people have had no access to the gospel in their language for many years. Some had lived in Italy for 20 years and, because they hadn’t learned Italian, had no church or Godly community.
We were able to teach the children songs and a share with them the message that they have a loving, perfect father in heaven who loves them and will never leave them. Because so many Slavic men and fathers are affected by alcoholism, the kids really took to, and related with the messages we shared. We taught them the story of Daniel, played with them, and just held and loved them. The teen, young adult, and several adult groups also studied the book of Daniel more in depth.
In conclusion, I can’t give you a number of how many people accepted Christ as their Savior, or if someone’s relationship with the Lord grew stronger, because only God sees their hearts. I do know that thanks to your prayers and support, we were able to serve this forgotten people group for the Glory of God. I know that they had an opportunity to hear the Gospel, many for the first time. I know that lives were changed by God’s love for these people.
I’m thankful for the serving hearts of my team members and those of you who were willing to give. God bless each and every one of you! My team says a big “Дякую” too!
Click here to view video highlights from the trip.
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It is amazing to see how God can use our past to bring Him glory. God began preparing Chris for this ministry even before he new Christ. As a young teen Chris dreamed of working on ranches or farms. In college, he majored in Ranch Management taking both animal science and ag classes. He also worked as an intern on a large west Texas ranch. But also while in college, Chris had a roommate that introduced him to Christ. One October night on the 10th floor of his dorm room Chris prayed to accept Christ as his Lord and Savior. It was that same night that Chris felt the call to go throughout the world and preach the Gospel. He shared his testimony with the pastor of our college ministry and this pastor began discipling Chris for an entire year. This same pastor began our premarital counseling for an additional year after we became engaged. Throughout the next few years Chris was blessed to have other Godly pastors and mentors in his life that helped him grow in God's word and pursue God's call on his life. Eventually Chris went to seminary to major in International Church Planting. While in seminary, Chris started his own handyman business and gained much experience in landscaping, home repair and remodeling, etc. It made sense to us that the biblical and seminary training and missionary trips and field orientations were preparing him for a life in missions.
But fast-forward to today and we can now see that his heart for working outdoors, his education and experience in ranch management and his skills in remodeling are all being used for God's glory. We have so many ministry opportunities here in Ukraine that will utilize these skills. Several Deaf families live in factory apartments that are so run down and virtually unlivable without proper plumbing and very unsanitary. The manager of these apartments has been open to allowing Chris and others come in to do repairs and improve the living conditions. We will be meeting in the next couple of weeks about starting bible studies in these apartments as well. We have also started a rehab house where Chris is teaching life and job skills to Deaf men that have been addicted to alcohol. On this property we now have a large garden, 20 chickens and several rabbits. This will not only provide food for the tenants, but also work as eggs and produce can eventually be sold. In addition to this garden, we have also been blessed with additional gardens totaling over 2 acres! This will provide food as we begin a food ministry for Deaf families.
As we have shared with others about our gardens we have learned of some elderly deaf people that are no longer able to tend to their own gardens. Without a garden, it will be very difficult for these Deaf to have enough food this winter. Chris and a couple of the Deaf men he has been working are now be helping them get their gardens ready and planted. At one home, they discovered that they had no hot water. This meant they can only use indoor plumbing for bathing and such during the spring and summer. So Chris and the other men looked at the water heater and realized it was a fairly easy fix. After some time, they got it working again. This Deaf lady and her elderly mother were so grateful for this help in addition to the garden. Another Deaf women woman from church broke down in tears when she learned that they will be working on her garden this Saturday! Her son is very ill and no longer able to help her.
When we moved here as church planters, little did we know that one of the open doors we would have for this ministry would be through Chris's ranch management and handyman experience! But God uses all of our experiences for His purposes.