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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