After the very intense ministry at 6 military bases and 3 high schools in Latvia, my Latvian manager and interpreter, Sasha Rodionov, and I flew to Kiev, Ukraine to begin another bout of outreach ministry.
The Rugby Seminar was attended by a small number of chaplains and psychologists, and those who attended were very impressed and impacted by the message and power-point presentation that we gave. The one issue that was of great encouragement was, “At times, to be successful you have to do some-thing you’ve never done before, and possibly some-thing that nobody else has ever done before.” It is not beyond possibility that God will guide us and empower us to do something like that, to impact the world through us and get people’s attention with the gospel message. These men were so encouraged that they asked me to come back in September – October for the nation’s Rugby Festival to be held in Odessa. After the seminar, we enjoyed a mini conference and coffee at a local hotel, where we ironed out the logistics of what I might present to them at the upcoming rugby festival.
We then had to travel by taxi right across Kiev to the Ivan Bogun Military Academy to minister to the student soldiers. These were high school boys between 13 and 18 many of whom had lost their fathers, and some their mothers too, in the recent war against the Russian Rebel Army in Eastern Ukraine. These crushed young guys wanted to make something of their lives after being orphaned, and had enlisted at this military high school for a military career. I admired their courage very much and deeply appreciated their attention, respect, and discipline as they embraced my challenge and the presentation of the gospel. The commander of the school was so touched at the presentation that he asked me to come back in early October to spend time not only lecturing but counselling some of the needy fellows, together with my Russian speaking manager, Sasha.
At the last minute, our plans were cancelled to travel by train to Eastern Ukraine, because of safety reasons. We had planned to minister to 2 Military regiments, 3 High Schools and a large very poor church that had taken a terrible battering in the recent war. We were advised that it was not safe to go into the region. But God had a better plan. Accompanying us was the Latvian Chaplain general of the Latvian NATO forces, with whom I had ministered to the Latvian military, navy and air force for the last 7 years. He had the clearance to go into Eastern Ukraine. He was more than a little nervous about doing my outreach seminars to these needy soldiers, but I had given him some 30 of my seminars in English, Latvian, and Russian, that I had ministered in Latvia together with him. I instructed him on how to use the outreach seminars to good effect. This was a great success as he presented them with his own stories, and brought hundreds to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The invitation I had from the Latvian NATO Brigadier General 7 years ago to conduct this ministry to his troops, was viewed as a huge breakthrough. However, I had been praying for more than a year for a successor to take my place in doing these military seminars, as I knew I would not you be doing them for the rest of my life. When the doors opened 2 years ago into the government high schools and military academies in Latvia, I wanted to focus on that unique ministry. I thought perhaps one of my interpreters would step into that gap, but God had organised that the Latvian forces Chaplain-general, Elmars P- (also a spirit-filled Baptist pastor) would step into the gap. He did famously with all those appointments and brought so many to the Lord. He is also a chaplain to the basketball sports fraternity in Latvia.
I will still speak at military appointments in these nations, but I want to focus more on the high schools and military academies in reaching the younger generation before they get hardened by war situations.
Elmars also ministered in a local Church in and checked on the orphanages that we work with in the area. We had been asked to work with the local church in providing for the basic needs of the orphanages, the destitute and poor of the area. Elmars took the funds with him to purchase the necessary provisions and gifts to the poor and the orphanages. What a relief to have this done very professionally, leaving me free to focus on the other parts of ministry that had opened up.
We then flew to Odessa to conduct my Evangelism Training Program, “Equipped to Go into the Harvest”. These were seminars for pastors and people from Odessa, Lviv, Kobel (NW Ukraine) & towns near the Romanian border. It was wonderful to be able to give them my evangelism training book printed in Russian, together with strategies they could adapt to their culture, and win many to Christ and bring them into local churches.
On Sunday morning Sasha and I spoke at different Church services in Odessa – the Assemblies of God and the Covenant Ministries Fellowship. It was great to encourage the believers to “Shake the boundaries in their lives and reach out further afield”. The pastors from other cities invited us to come and conduct similar seminars in their country districts on our next visit. I love to see this hunger to increase the kingdom of God in their areas through the local believers knowing how to win many to Christ themselves.
On the Sunday afternoon Pastor Peter of the Covenant Ministries Church took us to the Sports Academy to meet his soccer club for homeless teenagers. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of this Sports Centre named after Leonid Shelestovich, the founder of the Ukrainian Rugby Federation. Pastor Peter called the soccer players together and we had a wonderful short ministry to them. When I gave an altar-call all of them committed their lives to Christ. It’s marvelous to see what the Holy Spirit can do in drawing people to the uplifted Christ when all the preparatory evangelism has been done by faithful local workers.
Thank you so much for your faithful prayers and intercession for me and our local team in conducting these outreach seminars. We enjoyed seeing many soldiers and students commit their lives to Jesus. All this would not have been possible without your backing and support. God bless you and reward you richly.
Dave & Margurita Smethurst