Sunday, November 1, 2009

One more story

One of the young women in Dave Croft’s class had an interesting story. To protect her privacy we’ll call her Tanya. Tanya graduated from art school at the university but found it difficult to get a job with the current economic crisis. She did some investigation and found that painting icons was a good paying job, so she enrolled in icon painting school, taught by Orthodox priests. Before this school she considered herself an Orthodox Christian. But at the school she learned all the Orthodox rules and traditions, and knew she fell way short of their standards. She was also frustrated that the priests seemed to be following rules and traditions without understanding why. At the same time she started to dislike the bad behavior of other people around her who used vulgar language. She felt like she was “stuck in the middle”, in “no man’s land”, as we would say.

About this time Tanya started having conversations with Marina, member of the IP staff in Kharkov, whom she had known casually for a few years. But now their conversations became more personal and intense. Marina told Tanya about her relationship with God, how she talked with God at any time, and talked to him as a loving father. This was very interesting to Tanya. But the Orthodox priests had told her that she should recite the prayers they gave her, that she should not read the Bible, and that Protestants like Marina were cults. Now she was really stuck in the middle – between the sinful world around her, the rules and traditions of the Orthodox priests, and this loving father that Marina was telling her about. What should she do?

Through all of this she has kept talking with Marina, and today is very close to repenting and accepting Christ. Please pray for her to make that important decision.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thank You!

Front row: John, Sergey, Bruce
Back row: Marina, Dave, Luda

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people, sponsors, friends and colleagues who have partnered with us! Praise God for blessing us with the opportunity to serve Him and to realize His commandment to love our neighbors! It is not for us to know what fruit will grow from the seeds we have sown, but it is for us to pray that in His good time His will will be accomplished. We encourage all those who are interested in learning more to contact any one of us:

Bruce McCloy (
John Kirwan (

God Bless you!

Days 8-12 (including Days 4-7 of classes in Kharkov)

OK, we got tired and fell behind on our blogging!

The days are long but very rewarding. In the mornings we prepare for the day's teaching and meet with the team to pray, debrief, and share testimonies. Then it's off to the local public school to meet with students. Then lunch. Then more prep time. Then teaching English plus Bible in the evenings. Then we return to the flat about 9:30 PM when have a snack, talk, and crash.

There are a few other items to tell you about as well.

On Friday evening after English class we had "American Culture Night". It was a big party where each class presented skits and songs they had worked on. Plus we played a lot of games, and treated everyone to peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. (American peanut butter is rare in Ukraine, and very much appreciated.)

Dave's Class Skit

Bruce's Class Skit

On Saturday afternoon students met us in downtown Kharkov to show us their city. They were very gracious and we had many wonderful, personal conversations.
Center of Kharkov - Monument known affectionately by the locals as "4 Guys Coming Out Of A Pawn Shop Carrying A Refrigerator"

Students showing us their beautiful city

All of these activities are designed to build relationships so that students will continue their English plus Bible with the IP staff, and eventually come to know Christ personally!

On Sunday morning we went to the local IP church. Many of our students attended, which was wonderful! Sergey preached. It was probably the most interactive sermon I've ever heard. Sergey would ask a question and multiple people would jump in to answer. There was passion and humor - it was a real dialog. The music was also great. While it was in Russian, we recognized several of the tunes and sang along in English.

After church we had a communal meal, graduation ceremonies, and said a sad goodbye to our students. We leave a piece of our hearts there.

After the class we learned that an IP team member (Marina) had gone to the hospital and was diagnosed with pneumonia. She didn't want to tell us during the week for fear that we wouldn't allow her to continue. Please pray for her healing.

On Sunday night we flew back to Kyiv on an ancient Antonov 24, first flown in 1959. According to Wikipedia, "the design of the aircraft was optimised for operating from rough strips and unprepared airports in remote locations...The machine is rugged and does not require sophisticated ground equipment for maintenance...production in Ukraine was shut down in 1978. It was the oldest aircraft I've ever flown in (and I've been flying for 40 plus years), but it got us back to Kyiv safely.

After 2 hours sleep in Kyiv we awoke at 2 AM and caught early morning flights back to the US.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 7 - Kharkov classes, day three

Walking to class

In our morning team meeting we spent time hearing more testimonies, and discussed the needs of the team and the local church in Kharkov. Many Ukrainians participate in IP Bible discussion groups, and many have repented (their phrase for accepting Christ). But it is difficult for them to participate in public worship. Their families (most of whom are not believers) tell them they are being disloyal to their families and their country. Please pray that these believers would step forward boldly, and that their families would come to know Christ as well.

We had lunch in an ethnic Ukrainian restaurant called Puzata Hata (Fat Belly Cabin). The food is simple but delicious.

Downtown Kharkov

In the evening we continued English plus Bible. Tonight the subject was the Good Samaritan - who is your neighbor. The IP team used a skit as an icebreaker to start the discussion.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day 6 - Kharkov classes, day two

In our morning meeting with the team we debriefed the previous day's classes to learn and make adjustments for the next day.

Then it was back to the local school to meet with the 11th grade English class. They will be graduating at the end of this school year and going on to the university. IP is building relationships with these students in order to share the gospel.

In this session we used some interactive teaching methods (role plays - visiting a travel agency to plan a trip). It was good fun and went down well, which gave the teachers new ideas for improving conversational English.

Meeting with Grade 11 Class

We then returned to the flat for a great lunch prepared by the Ukrainian team.

In the evening we continued with English, continuing to build relationships. The Bible discussion centered on the parable of the talents - using and not wasting the talents we were given by God to further his kingdom.

John's English plus Bible class

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 5 - first day of classes in Kharkov

School where we're teaching

9:30 - Met with team in flat: Sergey, Luda, and Marina. Reviewed plan for week, shared testimonies, and prayed.

11:00 - Met with students in local school. This was a special group of hockey players that travel internationally, including to the US. See picture below.

Had nice lunch in a modern shopping mall.

Bruce's luggage finally arrived!

5:00 - Left for first day of classes. Split into three teams. Intermediate included Bruce for English, Luda for Bible. Elementary 1 included Dave for English, Natasha (local school English teacher and member of ongoing IP Bible discussion group) as translator, and Marina as Bible discussion leader. Elementary 2 included John for English, Sveta (local school teacher and member of IP church) as translator, and Sergey as Bible discussion leader. The program schedule is one hour of English, one hour of Bible (in this case Proverbs), and another hour of English. The groups were welcoming and engaged. Relationships started well.

We came back to the flat about 9 PM, tired and happy, and enjoyed a good meal prepared by Dave.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Day 4 - Leaving Kyiv, arriving Kharkov

We had a fairly eventful day, starting with church in Russian, with a couple of praise song tunes we recognized. The sermon was in Russian but the Pastor's wife, Maia, translated it for us at the back of the room. The theme was Harvest celebration with fruit on the table, Spiritual Fruit, but also relationships. He did a great job to weave them altogether into a foundational message of Christianity.

We had to leave immediately after the sermon to catch our plane to Kharkov. We met a couple from Chicago, Illinois – he was a retired physics prof from Chicago University and described himself as a scientific apologist. When he heard what we were doing he wanted to get his Kharkov team in touch with ours. So John exchanged emails and phone numbers etc. and we embarked on the plane. The starboard engine failed to start on three attempts, but after a quick repair, on the 4th try it worked. Other than that we had an uneventful flight to Kharkov, a very old Soviet style airport. We landed and went to collect our luggage only to find that Bruce’s bag had not been loaded! Well this required some discussion and logging of paper work and understanding that it would be sent on the next flight. We then repaired to the flat of Sergei and Lyudmila (Luda for short) who speaks excellent UK English. Sergei is going to Seminary (Presbyterian). We had a briefing and it looks like we are going to have about 40-50 students evenly split between elementary and advanced levels.

Bruce just got back from the airport and no suitcase, but he is taking it philosophically.