Saturday with my Ukrainian Friends

Vladimir was one of my first students when I began teaching ESL in March 2000. We had fun studying together each week. One memory that stands out for me is one morning while we were studying in a coffee shop. My back was to the window, so I did not see what was happening, but Vladimir did. His eyes got real big with a look of surprise. He pointed at the window and I looked to see what was happening. The police were arresting someone. Realizing Vladimir had come from Ukraine that used to part of the old USSR and that people used to get arrested and disappear there, I changed our lesson to rights in the USA.

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Yesterday he was working outside at the church making a gazebo for them to use for barbecues. It has pillars made of stone for support. When he came in, we talked and reminisced about our study times in the past. It is always good to see him again.

My Ukrainian friends are hardworking and have made a beautiful church building. They did all of the work themselves. My Saturday class is in a nice room in the basement.

Speaking of my Saturday class, we continue to have fun studying together. Yesterday we had 18 people come. Each week I am impressed with how refugees who have only been in the USA four weeks, six weeks, etc. are being resilient. I know they have been through trauma and have a lot to adapt to here, but they have great support from the Ukrainian church.

After class, I was again blessed to have lunch. Nadia was teaching Middle School students cooking again and yesterday it was rice pilaf. It was delicious. She is wonderful with the children as she teaches them cooking.

This morning I will be with my Hispanic friends at my church. I called each of them last night. Our room will be filled with laughter, music, and Spanish as we practice English together. Then it will be time to taper down at the coffee shop.

How has your weekend been?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

October Is Here

October is here. It is the month that brings us fall colors in northern places, cooler temperatures, and oddly enough something called pumpkin spiced lattes. Pumpkin spices lattes do not seem to have a place in coffee shops, but coffee shops are businesses, so they want to make money. Have no fear your coffee purist will not allow such a concoction to pass through his lips.

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It was in October 1989 that the beginnings of what God was calling me to happened. I visited a different church to see a Billy Graham Ministries movie- Caught. It was about an American drug addict in Amsterdam who came to know Jesus through a man from India who was there for the Billy Graham world convention for evangelism. At the end of the film, it showed Billy Graham saying, “and do the work of an evangelist.” When I heard that, it felt like spiritually an arrow had pierced me.

I came home after the film and when I walked in the door, the presence of Jesus felt so strong that I dropped to my knees and then laid down on the floor. I kept seeing people who were lost in life. Jesus has given me so many opportunities to share him and his love with many lost souls from many countries since then.

It happened again yesterday at the Ukrainian Church. It was my first Friday offering a class there. We had a mother and her 15 year old daughter join us. The daughter is not a Christian yet. I shared a devotional thought with them that because Jesus was a refugee during his childhood on earth that he understands what it is like to be a refugee.

So welcome October and the opportunities to share Jesus, but you can keep those strange pumpkin spiced lattes. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Jesus Gives Us New Lives

In my afternoon class at one of the high schools in my city, one of my students is a Yazidi woman who never went to school as a child. English is the first language she has learned to read and write in. After coming to America nine years ago, she was a busy mom taking care of her family and also working. Last week, she shared with me her regret about not having learned more English by now.

My response was, “You were a busy mom taking care of your family and also working. You are a good student. I am happy you are in my class.” Then we talked about the difference between opportunity and ability. She did not have the opportunity to go to school as a child in Iraq and she did not have the opportunity before now to go to an English class here. We talked about how she has the ability to learn, but did not have the opportunity before, however, now she has the opportunity to learn.

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She has a new life in America with new opportunities she would not have had in her home country. She is learning to read and write in English and seeing her children grow up without living under oppresion.

When I think about 2 Corinthians 5:17, I think about the new life Jesus has given me.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

My old life is behind me and only the memories of it connect me to it. Jesus has not only changed me as a person, but he has completely changed my life. I would have never imagined so thoroughly enjoying getting to know people from all over the world living in my city. I would have never imagined learning to greet people in thirty languages, visiting refugees in their homes, and the wonderful opportunities to share the love of Jesus with people from diverse cultures.

Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves and the changes he brings into our lives bring us to a greater sense of fulfillment than we could have imagined.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

How You Can Join with Me in Helping Ukrainian Refugees in My City

It is exciting for me to be able to help Ukrainian Refugees in my city. This will be at least a one year endeavor of blessings for me.

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I arranged for a young woman from my church who is a paramedic to come next Saturday to meet a young woman from Ukraine that was a paramedic there. It ties in with a theme I have with new refugees who are high school or college age-“You Dreams Are Not Over.”

If you would like to be a part of my ministry with Ukrainian Refugees, there are two ways.

PRAYER- Please pray for me for wisdom, energy, and empowerment by the Lord. Please pray for the new refugees I meet from Ukraine for their new lives here and for open hearts to hear about Jesus.

Another way you can be involved is my Amazon Wish List. The name is Matt’s Ukrainian Ministry. I have set it up for all items to be delivered directly to House of Prayer here in Lincoln NE. I will update the list as needs arise, but have the initial items needed on the list now. The link- Matt’s Ukrainian Ministry. Shipping Address- Matt/House of Prayer Church 1333 Morton St. Lincoln NE 68521

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Wonderful Time With My Ukrainian Friends

My Saturday morning group grew to 15 people this week including a 90 year old great grandmother. We had a fun time studying together. It is such a blessing to see people ,who suffered loss during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, smiling and laughing during class. The morning also had a few other blessings.

One is depicted by the picture. A woman was teaching cooking for Middle School age kids in their church. After my class, I went upstairs and followed the pleasing aroma of food being cooked to the kitchen. She blessed me with not one, but two omelets. I won’t need to eat the rest of the day. When I say omelet, I mean ultimate omelet. It had diced peppers, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, diced potatoes, and cheese.

My translator for today was the 17 year old son of one of the pastors. We had a deep conversation about living with chronic illness. He had surgery for Crohn’s Disease a few months ago. We talked about how God can take our suffering, if we give it to him, and work through us to bless others as 2nd Corinthians 1:3-4 says:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 

Now I am sitting in the coffee shop, drinking coffee and giving the two omelets a chance to digest before I go to the Latino Festival.

How is your Saturday?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Why She Cried In My Sunday Morning Group

Some years ago, a well meaning person at church asked a friend of mine from another country, “How does it feel to be in America?” The person was smiling and his question showed he thought it was better for my friend to be here. While it is true that I love living in my home city, having traveled on missions trips has shown there are good things in many countries. But the main thing is what feels like home. Imagine not being safe in your home country anymore and having to leave family, friends, and the culture you know and love.

That was the experience of my friend from Venezuela. She comes to my Sunday morning group. She is a single mom with a thirteen year old son. She works hard in a factory job to provide for her and her son and send money home to her parents in Venezuela.

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She left Venezuela because of the brutal dictatorship. Under Chavez, Venezuela went from being one of the wealthiest countries in South America to people not having enough food to eat. She left her family and everything that was familiar to her to come here for safety and her son’s future one year ago.

It has not been an easy year for her and she longs to meet other people from Venezuela. We do not have a large number of Venezuelans living in my city. We have many from other Spanish speaking countries.

Sunday morning we had three new guests come to my group, three young men from Venezuela. We practiced English, prayed, and then Samuel from Honduras sang a few worship songs in Spanish. As he was singing the second song, my friend from Venezuela teared up. She was overcome with mixed emotions. The song touched her soul. She was grateful to meet other Venezuelans. But she also missed her home-Venezuela.

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After we finished singing, she came over to me. I stood up and she cried in my arms. Then she went and got hugs from our three guests. I reassured her that Jesus is with her and that she is safe here. Please pray for her.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

My First Saturday with Ukrainian Friends

It was my privilege to meet ten refugees from Ukraine yesterday during our first Saturday together. It was more of a time of letting them get to know me and assessing their English levels, so I can plan our future lessons. It was good to see them laugh as we studied.

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Of the ten, five were from one family. The family has two daughters and one son. The two daughters are 20 and 19. One of them completed two years in a university in Ukraine in psychology. The other one had just graduated high school a few months ago. I encouraged them that their dreams are not over and that with Jesus they can have a good future here.

The family just came here on Labor Day, five days before I met them. Realizing that, I asked the twelve year old son if he was nervous about starting school here. He nodded his head yes. I encouraged him that the teachers are nice and will understand he is learning English. We talked about how he can learn step by step.

Before we ended, one of the men said we should pray, so I asked him to pray for us. It was the perfect way to end our lass time. I am looking forward to this new adventure with my Ukrainian friends. The class would not have happened if I had not gotten a new to me vehicle Thursday.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Prayers Were Needed/Prayers Were Answered

About a month ago, I shared a post- Prayers Needed that was about an email I received letting me know my current position would not have enough hours to keep my benefits and then my van died beyond repair. The past four weeks have been a valley time.

This week in a span of two days, it turned around. On Thursday thanks to generous donors, I bought a Hyundai Tuscon. Then yesterday I found out I did not get the position I applied for but my hours were expanded so I can keep my benefits. Even better, my current position pays two dollars an hour more and is what I actually enjoy doing. I had only applied for the position to keep benefits.

As Christians we are not immune to life’s problems, but how we handle them can be a testimony. If we give things to God and seek him through the down times, God works through us.

I am grateful I had more time with my friend Luis from El Salvador. He gave me rides home on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and rides to church on Sundays. Because of the extra time, he opened up about what happened to him in El Salvador when a drug gang tried to force him to join. That led to sharing about how Jesus understands trauma. That is one example from the past four weeks.

But now it is on to new adventures like the English conversation group that is starting at the Ukrainian church today. We will have many Saturdays together of having lessons and sharing life. I love helping refugees with their new lives in America and this group will be at a church that will share Jesus with them.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

How I Got Started in My Ministry/My Go Fund Me

In October 1999, I was in Bucharest Romania talking with a missionary about connecting with people through teaching ESL-English Second Language. It was during that conversation that I felt led to pursue experience in teaching ESL though at the time, it was with the thought of returning to Romania full-time.

In March 2000, I had a training for teaching ESL with our local Literacy Council. I told them they could fill my mornings because I worked evenings. Within a month, I had 10 students I met with as a volunteer. That led to the Literacy Council hiring me in July 2000, which in turn led to the opportunity to teach for our local Community College in July 2001.

I was having fun exploring the many diverse cultures in my city when in 2002 while in prayer, Jesus reminded me he had a purpose for me in teaching ESL. That led to starting my first group at my church in May 2002, God opened so many doors of opportunity and blessed the work so much that my ministry went from an initial reaction of, “do we need that,” to “you can’t leave for Romania because look at what God is doing.”

I was doing ministry on my income as a part-time ESL Instructor piecing together various part-time teaching gigs and happy to do so because of what God had called me to when in 2008 my church began to support me with a monthly check. It is not a huge amount but has helped me make ends meet.

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Chronic illness got much worse about ten years ago. In the past five years, I have spent enough on doctors that I could have bought a new car.

That is my back story as to where I am today and why I started my Go Fund Me to get a different vehicle. Gary is a blogger who has been encouraging me in my endeavor. He wrote about in his post- Limited Time Offer. Please check out his post and blog.

My Go Fund Me link is- Home Missionary and Teacher Needs A Vehicle.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

The School of Jesus

Matthew 9:36-“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

A prayer of mine long ago was to ask Jesus to give me his heart for people. Before I rededicated my life to Jesus in July 1989, I did not have a heart for others. As I read through the gospels and how Jesus treated people when he was on earth, it spoke to me so much that I asked him to give me his heart for others.

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How he answered that prayer was to take me through the school of interacting with those who have suffered in life. It began in October 1989 when I came home one evening and felt his presence so much that I fell to the floor. He gave me images in my mind of hurting people and impressed upon me that wherever I go, he would connect me with someone who is suffering.

That ramped up a great deal as I began to teach English Second Language and meet refugees. Hearing their stories of suffering and helping them with their new lives in America while sharing Jesus with them changed me. Their stories are ones of escaping war and danger, oppression, and suffering.

That is how the school of Jesus works. He calls us, places us in situations to teach us, and changes us. As Ephesians 2:10 says:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The process of being created in Christ Jesus for good works is not some poof instantly equipped thing. It is a life of being discipled by Jesus through the school of Jesus in real life experiences that change us. It is not easy. It can be heartbreaking at times. But it is so worthwhile.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.