Grace and Peace from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I apologize for taking so long in writing this prayer letter, especially as I know many are concerned.
Consider this: first we faced the Covid pandemic/plague; and now we face war and rumor of war, or rather “special operation.” As Christians, we all know that all of these are simply a fulfillment of prophecy, and such have been and will continue until our Lord’s glorious return.
Please put your minds at ease, peace, rest in the Lord and trust in the Lord. I write these words not only to you, but for myself as well. As fearful as these times may seem, 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
As Christians, we are not to make decisions out of fear or panic when the world seems falling apart. There is the question of “What has God called me to do in these times?” To evacuate? To “follow my heart’s desire?”
That is a question of discernment, of course, and not the first time I have faced that question. One aspect of discerning God’s direction (besides prayer, searching His Word, prayer, soul searching and prayer) is to first put aside my own fears, insecurities and desires, and with a sound mind consider the situation and what the needs truly are of my neighbor—so to speak. So let me lay out these considerations:
Very suddenly and unexpectedly, the Church has taken some serious hits and is facing a crisis. First, almost all foreign missionaries that were helping, teaching, coordinating, were evacuated—and several against their will, being ordered to evacuate by the authorities over them.
Second, the financial sanctions leveled against Russia have cut off much of the funding that was coming through the Church’s legal entity in Finland, where funds were saved for safe keeping. As a result, our relatively new bishop, Rev. Ivan Laptev, is faced with a huge crisis and has some very difficult decisions to make about cutting programs, staff and so forth. For instance, we will finish the current resident term at our Theological Institute [where students study from LHF-translated textbooks], but after that, the resident program will be suspended, instructors laid off, and staff cut to a minimum. The future of the distance program is unclear—as for lack of funds to pay for the Russian instructors.
And here I am. Bishop Laptev has asked me if I am going to evacuate but has not called me to evacuate—not ordered me to evacuate. In other words, he would understand if I do, but would like me to stay for he would like my help.
And this is moment where I now find myself: the “oh, crap” moment. Some of you might understand what I mean—the moments in our Christian walk of faith, when we see that God is calling us to do something that means sacrificing what we would rather do for something we see is a greater need. And when in discernment and prayer we realize this, our first reaction is “Oh, crap.”
My call has been to serve this Church as a pastor and missionary. Nothing in the current situation prevents me from continuing to do so—from continuing to fulfill what God has called me to do. In fact, the needs of the Church, the need for someone to teach, minister, mentor and so forth have in the last two weeks multiplied.
Yes, I face uncertainty, I will face financial difficulty, I might face some harassment, and who knows what else. As difficult as these things will be for me to face, this is what God at this point is calling me to do. I admit, I am afraid, and part of me wishes God would call me to evacuate—but that fear is from my human flesh and weakness. This is not the first “oh, crap” moment I have faced, and God has led me through and been with me through all those other moments, He is and will be with me now. Such is my prayer and hope, and in my better moments, my confidence.
Maybe it is an unfortunate happenstance that I just finished reading the Book of Jeremiah in my personal devotions, but reading the prophets does make this clear: Disease, conflict, natural and man-made catastrophes are all a result of our sin, our living in a fallen world, and God uses all of them to call people to repentance, to return to Him and to trust in His forgiveness and mercy.
All of us as Christians in these times are called to trust first in our Lord and Savior, and then when the times make those around us anxious, fearful, angry and even aggressive, we can call people to repent and come to the peace that our Lord has established, peace and comfort that exists above and beyond this world’s passing turmoil.