Eric and Beth Yodis, WorldVenture
The year was 1995. On June 21st we arrived in Ukraine. Three days later we began a new life in Donetsk. The 20th anniversary of these momentous occasions came and went quietly for us in Kiev not long ago. We had hoped to celebrate this achievement the same way we did after 10 years, i.e. with a reverse missions conference for our supporters to visit Ukraine to see what God had done. Our childhood lessons were once again put into practice – we don’t always get to do what we want to do.
So instead of celebrating, we quietly have been putting our apartment in order, finding our way around Kiev, studying Ukrainian language, building relationships with a new ministry team, visiting churches, going to prayer meetings, etc.
Franklin Graham Came To Ukraine… Where Was Eric?
The recent Franklin Graham crusade in western Ukraine’s city, Lviv (Lvov), drew tens of thousands of spectators and participants. (Click on the picture of the festival to view a variety of youtube videos you can choose from). Performers included: Michael W. Smith, who was shown accompanying the enormous choir that had been assembled. Dennis Agajanian, the famous and amazingly talented guitar player did an arrangement one would have thought was being played by 5 guitarists. There was an American couple I never heard of before, John and Ann Barbour, seemed to bore the crowd into a “yet another English song” stupor only to surprise them to life again when they switched into Ukrainian at the beginning of the second verse. Kovcheg (Ark) is a musical group of men from the Donetsk region that also turned out to be a crowd favorite. Though they have had to flee their homes in the east and some have lost their houses to shelling, they still share the love and joy of Christ throughout Ukraine. Alexander Patlis, the famous Belorussian musician, was also a crowd favorite who touched their hearts by singing a beloved song, Design of God, in the language of Ukrainian.
There were other performers of course, and then Franklin Graham spoke and sounded very much like his father’s son. “It was interesting” I was told by a friend who was in attendance, “He spoke so simply. He didn’t try to use the latest jargon, amusing anecdotes or gripping stories. There wasn’t anything really clever about his preaching. He didn’t do all the things you would expect a famous evangelist to do. He just spoke the gospel plain and simple.” Perhaps then what came next was surprising to many as 1,500 people responded to the altar call and came forward to yield their lives to Christ. Ah… the simple power of the good news of Jesus Christ.
We were not among the 39,000 people estimated to be in attendance at this Festival of Hope. We had a different assignment. I had traveled to a city of half a million people in southern Ukraine that weekend in order to give the opening address at an event aimed to promote church planting among church leaders and perspective leaders in the area. About 50 men were there as I shared a comparison of the two greatest evangelists of the Bible, the apostle Paul and the prophet Jonah. Then I closed with the illustration of a reluctant fireman who would save the people in the high-rise apartments engulfed in flames, were he not concerned about what they would think of him meddling in their affairs. The question was asked, “Are we, like that fireman, too afraid of what others might think of us, that we would leave them in danger of the eternal flames of hell?” After Eric finished, Sergei Moroz shared about the need for planting churches and the dire situation of the church in Ukraine. Two other young men whom you will probably meet in the future through our communications also spoke on some very practical aspects related to church planting. At the end of the weekend, 10 men had indicated a desire to be involved with church planting and had given their contact information for follow-up training.
There is no way to determine which event, Franklin’s Festival of Hope with it’s 1500 new decisions or the small church planting conference with its 10 potential church planters, will have more of a lasting impact, but one thing is quite clear…
What is next for Eric & Beth? We are glad you asked!
Thank you for praying and giving!
I was a senior in high school hanging out with some friends in the McDonald’s parking lot near the corner of 43rd and Glendale Avenue in Glendale, Arizona, when I heard a couple shots ring out. They weren’t far away and at this distance it was easy to hear they weren’t fireworks. There was some commotion in the street by an apartment complex about 150 to 200 yards away. Without thinking, I ran toward the area from where the shots had rung out. I hadn’t gone too far when I saw a woman running in my direction.
“What’s going on?” I asked. Frantically she replied, “He’s crazy! He wants to kill me!” Of course, the truth is he was drunk and angry. If he had actually wanted to kill her she wouldn’t have been able to run away and beg for help from a wide-eyed, teenage tinue to work in the area of facilitating multiplication church planting.stranger sharing a cola with his friend. Crouching behind other cars in the parking lot, we made it to my parent’s ’67 Chevy Malibu Station wagon. She got into the front passenger’s seat and we promptly sped off in the direction of the Glendale police station. On the way, we spotted a cop car in the parking lot of the local grocery store. “Get in my car!” he said and together they headed east on Glendale Avenue and back toward the scene of the crime.
My friend had left the restaurant, so I didn’t go back to see him at McD’s that evening. There had been enough excitement and it was already late, so I simply went home. When I saw my friend at school again I told him about the adventure of the previous night and how it had ended. He was laughing. Since I hadn’t expected such a reaction, I asked him what was so funny. “Well,” he said, “You’re the only person I know that runs toward gunfire.
Beth and I have prayed for God to give us wisdom and we have submitted to a process of confirmation through the prayers and input of our supporters, family and friends. Through it all, we believe God is leading us to once again “run towards gunfire.” Though we won’t be going back to our home in Donetsk, our plans are to return to Ukraine in the Spring… hopefully sometime around April. No specific dates have been set at this point. These plans are in keeping with the desire of our hearts, but in all things we say… Lord willing.
Before we leave, we will fulfill our commitments to our supporting churches, I (Eric) will need to complete my 50,000 mile physical and we will need to shore up our financial support base to meet the challenge of starting over.
In future updates, we will tell you more about what we plan to do in Ukraine specifically, but for now we simply want to reassure you that we will continue to work in the area of facilitating multiplication church planting.
We are grateful to God for all He did in Ukraine. We are also grateful to God for faithful financial partners who cared for our expenses related to returning to the field. We are grateful to God for a good transition back to Ukraine thus far. We are grateful to God that the ministry at the Shelter of Christ church in Donetsk is going strong in our absence as are many of the church plants we have left behind in the Donetsk and Lugansk provinces of eastern Ukraine.
We ask God for continued success in our transition and Ukrainian language learning. We continue to ask God to bring peace to Ukraine and for the protection of the Christ-followers in eastern Ukraine and for their strength to reach out to the lost though they be frightened themselves. We ask God for safety and success as we soon visit the Ukrainian consulate in Vilnius, Lithuania to apply for our long-term visas.
Thank you for your ministry of prayer for us and for Ukraine and for your financial sacrifice. We can’t do this without the body of Christ standing with us as you have and are doing. Please keep up the good work.
Thank you for your prayers!
Introducing Special Edition Prayer Photos
It’s been more than 20 years since we printed our first prayer photo. The picture was taken when Charity was three and a half years old. We were younger also then. Before we show you the latest prayer photo, here is a look at the picture we used in the very first every prayer card (our rookie card).
Charity is all grown up, has a new last name and has started a new phase of her life with Brandon Butler (shown below).