Dear Family, Greetings from Moscow and Amsterdam! On Wednesday, January 14th, Elena & I flew from Kiev to Moscow through Vienna! We were received with a terrific SoldOut Movement Welcome with the bold singing of “We Love You With The Love Of The Lord” at the airport by our dear Moscow Disciples! Many heads were turned as it is against the law in Russia to gather for church except in a church building or a registered location! Thursday noon, January 15th, Dima & Tanya Serafonov – the Moscow Church Leaders, Oleg Sirotkin – the Eurasian World Sector Leader (WSL), and Elena & I met for a light lunch and a detailed discussion of the Moscow Church. This sobering but very productive meeting ended a little before 4:00PM. We regathered that evening to try to help a struggling remnant couple in the church. We met for 5 1/2 hours till 12:30AM! Praise God this remnant couple – once full-time in the ICOC – is now with us heart and soul! “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupt flesh.” (Jude 22, 23) After doing Kingdom Admin, having dinner, and calling my mom – which I do daily since my father passed – Elena & I “hit the sack” at a little before 3:00AM! Yet, sleep did not come easily.
On Thursday at 8:00AM, we met for a Eurasia Financial Meeting with Dima, Tanya, Oleg and Artem Varlarkov – the Eurasian World Sector Administrator. Then, we had a second meeting to organize Bible Talks and a D-tree for the Moscow Church. That afternoon, Elena met with the very talented sister, Sasha Egorova, since she has cancer and wanted Elena’s spiritual guidance as a cancer survivor. Thursday evening at 7:00PM, we met with dear friends, but another very hurting, former ICOC full-time couple who had begun to doubt if we were the Movement of God. This time the appointment did not end till 12:45AM! Again, God was victorious and we kept the couple! (James 5:18-20). Friday, we did not have an appointment till 11:00AM. This time, it was to help a family situation. We counseled this precious couple and praise God they decided to forgive each other and stay together! Later, I met with a teen, whose faith had waned. That night at 7:30PM was church! I was pleasantly surprised by how powerful the singing was! During the announcements, Dima shared that with the increased funding from Missions, Moscow was hiring Rezo Davitadze – the husband of Sasha who is already full-time – and the sweet Alyona Chupova!
After this encouragement, as I did in Kiev, I showed the “Thank You Video From Southeast Asia” from Ricky & Co Challinor! As it concluded, I saw several disciples with tears, as in the “old days” of the ICOC, Russia and the Philippines had led the way for the Movement outside the USA with “thousands of baptisms!” Our Russian Disciples long to see the miracles that the Philippines is once again experiencing! Then before I spoke, Elena shared “good news” about her 5 year cancer-free doctor’s report, as well as about the LA, Chicago and Kiev Churches! That evening, I preached about the Five Core Convictions and the heavy price that many of us have paid for the Lord in suffering and persecution to build God’s Movement to over 100 sold-out churches in 43 nations in just 12 years! In closing out the night, Oleg – with instructions from me – humbly apologized for his part for the weak condition of the Eurasia World Sector, as he is the leader. Then, he ended with a great vision for 2020 for both the Moscow and Kiev Churches! Indeed, Elena & I felt that the trip to Moscow was the most difficult of our mission trips in recent years. We felt similar to Paul when he wrote, “We put no stumbling blocks in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of Christ, we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance, in troubles, hardships, distresses, [persecutions], in hard work, in sleepless nights… in purity, understanding, patience and kindness… in truthful speech and in the power of God… through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report, genuine yet regarded as imposters… sorrowful, yet always rejoicing… having nothing, yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:3-10)
On Saturday morning at 4:00AM, we left for the airport so excited about the Amsterdam Inaugural! We arrived in this amazing Dutch city at 2:30PM and received a rousing SoldOut Movement Welcome from the Amsterdam Mission Team Leaders – Tomiwa & Vienne Safe-Adewumi – and 50 other enthusiastic disciples! Joining the 14 on the Amsterdam Mission Team, Michael & Michele Williamson – the European WSL’s – brought 30 London Disciples for the weekend to help evangelize for the Inaugural Service; Anthony & Cassidy Olmos came with 14 Paris Disciples; and Erik & Michelle af Klint brought 5 from Stockholm! As well, it was so refreshing to be warmly greeted with hugs from Kolbe & Rebecca Gray of London and Gustav af Klint of Stockholm!
After a little needed rest at our hotel, Elena & I had a lovely Indian dinner at Sizz with the Williamsons and Safe-Adewumis – who are fluent in Dutch as Dutch citizens – to go over all of the Inaugural Service Day plans! (Of note, Tomiwa has a Master’s Degree in Engineering from the prestigious University of Central London!) At dinner, we learned that Nia Smalls was their first baptism fittingly on January 1, 2020! At 10:00AM, we headed to Zuiderkerk (South Church) for the 11:00AM Inaugural Service! The service opened with two hymns in Dutch and “I Hear God Singing” in English! Then, Elena & I had the privilege to welcome the 207 in attendance to the “Amsterdam Internationale Christlijke Kerk!” As I spoke the words, “Welcome to the historical Inaugural Service of the Amsterdam International Church,” several confetti guns went off filling the air with golden confetti! Menno Zoutendijk gave a powerful “Gebed!” (Prayer). Eldrin Rojas of Curaçao – a Dutch Territory in the Caribbean – placed membership! For joining the church, Tomiwa gave him a new copy of Raul Moreno’s book, “The Battle That Even Kings Lost!”
At “Avondmaal“ (Communion), Vienne spoke in Dutch and was very vulnerable in sharing about her life before becoming a Christian. (All of the “English only speakers” could listen to the translation through the “Hang Out App!”) In tears, Vienne spoke about being so promiscuous with “one night stands” that before becoming a disciple, she even contemplated becoming a prostitute – as in The Netherlands, prostitution is legal. She ended with a big smile as she shared about her baptism as a disciple of Jesus Christ! Then for “Contributie,” Tom & Dana Takac – citizens of and the future mission team leaders to Slovakia – spoke about the value of a “medicine that could prevent death!” To find this as a non- Christian, Dana became a pharmacist but came to understand that only God’s love gives eternal life! After singing in Dutch, “There Is A God,” Tomiwa preached an incredible “Preek” in Dutch! His sermon points were from 3 popular Dutch TV Shows: “I Love Holland,” “Farmer Seeking A Wife,” and “The World Keeps Turning,” which could be translated: “The World Keeps Turning Crazy!” He began by calling The Netherlands a “Disneyland for adults” – sex in Red Light District, drugs legalized, and if you hate your life, euthanasia is legal as well! Tomiwa closed his message reading Acts 2:29-38! His one challenge: Study the Bible!
Then came the baptism of Shemel – a 19 year old campus student! She chose Elena’s book “ELEVATE” for her “baptism gift!” At her “good confession,” there was a standing ovation! Next was our “new Inaugural Service custom“ of a “Raffle” so that everyone will hand in a Response Card, motivated to win a basket of goodies! This was outstandingly overseen by Susan Vrolijk! Two of the three winners were the mom (Jeanette) and little sister (Nayeli) of Javeline Mattheeuw – an amazing Amsterdam Team Member baptized in Curaçao, but from Amsterdam! She heard and obeyed God’s call: “Nationals go home to save your people!”. Michael & Michele gave a stirring “Afsluiting“ (Close), expressing how proud they were of the Amsterdam Church Family! We ended the service arm-in-arm singing, “Go Make Disciples!” For lunch, we ate with Kolbe & Rebecca – the Edinburgh (Scotland) Mission Team Leaders – and held our spiritual granddaughter “Baby Keeva” for the very first time!
Since we all had so enjoyed the meal the night before, again this evening, the Celebration Dinner for the mission team was held at the Sizz Indian Restaurant! Michael shared about his son in the faith Tomiwa – who had 20 visitors out – as “class personified!” Michele shared about the Amsterdam Family as “Heart!” adding, “No one tapped out!” Then Michele read about Miriam in Exodus 15 that all of the women followed her, comparing her to Vienne, saying, “You are The Netherland’s Miriam – full of heart!” We too praised God for Tomiwa & Vienne! Therefore, Elena & I will begin to pray that they will so “prove themselves” that we will – in the very near future – add them to the Crown of Thorns Council! During the Celebration Dinner, l heard that Moscow had the baptism of a young man named Hillary! Repentance should always be quick, refreshing and fruitful! Thank you for your prayers that are being more than answered, as God is moving extremely powerfully in the Eurasia and European World Sectors!
Lord willing, Elena & I will spend Monday trying “to catch ourselves,” as we have plans of flying back to LA on Tuesday! Looking forward to hearing all the “good news” from the First Hawaiian Missions Conference held this same weekend in Honolulu! And to God be all the glory!
We are family… filled with visions and dreams,