Sunday began with a trip to the church to load up everything we would need to hold services in the park…evidently, it takes pretty much everything in the church…lol. We had to load it up, transport it, then it was all carried into the park from a neighboring street…it was quite the undertaking. Mark and I went to one of the local markets to pick up the “fruit cakes” with chocolate on top, then headed back to the park.
Friday was a day where we spent the morning shopping for groceries, etc. as we continued preparations for Saturday’s youth conference. We got to spend some time with the Christian Family over lunch as well. They had recently moved to a new, third floor apartment and we were invited over for some pasta salad and strawberry shortcake. This was a great time of fellowship…they will be heading back to the States in a couple of weeks to celebrate their sending church’s 50th anniversary. Please pray for them as they travel.
It was my privilege to preach at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Odessa for Bible Study last night. As I will be every time, I preached with the help of an interpreter, named Victor. It is very difficult for me to preach this way, having to stop every few words and to not know if what I am saying is being communicated with the same meaning. I also realized how much I depend upon humor and interaction with the congregation in my messages and this making things difficult too. Oh, well…I will do my best. It seems as though people are receiving the messages well and participating in the services too.
At Lighthouse Baptist Church, we have three missionary families that are working in this ministry. Mark and Lydia Priem, who have been in Ukraine now for 17 years, John and Dawn Spillman for 10 years, and Jeff and Helen Christian for 2 years after 2 years spent in Belarus. It has been great to see everyone and look forward to more time spent in fellowship, in fact we will be heading over to the Christian’s for lunch in a few hours.
We are preparing today for a youth activity that we will be having tonight with the young people. We will be playing wiffle ball and basketball in the park, and then passing out literature for the church and soul-winning with those who join with us in the activities. This has been an effective way to get the Gospel into the hands of people here. Please pray that I don’t overdo it on the court tonight, as I have another week here and I would like to spend it injury free. I will let you know how that turns out…
After a great day of fellowship with the missionaries, we loaded up a car and van at the church and headed out the village of Lamamskoye to preach. It was a beautiful drive through the countryside and farmlands. When we got to the outskirts of the village, we were flagged down by a police officer, who hitched a ride with us out near the church, where we dropped him off then proceeded to the missionaries’ home for dinner.
I arrived in the Ukraine yesterday afternoon via Warsaw, Poland without incident. Though the flights were long, and delayed, and long and delayed, I got to my destination intact, with all of my luggage…amen. I was greeted at the small airport by Bro. Mark Priem and Bro. Jeff Christian. They grabbed my bags and we headed back to the Priem’s house. On the way, we stopped at an open air market where Mark was to order cakes for this upcoming Sunday’s anniversary services. We also picked up some fresh fruits and vegetables, so they can keep me on track with my dietary needs.
After we dropped of my luggage at the house, and picked up Lydia (Mark’s wife), we left to run errands and do some more shopping. We visited the church property and got a tour of the immediate area surrounding their home and church. Then, we returned back to the house for dinner and some fellowship. I enjoyed catching up with Mark and Lydia, talking and laughing, it is a blessing to be here with them. After a while, it was time to clean up and get some much needed rest to ward off the “jet lag” and be ready for the week.
We have had a wonderful time today and we are getting ready to travel to a village where I am preaching tonight. Once we arrive, they village church has prepared dinner for and I am looking forward to meeting all of them. The weather here is hot at present and a little humid, so it is taking a little getting used to…but, I get to preach tonight without a suit in tie! Something I rarely do…but when in Rome…I mean Odessa…ok.
I will be posting updates periodically through the week, but I ask that you pray for all of the meetings. Pray that souls would be saved and that I can be a blessing to the people, especially the missionaries. Please pray for the Priem, Christian, and Spillman families…I will meet some more at the youth conference this weekend and I can’t wait…talk to you soon.
Just got off of the phone with Bro. Hal Baker and Bro. Bob Johnston. They got Mary’s bone marrow test results back and the pathologist couldn’t find even a trace of Leukemia!!!! Did you read that…no more Leukemia! The cancer is in remission…we serve a wonderful, miracle-working God! They are overwhelmed with joy at the news and the doctors are amazed with the results. God’s love and care for His servants…amazes me. What absolutely good news and what an awesome answer to prayer…I am so happy for them.
Of course we need to continue to pray for them. Mary will receive another three rounds of preventative chemo and will stay in the hospital until the 2nd week of May. She is still vulnerable to infections, so they want her to remain in the sterile environment of Barnes Jewish. The bone marrow transplant will be placed on hold, and they won’t proceed unless the cancer comes back (we will pray that it won’t). After her release from the hospital, they will have 4-6 months of follow up visits as they continue to get their lives back to normal.
Would you please take some time today to thank the Lord for this answer to prayer? God is so good and He is worthy of our praise…it is due Him. Thank you so much for your prayers. Now onto helping them overcome the financial hurdle that this will bring. Will you still prayerfully consider helping? I hope you do…thank you once again.
Spoke with Bro. Bob this morning and he said that Mary is having a good day today. Last night she didn’t have a fever and the head-to-toe rash that she has is getting better. She is still having to contend with the sores in her mouth, but they are treating that. She is still needing to receive blood and platelets pretty regularly and the doctors are hoping to be able to test her bone marrow soon. Originally, they were looking at testing on the 7th, but they have given them a window out until the 11th for that. Prayers are that the chemo and other drugs they have been giving Mary will be working on the Leukemia, if not, they will give her another round almost immediately. Their spirits seem to be up, and their daughter Stephanie is currently with them.
They are encouraging her to get up and move around, so I think she was going to take Bro. Bob out for a walk this afternoon 🙂 Some sun and fresh air will do them both some good. They didn’t pack Bro. Bob’s leash with them, so hopefully there won’t be any run-in’s with security…Please continue to pray that the treatments are working and for grace to deal with side effects. Also, please continue to consider helping with a love gift for the medical and living expenses. Donations can be sent to Berean Baptist Church, c/o Mary Johnston Medical Fund, PO Box 73042, Puyallup WA 98373.
As of last night, Mary was still struggling as she is receiving her treatments. With all of the swelling in her organs, her spleen seems to be giving her particular trouble. The doctors aren’t sure why, but she has been receiving pain meds and other things to allow her to rest. Another concern is that her fevers have spiked again. This usually happens after the chemo treatments finish, but it has begun earlier for some reason. Another new development is that she now has a rash from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet, most likely a reaction to the drugs. Another possibility perhaps, is that with her immune system compromised, she is now manifesting an allergy to old pig farmers (Bro. Bob)…but I am no doctor. This round of chemo will be finished up today and then a short waiting game to see how it has worked. Please continue to lift them up in prayer…
Called to get an update on Mary today…when Bob answered the phone, his voice sounded a little funny but I figured it was just because he was tired. I asked him how Mary was doing and he said she had a bad night last night. I then asked if there were any changes and he said, “Three of her toes fell off”…it was then I realized that my pastor, Mark Wagenschutz had Bro. Bob’s phone! I am glad that my pastor is able to go down and spend a few days with them…I hope Bro. Bob can keep him out of trouble…
Mary did indeed have another rough night. The Leukemia has or is causing a lot of swelling in her spleen, kidneys, liver, and intestines. The doctors are giving her some medicine to help with kidney function, however, she has been in a lot of pain due to the swelling. Once this round of treatment is done, they have told them that they will try to get some bone marrow to see if the treatments are helping. They will also be doing a different 3 day, experimental treatment after that. If everything goes to plan, she will be there until April 21st before they try to phase her out of the hospital and continue with with follow-up treatments. Please continue to pray that the drugs will work and that God will answer all of our prayers for Mary’s recovery…
P.S. – Mary still has all of her toes…hehe
Mary has been on the chemo now since Friday afternoon and it is making her extremely sick. She had to receive more blood and platelets on top of that yesterday. The chemo is causing a great deal of pain and she pretty much all of the other side effects that chemo treatment brings. Bro. Bob stated that they have her sedated, but the pain is too much. She just lays there in a fetal position and they try to get the nausea under control. There was a moment of levity on the phone when he was explaining that he doesn’t do well with vomit and that he has to keep a bucket going for him too. Dawn is on her way back to the hospital to help and that will be good for him so he can get some rest. They 24 hour a day chemo will continue through Friday at noon, and we are praying that this works. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; supporting tottering knees…Storm the throne of grace and persevere till Friday, and pray that grace and mercy will come down…