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Greg Yoder

Feeling ‘used’ in a good way

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Orphanage 40 child

Aleena at Orphanage 40.

There are days when you feel inadequate. Then there are days you KNOW you made a difference, even if it was a subtle difference. Today was that day for many of my teammate on the Orphan Outreach trip to Russia this week.

Everyone got up, ate breakfast and checked out of the hotel by 9:00. Actually, for the first time all week. I was late. I thought I heard, be down with your luggage at 8:00am, breakfast at 8:30 (which were both correct), but here’s where I got side-tracked — I heard, but down by 9:00am, but we won’t leave probably until 9:30. So, to me that meant be down by 9:30, right? Well, not so much. Long story short, I was late — the VERY last person on the bus.

The reason for my delay was uploading video from the previous day.

Excited little boy

Excited little boy at Orphanage 40.

However, today, we were heading to our final stop at Orphanage #40. This orphanage is for children with eye issues — at least ‘officially’. However, there are MANY other issues, too. Cleft lip and pallet, down’s syndrome, severe fetal alcohol issues and the like.

We arrived at the camp along the Gulf of Finland at around 10am. We walked into the woods to a secluded camp setting. There was on newer building that looked like a long motel that you’d see in the U-S. However, the other buildings were wooden structures far enough apart that it takes a little time to walk from building to building.

Team member Olga with Oxana

Team member Olga with Oxana

I started off with the most functional kids. These 12 or so children were those who had eye issues, but we high functioning. Almost all of them were 6 years old. These children listened so well. They did crafts, putting fish stickers on a fish tank looking piece of blue foam. They shared the creation story and they all listened.

The second group of kids, the largest group, of about two dozen kids were those younger and a little less functioning. They were kids with down’s syndrome and fetal alcohol issues. However, most of them could communicate, but they couldn’t control themselves. This group was able to do the craft, but that’s about it. This was the ‘super charged’ play group.

Then, the final group of kids were those low functioning — Down’s syndrome children, fetal alcohol, and other disabilities that require hands on attention.

I visited each group this year. The first group, there was a little boy with my name Gregori, or Gresha. I got a chance to talk to him. He seemed proud that we had the same name. I was able to watch them do their craft and tell a Bible story. It was great to see the happiness on their faces.

We finished with them at around noon, boarded the bus and headed back to St. Petersburg for lunch.

Our next to the last night devotions were really sweet. Ellie shared from the Word, but many more people talked about what God is doing in their lives because of being on the trip. It was a great time of sharing.

Our night ended at McDonald’s. Most got ice cream and just hung out laughing. We’ve done a lot of that on this trip.

Open hearts, closed hearts – mission team unwavered

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What a dramatic difference between Wednesday and Thursday.

First, let me apologize for not posting anything on this blog yesterday. I got everything done — pictures uploaded, video made and scripts written — only to realize the time on my internet card had run out. Unfortunately, no free wifi in Russia. At least not at the hotels we’ve been staying in this week. So, this will be two updates in one.

Orphanage 2

Sergey is a wonderful little boy. We met him last year.

Yesterday, we got up at the same time, ate breakfast and headed in teams to Orphanage Camp #2. This is the camp where we had so much fun last year. We really connected with a lot of the kids. And, it was great to see so many of them again this year. It wasn’t good they were there, but it was fun seeing them grow and seeing them laugh.


When I arrived, we walked back to the field where we would be holding our vacation Bible school program. We basically did the same activities we did at the previous day. However, when we made the circle to begin the day, my little friend Sveta walks up and hands me a piece of watermelon. I’m not sure, but I think it was a part of her breakfast. What a thoughtful, loving little girl. I made her eat it. I told her I had already eaten breakfast and she needed to eat it.

After singing a few songs (in English), we broke up into groups. Craft, recreation and memory verse. I went to recreation. Why? Not sure. Knees my age aren’t supposed to be there any more. I may have to start volunteering for crafts in the years ahead. 🙁

Two girls at orphanage 2

Two girls at orphanage 2

It started raining in the afternoon, but despite the rain, we went ahead and did “The Everything” for the teenagers. If you haven’t seen it, click here.

Following the skit, Melissa Blough gave her testimony and I presented the Gospel. Following the skit, there were a few who had questions about it. One girl who will leave the orphanage was challenged by Masha, one of our interpreters, about what she’ll be doing with her life. Many of the boys in the group got very quiet, reflecting on what they had seen and heard. While no one made professions of faith, we were seed planters.

As we got ready to leave the camp, I got the shock of my life. A teen girl who befriended one of our team members last year, pulled me aside. Through an interpreter asked some questions about adoption. I’d like to ask you to pray for this girl we’ll call Ella. She came to Christ last year during camp. She just needs a chance. Pray God will give her one either through adoption or a Christian mentor program.

Today, was a different day altogether.

The camp was cold in every way — emotionally and spiritually. Kids in this camp were actually displaced by a fire. It was in their living area. So,

Teen girl in Orphanage 14.

Teen girl in Orphanage 14.

they were in strange surroundings. When we arrived there wasn’t the typically running beside the bus yelling and screaming. Children weren’t playing happily. There was just a dark cloud.

This was the camp last year where the director has taken our gifts to the kids and took them for himself. The man run his orphanage like a boot camp. There’s much anger and little love. When we walked in the kids hardly even noticed we were there. We organized some duct tape crafts and dream boxes. One boy took his box, threw it out the window and said he was making believe that it was a bomb and he was a terrorist.

While, discouraging, we were able to present the skit. I was able to talk about the fact that they’re either a slave to sin or Christ and that in reality, we have NO freedom. I told them that Christ died for unlovely sinners. He gave His life for people that are actually His enemy. I said it didn’t matter the sin, it was paid for at the cross.

There wasn’t much, if any, response. But, they DID listen. Again, we’re not called to save people. We’re just called to preach the Word and be faithful. God will provide the increase. I’m praying God will protect these kids for angry caregivers and that he’ll replace this unfriendly, unkind director with someone who actually loves the kids.

Pray for the kids as they return to the orphanages next week.

August 17, 2011 Russia Video

Click here to view photos

Laughs in Russia Video

Norway terror may hurt Christians

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Police have arrested 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik of Oslo, Norway on the island of Utoya in connection with the deadly bombing and shooting that killed 92. Investigators allege Mr. Breivik detonated the car bomb and then drove to Utoya and opened fire on teenagers attending a camp there organized by the ruling Norwegian Labor party.

There’s more tragedy to this story. On his Facebook page he calls himself a ‘Christian’. That has led to news reports calling him a ‘radical Christian’. Does that sound familiar?

What will this mean for Christian work in Norway? It’s still unfolding. According to news reports churches across the country were open all weekend to help Norwegians deal with the tragedy. In a pluralistic society that doesn’t tolerate intolerance, who knows what this monicker ‘fundamentalist Christian’ will reveal.

The other question I have is how will the rest of the world treat Christians in response to this tragedy? In the United States, Christians have already been marginalized because of what they call ‘extreme views’.

What extreme views? There is only one way to heaven, through Jesus Christ alone. There are moral absolutes. I could go on about our views, but those are the ones that bother non-Christians the most.

This tragedy could further marginalize Christians. As left winged political pundits begin focusing on Mr. Breivik’s Christianity, my fear is that all Christians will be painted with the same brush.

However, we know that killing 92 people isn’t what Christ would have us do. Jesus said to “love one another.” How many times did He tell us that?

Unfortunately, when we’re attacked, it’s hard to do that. That’s why we need the help of our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer every day for being a Christian. They simply keep loving, in spite of the trauma they face.

My prayer today is that God will allow REAL Christians to come forward in Norway. That REAL Christians will show the world what Christianity is all about and that His name would be glorified through the pain.

MNN 20th anniversary & Challenge For Change

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20 years is a long time. When a ministry celebrates milestones, typically they do it to highlight they’re ministry. They hold dinners, concerts, or other events to help promote their work.

Mission Network News is celebrating 20 years of ministry. I wish Cornerstone University could take credit for the idea of starting MNN, but the idea for MNN came from a couple of organizations — World Concern and the Raymond Group. After God used these two organizations to developing the program, they graciously gave it to Cornerstone University to be the next steward of this broadcast that’s calling Christians to action.

To celebrate 20 years of service to the Lord, Mission Network News is challenging YOU to do something for God during the month of July. We’re calling it, Challenge For Change.

Challenge For Change is a month long initiative that will provide you ideas and resources that will help you do something for God. For example:

We are partnering with a group in Colombia that is dropping Christian materials (Bibles, Christian literature and pre-tuned, solar-powered radios that are pre-tuned to a Christian station) into areas of the country controlled by the Marxist FARC guerillas, areas where churches are closed and pastors are often targeted for assassination. We now offer a kit that has all the materials needed to make 10 parachutes for $10. The people cut the material into circles, glue or sew on the ribbon, and tie on the zip-lock bag which is used to hold the Bibles or other materials. They then send the parachutes back to us, along with $5 to get them to Colombia and provide fuel for the plane that drops them into the FARC areas. We also have the pattern for the parachutes posted online if people want to get their own materials and just follow the pattern.

Each day you can go to our website. When you do, there will be suggestions that you can do to share your faith, or reach out in love to your neighbor across the street or around the world. We’ll have simple suggestions like, praying for Jesus film teams trying to reach an unreached people group. Or, getting a group together and holding a vacation Bible school in the former Soviet Union.

Why are we doing this? Because we know ALL Christians should do something for God, but sometimes we just don’t know WHAT to do. So, in July — every day — you’ll know WHAT to do.

As part of the Challenge for Change initiative, we’re also giving you an opportunity to shoot some video of YOU and your family and friends in action. You can go here to do that.

Check back with Mission Network News as we get closer to the Challenge for Change initiative.

MNN criticized, let me explain

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Over the last couple of weeks Mission Network News has been criticized for our coverage of the Egypt riots. It’s been kind of interesting to hear their complains. While I understand their criticism, I’m not sure it’s founded.

The first critique came from someone who didn’t like the characterization of our report. He wrote:

“I was listening to the radio yesterday (Feb 3) and heard the report on Egypt. I was struck by the curious wording that< “the situation is becoming dire for churches and Christians.” While I am aware that there is tension between the religious groups, my impression is that not only the Christians are experiencing the things that were then mentioned in the report. However, as I heard it, the report left the impression that the challenges in daily life that were mentioned were unique to the Christian population. I found this to be unhelpful in nurturing compassion for ALL people of the region who are in a difficult situation.”

This story was a story we aired after already reporting on rioting and why the thousands of protesters were (are) in the streets. Because we had already reported on the issues facing the average person, we thought it would be good to focus on Christians and the local church. So, we did that. Unfortunately this person took issue with that report. Again, I agree that EVERYONE is affected, but every OTHER network (including ours) had already talked about everyone else — so we wanted to focus on the story behind the story. For MNN, that story was about the church. Which also fits our mission.

The second criticism came today:

“I feel you need to retract or correct your paragraph from E3 Partners today. You wrote, “Assist News reports that 11 Christians were
killed by radical Muslims”. This portrays that the crisis in Egypt is Muslims vs. Christians, and this is NOT the case at all! I’m hearing
from several sources that Christians and Muslims are unified in their push to oust Mubarak, and there is no religious sectarianism involved.
In this case, casualties were random, and Christians are 10% of the population. I urge you to guard against fanning the flames that this is an extremist revolution like Iran had 30 years ago. Focus your readers/listeners to love and reach out to Muslims, not to hate and fear them.”

While I understand his comments, I’m not sure I can do that. First of all, the story we aired was about a coordinated effort to attack and kill Christians. They were Muslims. And, they were radicals. In order to do something like this, I think you’ll agree that would have to be the case.

For many of you who read or hear our news every day, you know we talk about loving Muslims and sharing the Gospel with them. We know this is important. In fact, we have encouraged people to show them love, hospitality and point them to the Injil (New Testament) to help them understand the person of Jesus.

Are we perfect? NO. Do we make mistakes? Yes. Are we painting the picture that Muslims are bad? That’s something only you can answer. We do tell stories about Christians who are attacked by not only Muslims, but also Hindus, Buddhists, Communists and any other organized groups. Unfortunately, the Islamic faith has jihad as part of their core beliefs. Does the mean we’re ‘hate mongers’? It just means we’re telling the truth. Sometimes the truth is painful.

Sometimes I find it interesting that Christians want us to ‘dumb down’ our news to make it more friendly. Unfortunately, many of the Christians who face persecution around the world just want to know that other Christians are standing beside them. They want people to know the suffering they’re experience. They want Christians to pray. So, we honor that by providing as much information we can, without causing safety issues for the individuals and/or ministries.

Why am I talking about this? Providing news and information can be polarizing. Even though we’re talking mostly to a Christian audience, Satan can use it to divide us. We can’t let that happen. We need to use this information to circle the proverbial wagons to pray, reach out with the Gospel and/or gather funding to help these ministries.

Each week we write dozens of stories about what God is doing around the world. Much of the news focuses on persecution of Christians, disasters, outreach/evangelism, politics and other popular news topics. Why? So, we can tell you how it affects Christians around the world and how God is using it to bring people to Himself.

The bottom line (as one of my friends likes to say) is that MNN has the privilege of being able to talk about God’s work around the world every day. My prayer is that MNN will glorify God in each story we air, encourage Christians to get off their ‘duff’ and do something for Him, and provide news and information that will encourage the body of Christ.

Christmas, a time for THE story

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I am humbled by the fact that believers, especially in creative access nations, are using Christmas as a time to share their faith. They believe (as we in the west should) that people are dying without Christ and time is running out. I’ve been so convicted this Christmas. What am I doing for Him this Christmas?  Am I really acting as though it is urgent?

The past few days I have been very proactive in talking about the Christ of Christmas. It’s kind of easy in West Michigan. There are more churches in West Michigan than any other place in the United States. So, I don’t face the persecution my brothers and sisters face in Asia and the Middle East. So, why is it that I don’t talk about it more often?

I’m making a concerted effort to look for openings to share Christ. Let me encourage you to do the same.

On the air with Janet Parshall

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I had a great time this afternoon with Janet Parshall on her broadcast called, “In the Market” on Moody Radio. I always enjoy my time with her. And, I know why.

Janet is the kind of woman who appears to be very passionate about what she does. Because of her passion, she studies the issues she talks about. She doesn’t ask insignificant questions, she asks probing questions to get passionate answers to encourage the church to do something about it.

Sometimes I wish I had a two hour show to talk about the issues facing missions and evangelism around the world. More importantly, to talk about issue that will motivate Christians to do something for God.

If you didn’t get a chance to listen to our conversation tonight (Tuesday, Sept 14), you can. Listen to it at

It’s a new year and God is good

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Well, it’s 2009 and already the news has taken a turn. We’re no longer talking about the incredible amounts of persecution in India, now we’re watching the unrest in Gaza and the Israelis continue their offensive against the Palestinians. They retaliated for Hamas’ rocket barrage, breaking a cease fire in the region.

According to reports, more than 900 people are dead — 250 of them are children.  Thousands are displaced because of the constant air attacks.

In the last two weeks we’ve been criticized by both pro Israel supporters and pro Palestinian supporters. I guess that’s how you know you’ve done a good job covering a story when both side think you were biased for the other side.

We have some interesting things planned for MNN in 2009, but they are all dependent upon funding. Pray that funding will continue to come in to MNN. We hope to apply for two grants in the next few months. One is for equipment. We need four new computers for editing. The other grant we’re applying for would allow MNN to be not only translated on our website in Spanish, but translated on the radio in Spanish. That would allow MNN to be on Spanish speaking radio stations in North, Central and South America.

We also plan to do more behind-the-scenes videos and pictures. We’ll have trip pictures/videos and in studio pictures/videos. In fact, maybe I’ll do one tomorrow.

International Evangelical Missions Forum – Final report

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I would like to say how sorry I am for not keeping this blog up-to-date while in Ukraine. The only place I had internet access was at the forum, which ended Saturday. So, I wasn’t able to provide a complete report. However, there will be reports Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday about the forum and how it will affect outreach in the forum Soviet nations.

In the meantime, I’ve uploaded a video so you can see what took place during the historic two day forum.


International Evangelical Missions Forum – Day 2/ Irpen, Ukraine

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We began our day with a devotion about prayer. The text was Romans 15 when Paul asked fellow believers to pray for him as he traveled. The speaker used the text to encourage fellow Christians at the forum to pray for each other. He told us it’s important to uphold each other in prayer. He says we tend to focus more on lateral talk with one another, rather than in prayer for each other. Prayer can’t be ignored.

Then Sergey Guts, pastor and president of the Center for Christian Cooperation in Keiv, Ukraine made a presentation about Mission Today and Tomorrow. He said, “While I appreciate funding from America (who manage their money well), but where is the big heart of the people of (the CIS)? While Americans manage money well, we need to do the same. We need to be ready to give own last shirt off our back,” to support missions in the CIS.

Guts says, “We want teachers that are ‘active’ in ministry because if they’re active in what they’re teaching, they’ll be good examples and their ways will be imitated by their students. There are no bad students, only bad teachers.”

Following Gusts, Pastor Andrey Murzin, president of the Center for Christian Cooperation, talked about ministry amidst the Orthodox Church.

Pastor Victory Kulbich, President  of the Center for Christian Cooperation in Kiev, talked about outreach to children in the region. He’s encouraging Christians to begin fostering children. He says this is a missions need. As Christians foster these needy children, they’re sharing the Gospel and that’s planting churches. Since 1991, the number of churches has tripled in the region. 70-percent of churches have been planted in rural villages, but not in the major cities. The question is — ‘How can we plant churches in major cities?’ Kulbich says, “We missed th mark. Today we’re focusing on planting churches in major cities.”

According to Kulbich missionaries from Ukraine are working in 17 countries as missionaries. Ministry in Portugal is taking place. Russian speaking workers are in Portugal seeking work. Many of them are street people — unable to find work. Now Russian speaking missionaries are there reaching out to them. New churches are being planted there and they’re being filled by these people seeking work there.

He says another major issue facing Ukraine is prostitution. Kulbich says, “40-percent of Europe’s prostites are coming from Ukraine.” He says Christians need to prevent human trafficking from the CIS. “But, we have been silent on this issue.”  The church needs to be connected to this work so these young ladies will come to Christ and prevent them from selling their bodies and from becoming slaves to the prostitution industry.”

Genady Brutsky, Baptist bishop for Minsk region and director for the Association for Spiritual Renewal in Belarus. There are 300 churches and 13,000 members and 7,000 children who attend sunday school classes. However, that’s down from 14,000 because of successful negative media propaganda calling Christians sects and cults. Brutsky says the doors are official closed, but outreach continues with personally one-on-one evangelism.He says, “now we preach the Gospel and sometimes we use words.”

Leonid Biryuk, bishop of the Association of Churches of Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Pentecostal) of Belarus.

Pastor Peter Mitskevitch, President of Moscow Theological Seminary, gave us an update on the realities of what’s happening in Russia. Expatriate missionaries are given three month visas, making it very difficult for foreign workers. Registration, licensing and accrediting their work is required now. All educational institutions may require accreditation, including Christian institutions.

Following a coffee break, Pastor Mikhail Cherenkov, Vice President of the Association for Spiritual Renewal in the CIS, talked about the media — print, broadcasting and internet. He says Christians need to be aware of their audience and assess their work.  Some media outlets may believe they’re reaching lost people, when in reality they’re only reaching a Christian audience. i.e. Christians radio stations saying they want to reach non-believers when in reality they’re major demographic is the Christian population.

Cherenkov says,”Relovancy and boldness are issues facing Christians who are using media for ministry.” He says creativity is an issue that’s preventing Christians from reaching out effectively. Many groups will take information and redistribute and repackage the information. “We need professional journalists, who are Christians. We don’t want Christian journalists to talk only about Christian issues.”

Dennis Gorenkov, director of the Association of Christian Students of Ukraine, made a presentation about education. He says if Paul went on his ministry journey, he would probably visit the university campus because they’re the most influetial. He says, “The church doesn’t have any influence on the university.”