10 July 2019
It is difficult to share what God is doing in our ministry without providing a background and short summary of the past five years. There has been a lot of change, a lot of new steps, and a lot of learning for the Lord to move a pastor of 35 years into this new arena.
I lead a network of ministers focused on missions called Armada, and the former Soviet Union has been a part of my call from early times of prayer in 1983. Ten years later, in 1993, I began spending much of my time preaching throughout the former Soviet Union, focusing mostly on leadership development and teaching in Bible Schools.
I was in Moscow teaching for a week when Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine in February of 2014. On March 2nd, I left Russia for the nation of Ukraine and flew to the eastern city of Donetsk, where I held another week long seminar in a great church.
It was in Donetsk that I became an eyewitness of the power of Russian propaganda. In a little over a week we watched a city celebrating the removal of their former corrupt President (he ran away to Russia) flip upside down to embrace radical, pro-Russian loyalties, violence and war. Not long after, Donetsk would become the Russian backed rebel headquarters of the entire invasion.
During that week the Lord showed me Russian armies gathering on the border which I marked on a map (later the map was proven accurate) and the Lord told me to go to Kyiv and speak to the new, interim President, Mr. Turchynov.
When the Lord spoke to me, I didn’t even know who the new President was, nor did I know that he was a former Baptist lay pastor. But when I learned these facts, I called the President of the American Pastors Network (APN) Sam Rohrer, and talked to him about the situation, and how the Lord directed me to meet Mr. Turchynov. Sam sent me a letter of introduction to the Ukraine President on APN’s letterhead, and with this I sensed the confirmation to step forward.
Before I could do this, I had to ask a Ukrainian Pastor to release me from a commitment I had made. I had agreed to accompany him and teach in his Bible school in the city of Luhansk. I explained my situation, and he released me, encouraging me to obey the Lord — and so I went to Kyiv, and he returned to Luhansk where later I learned he was killed. In all, five pastors I’ve known have been killed by the Russians, and many others kidnapped, tortured and beaten.
When I arrived in Kyiv the Lord opened the door for me to meet the President — but when the appointed time came, Mr. Turchynov sent his wife instead. Anna Turchynov (now a good friend) explained that the Russians had kidnapped one of their Admirals in Crimea, and that her husband had to deal with this emergency. She told me that she worked for her husband, briefing him on various subjects. She only saw him one hour a day as he slept in his office, but she assured me that whatever I would share with her, she would accurately share with him. She then said, “You have five minutes.”
The Lord had instructed me to say only two things: first, I told her my role in the American Pastors Network, and that we were praying for Ukraine. Second, I told her that if there were any difficulties communicating with the US government, our pastors would be willing to go knock on doors and talk directly to the Senators.
(I remember this so well because at that time in my life I had no knowledge or understanding of lobbying, nor did I understand that the Senators would really be the key. So, when people ask me, “How did you get into lobbying?” I can honestly tell them that the Lord did it!)
At this point, Anna began to weep, and I think she forgot she was a President’s wife. She was a pastor’s wife talking to another pastor — and with that confidence she opened her heart and began to share everything with me. Our five minutes turned into more than two hours, and when I walked away from that meeting my life was changed forever. I now possessed information and knowledge I was not “suppose to have” and returning home to the States key discussions with the US side began.
One of the first things the Lord instructed was to hold a leadership conference in Kyiv in June, 2014. Sam Rohrer, along with several others, including David Barton, joined us at the Hilton Hotel where we gathered slightly over 100 key leaders from the nation. Pastors, journalists, businessmen, and members of parliament gathered for a life changing conference — the right Word from the Lord at a desperate moment in Ukraine's history.
Later, I would go on to meet with Mr. Turchynov, and more than 16 other high level positions, but most of what I’ve been doing is in one way or another connected either to that fateful meeting with the President’s wife, or to the ripple effect of that first conference.
I began traveling back and forth, helping Americans meet with the right people, and members of Ukraine parliament meet with their counterparts. Early on we had a victory when we took more than a dozen members of Ukraine parliament to visit the speaker of the House, Mr. Boehner, in his office. Sam Rohrer was there with us on that visit.
I eventually settled my focus in helping Senator Portman of Ohio (the chair of the Ukraine Caucus). I have been working closely with his Foreign Affairs assistant, Tyler Brace, developing a strong and trusted relationship. I’ve lost count of how many times I crisscrossed the ocean bringing reports to Tyler, and going back with fresh insights to help develop a stronger Ukraine.
I’m happy to say that on one occasion Senator Portman shook my hand and personally thanked me for helping him, Tyler, and their office, to write three bills of legislation that were passed in the Senate to help Ukraine. They were very important, giving Ukraine much needed finances, lethal weapons, and special funding to help develop an effective counter-propaganda strategy.
I should also mention that I was given letters from the MIP (Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine) designating me an advocate to the Ukraine Caucus of the US Senate on the subject of countering Russian propaganda.
Through the legislation that Senator Portman passed, I’ve also become involved in the State Department on these issues, and the Lord has given some levels of influence on important subjects.
It’s also interesting that Tyler Brace left the Senator’s office for the Department of State, and is now the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Eurasia (Ukraine falls under that jurisdiction). Believe me, it helps to have friends in high places.
Another interesting relationship began in Kyiv when I met a young American who had taken a job working with the new Mayor, the famous Ukraine boxer, Vladimir Klitschko.
The NGO we formed in Ukraine, Nashe Pravo (which means, Our Rights) was hosting a contest in which more than 800 high school students wrote an essay on “Why Does Ukraine Need a New Constitution.” The mayor had graciously offered us the main hall in the city administration building to honor 55 of the winners — and I met this young man, who was from of all places, Lancaster, Pennsylvania!
We became great friends working in Kyiv, but the reason I mention him at this point is that he went on to take a new job in the Department of Defense. I’m not at liberty to tell you his position, nor his responsibilities, but I can repeat — it pays to have friends in high places!
I’m really only skimming the surface here — trying to draw a picture more than deliver a message. I could go on about the many precious and valuable relationships the Lord has made for me in Washington, DC: in government, in law, military, in think-tanks, business, and among the Ukraine diaspora.
One thing I will mention happened on December 7th of 2018. Seven Ukrainian soldiers were in the country of Georgia providing security for a Ukrainian politician. They were thrown in prison when the Georgian police received information (falsely made) that they were terrorists.
We tried to find out more as one of the men has been a friend of mine for nearly five years. I first met him as a young man. I saw him stand in front of his church in Kyiv while they took an offering for him and a few others, raising money so they could buy a gun, uniforms, boots and equipment and go off to the front lines and fight. He joined one of the most famous volunteer units called the Donbas battalion. They saw terrible fighting and were in action most of the time, and he rose up through the ranks to become the second in command.
Now he was in prison, and everything went quiet. It wasn’t a good situation. On the 20th of December I was in DC meeting with a friend I’ve made who is often in the White House. He meets with Mr. Bolton, our National Security Advisor. I can say that from time to time the Lord has used me to share information and perspective on what is happening in Ukraine, which is a great honor, but it really doesn’t compare with what happened next.
After I had met and our conversation had concluded, I said to him — and I had never done anything like this before — I said, “I have a favor to ask.”
He looked surprised, and I explained that these men were imprisoned in Georgia, and although I didn’t know about six of them, I could vouch for one. “I know him,” I said. “He’s a believer. Can you get him out?” From his look and response, I left his office without much hope. I honestly didn’t expect anything.
Imagine my shock when a few months later I received a text from the same man asking me, “Is your friend and his team free? The request was made, and we were told they complied, but we need confirmation. Can you confirm?”
Well, to be brief, they were free indeed — released from solitary confinement, stopped short of being extradited to Russia where they would most certainly be imprisoned for life, if not executed — all because the Lord had put me in a network of relationships of trust. I think that moment is when it really hit me. People trust me. I had given my contact one name, and mentioned six others — and they were set free. I later learned that it took two phone calls, and coincidence or not, Mr. Bolton was present in the country of Georgia when they were released.
I hope you understand that there are a lot more stories like this which I can’t talk about, and also a lot I simply shouldn’t put down in writing.
In Ukraine, it’s much the same. Of the six Presidents that Ukraine has had in her history, I’ve met 3 — and all three meetings so wonderfully arranged by the Lord!
I remember when I met the Minister of the Interior, Arsen Avakov (one of the more important leaders in Ukraine; he’s often referred to as a king maker). The Minister of the Interior is over the police force for the entire nation.
He wanted to know why America’s policy towards Ukraine had not changed after Donald Trump was elected. Was he wrong in thinking that Republicans held different values than the Democrats?
He asked me, “Why, when two of my police officers are killed in the line of duty, the American Ambassador didn’t call me? Why, when teenagers were kidnapped in the East, by Russians, and terrible things happened to them, the American Ambassador didn’t call me? Why, when a drunk Ukrainian hits a homosexual on the street, then the American Ambassador calls me!”
There are moments like that when I recognize it’s the Lord putting me in the right place at the right time to say the right thing. After this conversation, I presented a document to our Secretary of State, Mr. Pompeo, signed by more than 20 Christian NGOs in Ukraine, who filed a petition to remove the Obama appointed Ambassador to Ukraine, objecting to the Ambassador’s flagrant emphasis on LGBT issues, and trampling at every opportunity on the rights of the family. The Ambassador was removed earlier than expected much to the shock of the Democratic Party. There was quite a bit of controversy about that in the newspapers, as well.
Near the end of that conversation with Mr. Avakov, he told me that Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, would soon be in Kyiv and he would meet her. “She is liberal, and a friend to the Democratic Party. What should I say to her?” he asked me.
From my heart I said (without thinking) “President Trump met her not long ago. What he said should be available online. Find out what he said to her and say the same thing. That will drive her crazy, and you’ll make friends with President Trump.” I can still hear him laughing, and when I left he gave me a warm goodbye and said I was welcome in his office anytime.
I’ve been a frequent guest in the home of the patriarch of the Ukraine Orthodox Church, Filaret. He honored me the last time I saw him by presenting me a medal for serving Ukraine. He had learned that I had taken the First General Secretary of the Embassy of Canada to the front lines, and actually on through the lines several kilometers into the war zone, where we delivered loaves of bread to the elderly trapped between the sniper war.
My friend, this Canadian diplomat, learned that some pastors can do through the church some things that even the military cannot do!
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve done some lobbying in the past few years. To represent a foreign government to our government, you are required to register with FARA, and everything you do is public and transparent. It has it’s pros and cons, to be sure.
One client I represented was very controversial, and several newspaper articles went out about the issue where I was named. I learned firsthand the lesson that even bad publicity can be good publicity as it opened even more doors for me — the world formed some opinion that I must be somebody.
For me, I know I was doing the right thing and I will do more of the same. I’ve been given opportunities as a political consultant; have been called an expert on counter-propaganda and could possibly settle into any number of positions in DC. But what troubles me about these things is that they tend to control you, and a person can’t speak objectively, or be free from some form of manipulation from somewhere or someone above. And in the end these things remove the most important thing from your life — success can take you right out of ministry, and I’m not about to do that.
That’s why I depend on our ministry partners. They pray for my wife and I all the time. They support us. We’ve faced mountains of bills and expenses, and the Lord has always spoken to someone to help us out, and to move us along to the next challenge.
I know you get it that I’m willing to work on the secular side to pay the bills. I’ve done it, and I’ll do it again if it’s necessary. But I am more effective when I’m a “free agent” so to speak, the Lord’s man — where I can bring godly counsel needed at the most unexpected moments.
Our work with the churches continues. The pastors in Ukraine are essential to raising up the next generation of political leadership. Soon I will return to the East, (dates and locations must never be put in print) and crossing the line preach in six churches that are trying to survive in the war zone. As you know, the Church is the key to ministering to the suffering, and to the more than 1.2 million displaced peoples, while organizing the distribution of humanitarian aid.
I mentioned our NGO Nashe Pravo, which we created to work specifically in civil government; we have also created the Armada Union to satisfy Ukraine’s religious laws, in order to have an organization where we can develop these new leaders. It corresponds with our 501(c)3 organization in the USA, upon which the Armada (www.armadanetwork.org) is based.
I wish you could have seen the faces of about 600 students when I gave a three day seminar on “God and Government” literally 30 kilometers from the front line. There is something wonderful about bringing God’s Word to hungry hearts in such times of crisis. These young people are the hope of the future. They can rebuild their nation, and I firmly believe that Ukraine will become the pivot for the future of all of Europe. They are the new “Berlin wall” against Russian aggression, but they are also the “seedbed” of conservative values that will preserve and bring revival to Eastern Europe and Europe as a whole. The values of their society are God and family -- amazing that even through unspeakable famine and tyranny Communism could not wipe that out -- and our politicians must recognize that the liberal threat of Europe to the West is just as real and equal an Enemy as the Russian Bear to the East.
There is much more I could write about what’s been done, and even more to say about what needs to be done and what is coming next. I know God has put me in a Joseph or Daniel type ministry. I don’t really know how to define it any better than that — but I do know God has a word for government. The Father wants to speak to our leaders, and there is an amazing promise for an anointing to do that very thing:
Matthew 10:18-20 "And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you."
When you pray for us, and please pray for us, I think the general thing to keep in mind is that the ministry keeps growing (maybe that’s an odd thing to say, but I carry this sense of being overwhelmed, amazed, and I find myself asking the Father, “what are you doing, Lord?”), so please ask for favor with the people God sends me to, wisdom and direction, and finances to meet every need. Each time I return to Kyiv, I’m meeting with higher levels of government about greater issues; and every time I return to Washington DC, it reciprocates. The minute I think I’m getting a handle on these things, the Lord explodes and expands the horizons again.
Recently (July, 2019) I met with an amazing woman, a believer, who is a direct report to President Trump. She is over seven major departments inside the Department of State. When I entered her office, I was delighted to see a white board that had been recently cleaned, but in the corner she had left these words written “Psalms 51, create in me a clean heart…”
That’s my prayer, too.
As always, thank you for your help and your part in this ministry.
Jesus is Lord!