Yet Another Reason To Pray

I’ve found you can’t count on Captain Ukraine to come to your rescue – not even when you are being chased by four angry men. While Beth was visiting her mom in east Tennessee, I was using the time to visit as many of the regional church plant coordinators as possible. As such, I took a bus down to a crime infested, mob controlled town of Uman, where I was to be picked up by a Ukrainian colleague to begin a four-province tour of the southern and western regions of Ukraine.

On the Bus to Uman one summer day


My friend was about 15 minutes late in getting to the bus station and as I was waiting, I saw a young, Korean man (just a boy really) being held up in a “Dropped Wallet” scam. Even though the boy was sharp enough not to fall for the scam and had not touched the wallet, it didn’t make a difference to these thugs. They had him pinned up against one of the buses,  with his hands high in the air. Three worthless scoundrels surrounded him while another kept a look-out. As I saw the look of fright on this young man’s face and his eyes as big as apricots, some deep paternal instinct kicked in and I wasn’t able to remain indifferent.

What happened in the next few moments remains a blur… charging, shouting, grabbing the boy from their midst, shoulder blocking, pushing him onto his bus… it all happened so very quickly, efficiently and effectively.  When it was all over, I looked back at the stunned expressions on the faces of the four villains and knew my adventure was only beginning. Faced with fight or flight, I chose flight and for the next 10 minutes we played cat and mouse. It ended cordially enough when I was finally cornered by one of the thugs who wasn’t quite so brave when the odds were one on one.


He summoned his boss who had a much clearer head and hadn’t been at the scene of the crime. After a few minutes of engaging in “self-defense witnessing”, the boss concluded, “Alright, let’s do it this way. You don’t interfere in our business and we won’t interfere in yours.” In reply I said, “Sorry Andre! I can’t agree to that! You can’t do those things in front of me. I can’t act differently (than I did) because Christ lives in me!” Andre, the boss, let out a small exasperated sigh, “O.k., we won’t do anything in your sight. You can come out of the terminal, nobody will touch you.”

Of course, I’ve thought about all the ways I might have done this differently, but in this instance, I see the grace and sovereignty of God in so many ways and I remain convinced that God orchestrated this entire event for His glory.  Was it for the benefit of the Jewish man by whom I sat on the bus for three hours having a time of significant and meaningful conversation? Was it for the benefit of the Korean boy who was able to scramble onto the relative safety of his bus? Was it for the benefit of the mafia leader that needed someone to tell him he was going to hell unless he repented and turned away from his sin? Was it for my benefit, so that I would have practice in trusting God in difficult circumstances? Or was it for your benefit as a prayer warrior, to encourage you to pray for missionaries more faithfully? Only God knows the answer to these questions, and I’m o.k. with that.

To be honest, I don’t like asking our prayer partners to pray for our safety when we travel. It seems so mundane. Yet after these events, I’ve changed my tune a bit. After all, it is impossible to send out a prayer update when you’re being chased by four angry men.


7 thoughts on “Yet Another Reason To Pray

  1. Eric, I am certain you do not remember me, we had lunch a few years ago after a world missions conference in Knoxville at Cedar Springs. I have not forgotten you or Beth, your families or your ministry. I am still praying for you and for them. Thank you for all that you are doing for the Kingdom of God. Your recounting of these recent events puts me to shame, considering what life you are living for Christ compared to the life I am living. Yours a life of “offering yourself”, giving of yourself even, if need be, to your hurt. Mine… not so much, though I desperately grow weary of not living a life worth Christ dying. Keep pressing forward brother and keep “not remaining indifferent”. To God be the glory.


    1. Of course I remember you brother David, although I must confess, my mind had you connected to another church we love that gathers in Oak Ridge. I fear you give yourself too little credit and us too much. If you see something in me/us that is worthy, it is God’s grace. As you said, “To God be the glory”. Amen… ALL the glory!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. From Captain America – “when the whole world tells you to move, your job is plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell them no, you move”… no a bible quote but truth regardless.


    1. Good quote Gregg, and from a great source. A wise man once said, “All truth is God’s truth.” Regardless of who said it, we know who the original Source is. BTW, I like the genre, but Marvel and DC have been putting out some pretty raunchy heroes as of late. Cap America is one of the most virtuous as he was raised in an era when society as a whole still believed in universal absolutes.


  3. Thank you for taking a stand against the men/boys who would attack one defenseless young man. Of course, we pray for your safety – and for the stand that you took to profess Christ living in you to the leader. We know that you planted seeds whether he knows it or not. I add to my prayers for a fruitful journey to see your parents.


      1. I think the answer to those questions is “All the above that you mentioned!” That is a big order all at once,
        but God gave you the strength & power for that time and you acted on it, to God’s glory.
        Sorry I missed this email. I think this is when my great grandchildren were visiting CA from New Hampshire
        and I was organizing the family to make the most of their visit!.


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