27 June 2009

Volunteer Student Missionaries-Final Day

An all night train ride got the VSM team to Kiev for their day of touring before the next morning departure to America. That started the day with breakfast at McDonalds. After you've eaten camp food for 10 days McDees sounds good.

The team saw many interesting sites that showed some of the history of Ukraine including the Friendship Arch and the President's Palace. They lunched on pizza and rested before moving on to more sites. They went to the big souvenir market, got ice cream and rested some more, they were all tired.

Dinner was at McDonalds (their choosing) before they went to the airport hotel to check in for a very early next morning flight. We do this because we live a long ways from the airport and through city traffic to get there so we've learned this alternative is the best. There was a time of sharing at the hotel which was a very meaningful exchange and a time of prayer where all felt the Lord's presence. Jeff told everyone that he was very encouraged by their love for God, for one another and the Ukrainian children. It was a blessing to watch the way they worked to maintain unity through sharing, forgiveness and understanding.

26 June 2009

The Gratefulness Spot - 365 Days of Gratitude

This group of ladies are the prayer warriors of our church. As pictured here, they are also scrapbooking what they are thankful for every day of the year. We meet monthly to set up our pages for the following month. Then they do some decorating, but also continue it at home. We all are learning to stay conscious of God's many blessing in life by simply writing at least one thing each day that he has done for us. It is a lot of fun as we get to add pictures of loved ones or even magazine pictures of things we just like or represent something we are thankful for. In addition it is a place where we can chronicle events that happen in the month and so it makes a diary-like record. Some also add verse, songs, poems, just anything that suits your sense of gratefulness. Why don't you try it? Any notebook will do and then let me know what you think. I'd love to hear.

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Russia to Georgia

Jeff returned yesterday from western Ukraine doing camp in the Carpathian Mountains with the Volunteer Student Missions(VSM) team led by Jamie Morgan. He now has his visa for Russia and will leave on July 2nd to meet another VSM team being led by Stan Scroggins from First Baptist Church of Magnolia, Arkansas. Jeff will get them to their destination in Georgievsk, Russia to do a basketball camp before he leaves for the country of Georgia. As you may recall, the troubles between Georgia and Russia prevents Jeff from flying directly from Russia. Therefore, he will come through Kiev for about 8 hours before he flies to Georgia. There he will assist a Baptisit Medical Missions International (BMMI) team led by Dr. Ralph Izzard that will travel to the city of Gori where bombing first started last year with the Russia/Georgia conflict. Jeff and a BMMI team were in this town when the first bomb was dropped on the country. Pray that there will be peace this time and they will accomplish their mission.

Bethany Church of Bucha-Camp 2009

The teachers are planning and preparing intensely right now for the camp that is going to start on July 14th. The theme for this years camp is Friendship, ending in the last day with the friendship of Jesus Christ and salvation in Him. Please be in prayer for those of us getting ready here in Ukraine and for local missionary Vicki Nelson who has so graciously agreed to assist us in the English lessons.

In addition, we have a team coming from Antioch Baptist Church of Conway, Arkansas led by Dan and Cindy Williams. Please be in prayer for them and the team members as they prepare now as well. Pray for a safe flight and no baggage lost.

This is the time when I am so thankful for those who send us craft supplies. With 100 kids doing crafts for five days, this is when we use up a lot that is sent through the whole year. We are always grateful for those of you who lift us up before heaven's throne for we know without it we are nothing. May He be glorified.

VSM Train Ride

This morning the Volunteer Student Missionaries (VSM) arrived by overnight train from the Carpathian Mountain region in western Ukraine where they did service projects for a church and held a children's camp. Jamie Morgan said they had a good ride with many interesting sites along the way, while it was still daylight. She also said the team was looking forward to eating at McDonalds. This is understandable and is par for every team that comes from the states after 10 days of foreign food. Missionaries say, "only in Ukraine do we eat at McDonalds."

Now they have a day of touring the lovely sites of Ukraine's capitol Kiev. Since we live far from the airport, this evening they will spend the night in the luxury (after 10 days of roughing it) of the airport hotel before an early morning departure. This evening I will tell you about their touring day.

Yesterday I wrote about the Children's Fair and did a slide show. This was part of it.

Many have sent us their old costume jewelry to take apart and use in crafts. Well, not long ago I thought of another use for it. Some things were quite lovely and I thought it a shame to break them up. Therefore, we now do a board of jewelry for the Children's Fair. This fair is held at the end of each Sunday school semester. The children earn points for memorizing verse, good behavior, etc. At the end of the semester we have a big assembly and fair where they are issued play money with which to buy goodies. The kids, especially the older ones, really like the pretties. This photo is Leah, our daughter, manning the "sale" as the kids buy with fun money.

25 June 2009

Closing Day

I was able to speak to Jamie Morgan, the team leader tonight as they were on the train heading back to Kiev. She said today was a pretty normal day as the others, but bitter sweet. They played some new games, had Bible lessons and a final assembly where everybody cried. The children thanked them for coming and expressed how they enjoyed learning about America and getting to know all of the team. This was the time when they all gave each other gifts. Jamie said the Ukrainians accompanied them to the train and carried all the girl's bags. Ukrainians are an extremely hospitable people and will stay with you to the very last moment. Your day in America will be our night so pray for the team to be able to sleep on the train. Tomorrow will be a day of touring the beautiful golden-domed capital of Kiev.

Children's Fair, Bucha Church, Ukraine

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24 June 2009

Wednesday, Friendship Day

Wednesday's theme, shared by Sarah was Friendship day. She shared that it is not just about honoring your best friend, but reaching out to people who need a friend. It is not so much about having a friend as it is about being a good friend.

Another Club of the Future worker, Nadia, had many great game suggestions that the team used. By the time they finish camp they will have a lot of good experience that will serve them well in future camps or work with children. It was a good day with improved weather.
This is a short report as my communication was limited.

23 June 2009

Christmas in June

Breakfast is at 8:30 each morning. The team is getting a good taste of Ukrainian culture with the food. Not that it is so different from America, but for example, for breakfast they had pizza and a boiled egg with mayonnaise on top. They don't really have a "breakfast" culture here and usually eat simply whatever they had from the day before. Not everyone was crazy about the egg idea.

This morning the Christmas story was told and the team explained how we celebrate. A young Ukrainian woman, Anastasia led them in this, prayer and memorization of Luke 2:11.

One game that was fun today was dropping a candy cane (with a ribbon tied to it) into the top of a pop bottle with your mouth. The kids were also told the meaning of the candy cane. Games went well.

Lights are out at 10:30 every night for the whole camp. Jamie asked that you all pray for health and good unity with the team. They are enjoying making friends with the Ukrainians and teaching them English along with learning Ukrainian. Pray that they stay strong and finish strong.

Exciting First Day of Camp

Everyone started Monday morning by gathering outside the camp gates for a grand opening. There were balloons hung and a ribbon cutting. You cannot imagine how Ukrainian kids love balloons. A cultural note (c.n.) here is that balloons are the ultimate in celebration to kids and adults alike. I've even seen them at weddings. From there they went to a general assembly where Pastor Roman made introductions all around, followed by tea and cookies. Another c.n. is that everyone in Ukraine drinks tea all the way down to small children. That is hot black tea, by the way, for you southerners, regardless of temperature outside.

They are teaching the children about American holidays and Monday was Thanksgiving. Brad did a talk about that in the morning and how we celebrate. Then it was followed in the evening with some history on the holiday.

The children split into three groups so they could rotate through three bases. English was taught by Sarah, Brad did games and Kelsey did music. For crafts they did a turkey by tracing their hand and learned how we use the turkey in our holiday.

There is also a free time each day with lots of sports equipment for the children to play with. Jeff challenged Pastor Roman to a game of ping pong (heavy duty athletics, if you ask me).

In the evening after dinner was a treasure hunt organized by one of the Ukrainian ladies (did I mention there is a whole host of Ukrainians help our team) who works for Club of the Future. The children were in teams and had to answer some 20 questions from the Bible that led them to objects to locate objects like worms, grain and string. The winning team got prizes,what fun. Christmas will be the holiday for today. Keep praying.

By the way, Jeff told me last night that since early on he has not been leading morning devotional and left that for Jamie to do as team leader. He is there to make sure everything runs smoothly and occasionally he translates as the need arises, but they have others there translating, like our daughter Leah for one.

21 June 2009

Weekend with the VSM Team

Jeff is having phone troubles so I couldn't get much from him and he couldn't send me pictures, but I will put them on here later whenever I get them. Email is pretty iffy, but Jeff can do a little through his phone.

Yesterday they toured the Carpathian Mountains and got to do some climbing and explore caves where bandits held up in the 1800's. They heard some very interesting history about the area. Pastor Roman and his whole sweet family jointed them later for a hot dog roast up in the mountains. Jeff said there was rain, but it didn't stop them. Praise the Lord, it sounds like they had a good time. I"m sure they took lots of pictures.

Sunday they will be in services and it will be an opportunity again for testimonies and singing. One of the team members said that they now understand that God never intended for their team to go to Russia (as was originally planned), but to come to Ukraine. May the Lord bless. Pray for camp which starts on Monday.

20 June 2009


Last night in church services Jeff preached and Jamie told the church about Volunteer Student Missionaries. The team also sang and Jeff was impress with how well Jamie and the team did. I told them before leaving here they would have to sing and everyone was saying "no way."

Today the VSM team tours the Carpathian Mountains. They are not as tall as the Rockies, though tall enough to allow skiing, but just as beautiful with thick pine forests. The weather is rainy out west though it is shining bright where I am in the central part of the country. "I pray Lord that you protect them as they travel and give them a good experience of your glory." During morning devotional Jeff talked to the kids about the glory of God and how he is ever present regardless of the weather or circumstances. They are having daily morning devotionals with Brother Jeff.

By the time they get to camp next week they should all be fairly over their jet-lag and ready for some fun with the kids. This should prove to be a good experience for all.

19 June 2009

The Brains and the Brawn

Yesterday morning the team painted an 8'x40'fence on a church property. Now that may not sound like much, but they scraped, primed and painted two coats. Jeff said it would have been a two day job for a couple of men.

In the afternoon they went to the river which was a 20 minute walk. Brad was the only one brave enough to go swimming. They played volley ball with some of the youth and just had a time of fellowship with them.

In the evening Jeff and Jamie went to tour a village where there is a new group of believers (about 10) meeting in an old house. This old house was built in the 1800's and is the site where they want to put a new church. Jeff and Jamie decided the tear down project of that building was a bit beyond the group (safety wise).

The team is all staying in a bunk house that is used for skiers in winter. Timothy and Natalia have been gracious to open it for them.

Today, since the tear down was too dangerous, the team has painted another church fence in the town of Stree. This is the main Baptist Church where their sponsoring pastor (Brother Roman) works. It was built by Lutherans in 1874. After WWII all Lutheran churches were abandoned due to Nazi occupation. In Soviet times it was used as a bus station. Many churches were repurposed during those times. It was later given to the Baptists if they would build a bus station next door, which they did. The sons and daughters of those Lutherans have returned to sing in the church their parents once worshiped in.

After lunch today, Jamie and Jeff will tour the camp site for next week. In the afternoon the team is working on testimonies and singing. This evening is a worship service. After that they will walk downtown and "hangout" with some of the youth and get to know them better. Pray for these relationships.

18 June 2009

VSM Team in Stree, Ukraine

Here's a team shot from yesterday just as they were taking off for camp. The team was blessed that all luggage arrived. They drove 12 hours to arrive to a large bunk house and a good nights sleep. Today, Jeff says they are painting fences on a church property as a service project. Then this afternoon they will meet by the river with a youth group for fellowship. Please pray for the health of the team as Jeff, Leah and one other left coughing.

17 June 2009

Volunteer Student Missionaries (VSM)

Last night we had this group overnight (with the exception of the two van drivers, front right) in preparation for leaving today. As I write they are still on the road headed for western Ukraine which is about an 8 hour drive. They will be in various locations, at first doing service projects, then they will do a camp for kids. I was able to send a few craft projects out with them, but they came quite equipped themselves. Front row, L-R is Jeff Franks, BMA missionary to Ukraine (also my hubby), Leah, our 22 year old(yesterday) daughter, and our two drivers, Sergey and Tolik. Back row on the left is Jamie Morgan, BMA secretary to Jerry Kidd at the Missions Office and team leader. I'm sorry to say that with only one night I did not get down the names of all these kids, but the rest are what make up the team that traveled all this way to experience the Ukrainian mission field. Please be in prayer for them from now until they fly on on the 27th.

10 June 2009

Day 4

Dear VSMers,

Hope you are having a good time in camp and learning a lot. You know there is nothing greater in life you can pursue than to learn about the God who made you. He is the one who created the heavens and the earth, who gave some of you blue eyes and some of you brown, and colors the flowers and the trees. I know this week you are getting a little peek into my garden. It is my little piece of heaven on earth where I meditate as I tend what God has given me. It has often been my hope that someday in heaven God would allow me to be one of his gardeners.
When you look at a flower you notice that parts of it are green and parts of it are sometimes of many varying colors. It is truly amazing the way God has made the variety of plants. Look closely at the inside of a flower. Some of them are fuzzy and some are shiny. If the flower gets the same water through the roots and it gets the very same minerals that feed and nourish through those same roots then there is a question to consider. What makes parts of it green and other parts different colors? What makes part of it straight and part of it curly? What makes parts of it smooth and parts fuzzy? Have you ever stopped to think about that? What makes some people tall and some short? This is the hand of God in our universe. There will be many that will give you other reasons, but just know that they are deceived by the evil one who wants to fool all of us. Then pray for them.

I enjoy sharing this lovely yard that God has blessed us with by inviting people over for fellowship and sometimes group meetings. I think it is a place where people can draw nearer to God. I also grow things that I take from it and use in my ministry, such as dried flowers, ferns, weeds and grasses. That brings us to the topic today of my ministry.

God gifted me early in life with a love of drawing and all things creative. In college (Fine Arts) I majored in sulpture and drawing. Never did I guess that God would use these things in ministry as I was still not a believer at that time. I say "gifted," not so much that my talent was great, but that my desire was strong. There are those who are gifted with great talent, yet never do anything with it. Yet, if you have great desire, God can use that to do things with you far beyond anything you might imagine. Here are some things I never imagined.

In Sunday school I have a team of ladies that go into the various classes and do crafts with the children, This same team decorates for holidays, children's evangelism events and for our VBS. In addition we do crafts for 5 days of camp for up to 200 children. God blesses us with folks who send us materials to do these crafts.

I have ladies, including your sister Ava, who sends us old jewelry and buttons. With this I do bracelets and crafts with ladies and youth. It is my opportunity, as we work, to talk to them about God's love.

The most recent ministry the Lord has given me has been that of scrapbooking with ladies and youth girls. There are two courses I do. One is "Heritage of Faith" which scrapbooks one's walk of faith. The second is called "The Gratefulness Spot, 365 Days of Gratitude." With this one they write something they are grateful for every day. One more I am working on is a prayer scrapbook. The fun part of scrapbooking is that it brings to life our walk of faith, things we are grateful for and what we pray about. In addition and most importantly, it becomes a witnessing tool for ladies to share with others just by showing their books.

Maybe if you ask your mothers, they might have some old buttons or old jewelry (broken is OK) they don't need that we could use in our church and classes. Would you please pray that God would use me in ministering to ladies and children through the work he has given me?

Love in Christ,

Sister Coleen

Day 4, Photo, Working with Children

Day 4, Coleen in the Garden

Day 3, Missionary Life, Photo

Day 3, Missionary Life

Hello boys and girls!

I hope you are enjoying your time in VBS! Miss Coleen asked me to write you about my mission. I wish I could be there with you, but since I am not, please feel free to write me any question you may have, and I will try to answer it. First, I want to tell you about my work as a BMA missionary...

What I love to do the most is train national missionaries to start new churches in new places. A national missionary is a church planter who lives in another country. I enjoy my mission because I get to be friends with some of God's called and most dedicated people. Some of my happiest moments in the Lord are when we discuss truths from God's Word and talk about how to follow Jesus in making disciples. Another fun part of my work is traveling to different countries. In addition to Ukraine I have worked in Russia, Belorus, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Lebanon, and Jordan. I wonder if you can find all these countries on the map?

Of course, I miss my family when I am on the road, but between trips we do have good family time and I thank God for the way he encourages me through my wife Coleen and Leah, our 22 year-old daughter. I like coming home to a loving family. Coleen has made our home and garden beautiful and sometimes in the evening we just sit outside and talk about things as we look at the flowers and bushes.

There are other things I do in mission work. For the past 6 years I have been teaching Bible conferences for Iranians who are unable to study the Bible in their own country. Many of them are new believers who are attending house churches. Several of them have been arrested and some have been imprisoned for believing in Jesus. We have to be careful, so I don't write about the places we choose to meet. Also, this summer I have the joy of accompanying two Volunteer Student Mission teams to their ministry locations, one in Russia and another in Ukraine. In July I will work with the BMMI medical mission to the country of Georgia, where we will treat patients and tell them the good news of God's love in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanks a lot for letting me share with you! Being a missionary is a great joy and privilege, and also a lot of hard work. It is not for everyone, even though we all serve as missionaries in some way. Do you know someone who still needs God in their life? Will you ask our Lord Jesus to help you share God's love with them? In that way you are also being a faithful missionary for God's glory!

In His love,
Bro. Jeff

09 June 2009

Why We Are Here


Day 2, Aspects of Missionary Life

Hey Kids,

Greetings again from Cracow, Poland. Attached is a map of Europe that shows Poland. Ukraine is just to the right or East. I remember 15 years ago when we first came to Ukraine my geography for this area was not as good as it is now. Finding our BMA missionaries on a map will improve your geography and that will help you in school. Plus it is interesting.

Today I want to tell you about why we came to Ukraine. Most missionaries go to a country because they feel called by the Lord. When I was in college my dad, an unbeliever, had an interest in Russia and would on occasion give me books. When my husband, Brother Jeff, was in the army at age 19, he went to language school and studied the Russian language. See how the Lord had all this in mind even when we were still young? We had been married several years, and had two children before we sensed God's call for us to come to this part of the world. Everything happens in His timing.

Our desire was and still is that people would know the love of God and experience the freedom and joy of walking in His love. There are many in the world who live in darkness (without Christ) and need the light of our Savior. Under the rule of the Soviet Union the dominant thinking and teaching was atheism. That is the false belief that there is no God. In Ukraine, which was part of the former Soviet Union, most children were taught this way. I say most, because there were groups of Christians who were persecuted and imprisoned for their faith. Some were killed for their faith. We can thank the Lord that we were born in a country that has had freedom of religious choice until now. We must pray and act so that we do not lose our remaining freedoms!

Ukraine now struggles to become a democracy, but the forces of evil are strong and corruption is in almost all parts of government and life here. The evil one does not want to let go of places where he has a stronghold. Would you pray for Ukraine today that God would help people to see the light of his Word and that democracy would grow? Also, pray for us that God will use us to bring that light to Ukraine and the many other countries in which Bro. Jeff works.

Tomorrow, if we can find an internet connection, then I will tell you about Brother Jeff's ministry and how the Lord is using him, not just in Ukraine, but in many surrounding countries to train men to take the message of Christ to their own people.

Joyful, Hopeful, and Trusting, I am your sister,

Coleen Franks


Missionary Life, VBS Letters

In the next week I am writing letters to a church VBS(Vacation Bible School) class in Texas that I thought might be of interest to others. Check back each day for a new letter.

Dear VBSers,

Greetings from the country of Poland. That is where Brother Jeff and I are right now. Poland is west and north of Ukraine. One of the of the aspects of missionary life is that sometimes you have to have official permission to continue living in that country. That is why we are here. Bro. Jeff has to renew his visa. For that we go to the Ukrainian embassy in Cracow, Poland. Every missionary who lives outside the United States must have a passport (identification). A visa is a stamp in that passport that says you have permission to live in that country. Ukrainian laws do not allow us to do this from within Ukraine. Unfortunately, this is time away from our ministry, but it is part of what most missionaries have to do.

When we are in another country as we are today, we have the opportunity to look and see how the people there live and the cultural influences that affect them. In Poland we see that this is a very strong Catholic country and there are many Catholic churches, at least one in every village.

We cannot speak the Polish language, but there are many here who speak English, especially younger people. In the past Poland was under the control of the former Soviet Union. This was the government of Russia that dominated over many countries. Therefore, some people in Poland do not like Russia or the Russians. So when we are here we speak English first to see if they understand that. If they do not, then we try Russian which is what we speak in Ukraine. That way they know we are not Russian and are more friendly to us. Many of the older people still remember Russian and sadly remember being ruled and dominated by the Soviet Union.

So, that is why we are in Poland this week. Would you please pray for us that God would bless us and all would go well in getting our documents done so that we would not be delayed in returning to Ukraine.

Joyful in serving,

Sister Coleen and Brother Jeff