One of my key memories from our years of living in Ukraine is this: it's cold. It's very cold in Ukraine. I was reminded of this earlier this month when I spent a week in L'viv with our pastors from across Western Ukraine. You can see the snow, and the corner of a frozen pond, in the photo above.
Sometimes in our emphasis on church planting and evangelism and missions, we wonder: who pastors the pastors? How do they stay encouraged? Who brings blessing to them? This was not a big event, we had about eight guys together for three days of encouraging, equpping, training, and ministry.
Yes, we talked about strategy. Yes, we talked about outreach and mission and church planting. But our focus was on encouragement. This is what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.
Jesus doesn't simply send us on mission; he encourages us along the way. He also gives us the role of encouraging one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Encouragement makes the journey we are on much more sustainable. But make no mistake: even when we are encouraged, it is still very very cold in Ukraine.