Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Tajik Love Story

Best recollection of the story as told by Zhenya to Paul Hypki

Olga is from the northern part of Tajikistan, near Khujand, and Zhenya is from Dushanbe. Olga is a pretty blue-eyed blonde and Zhenya is a tall, handsome Korean man. They both attended a Bible League sponsored seminar on worship conducted by Dave and June Bullock, several years ago and that’s where our story begins.

While at the seminar, Zhenya and Olga met and became acquainted. Zhenya decided he would like Olga’s address so he could perhaps get to know her better, so one day he sat in the same row of chairs as Olga. He handed the person next to him a piece of paper and asked him to write down his address. Then he asked that the sheet be passed on to get other people’s addresses – what a crafty man! After the seminar ended, they wrote each other a couple times and exchange photographs. Zhenya put Olga’s picture in the back of his Bible, but as time passed, life was busy and they both forgot about the other.

A year or so later, Zhenya began thinking it was time for him to get married. He began praying that God would show him who the right woman would be for him. He had determined a set of criteria that any woman would have to meet to be considered as a candidate for marriage. 1) She had to be a Christian. 2) She had to be serving in Christian ministry. 3) She had to like kids and youth. 4) He would really prefer it if she had blonde hair. 5) He would like her to have a good figure. 6) She should be two to three inches shorter than he is. He prayed for some time about finding a wife who met these criteria.

One day as he was praying for a wife, he opened his eyes, and there was the picture of Olga staring at him. It evidently had slipped out of the back of his Bible while he was praying. He looked at her picture. Was this God’s answer? He checked his criteria. Christian – yes; involved in ministry – yes; likes kids – yes; blonde hair – yes; a good figure – yes; a little shorter than he – yes. All six!

Zhenya send Olga a letter asking her if she was planning to attend the next Bible League seminar, but she was still in school and had exams that week, so she could not come. Zhenya was very disappointed – how was he going to ever see her again?

He decided not to attend the seminar, but then changed his mind at the last moment. He walked into the classroom, and there she was! He was amazed. So at one of the breaks, he approached her and said he had something serious to speak to her about. But Olga wasn’t feeling well and declined to talk to him. Now what?

The next day he tried again. Today Olga agreed to talk with Zhenya. He told her he had been praying for a wife and that he was wondering if she would consider dating him.
Now about the time Zhenya was praying for and saw Olga’s picture, her heart remembered and warmed to Zhenya. So when Zhenya asked her if she was interested in dating him, she immediately said yes. They spend the next few days as boyfriend and girlfriend, spending time together, holding hands, talking about their dreams. But, then the seminar ended. Olga went back home and back to school. This time they continued writing each other.

A short time later, Zhenya worked up the courage to visit her family to talk to her father. He was very worried. It is difficult enough for a young man to ask a man for his daughter in marriage, but he is Korean. What would Olga’s father think?

He arrived in Khujand and found Olga’s house. He had told Olga that he was coming, and Olga’s mother was glad to meet him. But her father was nowhere to be found. Zhenya waited and waited, but her father never came home. Zhenya left that evening very discouraged.

The next day Zhenya decided to try again, but this time he would come unannounced. He looked in the window, and there was Olga’s father, sitting in a chair watching television. Zhenya went around the back of the house and came in the kitchen. Olga and her mother coached him, encouraged him, and pushed him into the room with her father. Zhenya introduced himself. Olga’s father ignored him and continued watching TV. Zhenya tried several times to start a conversation, but Olga’s father just kept watching TV. Finally, Zhenya went back to the kitchen – “What am I supposed to do?” he pleaded. So they strategized in the kitchen and decided that all three of them would approach her father. They all entered the room where Olga’s father was sitting. Her mother turned off the TV. Zhenya explained his love for and desire to marry Olga.
Olga’s father wasn’t impressed. He told Zhenya he wasn’t sure and he would have to think about it. Zhenya explained that he loved Olga so much he would even consider eloping and marrying her without his blessing. But Olga’s father still need time to think about it.

Zhenya returned to Dushanbe, still without Olga’s father’s blessing. But Olga and her mother kept working on him and several days later, Olga’s father reluctantly agreed to allow Zhenya and Olga to marry.

In June 2005, Zhenya and Olga became man and wife. They are a beautiful couple, obviously very much in love with each other and the Lord Jesus.

Dad didn’t come to the ceremony – he’s still thinking about it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pray for "Rupert"

My friend "Rupert" is in trouble with the authorities for being a Christian in a very non-Christian country. Please pray for his safety.

Contact me at if you would like more specific information.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


A few years ago, everybody was talking about WWJD। People were wearing WWJD bracelets and putting WWJD bumper stickers on their cars. There were WWJD tee-shirts and pencils, even WWJD Bibles.

The premise was that when you found yourself in a “situation” where you were not sure what to do, you simply asked yourself “What Would Jesus Do?” Then you would know exactly what to do! Very simple conceptually, and I really do think this slogan has helped many people make better decisions about significant life choices.

Is WWJD Consistent?
Problem is, WWJD never got me excited. There was something that just didn’t smell right and I could never quite put my finger on it. Until today.

WWJD? First of all, there is precious little we can do to find out what the historical Jesus of the Gospels was really like. None of us have ever met Jesus in the flesh. (Did he speak slowly? Did he have a good sense of humor? Did he look people in the eye when he taught?) What we know about Jesus is primarily from reading the four canonical Gospels, which in my Bible only take up 105 pages. We get very little additional insight into the “historical Jesus” by reading the rest of the New Testament. Much of the Gospels are filled with the actions of Jesus and the reactions of the people around him. There is nothing recorded about how Jesus made decisions – no “Seven Steps to Godly Decisions.” We just read of Jesus being thrust into incredibly complex, difficult circumstances and are amazed at his insight and wisdom in how he manages each situation.

Then there is also the fact that many of us have not taken the time to get to know Jesus very well. Most Christians will agree that we can meet with Jesus anytime through prayer and this should be a priority in our lives. But I’ve heard it said that if you want to humble a Christian, simply ask them about their prayer life. We boldly tell others we can know Jesus personally, but find we are so busy we simply don’t take the time. And when the going gets tough, that is when most of us rugged, independent westerners decide we need to take action – usually without talking to Jesus first.

And then, what is the “right” answer? When you ask a group of people What Would Jesus Do in a specific situation; you will often get as many answers as there are people in the room. The problem is that deep down we have a natural tendency to believe that God thinks much the same way we do. Many people’s image of Jesus is a mirror of themselves, or who they aspire to be. So to ask people with limited historical knowledge of Jesus, with little personal time with Jesus, “What Would Jesus Do” is leaving the door open to many, many different answers.

Finally, when we ask WWJD, what are we thinking about Jesus? Are we even thinking that Jesus is present? I fear that for many of us, the expanded version of WWJD is something like this: “Jesus was a great moral teacher, but he died a long time ago, so what might he have done if he were alive and in this situation?” Jesus was a great moral teacher and he did die nearly 2,000 years ago. But Jesus is not dead – He is alive! He is here now and will guide us in our difficult situations. But even though we believe Jesus is alive, we still often do not act as if he is present. What Would Jesus Do implies that we need to take it upon ourselves to figure out what Jesus would have done in this situation as best as we can based on what we know of him. Once we have figured that out, then we make a decision on whether we will choose to do what we think Jesus would have done. Then we buckle down and exert effort and discipline to do what Jesus would have done!

The Alternative – WIJD?
I once asked a friend why God keeps us here on earth. Since we continue to sin, and when we get to heaven we will no longer sin, wouldn’t it be better if God would take us home as soon as we come to faith? We then discussed how God chooses to continue to bring people to faith by working through his people – those who are already in the Kingdom. Each and every one of us is kept here with a purpose – to expand the Kingdom of God in our neighborhood.

What I have come to realize is that Jesus is still alive today. He is not on vacation, sitting at God’s right hand enjoying mangos and passion fruit, waiting for the his grand entrance at the Second Coming. He is active in this world. And Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is working through those who have received Him. So the question is not What Would Jesus Do? but rather: What Is Jesus Doing?

The big picture here is: “Jesus is God crammed into a body, he is alive, he indwells me by his Holy Spirit and he is engaged in the current situation. What is it that Jesus wants to do, right now, through me?” This reframing of the context significantly changes our responsibilities. WWJD is an intellectual, analytical evaluation of a situation. Then we have a moral choice whether to do what our analysis determined is the right course of action. WIJD is a decision to turn to God in the moment, and ask him to act through us. It is asking to be filled with and led by the Holy Spirit so that our words and our actions are not our own, but rather guided by the Spirit of Jesus who lives in us. In this way we can be Jesus to the world around us.

So the next time you find yourself in a difficult situation (or any situation,) ask yourself: WIJD? What Is Jesus Doing – through me?