God Answered My Grandpa's Prayers - Through Me
I’d never been invited to hell before. I had been TOLD to go there a number of times by some less-than-friendly hockey fans, but to actually be invited there by smiling Ukrainian brothers in the Lord with twinkles in their eyes was a new twist to me.
But this “hell” I was being encouraged to descend into wasn’t the same one those unscrupulous sports fans were referring to. It was a mining pit 1 kilometer deep into the earth in the southeast part of Ukraine in what is called the Donetsk region. It is there that thousands of men risk their lives daily knowing that 400 to 500 of them will die annually in cave-ins, gas explosions, elevator accidents or other disasters which they risk in the hope that they will be paid about $100 per month. “Hope” is the word since in the past there have been periods when they have continued to work in such hazardous conditions without being paid for up to 12 months.
As a good Bible School graduate, I pondered my lessons from missions class about cultural sensitivity and immediately replied in a spiritual voice, “No way, Baby”. I have five kids and a great wife who, I hope, would not appreciate being single again, and so I stayed up on the sunny side of terra firma.
At times it hits me as I’m walking down a village street or preaching in an unheated church, “I live in the former Soviet Union.” I have raised my family for the last 10 years in the land of Lenin, Stalin, Breznev and death. Amazing, but when Kruschev pounded his desk at the UN threatening that the children from the west would be raised under the grand idea of communism, who would have believed that his son would eventually become an American citizen? So how did I get here?
My grandfather from my mother’s side, Nicolai Martichenko, left Ukraine in 1914 for Canada. Shortly after he died in 1989, God gave me a dream where I saw my grandfather come to me, lay hands on me and pray. At that moment, something transferred from heaven into my spirit. I started taking short term trips there, and we started making plans to move to Ukraine as a family with a target date of May 1994. Our home church, ‘The Tabernacle’ in Buffalo, New York with Pastor Tommy Reid had graciously agreed to send us.
Meanwhile in January of 1994, I was invited to what was then the Toronto Vineyard to hear a guy named Randy Clark. The first night of what is now known all over the world as the Toronto Blessing turned out to be an icy, two-hour drive where I was tempted to turn back and not fight the snow. I guess I was a God-chaser before the term got popular, so I kept driving.
What happened that night affected church history and mine, too.
We moved to Ukraine having been touched by the Father’s love and Spirit’s power and jumped into evangelism and church planting. But although we had been blessed by the mighty River, we felt frustrated because we knew that there was more for us.
In 1997 at youth camp, the River started to trickle. A couple of teenage girls started to laugh spontaneously under the influence of the Spirit as they were sitting in a meeting. Even though I was watching it and understood what was happening, the moment came and went as I stood there passively. We finished what was a great camp, but there was a gnawing inside, a feeling that I had missed something.
I realize now that I had made two mistakes. First, I should have actively and consciously blessed what the Spirit was doing by saying, “More Lord,” rather than just standing by passively and watching. I know now that the Holy Spirit wants to be received and embraced when He shows up, not just evaluated like an actor performing on a stage. The Holy Spirit had shown up to partner with me, and I should have taken the hint and responded by partnering with Him. We are co-workers with Him. (I Corinthians 3:9) My passivity had grieved Him.
Second, I was too concerned about what others in the building would think. Like it says in the book of Proverbs, “The fear of man will bring a snare.” Both unbelievers who had rented us the building as well as believers from theologically conservative backgrounds were present. I believed that if “it” broke out, it could mean holy chaos and I didn’t want to risk it. I didn’t want to risk being embarrassed by what the Holy Spirit was doing. OUCH!
But God gave me another chance.
The following summer at that same youth camp, Ralph Howe from Saskatchewan came as a speaker. God came down in power and threw out our program and introduced His. Those 80 young people were laughing, crying, casting out demons, hugging and just basking in the presence of God. I knew then that God just didn’t want us to be blessed by this, but to carry it. So we invited John Arnott to come and to our utter amazement he did in May 1999.
Near the end of those meetings with more than 2000 people in attendance, John turned to me and said, “Take it, Dan” and slapped me on the hands. So I took it. There was an impartation. Although “Holy Ghost fireworks” didn’t seem to go off then, something changed.
After the conference, as my wife, Gwen, and I were driving John and Carol to the airport, John turned to me and said, “Dan it would be great if you and Gwen could come to our first Pastor’s Leadership School in Toronto next month”. Well, we would have loved to but we were in Canada the previous year and airline tickets in June for a wife and five children were a hefty draw on our budget. We politely thanked the Arnotts for the invitation, saw them off and wondered what to do next. I remember thinking how the last day of the conference the Holy Spirit had whispered into my ear, “Without wood the fire goes out”.
A couple of nights later I dreamed that I was sitting under the plexi-glass pulpit in Toronto with John pointing his finger at me and saying, “It was God who TOLD me to ask you to come to Toronto!” So the next day we checked into ticket prices for our family and found out that it would have cost close to $4500 US to get us over. I thought, “Thanks for the dream, God, but though it’s nice for my heart, my wallet can’t handle it.”
A few nights later, I had another dream. (I realized later that dreams often occur to those who are hard of head and heart). In this dream Mary Magdalene was breaking the very expensive alabaster flask of precious oil and pouring it out as worship on the Lord. The passage goes on to say that the fragrance of that oil filled the whole house. I instantly knew the interpretation. This trip to Toronto was going to be like that expensive flask of precious oil, but if I obeyed, in spite of the expense, He would fill the whole house of Ukraine and the former Soviet Union with this fragrance of His Presence. I knew that if I responded positively to these dreams, we would enter a new realm of prophetic destiny.
We called Germany and found tickets from Amsterdam to Toronto for half price. So we loaded the kids in the van and drove 3 days to Amsterdam, caught our plane, and attended the school.
THE FRUIT OF OBEDIENCE
God has been faithful to His promise. Because we obeyed Him by attending the school, the fragrance of His Presence is now spreading throughout Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Kyrgystan, Latvia and down into the Russian-speaking congregations of Israel.
There are approximately 40 churches in our relational renewal network now, and we can’t keep up with the invitations to go minister to them. We are now holding many schools of different lengths similar to the one in Toronto. In the Fresh Fire section of this issue, there are several testimonies of miracles and healings that happened to people who recently attended our “100 Days With God School.”
The River of God’s presence is widening in Ukraine.
Co-laboring with God is causing us to flow beyond our former boundaries. My Grandpa’s prayers are being answered every day through me and my family as we let the River of His presence flow through us to the Ukraine. Please pray for us. We want Him and we want MORE!