Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God…made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8 –This is at least the second time, if not third, I have heard this scripture reference while I’ve been in Ukraine. It is a reminder to me that when I go home, I should find ways daily to be a servant to others—not only while I’m on a “mission trip.”
            Today was a very “chill” day. We attended church in the morning—3 sermons today! :) In the period of inability to understand the preachers, I tried to flip through their Bible and figure out the translations of the names of the books of the New Testament. After this summer, I have empathy for small children in church…when you don’t understand what is going on, it’s difficult to keep yourself occupied and not fidgety! During the service, the kids who attended camp sang “As the Deer” for the church. We sang this song at camp in Ukrainian, and it was nice for them to be able to sing in front of the church.
            We are in prayer for several on the team, as well as a couple of the kids who are not feeling well right now. We pray that everyone will feel fully better tomorrow and that it will not affect our purpose here. Tomorrow will be a day of planning/practice and then the first day of our discipleship/peacemaking training with the kids here.
            After church today, we had lunch with several friends and helpers and then a brief planning meeting with our translators this week—Lera, Valya, and Andrew. There was a funny moment when Crystal gave the materials for the training to the translators and asked if the wording of a cartoon made sense. They took once glance and there was a unanimous “No…” Unfortunately due to Google translation, the wording did not make sense in Ukrainian, and apparently it was quite comical. As Lera put it, “We can understand what this is saying, but…some of this is a bit…wrong.” We were all giggling at their reactions. At least the team tried to make less work for our translators—it was a good effort!
            For the rest of the day, we were able to rest a bit after a long week. I was able to Skype with my parents and Mike, and even Charlie and Chloe! It was nice to see a little bit of home, even though Charlie and Chloe (dogs) don’t understand the concept of the sound being connected to the face on video, haha.

Group photo in front of the church...note that the majority of the girls wore black and white--not planned! Maybe it was the rainy day...

Anette and me

Crystal and me...

Lillian and me!

Planning...discussing the translation
Necklaces for the girls as thank-you gifts from the GoMercy team
Canadian maple syrup for Andrew

Ha...retrieving a lost do what you gotta do...
Deep in conversation...notice Natalka's new casts on her legs. She is still young enough that they can be straightened; we are praying this will happen.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011
            Today was a busy day—some things were difficult to experience, but there was some fun sprinkled throughout the day as well. We began the day by traveling to a nearby town and visiting a hospital in the area—I cannot include many details because of the hospital’s wishes. We saw several kids who have been abandoned by their parents—suffice to say it was difficult to see those beautiful babies who are unwanted by their own mothers and fathers. There was a baby who was just lying in his bed, sobbing. He wanted so badly to be held and loved by someone. Another one was just a few months old, maybe younger, and was upset when he wasn’t held. There just aren’t enough nurses to provide the proper care for these babies. When we came back for lunch, Vasya was telling us a little about the government system and the birth of a baby in a family—when a baby is born, the family receives money from the government. With each additional child, they receive more money. Vasya was saying for the third child, you receive $1000 (all monetary figures will be USD) when the child is born and an additional $150 every month for three years. This may not seem like much when you consider how much it costs to raise a child in America, but to put it into perspective, the average salary in Ukraine is less than $200 per month. Usually much less than this—the doctor in this hospital today was telling us that an average doctor in Ukraine makes only $100 per month. To compare, that is like saying in America, a doctor would be making a teacher’s salary—the people who are performing surgeries on a daily basis! So, in Ukraine, it means a lot to receive this money for a child. It would seem logical for the family to stop receiving money if they give up a child, but according to the law, the parents only have to visit their child in the orphanage once every 6 months to keep receiving the money. This is only one example of the corruption here.
            Today we also went to Mukachevo to tour a castle that has been there since the 9th century, I believe. The view was spectacular, and you could look in several directions and within just a few dozen kilometers were the borders of Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia. It was nice to tour something so historic and interesting.
            After the castle tour, we returned to HOM for lunch. I’m not sure they could have prepared a more tasty lunch—borscht with sour cream and crepes—two of my favorite Ukrainian dishes! Смачно! Tasty!
            Our last visit of the day was the inner city Roma camp—a different settlement than the one I visited on Sunday—I thought I was prepared for this, but it was still heartbreaking to see the conditions. When we arrived in the van, I wish I had my camera ready because the kids began chanting, “Vasya, Vasya!” It was so sweet to see that they recognize and love him. We came today to scout out the area where we will hold camp, so we could know what kind of space was available to us. People immediately wanted to show us their houses, presumably to make the needs known to Vasya. I was shocked at the filth these people were living in and around; in one corner of the settlement there was a large trash heap. Children were playing on top of the trash like it was just any other dirt hill and the people were telling Vasya that the heavy rains have produced a river of poisonous water running through the settlement and into homes. I thought I would be prepared after visiting a different settlement earlier this week, but in the other place, it was dirty just because it had rained and the mud was deep. This place, though, was covered in absolute filth. I cannot imagine having to live in these conditions with the risk of diseases that these people face. I am looking forward to having camp here; I had a chance to play with the kids while the Canadian team was planning for the camp and I think it will be so fun to play with the kids. They were just so happy and had beautiful smiling faces, just wanting to hold hands and have their pictures taken. I wish we had more time in places like this.
            Tonight when I went down for dinner, Joma put his arms up to me to be picked up, and he started singing to me, “I like to move it move it…” It was so cute—he is still learning how to speak clearly, so it was just a mumbled jumble of words. It made me happy to know that these kids are so well cared for here, and so happy despite their situations. At dinner, two kids prayed before the meal; Vasya says every child here, in every prayer, prays for Natalka’s (Natasha) legs and Joma’s back. How sweet that they care for one another so much.
Sweet baby

So tiny...big brown eyes

View from the castle in Munkacs

Team picture with Vasya

The dog looks as if he's suspended in midair :)

Interesting statue...too bad it's pagan (maybe? Our unofficial guide wasn't sure...)

Interior of the castle grounds

And then the monsoon came...started out just a little trickle...

Then a small waterfall...

Then a full blown waterfall down the steps...

Poor bride had to make a run for it while it was only slightly pouring...


...and crepes...with strawberry jam...this meal couldn't get any better...

Can you find the kite? Wayyy up in the sky...

The water these boys are standing in is toxic; poisoned by...

the trash heap these boys are playing on

Posing...such a pretty girl for such an unappealing backdrop

Crowding in for a picture

And again

This little girl followed me around so she shows up in a few...Donya is her name I believe

Vasya said the cross at the top of this Orthodox church was struck by lightning and fell down...maybe a sign from God?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Wrapping it up

Thursday, July 28, 2011
This was the last full day of camp—Friday is a half day before the parents’ night. Our secret ingredient for the day was “Remember Jesus Often” so in crafts, we made one of the best crafts ever—shrinky dinks! These are sheets of plastic that you can draw on and then when you put them in the oven they shrink really small and harden—the kids decorated them with reminders of Jesus that they can use to tie on their clothes or a backpack. The kids loved them, as well as the adults, and me! In games the kids played a cup relay that involved spelling out “remember Jesus” and in discovery the kids made an apple snack that was part of the Passover dinner.
During snack time, we noticed a little boy who was sitting without a snack, while others were crowded around him with a grocery bag full of snacks. We thought the kids had taken his snack from him, and with the help of a translator, we realized that the kids were all brothers and sisters and they were taking the snacks home for later. Although we gave the snack back to him, he wouldn’t touch it—almost as if he was afraid. So, we gave him a plastic bag for his snack alone, and opened a pack of cookies for him to eat here. He took those and ate them quickly—we are wondering if the food they eat here is the best food they get all day or perhaps the most. It was very upsetting to think that this little boy really just wanted to eat his snack—so simple, and he couldn’t because he had to save it for later. Vasya told us that both of the parents of this family are alcoholics, and the worst part is that there are so many stories so similar to this one. There are so many kids in this area that are not well taken care of, and it seems there is not enough we can do to help.

Friday, July 29, 2011
            Today was a half day of camp; we ended after lunch and took the kids over to the church at 2 pm to practice for the parents’ night, where the kids were able to sing the songs they learned and the parents could see a little bit about what we learned this week.
            This morning, we counted about 78 kids who showed up—some of them brought their little brothers and sisters! The team was really worried because we didn’t have enough crafts for everyone, but it worked out because the craft was a kite, so kids from the same family could make one to share. The kites were a little difficult to make, but the kids loved flying them! I’m not exactly sure what the kids did in games because I stayed in crafts to help with the madness ;) but in discovery time the kids made were able to make homemade ice cream—I did this once in chemistry in high school and it is so cool! They also enjoyed banana splits! Yum!
            Parents’ night went well—we had a good number of parents show up, and the kids had a lot of fun showing off their singing and acting skills. It was a short program, and a good thing because at the end of a long day at the end of a long week, the kids were getting pretty restless! When it was over, everyone headed down to the basement of the church for refreshments—we bought for over 100 people, and within five minutes the food was wiped out! We are glad we bought a lot. I finally saw Halya, Vasya’s sister and our translator from 2005 and 2006, tonight with her baby, Natan (English-Nathan), and met her husband and daughter, Emi—so cute!
            One random thing that happened tonight—I tried the Ukrainian version of Ramen noodles—strangely tasty…I told the team that Ramen noodles are one of those things that I don’t truly like…but every now and then a craving for them comes up. Perhaps that is why they tasted so good—haha! Tomorrow I think we will be visiting another Roma camp—I am preparing myself mentally for the experience.
Natalka is the youngest child here. She is 4 and her legs are bowed badly--soon she will have some braces put on them to help straighten them.

Making shrinky dinks!

Timothy having fun with the megaphone

Measuring out the ingredients for snack

Boys...horsing around...

Just look at that face--he's so cute!! Little Sasha

Entertainment is simple here--stack some cups and let kids toss a frisbee into them=FUN!

Friday--78+ kids :) the beginning of the week he drove me a little batty, but now we have reached an understanding and you could say we're best friends... ;)

Anya--decorating kites!

Putting the kites together

LOL--shaking the bag to make ice cream--Mark looks like he is  in such pain! I think he was being splashed with cold water?

Elya--Banana splits :)

Viktor, another favorite here.

Joma is such a good sport--he let me style his hair!

Flying kites

He's just so stinkin' cute

Singing at Parents' Night

Halya and Natan

Anya--sweet girl.

Week 1 over and we finally get a group picture! From left--Anette, Calvin, Crystal, Me, Lillian, Kenny, Grace, Robyn

Ukrainian instant noodles! Haha