This is a huge post to sum up last week...I did not have internet access in Rasosha so I am having to catch up now. I am a little behind on a few days but I will get those up asap. Love to all!
Friday 7-1-11 and Saturday 7-2-11 “Enough is enough!!”
It was hard to take that step and leave today (Friday), not knowing when I would be able to communicate with those closest to me. My mom reminded me, “Once you get there it will all be alright.” I know this to be true, but it’s still hard to go and wave that one last time, or make that one last phone call. Now (Saturday) we’re sitting in the airport in Munich, waiting for our flight to Kiev, and I’m desperately trying to connect to the internet, to no avail. That’s one of those things I will have to learn to let go of; my parents came to Ukraine in the mid-1990s and there was no communication with home. It’s hard to accept the “no news is good news” saying in a world that is so accustomed to instant communication. Other than that, we had a good flight and have had a lot of down time in the Munich airport so we’ve had time to get some snacks and freshen up before the flight to Kiev. (Mama—no, I did not eat a pretzel and a pancake with tomatoes/mozzarella/pesto at a café in Munich…) I guess as long as I don’t die or become violently ill it’ll all be alright...our travel has gone relatively smoothly so far, pray it stays that way.
We arrived in Rasosha around 10 pm, 3 pm US time. The first stop was the church, which was beautifully decorated inside. From there we were taken to our host homes. Our hosts, Viktor and Anya, were the first stop. We were greeted with kisses from Anya and hugs from Viktor and unloaded most of the supply bags here. Once we had all of our bags in, Anya and her two daughters, Lesya and Helen, served us dinner. Since it was so late, we had a “small meal” of boiled potatoes with butter and dill, sliced meat and cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, and boiled eggs. After the meal we had a dessert of cookies and tea. (Mama-I was talking about not being able to get Cheerwine here, but they had a cherry soda that is even better.) We were given instructions on how to use the bath, and at 2 am everyone was finally settled in and in bed. Tomorrow we have a busy day, so I will end this here and try to get a good night’s rest.
Sunday 7-3-11 “Upset Stomach”
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one god and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4: 1-6
My first morning waking up in Ukraine=early! We had to be up and ready by 6:30 to eat, pick everyone up, and drive an hour to Vinnitsya to make it to a 9 am baptism service. Our translator, Inna, was baptized today, as well as Maxim, from Rasosha, and Sergei, the pastor’s son. We witnessed over 50 people’s baptisms today and then enjoyed a very meaningful church service in honor of the occasion. We observed the Lord’s Supper (luckily we were in the front row and drank from the cup first!). Vinnitsya is one of the largest churches in Ukraine—there were three balconies and nearly every seat was filled. The church was beautifully, elaborately decorated and the service was just as beautiful. The service was nearly two and a half hours long but it was very celebratory of the great event that had taken place. We stood and sang several times, listened to three or four sermons, and heard a few readings of scripture (all in Ukrainian, and I was not near enough to a translator to understand.)
After the service, the team and some of our Ukrainian friends headed to McDonald’s for lunch—we received a bit of teasing for this; McD’s is definitely not a favorite of Ukrainians…but we didn’t want our host families to have to cook a full lunch. When we returned home, we all passed out nearly immediately from exhaustion as a result of our previous late night, and it seemed like just as I entered into a good dream cycle, we were called by John because it was time to eat a “snack” and meet the van to go to Sunday night service. We were to lead the service that night, so John had chosen a few people to ask to speak (I was one of the lucky ones) and we sang as a group. After church we returned home for yet another meal and very shortly after we were all snug in bed—no 2 am chats tonight.
Monday 7-4-11 “Pain in the Neck”
“You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
It is Independence Day and it will be so different not being in America today. Our Bible lesson is about Moses freeing the Israelites from Egypt, tying into the idea of freedom as freedom in God. It is the first day of camp; in the first village, Skitka, there were about 60 children, and about 75 in Rasosha that evening. We had three groups split between Bible lesson, crafts, and games. Before the rotations started, we sang with the children, introduced our team, and prayed with them. The children were split up by age groups and given a leader. In crafts, we had hats they were able to decorate with fabric markers; a mother who came thanked us for having a craft that was so practical for the children. Many of these children in Skitka, as well as Rasosha, have very little, and many do not attend church. In Rasosha, we actually had four groups; the oldest group was split during Bible lesson, but many of them were still very rowdy and had difficulty paying attention. We hope that by the end of the week they will be more attentive and begin to open their hearts to God’s word. It is only Monday, but I already know how difficult it will be to leave on Friday night. I am excited to serve in other places, but it will be difficult to leave people that I know I will truly miss.
When we are not at camp, we are staying here at our host home, and it is so wonderful. Anya feeds us like royalty, and you must eat a lot at her table. Luckily we are all pretty hungry by the time we sit down for meals (except you, Jessika!) So far we have had crepes at nearly every meal, or at least at lunch every day. The first day they were banana filled, but we have also had raspberry filled crepes, and several meals with a small plate of fresh raspberries with a little sugar to make the juice sweet, served with biscuits. Anya has made fruit compote, which is juice made from fresh boiled fruit for our meals today. Needless to say, plenty of good food is available to us—I have not needed any of the snacks I brought so far. Viktor and Anya have a farm, so all of the vegetables and most of the fruit come from her garden or their farm. They also have cows, chickens, pigs, and beehives. There was a lot of excitement in our home today because when we arrived home from Skitka, one of Viktor’s mother pigs was giving birth, and a total of 12 piglets were born by the end of the night! Viktor brought a few out and they were so cute! Then he let us into the barn to see the papa pig and the other pigs—33 total!! What a wonderful experience. It has been a blessing to see not only the beautiful children who have come to camp today and how excited they are, but to see also how a Ukrainian family lives daily. It is something I have never really experienced—before I have always stayed in the seminary in Borislav, or in the Mission in Truskavets, or at camp facilities. I am glad to have the experience of a home life—and home cooking!
Tuesday 7-5-11 “Freezer Burn”
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
Today the kids in camp learned about the birth of Jesus. Above is our memory verse for the day. In crafts, the kids made angel necklaces that my mom and I had prepared for the trip—after camp in Skitka and Rasosha, we had gone through all 200 packets that had been designated for this week—wow! While I am disappointed that we ran out, I am very happy that so many kids showed up. During camp in Rasosha, I stepped out of my usual craft station to teach the youth the Bible lesson. We have been trying to get them to open up a little about their lives and things they struggle with so we can offer them some kind of help, but they were all very quiet when it came to discussing personal things. A girl I met on Monday came to me afterwards and talked to me personally and said the reason the youth won’t talk is because they are afraid others will laugh at them. We hope that we will be able to arrange a smaller group setting so they will be more comfortable talking with us. We also learned about a woman in Skitka who has been coming to camp with her four children; she is slightly disabled and at least one of her children is as well; she apparently is pregnant with her fifth and she is an unmarried woman and it is a high possibility that the children do not have the same father. She receives a little support from the government but spends most of it on alcohol. Our prayer is that because she is coming to camp, she will come to know Christ and begin to take responsibility for her children. Her youngest born child looks as if she may have FAS as a result of her mother’s drinking. I pray this isn’t the case but if it is that it may be a push for the mother to overcome her addiction. This is only one example of what most of the kids in these villages might be experiencing on a daily basis. I am looking forward to tomorrow night to see how many kids show up for church.
Wednesday, 7-6-11 “MUSHROOOOMMMMM”
Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39
Today our Bible lesson was on God’s love. We have themed all of our Bible stories after holidays that are meaningful to Americans and Ukrainians; today is Valentine’s Day, focusing on the love of God rather than human love. The children made valentines in crafts and many team members received one from a child. It is amazing to see how they have nothing but are so selfless and loving. I worked in sports today, rather than crafts, and was able to learn several names of the children.
Tonight we did not have camp in Rasosha; rather we invited them to come to church. We were pleased to see about 70+ kids show up. The youth on our team led the service in song and mini sermons on different topics we chose that might be relevant to the younger crowd in Rasosha. Our topics were reconciliation, hope, standing out for God, being fearless, and leadership. I spoke about being fearless and God’s great love for us, referencing Matthew 10:26-31. I told the kids that no matter what people would say, they couldn’t be more important than God because God created the heavens and the earth and took the time to count each hair on our heads. We also allotted some time for the kids to sing the songs they had been learning at camp, and for them to recite their memory verses. At the end of service, we handed out gift bags using supplies that Doug brought with him and hadn’t been able to use yet. The kids were so excited and we were really just glad to see that they showed up and sat through a service that lasted over an hour.
I still can’t believe the week is already halfway over—it seems like it just started but at the same time I have already become so comfortable with the people here that it seems like I’ve been here longer. I know these next few weeks will fly by and I know I will have mixed feelings about that—glad to see people I love but sad to leave people I love.
Thursday, 7-7-11 “Horsing Around”
Today was very rainy; we thought we would have to find an indoor area for the camp, but God blessed us with a break in the rain almost as soon as we arrived at the school, and the rest of the day was perfect weather. Even with the rain, there were still about 50 kids that came for camp. In our Big Fish game, where the kids line up and toss a pole over a cloth to receive a prize, the prizes we handed out were from Operation Christmas Child. When there are extra boxes delivered to the church, Pastor Leonid breaks them up and disperses them among many children. We divided the children into only two groups on this day, since we weren’t sure how long the rain would hold off. One group went to crafts while the other went to Bible lesson, and then at the end we let them play for a little longer. We made palm leaves in crafts to represent the palms that were laid down for Jesus when he came into Jerusalem. The school where camp was held is in a small village, where many people live on farms. Today someone had a horse tied up in the field behind the school eating grass and I was able to feed it some grass! Drew and Rob and I went over to take pictures of it but none of us were brave enough to actually touch it. Later, we were given a couple of boxes of chocolate from the woman with so many children—what a sacrifice it must have been for her to get those. She was very appreciative of what we were doing and wanted to give us the chocolate to enjoy—it would be considered a small token by some, but I can imagine for her it was a lot for her to give those to us. Her children are so sweet and beautiful and I am so glad that they seem to be enjoying their time here.
In Rasosha, we had many more kids because the weather cleared up throughout the day. We made friendship bracelets with the older kids in our story time, and invited some of the oldest ones to stay after and talk with us about life in general and any struggles they have. We met in a circle after everything was done and asked them questions about what they liked to do and what they wanted to do when they were older, just to encourage them to open up a little. One girl said that many people in Ukraine have dreams but that their reality is that many of these dreams do not come true. It seems they have already lost hope of a better life before their adult lives have even started. It is sad to hear this, but I shared with them that many times in America the same thing happens. We have one idea of what we want to do when we are younger, but when reality sets in we usually end up doing something completely different. I didn’t want them to think that America is just the dreamland where your every wish comes true. I wanted them to know that they are not alone and just because people in America may have more money it doesn’t mean we are happier and live more fulfilled lives. We asked them some questions about God and whether they understood why Jesus came and why He died and they understood that God loves them and that Jesus died for them. I was very happy to hear this and I hope it is not something they will soon forget.