Update on the situation here….
The crisis that Ukraine is facing has ramifications beyond its borders, and the impact of the actions that are being taken here and internationally will be felt across the world. Thus, we are all in a bit of a holding pattern, wondering what will happen next. This weekend (Sunday March 16) there is a referendum scheduled to take place in Crimea, which will create another layer of tension in the crisis and possible action/reaction. Obviously, the situation is heavy on the hearts and minds of Ukrainians. Everywhere we go we overhear people discussing the situation. I was speaking with one our djornee’s (individual who sits at the entrance of an apartment building/office usually in a small room and provides security for the building by making sure everyone who enters actually has a legitimate reason for being there), about it and she told me how it was for her. She is ½ Ukrainian, ½ Russian, has a child living/working in Russia etc. The issue is huge within her family, as there are those on both sides of the question. Other families are feeling the stress as their son’s and husbands are either being called up or signing up for military service. It is a situation of “David & Goliath”, for when the numbers are compared between Ukraine and Russia, it doesn’t even make for any type of match. What Ukraine does have are people who are deeply loyal to their country, and who are becoming united as a country around the cause of their country standing on its own, not as a quasi satellite state of the former Soviet Union/Russia. This is how it has been under the various political parties over the years since independence in the early 1990’s. This desire, shown through the actions by the protests of 100’s of thousands of people in the center of Kiev (at times the crowds swelled to close to a million people) and through the decisions of the new government at the end of February did not sit well with their neighbour to the north. The reaction by them has taken the situation from primarily internal to an international stage. One thing is certain, that no matter what happens the relationship between the two countries will never be the same.
A number of people from back in NA have asked “why are you still there?”, “when are you leaving?”, “are you guys ok?” etc etc (especially when the Cdn Embassy shut down for week at the end February, which was due to its close proximity to the protests in the center of Kiev and its vulnerability). Here is the short answer: Yes, we are ok. Yes, we are still here. Yes, we are prepared to leave on very short notice, and are willing to do so if necessary. And actually our leadership has made the decision that due to the level that things are at, and how quickly things could change, the challenges of transporting us all, that the majority of our team is relocating farther west for the time being (the next week or so). Those of us outside of Kiev and those in Kiev without vehicles are leaving in the next day or so, those with vehicles preparing to leave soon. We will be going to Poland with a number of our teammates to a seminary there which has accommodations that are sufficient for us all.
We and a number of other missionaries are in the situation of balancing safety concerns with the fact that we have lived here a long time and have built relationships with Ukrainians in ministry and as friends. Leaving too quickly would have the potential of a strong negative impact on our ministries and relationships. Of course, leaving too late has the potential of having a strong negative impact on us. So we are prepared to make the decision to leave, but it will be the last resort. We are very thankful for our leadership team here who have shown a lot of wisdom and are giving us good oversight with this situation. Please pray for this crisis. Pray that God’s hand would be on the leadership of Ukraine, that they would have wisdom in knowing what to do in these turbulent times. Pray for the person on the street, that through this they would seek Christ and receive the forgiveness, peace and strength that He gives through a relationship with Him.
Ministry & Life
With the ongoing climate of tension, life and ministry have taken on a new “normal”. Leanne was to help facilitate/lead a training seminar in March. This included having someone fly in from Europe, and people travelling from around Ukraine. That was cancelled due to what is taking place here. Sumy Bible College had to cancel a session as the teacher (from Kiev) wasn’t able to travel out do to the situation here. So we have been doing a lot of rescheduling and catch up.
Two events I would like to highlight:
First, Alicia & I (John) took a 3 day trip out to Sumy in order that I could take part in a number of meetings that had been rescheduled and to speak at the annual conference held by the African students who attend a few of the churches in Sumy. Alicia came so that she could spend some time with friends and have a change of scenery after having been cooped up in Kiev with being sick etc for a few weeks. This student conference has students travel from a few different regions to join together for a weekend of fellowship, teaching and worship. It was a cultural experience for Alicia & I and the Ukrainians who attended.
Two pastors and I were put on the spot at one point during the afternoon. One pastor had done a session on the difference between “falling in love & true love”. He did an excellent job, and during his session attendees could write down questions and pass them forward to the coordinator. The coordinator organized them, picked out 6-8 questions, and after the session we had Q&A time. He would say “Pastor Misha, this question is for you” and give him the question. Then the other two could add something if we wanted. And then the next question to another one of us etc. It was a “pray quick, think fast, and hopefully answer with wisdom”.
Secondly, Leanne also took a trip out to Sumy for a few days. It was a decision made early last week as since we had already planned for her to be gone (for the seminar that was cancelled) her calendar was more open than usual. So she took the train out and spent 2.5 days connecting with a number of people – people from church, our old neighbours, etc. We are very thankful that she had that opportunity to go and minister in this way. It was an encouragement to them and to Leanne.
A kid in transition
Lanae (our eldest) is coming to the end of her year of bible college here in Germany, and is preparing for the next stage/step. Mid April she will be flying back to Canada, spending some time at the SEND Canada office in London, ON and then on to Edmonton, AB. Beginning in May she will be serving at Brightwood Ranch (a ministry of Hope Mission) as a horse wrangler. The camp ministers to underprivileged children and she will be serving in the riding program and in other areas. That will fill up the summer, and then she will be going to school in the fall in Canada (still working out those details). It is definitely a time of transition for all of us.
I am in a taxi at 4:00 a.m. and since it a bit difficult to speak coherently when you are half asleep, the taxi driver figures out pretty quickly I am a foreigner. So he spends the next twenty minutes as we drive attempting to sign me up as part of his multi level marketing business opportunity. He has a friend in Europe that was doing very well in the business of (we never actually got to that detail). I was quite impressed, for as I kindly but firmly declined he asked for advice on how best to get people involved, and of course asked again if he could have contact information in order to give me more information about this opportunity.
One fact about life here is that you don’t just drink the water out of the tap. For years we have hadfilters etc hooked up to our pipes. When we moved to Kiev, I was prepared to hook up a filter but saw that it was going to be pretty complicated for various reasons. In Kiev there are number of companies who deliver water so we signed up with one that we saw came to our building fairly often. The first dispenser they gave us was a basic tan ceramic, nothing fancy. After a few months I was informed that it was time to change dispensers so that would take place with the next order. When the delivery arrived, the fellow (one we would see quite often) handed me the new dispenser. It wasn’t just a dispenser, it was a work of art. I reacted, “wow, that is a beautiful painting”. His reply, “I picked it out especially for your family”. We now live in a very big city, and we have missed the random relationships and warmth that we had in Sumy. That fellow made our day.
Well, that is all for now. We’ll be in touch.
4 the 5 of us