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.

Here is a map for reference.  At present, the hot spot is in the south on the Crimean peninsula.  up-map for siteThe next points of tension are spread along the eastern border with Russia.

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.

Random happenings….
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

A brief update….

March 3, 2014 — Leave a comment

March 3, 2014

Hi Everyone,
Just a brief update from over here during these very challenging times.  This past week the country of Ukraine has come through one huge crisis to only face an new crisis which has broader ramifications.  The issues are complex and the solutions will need wisdom and discernment.  These next few hours and days are crucial for the future direction of the country.

Please join with the believers here in prayer for their nation.  Please pray for peace, and peaceful solutions to the issues that the country is facing.

For us personally, we are in the situation of prepared to leave if necessary.  We are very thankful for the leadership here on the field who are working very hard on what the team needs to do and when.  Please pray that they would have wisdom in the decisions that they will need to make in the coming hours and days.  If we do need to leave,  as a team we have a location in Europe prepared for us to go to.  In the meantime, there is life and ministry which is going on – somethings have been modified, some have been cancelled and some postponed.  Pray for wisdom for us too, in these decisions that need to be made.

For those who are interested, Eric, our area director has written a great article regarding the reaction of the evangelical church here in Kyiv (click here for the article) during the crisis that took place in the center of the city over the past few months.  There was also an article in Christianity Today discussing the choice of the interim president who is a Baptist pastor, and a call to prayer by one of the leaders of the Baptist Union.

Our hearts are torn by what is taking place here, and we know that ultimately it is all in God’s hands.  So we wait on Him, trusting that He will work through this time.

We will keep you updated with our status if and when things change.

Thank you for standing with us, and with the people here during this time.

John, Leanne, Alicia, Daniel (in Ukraine) and Lanae (in Germany)


# 138 January 2014 Paetkau News & Notes

Have you ever traveled at 247 kms/hr (153 mph) but not on a plane, but on the ground?  The weird part was that I didn’t even realize it until it was pointed out to me by Chad, my SEND teammate with whom I was traveling.  We were on a train in Germany, traveling to a European missions conference, standing in the corridor chatting when Chad pointed to the LED display on the wall.  To confirm that we were actually moving that fast we glanced out the window. Everything was a blur – yes we were going that fast!  Amazing.  We’re used to traveling in Ukraine on trains that go 50-70 kms/hr and you feel the movement.

We have a few traveling stories to tell from December and January, for we as a family put a few miles underneath us for various reasons.  Will tell those in a moment – after a few ministry & life highlights.

First, a quick note about life and politics.  If you have been watching the news, the country of Ukraine is going through some very challenging times.  As the situation is in flux, we have been asked not to comment, which is very understandable.  We are safe and there are those who are keeping a close eye on the situation.  Please continue to pray for the situation here and that God would work through it, and that people would be impacted for the Gospel.

Christmas this year was special, as it was the first Christmas with a child coming home from college. Lanae came home for 10 days over the holidays from her bible school in Germany.   It

Our Paetkau "selfie"

Our Paetkau “selfie”

brought back a lot of memories for both Leanne and I, when we went through the same process at her age.  The time went quickly.  Then she and Alicia were off again back to Germany to spend a week with friends and to bring in the New Year there.  They had a few adventures on their travels….

While the girls were in northern Germany, I spent 5 days in south central Germany.  I was serving with other SEND missionaries at Missions-Net, a bi-annual European missions conference.  I had been asked to help represent SEND there as part of the ministry team that was being put together.  I didn’t realize how big this event was: 50+ countries represented, with 3600+ attendees (2700+ participants, 500 staff & 131229 Missions Net_001volunteers, 400 mission exhibitors).  Primary languages used were English & German, along with other languages translated at different times through various means.  It was very encouraging to see so many young people who desire to see God move and work in them and through them in the nations of the world.

Alicia & I both returned home the same day via different airlines and at different times.  The next morning Daniel, Alicia & I, along with a few others caught a marshrootkah (small bus) out to Sumy to take part in Grace Camp’s Winter Teen Camp.  Leanne came two days later to catch the final three days.  36 teens came out for the 5 day camp, enjoyed the snow, the rain and the mud and all of the various experiences that it all offered.  The ministry team did a

meal time!

meal time!

great job, and it was a joy to be able to help out in the background and see teens impacted for Christ.  One answer to prayer was that Ruslan, a friend of Daniel’s from our old building in Sumy came to camp.  We had been praying that he would, and late in December his mom called us asking about details.  We connected them with the right people, and there he was.  Praise the Lord!  Click here for a brief write up on the week, and here for camp photos.

The week following camp our family took turns getting sick.  Both Alicia & Daniel got strep throat, and Leanne and I were under the weather. It was a fun couple weeks.  The remainder of the month included hosting  (Genna Friesen stayed for a few days while in town for a conference), traveling out to Sumy to participate in the college ministry and  a few other ministry projects.  We are very thankful for how God worked out many details and provided what we needed at each moment.

A few traveling stories to wrap it up….

Lanae & Alicia flew out of Kiev to Dortmund, Germany, and from there were to catch a bus to Frankfurt to meet friends and go to a missions guest house for the weekend.  Well, the flight was normal but after that things got a little interesting.  This is how Alicia described it.

“We got to the bus station, and sat down to wait for our bus.  Two buses pulled up at our departure time, and neither were for Frankfurt.  10 minutes after our departure time another bus pulls up that says “Frankfurt”.  We went to the the driver and showed him our tickets (that Lanae had purchased in advance).  Nope – this bus just came from Frankfurt.  So we sat down and tried to decide what to do.  It’s getting dark, and the parking lot is empty except for one bus (from a different company), which a fellow is cleaning.    We eventually went over and Lanae attempted to explained what had happened.  He didn’t speak English very well, and Lanae’s German wasn’t adequate for the task. The fellow (turns out to be the driver) looked at our tickets, pulled out a phone, made a call, talked to someone, and then handed the phone to Lanae.  The person on the line told her to be back at the bus in 1.5 hrs and and that we could ride on their bus to Frankfurt – they would honor our tickets.  Praise the Lord!  But one small problem – we would be getting in late and would need transport to the next city near where the guest house is located.   Well, once we were on the bus (which had wifi), Lanae checked the train schedule to find out how to get us to our destination. She found out that the train we needed to catch in order to not spend the night on a bench (last one that night) was scheduled to leave the station 5 minutes prior to our scheduled arrival.  By God’s grace we arrived 10 minutes prior, which gave us 5 minutes to catch a train.  Lanae ran & I followed.  It was kind of like one of those spy movies, you know where the clock is ticking and the Jason Bourne character is running through the crowd, getting onto a vehicle and out of harms way just in the nick of time.  We made the train just before it left, found two empty seats and sat down.  We looked at each other – now what, we don’t have any tickets.  Oh well, lets see what happens.  The conductor came and said no problem, and sold us the tickets there on the train.  Yep, it was a bit of an adventure…..”  

Chad Wiebe (a SEND teammate here in Kiev) and I traveled together to the Missions-net conference.  The way there – planes, trains and automobiles – was pretty normal, beyond of course the fact that we flew along at one point on a train at just under light speed.  The way home was a bit of a different story.  We were to catch a midnight train to the Frankfurt Airport, a 3 hour trip.  There we stood on the platform, waiting for our train.  It arrived on time and we prepared to board.  That was the first problem.  We had tickets for wagon 9.  There was no wagon 9, only wagons 1 through 8.  A conductor climbed out of wagon 8 so we quickly went to him (since the stop was only 5 minutes) and asked for help.  He pointed out the obvious “Nope, no wagon 9 tonight.  Just get on this wagon.”  Ok.  Well, we had reserved seats on wagon 9, but obviously they didn’t transfer to wagon 8.  Thankfully we were able to find fold down seats in the open portion of the wagon, not the most comfortable since they were in the corridor area, but at least we could sit down and try to get a bit of sleep.  That proved to be a challenge, as it seemed every few minutes someone had to try and walk by and would stumble over one of us. Eventually we were able to move to different seats which helped a bit. It seemed that a number of people had planned on being on wagon 9.  By the time we got to the airport there were a lot of people standing in the aisles with luggage strewn everywhere.

This flight home to Kiev went through Austria, but it was going to be a very tight connection.  Leanne and I had flown through Vienna once on our way to Canada 10 years ago, and at that time it was a small terminal – and I had thought that it would relatively easy to make our connection.  As we taxied up to the airport, Chad pointed out the window and said, “John, I think they did some renovations”.  Yes, major renovations.  Gone was the small terminal I had remembered that was easily negotiated in 10 minutes or so. In its place a gleaming structure of glass and steel with multiple spokes where numerous planes were parked.  We disembarked at gate E something, and had to get to gate G something (of course, the very last gate at the end of a different spoke).  Add a passport control check in the middle to add to the challenge.  If we had landed as scheduled, we would never have made our flight (even though we only had carry on luggage and ran the whole way).  God seemed to feel that He should have mercy on us both again, for our plane had landed 20 some minutes early, and we made it to our gate with a few minutes to spare.

That wraps up this edition.

Drop by our photo page for more pictures

Talk to you in a bit

John (4 the 5 of us)

Winter camps are usually best held when there is a lot of snow.  But since we can’t control the weather, the plans are made and we take what we get.  The Winter youth camp held at Sumy Grace Camp in early January was no exception.  Snow, rain, mud – all were part of the experience for the 36 campers and the leadership.

Sumy 2014 God, Bible, Me

Sumy 2014
God, Bible, Me

Since this is the year for the Winter Olympics across the border in Sochi, Russia,the planning committee used that as the theme this year.   Country teams, different events, costumes etc. They even had a torch lighting ceremony!

Along with the great activities that had been planned, the youth also spent time digging into and being challenged by God’s Word.  Taking time to see what God’s Word said about different areas of life and topics that were on their hearts.

On Jan 7 (Orthodox Christmas) we split into three groups and spent the afternoon caroling in the nearby villages.  This is a tradition where young people go caroling and after singing receive a gift from those they sang for.  The teens changed the tradition – rather than receive a gift, they gave gifts.  As one of the activities the youth had made home-made Christmas cards and small items of that nature, and gave those away to anyone who would open their door in response to their serenading.

Since the weather was warmer, events outside took on a more “summer like” atmosphere.  One of the activities was field hockey.  Definitely didn’t expect to see that in January….

There are more photos posted here.

Praise the Lord for how He is working in young hearts and lives in northeastern Ukraine.


Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

December 25 for this part of the world is a normal working day, much like it would have been the day our Saviour was born.  It was a constant reminder that in the midst of the normal routine, a miracle has happened.  Immanuel, Christ with us – God Himself came to be with us here on this earth, and is with us today.

Merry Christmas!
John, Leanne, Lanae, Alicia & Daniel

Our Paetkau "selfie"

Our family “selfie”

# 137 Fall 2013 Paetkau News & Notes

Merry Christmas Everyone!

At the moment we are in the midst of a time of uncertainty and change in Ukraine.  The recent decisions by the political leadership regarding the relationship with both the European Union and Russia have caused large protests and action in Kiev and around the country.  It reminds us a lot of what took place in 2004 during the Orange Revolution but with a twist.  If you want to know what is taking place, drop by the Kyiv Post website, any of the major news sites or google Ukraine protests for updated news.

In the meantime, life continues on with its interesting moments and opportunities to learn, to grow, and to grow in humility….

For example, have you ever laughed at an inappropriate moment…..

It’s Monday, 6:00 a.m. and there is a funny ringing sound – and it’s not my alarm.   I wake up and stumble around the dark apartment attempting to locate what is making that noise.  I notice the alien blue flash on the shelf – oh, it’s the phone. I pick it up and say “allo”.  I hear a deep, gravelly voice answer, “Hello John”  “Hello” I tentatively answer, not having a clue who this is.  “This is Blake”.  I burst out laughing because I know why he is calling.  He continued, “I’m sick, and wonder if you could sub teach for me today.”  Oh, how embarrassing… “Oops, sorry Blake, I didn’t mean to laugh, it is just that I didn’t recognize your voice and so when you told me who you were, I knew why you were calling….”  Blake & Colleen Johnson (fellow Bow Islander’s) are here serving at Kiev Christian Academy this year.

So I spent that day and the next sub teaching the Bible classes at KCA for Blake.  I appreciated the opportunity to interact with the students, both on the topics that were part of the class and whatever else came up in the discussions.  It was also an opportunity for them to get to know another Canadian (as we Canucks are in short supply over here), thus helping to dispel the notion of a few of the students that Blake doesn’t know how to spell various words properly.    Leanne also had the opportunity to sub a few times for various teachers – she has helped with both the jr high and sr high.  One class was especially interesting as the students began discussing world events and politics.  There are at least 4 nationalities in the class, and the different perspectives brought by the cultural backgrounds made for a lively discussion.

Life in other aspects

131001 Kiev morning skyline_2

The sunrise view from our bedroom window

October also proved me wrong – we didn’t miss fall.  September was this ugly, rainy month, but October was beautiful, with warm temps and luscious fall colors.  The park in front of our house was a glorious mixture of yellows and reds.  Of course, with the warm weather the cat desperately wanted to get outside, so we had to take him out on the leash.  Yes, a leash – due to the location, the numerous dogs and the fact that the majority of our family is very fond of him and want him to stay alive.  This too has given us a variety of opportunities to have discussions with different strangers and neighbours (and to look foolish as we attempt to get the cat out of a tree – ie Daniel standing on my shoulders attempting to stretch enough to grab a hold of Calvin’s collar and drag him down).

Our home is has become a bit of a gusteenitsya (place for guests) with guests stopping by for a meal or a night fairly often.  God has brought a variety of nationalities through the door – Ukrainians, Americans, Canadians & Germans have all been here this past 8 weeks.  We are thankful that our apartment has a layout that facilitates having guests.

Traveling in Ukraine is always an interesting situation.  One evening I ordered a taxi to take guests (retired missionaries back to teach and visit) back to the other side of the city.  We dutifully went outside and waited. No taxi.  The company called and asked if I had ordered a taxi. Yes, where is he? “Coming”.  Ok.  Then a taxi pulls up. We get in and begin to leave. Then another taxi (same company) pulls up.  I can sense that we have a problem.  As we make our way out of the apt driveway my phone rings.  It is a taxi driver. He asks, “where are you?”  In your company’s taxi.  “Hmm”, he says.  I notice that second taxi has also left and is following us.  I think, this is coincidence, but if he takes the exit ramp with us, it isn’t good.  He takes the exit ramp.  I mention this to our driver.  He says – it is his problem, not mine.  Behind us the other driver begins to flash his lights, attempting to get us stop.  He is ignored, so he takes a more direct approach – pull up beside and begin to crowd us as we drive down the 4 lane road at 60-70 km/hr (approx 40 mph) trying to cause us to pull over.  This makes our driver angry – and makes us a bit more nervous.  It is obvious that the other fellow won’t quit so our driver pulls over.  He gets out, goes to rear of the car, opens the trunk and grabs a wrench (more intimidating if you have something in your hand for protection, I guess).  He then stomps towards the other taxi driver who has also stopped, gotten out and is advancing towards us.  Meanwhile, I and our guests are sitting there discussing what do we think will be the outcome, and what should our response be if said outcome isn’t pretty.  The drivers decide the situation without any physical results, and our driver gets in and we continue on our way.  Always interesting….

For Leanne’s birthday I decided to take her for coffee, but for a special cup served an overnight train ride away.  We hopped on a night train down to Odessa and spent the day walking around the historical downtown section of the city, enjoying the sites and having a meal with teammates. Of course, the weather turned cold the day prior to our arrival, so we coffee’d and snacked our way through the day – whenever we got cold we would stop at a restaurant to warm up.  Then we got back on the night train and came back to Kiev in time for breakfast.   We knew the day was going to be interesting when the first thing we saw walking up to the bus stop near the train station was an ambulance and 3 policemen.   On closer inspection we could see an individual laying on the bench with their head resting on some baggage.  It was obvious that they had passed away, by the way they looked and by the inaction of the officials nearby.  Ok.  What next?  Later in the day as we sat in a city park catching a bit of afternoon sun and Leanne was trying to nap, a lady approaches us in order to ask for a donation to her cause – that being herself.  I had been watching her for a bit as she worked each bench and it was quite the show.  As she gave us her shpeel, Leanne acted like she was sleeping and I ignored her, occasionally telling her goodbye.  She didn’t get the hint, attempting to speak directly to Leanne.  So Leanne answers, very slowly and carefully, “I speak English” hoping that the lady might think that Leanne has no idea what she is saying.  So the lady tries to throw in a few English words to help her cause.  It was starting to get comical, for it was so obviously a scam.  I got a little more direct in my telling her “dasveedahnya” (goodbye in Russian).  She doesn’t appreciate this, barks a not very nice response to me and spins on her heel to leave, hoping to show me her contempt.  Small problem though, for as she spins and leaves she doesn’t notice the branch of the fir tree just to her left, and walks right into it.  I can’t help myself, and say “Ooberejshna!” (careful in Ukrainian).  She uses a few choice words with me as she untangles herself and stomps away.  Who needs tv when real life can be so entertaining?

Occasionally the group of MK’s that Lanae & Alicia have grown up with from around the country plan a get-together weekend at one of the families homes.  This time it was our opportunity to host 131201 MK get together family_3the group.  So we had 3 guys, Alicia and another gal use our place as the base for their activities over the American Thanksgiving weekend.  What a great bunch!   We really enjoyed having them, and they enjoyed themselves too.  One day they went to the other side of the city where there is a mall with an indoor waterpark and go-cart track.  Well, since the events in the city were beginning to build we felt it best if an adult went along (actually – I really wanted to go along and show the guys how to drive – the political situation was just an excuse).  Eventually we made our


Alicia took a picture of our track prior to the event

way to the go cart track – 12 minutes of extremely fast and serious fun.  On our first lap I was getting set to take on the boys, but got caught on a corner behind another young lady.  I didn’t want

to scare her, so I held back for a second to round the corner.  At that moment another cart flew past me and down the track.  Here is what went through my grey matter at that moment…Who was that, wait who had a grey….wait, that was Alicia!  No way is she going to beat me!  So the rest of the 11 minutes was Alicia and I racing against each other around the track.  I didn’t realize I had taught her to drive that well on our home service.  Of course, I beat the other guys too at the end of it all.  This was one very satisfied old (at least in their eyes) guy.

Ministry opportunities continue to grow in various shapes and forms.  Ministry in Sumy continues, with occasional trips to Sumy, meetings via skype or telephone, and visits or meetings with different individuals when they are in the city. I had the opportunity to teach the second portion of seminar early in December at SRBC.  Kyle Eipperle (SEND teammate) taught New Testament part 1 on Friday & Saturday, and I also taught on Saturday.

Alicia has joined one of the music teams in the church we attend in Kiev – a group of 7 girls who sing for worship, special music and occasionally travel to other churches to take part in their services.  Daniel & I joined a ministry of teammates to international students.  The team held a weekend English camp outside of Kiev, and we went along to help in the English language department.    Students from China, Tajikistahn, Uzbekestahn and Ukraine were all there.  Other teammates have various ministry projects that they need an extra hand with and we take part in various ways to help facilitate them.  God is continuing to grow us and stretch us in various ways.

Looking ahead

Dec 16 (tonight!) Lanae comes home after her first semester at TorchBearers Bible School in Germany.  Praise the Lord!  On Dec 26 both she and Alicia fly back to Germany to visit with friends that they both have there.  Alicia will fly home on Jan 2 and Lanae will then make her way back to school for second semester.

Dec 28- Jan 2 I will also be in Germany to take part in a European student missions conference.  I will be joining SEND teammates from around Europe and America to help facilitate students who are interested in missions and what God would have them to do.

Jan 3-8 Leanne, Alicia, Daniel and I will be going out to Sumy to take part in the Jr High winter camp at Grace Camp.  The kids will be campers and Leanne and I will be serving in various roles as part of the support staff.

It has been a good fall.  It has had its struggles, its challenges, its joys and its blessings.  We continue to see God’s grace  through it all.

Thanks for standing with us.

Talk to you later,


4 the 5 of us Paetkaus

Drop by our fall photo album page for more photos of life, sports and ministry here these past few months

# 136 September 2013 Paetkau News & Notes

It’s been an interesting month…

We’ve tried to get into a school routine….
We’ve taken a kid off to Bible College….
We’ve educated a new dentist…..
We’ve been having overnight guests from Sumy….


On Sept 17 Lanae and I took the trip that she has been looking forward to for quite some time.  She and I boarded a plane bound for Munich, and from there caught a bus to the Bavarian city of Friedrichshafen (try saying that five times fast).  Lanae and I enjoyed our time together that week as we explored (mostly on foot), getting orientated to the area and life there.  One lesson I learned – when they tell you something is only about 500 meters away, they really mean it’s about 3-5 kms, they just don’t want to discourage you.  At SAMSUNGleast that is what I told Lanae as we wandered along trying to find whatever was “supposed to be near by”.  She is attending a TorchBearers bible school this coming year (www.bodenseehof.de). It was a special time that we will cherish, as we were able to just spend time talking and bridging into this new stage of life.   I quickly realized that my grasp of German was extremely limited, and Lanae’s was light years ahead of me.  I guess the classes she took on Saturdays this past year in Sumy paid off. But I must say I really enjoyed embarrassing Lanae by my attempts to communicate.  It was also encouraging to me as a Dad to watch my child confidently step forward into this new endeavor.  On the last day after we had lunch together, she left me standing where I needed to catch a bus back into the city – she is smiling and hurrying off to get back to school, and I am there crying trying not to call her back for one last hug.

Once I left her at the school, I had to resort to my survival skills – using alternate means to communicate when the individual did not speak English or Russian – ie gestures, facial expressions and terrible attempts at reading out the name of the item I was trying to order. It was painful (so many memories of our early years in Ukraine), and I was thankful to get back on familiar territory when I returned to Ukraine.


A new group began studying this fall at Sumy Regional Bible College.  It is exciting to see the new faces SAMSUNGwho are coming to study God’s Word and to develop different ministry skills.  There are seven different churches represented from around the region in this new group.  I (John) spent the weekend out in Sumy, teaching a portion of a course on Saturday and helping with some of the administrative tasks that were needed.  The group will be meeting every 4-6 weeks for two very full days of studies (Friday/Saturday), 6-7 times a year.   This format facilitates students getting time off of work to study.  On Sunday a.m. I spoke at Grace Church and then back to Kiev on the afternoon bus.

School has begun

Daniel’s classes began in earnest at the beginning of September. Getting up early and off to the bus by 7:20 a.m. has been a challenge for our night owl, but he has been adapting.  He also had the opportunity to join the school soccer team, which has been a great learning experience for him.  We have been watching his skills grow from week to week.


Alicia is back at the books also, taking her gr 11 classes online and pursuing a heavy load of piano instruction.  One prayer item we had this spring/summer was about Alicia’s piano teacher and how that would all work out.  God works all things out in His good time.  We found out that a former teacher from Sumy was attending the church that is near our apartment (and which we also now attend).  We were able to contact her, and she has taken on the challenge of helping Alicia prepare through the next two years.  She is an excellent teacher, and very qualified.

Birthdays, root canals and other joys…

Since Lanae was leaving we decided to celebrate her birthday early.  What we wanted do was have a shashleek (bbq/shishkabob).  To do that1309 Family Lanae birthday 19_9 we would have preferred a nice sunny day, but that was not to be.  Thankfully, God gave us a break in the weather for a few hours – only a light1309 Family Lanae birthday shashleek_64 drizzle.   We went across the street to a nearby park and set up, and enjoyed our shashleek, made the more memorable by the circumstances.  A very fitting way to celebrate Lanae’s 19th birthday, as she always enjoys things when they are a bit extreme.

When you need to be in Kiev for an early meeting, it is nice to know someone that you can stay with overnight.  Well, we are now the “someone you know” for our Sumy relationships, and it has opened a new door for ministry to them.  We have already enjoyed hosting 3 different individuals, and had a few others over for a meal on the spur of the moment.  It was a surprise to them and to us, as we walked up to church one Sunday morning and there they were.  They knew people from our church and decided to attend, not knowing that this was where we were also.  Definitely keeps life interesting.

Prior to Lanae’s departure, she needed to go to the dentist to have a teeth cleaning.  Of course, one of my teeth had to give me a bit of trouble too, so we began to search for a dentist.  We knew of some over an hour commute away, but decided to try something closer to home.  Leanne had noticed a sign on one building, so we checked them out online and they seemed fairly well qualified.  So off go the guinea pigs.  Lanae’s cleaning went fine, but me, that is another story.  I needed a root canal and crown, and for that reason alone it was worth going local because of the multiple trips involved. First my dentist and her assistant had to discuss the variety of work that I had in my mouth as they had never seen teeth like mine before.  That is what happens when you have dental work from 3 different countries over a period of 20 years.  Second, they couldn’t understand why I was tense during the various procedures, such a big “brave” guy like me, especially once the nerves etc had all been dismantled and discarded.  My question is: How can I not be tense when you jam a hammer drill the size of a small vehicle into my mouth and pound away at various portions of my porcelain?  Ah well, such is life.

Have a great day,


4 the 5 of us

Drop by the 2013 Fall Photo Album for more photos of these events and others.

How time flies by….

September 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

Just a reminder of how quickly time flies by……


0306 family photo


1307 Family photo_09

the photos say it all…….








# 135 August 2013 Paetkau News & Notes

“That looks a lot like our Sumy regional pastor’s daughter.  But why would she be here in Odessa at the conference center?”

One of the questions that we found an answer to while on holidays after our SEND Ukraine Area Conference in Odessa.  More on that story in a bit.  First I need to go back to the end of July and the beginning of August and tell a few stories of our transition from Sumy to Kiev.

By July we had been moving/transitioning for what felt like quite some time.  We had been sorting, packing, moving, unpacking etc in stages over the period of a couple months.  So by July I was ready to just “slip out of town” without a lot of notice.  But that would not have been fair to our friends, the church, or our family so I wasn’t sure how it would all work out.  This is when that which I had been teaching and preaching to others I needed to put into practice.  A thing called trust.

One major problem was that at the end of camp, we had our family, Rachel Guenther (SEND Mk who was out for the summer doing ministry) the stuff we had at camp, Lanae’s bike and a cat that needed to make its way to Kiev.  We checked out modes of travel (train etc) but they weren’t feasible.  So I was going to need a vehicle to haul everything.  As I was pondering this, I was also pondering how to “sneak away” because I was just tired of goodbyes.  God convicted me on the latter, that it was a selfish route to take and that I needed to complete the transition properly.  So I resolved myself to that, but I was still at a loss on how to move us.   This is how God answered my reluctant prayer.

I was sitting with one of our leaders early in July at Kids camp, and he began to ask a few questions – what would be our last Sunday etc.  I explained how the plan would look through the next few camps: during the next camp (Teen Camp) Leanne and Daniel would be in Kiev 3 days, Alicia, Lanae & myself at camp; during the following camp (Disabled Camp) Alicia, Daniel & I would be in Kiev 3 days, Lanae & Leanne at camp; then Saturday (July 27) would be a clean-up day and Sunday morning would be our last Sunday in Sumy before our official move.  His next question was “how are you getting to Kiev?”  “That I don’t know.  I have a dilemma.”  I explained the situation, and he gave me a solution.  One of the fellows in church had family coming from America a few days the week following our departure, and he needed a larger vehicle to bring them from the airport in Kiev.  We would take the van in with our stuff, and a few days later he would pick it up and bring it back to Sumy.  Praise the Lord!  Problem # 1 solved.

Problem # 2 was getting through our final Sunday.  Again, God surprised me, for as events unfolded it became a very special day that we will all remember with great fondness.  The interesting dynamic here was that we were leaving, but we are still involved in ministry in Sumy.  So our relationship was going to change, but we would still be there, and see them occasionally.   I spoke from Ephesians 3:14-21 to remind both the congregation and myself that this was about Christ and not us, and that He was doing and going to do great things. Therefore, rejoice!  We knew that they were going to have a prayer of dedication for us to our next step of life and ministry at the end of the service.  We were prepared for that.  What we weren’t prepared for was the surprise.  After the concluding remarks/announcements, Pastor Misha said that they had a presentation that they would like to show.  Earlier that week he had asked one of fellows to put together a photo tribute to our family, pictures of our lives and ministry here in Sumy over the past 13 years.  He had pulled together photos from a number of sources including our website.   We sat and cried as the years went by on the screen.  It was such a testimony to the grace of God, and His goodness.  God had given us the opportunity to be deeply involved in so many ways, and to be part of His work in a number of lives.  As we reflected, we saw so much that our greatest impact wasn’t because of our gifts and abilities, it was just because we were there and we shared our lives and were part of their lives.  We are so thankful for how God saw fit to use us in that way there.   We were then called up for prayer, and after some more concluding remarks the service closed.  We spent time talking with people, just wrapping up this period of life.

Back to the ministry center, get changed and get the last stuff out to the van and off to one of our leader’s home for lunch.  The leadership of the church and their families had lunch with us there.  Another time of great fellowship, sharing, encouraging, reminiscing, and prayer.  Then we all climbed into the van and begin the 5 hr drive to Kiev.

I am thankful that I didn’t slip out of town.  That Sunday was the perfect way to wrap up that period of life and to bridge into the next stage.  Praise the Lord.

Of course, the police couldn’t let me make this last trip without taking part.  We on the freeway only 60 km’s from Kiev and going through a section known for its checkstops, so I was being extra careful.  But the guy pointed the black and white stick at me and pulled me over.  He told me I was speeding and sent me over to the “guard shack” to receive my paperwork etc.  The fellow inside asked me which vehicle I was driving, and then looked at the screen on his computer, and at the monitors on the wall.  They had photo radar set up and there was the van in its glory, but right beside me (in the inside lane) was a Mercedes.  The guy said, you can go.  “Go?” “Yes, go, that is all.”  The light went on in my tired mind – the Mercedes was the speeder, not me, but you can’t pull over a black Mercedes so……  Ok, I’ll go.  I walk to the van and climb in. Everyone says, what happened? Nothing, we get to go.  Sigh of relief. Then I try to start the van.  It doesn’t start.  Something with the ignition contact.  Great.  Now what?  Well, we need a tow, and there happens to be a car right in front of me who had also been stopped.  We get out and start to dig around looking for the tow rope.  The cop who pulled me over came and asked what was going on, and I explained.  “Do you have a tow rope?” he asked as he looked skeptically at the stuffed van and the way that we were trying to dig under the seats where it should have been. “Yes, but it isn’t where it is supposed to be….”.  He goes to the car in front of us and tells the guy to give me a pull (everyone has a tow rope in their car – it is as necessary as a spare tire) and get us all out of there, you’re all blocking the intersection!  Well, he is the one who pulled us over at that spot.  A little tug and van started up, a thank you and away we went to complete the journey to Kiev.

A week later we travelled with our SEND Ukraine teammates south to a camp located on the Black Sea near Odessa for our annual conference.  It was a good week together with the team.  They all left Friday night, and we stayed on for 5 days of holidays, planning to rest, sit around in the sun, enjoy the water and the beach etc.  There were other groups renting the camp for conferences etc, but we didn’t see how that would affect us.  That was until Monday morning when I saw a girl that looked awfully familiar, and until I walked around the corner and met a number of individuals from the Baptist Union national leadership whom I knew and finally, our regional pastor from Sumy.  The national leadership and all of the regional pastors and their families were here for a conference.  Oh joy.  There goes the opportunity to be anonymous and ignore everyone.  It turned out better than we expected after our initial shock, as we were on a different meal schedule in the dining hall etc and there was lots of beach to go and disappear on.    At the end of the week we rode an overnight train to Kiev, and later that same afternoon Lanae & Alicia rode the train out to Sumy for the weekend to see friends and attend a wedding.

Once we returned to Kiev it was busy getting ready for school etc.  Daniel is attending KCA (Kiev Christian Academy) and Alicia is studying online through Potter’s School and taking piano lessons.  Lanae was helping us get the rest of the stuff unpacked and put away and preparing to leave for bible school.  Getting settled, figuring out the where, what & how etc  definitely added to our days.

As Leanne and I sat and talked through all that had taken place, one comment that had been made on our final Sunday stuck in our minds, and it captures our ministry.  One of the photos in the presentation was of when Daniel was 2 years old and I was kneeling down, tying up his skates.   Pastor Misha said that photo was his favourite, for it showed what we had done for him and for the church there.  “Thank you for tying up our skates, for serving here and being an example as individuals and as a family of how to follow Christ. Thank you for serving with us, for walking with us, for helping us, for helping me to learn and grow.”  That had been our desire, and God had answered our prayer.  Was there and is there still more to be done in Sumy?  Yes, of course there is.  But we knew that it was our time to move on, that God was leading us on to the next step & stage.

Leaving Sumy was a lot like when we left Canada for the first time.  We were leaving a place that we loved.  We were leaving people, a church and ministries that we loved.  The future was murky, with many questions that we could not answer.  What was ministry going to look like?  What would it be like to live in Kiev?  We were leaving a small city of 300,000 where everyday you ran into people you knew and moving to a city of 4-5 million and to an area of the city that we weren’t familiar with at all.  Just as when we left Canada, we had to leave the questions and the desire for answers with God, and walk forward in faith.

Our partial transition as part of this stage of helping Lanae & Alicia as they begin the next part of their lives (further education etc) from Sumy to Kiev was a good thing.  In a year or two we will be transitioning to North America for a year or two to facilitate the girls.  It has been a healthy step, for we have expanded their horizons while still helping them stay connected to their roots.  To the five of us, in Ukraine Sumy is home.  We can live in other parts of the country, but Sumy will always be home.   Alicia especially struggled with the idea of moving.  We are so thankful for how God has worked out different details over the past few weeks which have given everyone hope, and have shown us that yes, this is the right thing and a good thing.  It has been a good change for everyone.  Well, almost everyone.  Calvin (our cat) doesn’t appreciate the fact that he can’t just go out as he used to in Sumy.  When the weather is good in Sumy we would take him out our door, down the 5 flights of stairs and let him out onto the street.  Eventually either we would go get him or a neighbour would let him in the front door and he would make his way back up to our apartment.  Pretty good life for a house cat.  Now we live on the 9th floor and his freedom isn’t feasible if we want him to live.  Oh well, everyone has to make adjustments.

Have a great day,

John4 the 5 of us


Below is the presentation that was shown our final Sunday in Sumy.  (if there aren’t any “play” buttons visible, right click on the video and click play)

[evp_embed_video url="http://www.thepaetkaus.net/video/20130728sgcpaetkaufarewell.mp4" width="300" height="200"]




It has been a great summer!

Summer ministries take place in a variety of places and times and formats over the summer in the Sumy Oblast (province/state).  The challenge they all face is how to communicate God’s Word and God’s truth through the entire program.   From the chapel time to playing soccer, every event is an opportunity to share about Christ through word or deed.

First the overview & then a few highlights.  Photos are posted here on our site

English Camp

This was the second year for the English language camp.  This camp is a tremendous opp134 2013 summer ministries n+n_7ortunity to minister to youth and make connections with their families.   Youth study language at school, practicing grammar etc but lack the opportunity to practice speaking.  Thus, to spend a week with a number of people for whom English is their first language is a tremendous opportunity which parents and students are eager to take.

A five member ministry team from the US (Maine) came to join the ministry for that week in June.  Three members came to serve as part of the daily program, and two members came to serve by working on two important building & renovation projects.

We were also joined by missionaries from our team in Kiev, and Rachel Guenther, who is one of SEND’s MK grads that had been in Canada and had come back to Ukraine for the summer.  Rachel served with us throughout all four camps this summer.  Along with the foreigners, we had a number of Ukrainians rounding out the team.

It was a challenging week in good ways.  One challenge was communicating primarily in English when the language abilities are varied. Another challenge was bringing together people from three different nationalities (Canadian, American, Ukrainian), getting everyone acquainted and equipped to run the program in a very short period of time.  Praise the Lord for His equipping and enabling of all who were involved.

Kids Camp134 2013 summer ministries n+n_3

Camp # 2 for our family was the 10-day kids camp.  With this camp Leanne and I stepped back into more of a support role, helping our UA leadership in program and ministry. 65 kids attended this camp.  Many were from non-churched homes, and many were repeat campers.  This is important, as ministry here grows through time and relationships.  Each opportunity that God gives to build into their lives is important.

Teen Camp

Camp # 3: from the frying pan into the fire…. 10 days of teens ages 12-17.134 2013 summer ministries n+n_6

Teens are always an interesting bunch.  Facing the significant challenge of growing up in this day and age they come to camp, carrying along all of their hopes, fears, joys & pain.

They came from different backgrounds. There were teens who came from very difficult situations (orphanage or foster care) with whom each day was a challenge – it took them awhile to believe that we wanted their best.  There were teens who came from homes which were stable in one sense (at least one parent) but still in turmoil, carrying pain and seeking acceptance and encouragement.  There were also those who were just “good kids”, no major issues, just normal teens with the normal hang-ups that teens have.

But they all came with the question – who am I?  Does God really care about me, about my world and the future that I see before me?  Ten days together at camp gives the camp counselors and others a great opportunity to build into their lives.

We are thankful for the men and women that God brought to serve at these camps.  God worked through them, impacting the lives of children and teens for eternity.

Camp for the Disabled

Camp # 4 was a week of camp for the disabled and their caregivers.  This is the third year for this camp which is run by the ministry team from Sumy Grace Church. 70+ individuals – the disabled and their caregivers also attended this camp.  This week is a highlight of the year for many of them, as they spend most of the year inside and lacking fellowship.  SGC has a ministry to these individuals during the year, including a monthly gathering at the church.  Ukrainian society is not very tolerant of those who are disabled, and there isn’t an infrastructure that facilitates them such as there is in the west.

Leanne and Lanae served at this camp (John, Alicia & Daniel spent 4 days in Kiev unpacking etc at our new apartment).  Both shared stories of opportunities to build relationships and to share the message of the Gospel and the love of Christ.

Each summer God works in lives through the summer ministries at Sumy Grace Camp and around Sumy Oblast (province/state).  We as a missionary team are involved in camps – resident camps at Grace Camp; VBS style camps on the streets of cities, towns and villages; tent camps set up in the forest or near the city.  It is a privilege for us to serve alongside the believers here, at times leading, at times serving under, at times equipping, and at times facilitating.  But at all times helping them do what God has called the church to do – share the Gospel and make disciples.

A few highlights:134 2013 summer ministries n+n_2

All four camps were without any major mishap or injury!  Praise the Lord.

Watching kids do amazing things (like go flying up the climbing wall to try and beat the record of 11 seconds)

Seeing Cliff & Tom (Maine team) work with Yaroslav & Andre putting the roof over the wash station and the front awning on the dining hall.  What a blessing that was to have those cove2013 07 Johnson familyrs up for the remainder of the camps.

Seeing people from different cultures and backgrounds come together to serve the common purpose of helping young people grow closer to Christ.

I drove the Maine team into Kiev at the completion of their ministry week, and brought Blake & Colleen Johnson, their kids and Iris Martens (Colleen’s mom) out to Sumy for a brief visit.  Blake & Colleen had just arrived in country and Blake is now teaching in Kiev at Kiev Christian Academy.

The creativity of the UA ministry team and the campers.  The theme this year was Jonah, and they had a great opening program skit (Jonah in modern day).134 2013 summer ministries n+n_4  Each day a cabin group had to take part in the evening chapel and present something.  It is amazing what they came up with.

Here is a short clip from the Teen camp opening skit with Lanae acting as a cashier at the airport…

The wrap up shashleek (bbq) after teen camp.  After the meal was done, during the dessert & tea time Pastor Misha had everyone who had served at the kids or teen camp share a highlight, something that God had taught them etc.  It was such a blessing to listen to the stories of God working through these leaders and in these leaders.  We sat there, just thankful.  So many of those who served & led were kids when we came.  We have watched them grow up, mature and take on these ministry opportunities.  God has blessed us with the opportunity to have been a small part of this process.2013 07 Grace Camp wrap up shashleek

We juggled the reality of our moving and needing to get settled in Kiev with the reality of ministry.  God in His grace gave us strength and ability to get it all done.  During kids camp, Leanne spent a few days in Sumy cleaning up our old apartment.  During teen camp, she and Daniel spent 5 days in Kiev unpacking and getting stuff done.  During the disabled camp, Alicia, Daniel & I spent 4 days in Kiev doing more of the same.  Thus, when we pulled in after all the summer ministries were over, we were able to basically begin living life, as we had only a week until it was time to leave for southern Ukraine to the SEND Ukraine conference.134 2013 summer ministries n+n_5

Summer ministries take place in a variety of places and times and formats over the summer in the Sumy Oblast (province/state).  The challenge they all face is how to communicate God’s Word and God’s truth through the entire program.   From the chapel time to playing soccer, every event is an opportunity to share about Christ through word or deed.


See a lot more photos in the 2013 Summer Ministries photo album