“Where are you from – if it isn’t a secret…”
“Are you from the Baltics? I can tell from your accent…..”
Ah, the joys of living overseas. In Ukraine we look like the nationals – being of a slavic type nationality ourselves – but at times when we open our mouths it is obvious that we aren’t (especially when we are tired). That can be a blessing or well, maybe not. It is at those times that I need to remember that each interaction is an opportunity to be a witness for Christ, and to not look at it as an intrusion into my personal space and an interruption in my day.
But then there is also the other side of it. Leanne and Alicia were sitting on the steps of the bridge at Grace Camp having a chat one evening, and a young fellow from the church here came over to chat. He came up to ask a question, and when he heard Leanne and Alicia talking he said, “oh, you’re practicing your English!” That made us feel better. Sasha began attending Grace Church not long before we moved to Kiev, so he doesn’t know us very well.
This past while has been a bit of a roller coaster, as Ukraine has been lurching through a number of moments of crisis. Early in May we were in Odessa for the graduation celebration of one of our MK’s. That same weekend the downtown erupted in a conflict between pro-Ukrainian and pro-separatists groups. The conflict was far from where we were, but it showed again how quickly things could change. This was all part of the time period leading up to the presidential elections and everyone was on edge. The conflict was developing in the southeastern portion of the country and the question was, would it spill over into the rest of the country. The presidential elections were held, and a new president was chosen during the first round of voting (usually it has taken 2-3 rounds of voting to reach a decision). If you have watched the news, you will know that the conflict has escalated, but it has still been contained in two oblasts (provinces) which border Russia in the southeast of the country. This is the situation the country is in at present.
So, in the meantime we climbed into the Niva and headed east to Sumy for the summer ministries. In the letter that I sent out regarding the Niva project, we showed a vehicle which was clean and neat – definitely not what a 4×4 should look like. Last week I had the opportunity to “baptize it” the Canadian farmer way. We had a lot of rain overnight, and a tree went down and closed the road into the camp for a few hours. I had to head out to town to purchase supplies etc, so I went the back way – which was a very muddy dirt road filled with lots of dips and holes (which were filled with water) across the fields to the main road. About a 1.5 kms of muddy heaven. Its been years since I have been able to have that much fun in the mud.
We have served for a week in the special needs camp, and then a 10 day childrens camp which just wrapped up. The special needs camp was a bit of a challenge, as the ministry team had been expecting a lot of kids with adult helpers but instead got a fair number of adults with helpers, an kids with helpers. Many were part of a rehabilitation association that one of the girls in our church is part of. Jenya had invited them to the camp – and they came. There were approximately 60 campers and helpers. Here is more of the story. Photos can also be seen here.
Kids camp. Well, kids camp is kids camp. Lots of short little people running around creating dust and making life a challenge. I tried something different during one of the evening chapels – I was speaking on creation and wanted a little audience participation. Good idea but the result was interesting…..read more about the kids camp here.
This past Sunday a multi-church baptism service was held on the riverbank in the center of the city of Sumy. I was asked to participate – and of course we had conveniently forgotten my baptismal robe in Kiev (I was hoping to dodge that bullet). So when it was obvious that I wasn’t going to get out of it, we had to spring into action – nothing like leaving things to the last minute. Saturday morning we were able to contact one of our teammates who lives near us in Kiev. They went over to the apartment, found the bag which it was in, got down to the train station and gave it to one of the drivers of the vans that leave hourly for Sumy. I met him at 11 pm that night when he pulled up with his passengers in downtown Sumy. Praise God for the informal shipping network that exists in this country.
Five people were baptized from Grace Church. This past Friday night we listened to their testimonies – what an encouragement. In all, 23 people from four churches were baptized. This annual event is always such a statement of how things are different than how they were under communism. Under communism, they met at 5 a.m. in the morning on a riverbank out away from the public eyes. Now, they meet at 9 a.m. in the center of the city, surrounded by sunbathers who listen to a hour long service with choirs, poems, sermons etc and then watch as everyone robed in white goes in and testifies to their faith in Christ through baptism. Here are photos from the event.
In the meantime, Alicia is being her usual merciful self attempting to rescue all of the stray felines that we come across. Usually I am able to put a stop to it before it gets out of hand, but this time that didn’t work. Read the story here of 4 little strays who found a friend…..
Today (July 10) the jr highers arrive and another 10 days of life begins. Shall let you know how all of that goes. Lord willing, when that wraps up we will be having a 4 day English camp which we are in charge of.
One thing to mention – please pray for the conflict/war in the two oblasts in the southeastern corner of Ukraine. It is a mess. Men that we know here in Sumy are going down to serve. Everyone knows someone who has gone, and some of those who will not be coming back. Citizens of those regions are attempting to flee, and are seeking refuge around the country. Here in Sumy churches that have the facilities are offering assistance. Different camps and resorts are being used to house refugees. There are now have over a dozen at Grace Camp, and each day more trickle in. This is a challenge and an opportunity, and much wisdom is needed. One of the ladies who is here was watching the news just prior to arriving at the camp. She recognized the place on the clip as her area, and then she realized that her building had been partially destroyed by bombs, including her apartment on the first floor. This is the reality for many people right now in Ukraine, and it has shocked the country. Pray that God would work through these times to bring people to Himself.
Internet out here in the boonies is a bit of an off and on thing, and when we do get into Sumy we are trying to get through a list of things in a short time. So our communications have been a bit sporadic. Thanks for standing with us through these times. If anything drastic happens that affects us, we will let you know.
Have a great day,
4 the 4 of us in Ukraine and the one in Canada