Sunday, November 25, 2007

Which Christmas?

Edna overseeing crafts
Edna overseeing crafts

Today we had church at the Invalid Center again. It’s the same place where we have English Club on Wednesdays. We had a great time with the children and have started teaching them some of the Ukrainian worship songs we got from Calvary Chapel Kyiv. Ukrainian children love to sing and it wasn’t long before they were singing better than us. We are working on putting together some kind of performance for Christmas. This is where the confusion began. We weren’t sure which Christmas to celebrate.

In the 17th century most European countries adopted the Gregorian calendar, but Russia (later to become the Soviet Union) used the Julian calendar until 1918. Most holidays are thus celebrated 13 days later according to Orthodox tradition. We assumed that our church would celebrate Christmas on January 7th and had made plans to be in Chernihiv on December 25th. We found out tonight that Western Ukraine and most people here in Bila Tserkva celebrate Christmas on December 25th. It was decided that since we would be out of town then that the church would instead celebrate Christmas on January 7th so that we would be here to put on a children’s performance. We’re happy, but still a little surprised that we can choose which Christmas to celebrate.

You can check out how our Thanksgiving went by going to Danny Foote’s blog. (Why blog when someone already has and has done a much better job. Thanks Danny. )

Greg helping with crafts

Monday, November 19, 2007

Time to Worship

Maxime Discovers Christian Worship Music

Yesterday, we made the trip to Kyiv and went to church at Calvary Chapel Kyiv with our friend Maria. It was nice to see some familiar faces and meet a few new people as well. As we were leaving we got a phone call from Maxime. We let him know that we would not be at church in Bila Tserkva and that there wouldn't be any Children's Ministry. We had lunch with Maria and then made our way back to Bila Tserkva.

After we were back home, Maxime came by to see us. We found out that he had gone to church (by himself on the bus across town) to hear the message even though he knew there wouldn't be anything special for the children. This was very encouraging to us. We could tell that Maxime has a genuine interest in hearing the Word of God.

Maxime saw a worship CD that we had brought back from Calvary Chapel Kyiv and asked what it was. It was a collection of Christian worship songs in Ukrainian and Russian that they're worship team had recorded. We let the CD play on our laptop while Maxime read through the words. Then something unexpected happened. Maxime began singing along with the songs. He not only began singing, but insisted that we let all fourteen songs play. He gave each song his full attention and didn't want to be distracted while he concentrated on singing the words. When the CD was over he begged us to let him sing along to it again. Sadly, we had to send him home because it was getting late, but we promised that we would all sing these songs during Children's Ministry on Sundays.

We were all a little shocked that Maxime, who has a very short attention span, had set down and actually listened to a whole CD. He not only listened, but sang all the words. In the past we've tried to let him listen to Christian music, but he was never interested and couldn't sit still for more than a few minutes anyway. We are so thankful and encouraged by all the changes we continue to see in Maxime. All in God's time.

The title of the CD, by the way, is "Час" (chas), meaning time, as in "Now is the Time to Worship".

Maxime Singing Along to Christian Worship Songs
Maxime singing praises to God

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ukrainian Talent

Kristina at a singing competition
Kristina in pink and black

Tonight we went to see Kristina, a ten year old girl from our church, perform in a singing competition. She is a very talented young girl who is always excited to attend the Children's Ministry on Sundays. She is currently taking English lessons from Edna and we hope that she might someday help out as a translator in church.(Yes, she's that quick of a learner.)

Singing Competion

We were very impressed by the talent of all the children that performed tonight. The youngest girl was only four years old, but she sang and danced as good as the older kids. We're convinced that all Ukrainian children are born with the ability to sing and dance and then begin playing musical instruments as soon as they can walk. We can't think of any other explanation.

Ukrainians are usually disappointed when we tell them that no one in our family can sing, dance, or play a musical instrument. Oh well, at least we're pretty good at speaking English.

Ukrainian Announcer
The announcer

Ukrainian fashion is unique and makes life more interesting, don't you think?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Snow, Church, and Ballet

Dominic and Joshua
Dominic and Joshua on the way to church

Coming from California, I never imagined that I would one day be trekking through the snow with my family to get to church (where they don't speak English) and then catch a ballet performance. That's exactly what we did tonight. The funny thing is that it all seems normal now. Even the part where we all cram into a van that has twice as many people in it than it has seats, feels normal. (That part never was strange for me at least. We had them in the Army. They were bigger and we packed even more people into them. We called them "cattle cars".)

Crafts with Miss Edna
Crafts with Miss Edna

After church tonight our friend, Fedir, treated us all to a night of ballet. We stayed as long as Maxime and Joshua could keep from running all over the theater (about 20 minutes). It was an interesting evening and the ballet was one more thing that I can say that I never thought I'd see. Life is full of surprises in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Ballet

Friday, November 09, 2007

First Snow

First Snow

On Wednesday night we got our first snow. It wasn't very much and didn't last long, but we thought that those of you who are in parts of California (like San Luis Obispo) that never get snow might enjoy the pictures.

First Snow

English Club

English Club
Maxime, Sasha, Greg, Yura, Sveta, Katya, Oksana, and Edna

God put it on our hearts to look into the possibility of someday starting an English club as a way of sharing the Gospel in our own language. When we showed up at the invalid center here in Bila Tserkva last Wednesday with the intention of getting a tour of the facility, we were introduced to six young people who wanted to speak English with us. We thought we were only going to see what goes on at the facility and see how we might help out in the future. We weren’t expecting to immediately begin teaching English, which we did for an hour before getting a tour.

The invalid center treats infants, children, and young adults for all types of mental and physical disabilities. We were impressed by all the different types of physical therapy that they offer and the expansions of the facility that are underway. The director invited us to have dinner at his house and asked if we would consider working with some of the other groups of children at the center. The director is a Christian and is very open to any type of Bible teaching that we might want to do with the children there. This is a huge open door that we didn’t see coming.

We had only been thinking about the possibility of an English club for a little over a week when God seems to have directed us to one. We weren’t prepared to start one, but we could hardly say no to agreeing to return each Wednesday from 10:30am to 12:00pm. We were so blessed at how eager the six young men and women were to have two native English speakers to talk to and learn from. Their ages range from 17 to 25 years old. They each suffer from some type of mental or physical disability, but that hasn’t deterred them from meeting together for the last two years. I asked them if they considered themselves an English club already and they said no, that they just meet once a week to learn and practice speaking English together. I said that sounded like an English club to me, so from now on, we are an English club. Please keep this new development in your prayers.