Sunday, August 31, 2008

Outreach to Flood Victims in Western Ukraine (Part 1)

Destroyed Home

Last night we returned from our trip to western Ukraine to help the people who are still recovering from the floods that devastated that region. (You can see pictures of the floods and read about it by checking out Olya's blog. She's the one who was on the phone making all the contacts and finding out exactly how we could help.) We were blessed to be able to serve in any way we could even if it was just to talk to someone and tell them that God loves them so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for them on the Cross. Dominic and I made the trip down to the Chernivtsi Oblast near the Romanian and Moldovan border, along with nine other people from the Chernihiv (Chernigov) church, early Thursday morning. (Interestingly, most of the people we met were ethnically Romanian although Ukrainian citizens. Their preferred language was Romanian. We learned that the region we were in had actually been part of Romania before WW II.)

What we saw was heartbreaking, but yet encouraging when we would hear that people were placing their Hope in Christ to bring them through their present trials. We met several people as we handed out aide who had literally lost everything that they owned in this world and yet would decline extra food and supplies telling us to give it to someone who was in greater need. There is so much to tell about this trip that I can't do it in just one post. I'll have to share this experience with several posts and links to the four other people on the trip who will be blogging about it as well. I can honestly say that it made our Joy complete to spend ourselves in service to our brothers and sisters in western Ukraine. No one on the trip felt that it was ever a sacrifice, but rather our blessing to see Christ glorified in tragedy and suffering and to be able to witness the Sovereignty of God even in disaster.

Destroyed Home
With most of the older homes built from mud bricks, the floods reduced them to piles of mud and timbers

Destroyed Home
Most if not all of the furniture and appliances in homes were water logged and ruined

Putting together food and clothing for flood victims
The team putting together food, water, and clothing to give out in the village (from left to right: Marina, Olya, Valya, Dominic, Conor, Jake, Mira, and Andriy with Vlada and Anya in the background)

Putting together food and clothing for flood victims
All sources of drinking water are polluted and travel is difficult for the elderly, so it is vital that someone takes them food and water

As I get more time to sort through all the pictures I'll do my best to recount all that we saw and experienced in future posts. My hope is that, along with the others who will post blogs about our experience, we will encourage people to spend their lives for Christ finding their pleasure in Him.

Handing out food and water to flood victims
Dominic giving a bag of food and water to a woman from the village

A woman receiving food and water with thanks

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Visit from Will and Ira

Ira and Edna

On Monday, our friends Will and Ira came to visit us for a few days. Will and Ira are missionaries from Nizhyn. We had not seen them since Christmas time, so it was really nice to see them again. It was good to relax and fellowship with friends. We spent our time visiting Oleksandria Park, the amusement park at the town center, and of course cooking and eating in the kitchen. Ira showed me how to cook a new meal that turned out quite delicious. I am determined to make it myself now.

Thank you Will and Ira for coming out to spend time with us. It was really encouraging to have you guys here. We look forward to having you here again!

Walking around our amusement park
(Dominic, Will, Edna, and Ira) At the amusement park, deciding which ride to go on next

Early this morning, Greg and Dominic headed out to western Ukraine with a group from Chernihiv to assist the flood victims in the Chernivtsi oblast. A large part of western ukraine was devastated by flooding. Many people have lost everything. There is a huge need there to repair and rebuild. Please pray for their safe travels and for God to lead and direct them. Also, pray for opportunities for them to share about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thanks!

- Edna

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Happy Independence Day Ukraine! (З Днем Незалежності!)

Happy Independence Day Ukraine
Celebrating 17 years of Independence

Ukrainian Independence Day


I love this billboard that reads, "Ukraine - My favorite style"

Friday, August 22, 2008

Old School / New School

New School 16
New School No. 16

We recently found out that a new School No. 16 would be opening its doors for First Bell on September 1st. It will specialize in natural sciences and mathematics. The school isn't yet completed so only a few of the grades, including Joshua's, will be making the move. Dominic will still attend the old School No. 16 until next year. The new school is bigger and even a little closer to where we live than the older one. Joshua is excited about school now and so are we after seeing how nice it is. Today, we slipped in among the construction to get a sneak peek.

New School 16New School 16New School 16

New School 16 under construction in April of 2007
The new School No. 16 under construction in April of 2007

The difference between the two schools is amazing. The old school has the look and feel of a Soviet institution complete with the bust of a Soviet Army soldier, M. O. Kyrylenko, who was killed nearby while defending Bila Tserkva against the "fascist German aggressors" (the new school also bears his name). The floors are made from warped planks of wood and the layers of paint covering everything are nearly immeasurable. The school is still well maintained and clean, but very out dated.

Inside old School 16
Notice the Soviet decor of the old school

The new school is beautiful and is a reflection of an Independent Ukraine we should be proud of.

Inside new School 16
The Ukrainian National Anthem and another plaque still have protective plastic over them in the new school

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Going Green

Dominic and Maxime painting
Dominic and Maxime making the world a little greener

We decided to go green today after Maxime's dad said it was OK to paint the new and improved fence. Red was Maxime's first choice but the store was out of red (along with all the other colors except green) so trusty green it was. All three boys helped me paint so they all had a part in making the fence look like new.

Dominic and Maxime painting the fence
I just kept thinking, "Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer".

Maxime's dad, Andriy, was working on removing their old heating system so he asked me to help him. Again, God seems to be opening up doors with Maxime's parents. As we struggled to remove the old furnace from the kitchen, Andriy told me a little about his time in the Army. He went into the Soviet Army, but ended up in the Ukrainian Army as the Soviet Union dissolved. He also said that he was a dog handler. I hope these opportunities to work together keep coming up as they are an answer to prayer.

Vera, Maxime, and Joshua after we finished the fence
Vera, Maxime, and Joshua

Maxime's mom, Vera, was very grateful for the work we did on the fence and was really surprised at how nice it came out. It's amazing what a little paint can do and how a little bit of kindness can change hearts.

The boys looking at the fence
Finally finished
Before and After

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mending Fences

Dominic, Joshua, and Maxime inspecting the fence
Maxime trying to fix his fence

Maxime's dog went into heat yesterday and by night fall she had caught the attention of every male dog in the neighborhood. At one point we counted eleven dogs in Maxime's yard. Maxime tried to chase them off, but his actions were thwarted by their broken fence. There was just no way of keeping the dogs out.

Joshua looking at how the dogs get in
Joshua looking at a dog that just got through the fence

This morning I discovered Maxime making a valiant effort to repair the fence and chase away the lingering dogs. I decided that this would be a good opportunity to show his parents that we care about them as well as Maxime. It proved to be a greater blessing than I had anticipated. It wasn't long before Maxime's mother, Vera, came out and asked if Edna and I would like to have tea with her.

Where the dogs get in
Where the dogs get in

Edna and I were invited into Maxime's home for the first time today. We saw first hand just how bad the conditions inside really are. I won't get into any of the details, but I have to say that of all the homes I've visited in the villages, this was the worst I've seen. We were just thankful that Vera felt comfortable enough to have us come in. She sat us down in the small room where they sleep and showed us all of their photos. We were especially touched to see that they had put together a photo album of all the photos we had printed out for them over the last year of us with Maxime.

Andriy and Greg working on the fence together
Me and Andriy working on the fence

While Edna and Vera sat outside to have tea and talk, I began working to repair the fence with the help of the boys. After I rebuilt the frame that had rotted away, Maxime's father, Andriy, cut planks of wood and helped me put them in place. It was the first time that we had really spent any time together and I'm glad that we had the chance to work side by side to achieve something. Hopefully this is only the start of a relationship that will lead Maxime's parents to someday know Christ.

The repaired fence
I'm hoping that we can paint the fence to put the finishing touch on this project

Edna's thoughts,

"Yesterday was our neighbor Olya's 61st birthday. We were invited to her place last night to have a big birthday dinner with her and her family and friends. By now, we are familiar with everyone and they were so kind to us. They fed us until we couldn't eat anymore. Later, after everyone left we went back over to sit and talk to Olya and eat some fresh watermelon. She said Maxime's whole family is "sick in the head" and to just leave them all alone. What was hard for me, since I don't know enough of the language, was not being able to explain that as Christians we can't just turn our backs on people who are like that. I know for her it may seem a little odd that we remain a part of Maxime's life and continue to help them, but that is what we feel God wants us to do, regardless of what people in the neighborhood think about it. We have to worry about what God thinks of our actions, not our neighbors. We pray in time, they will see our intentions and understand why we care about those who are rejected from this society."

- Edna

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. - 1 Corinthians 9:22

Happy Birthday Olya!

Olya with the juicer her daughters got her for her birthday

Yesterday we celebrated our neighbor Olya's 61st birthday with her and her family. As usual, she didn't let us leave before stuffing us full of food.

Olya's 61st Birthday

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bake at 95 Degrees for Sixteen Hours or Until Done

95 Degrees and the Window Won't Open
95 (35) degrees and the window on the train won't open

We returned late last night on the train from Southern Ukraine where we had spent some time with a couple from our church, Tanya and Kolya. We had fun getting to know them a little better and look forward to spending more time with them. What we aren't looking forward to is another train ride like the one yesterday.

We knew the ride home wasn't going to be very pleasant when we realized the window in the little section with our four sleeping "shelves", was nailed shut. Not a good sign since the window was also our emergency exit, although we were more concerned with the lack of air flow.

Aside from the fact that we simmered in sweat and I was made painfully aware that our sleeping berths were not designed for anyone over 5'5" (165cm)(Edna and the boys had no problems), it was an interesting trip. If the train stopped for more than a few minutes, we could get off and buy water and homemade foods from people selling them along the tracks. I even ventured out to buy a bag of "rah-kee" (craw fish) at one stop. They were good, but they could have been better with some Tabasco sauce. This wasn't our first time on a train in Ukraine, but it definitely was the hottest.

The train we were on was set up with four sleeping "shelves" to one side and two to the other, two berths high. Our carriage was full and there is little room between berths so you really get to know your neighbors. This isn't such a bad thing because people will often share their food with you. It was a good experience in Ukrainian train culture for all of us. The only thing I can really complain about is that for the $14 that my ticket cost, I expected my window to open.

So what do you do when it's 95 degrees Fahrenheit on your train and the window is nailed shut?

Making Friends on the Train
You make some friends and...

Playing Cards on the Train
play cards.
(Vika, Stas, and Joshua)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Please Pray for Our Neighbor, Georgia (Грузія)

Damaged apartment buildings and their displaced tenants

Advancing Russian Troops

Please pray for an end to this conflict and for the safety of the Georgian people!

Lunch at Babushka Olya's
The women in this photo with Joshua and our neighbor Olya, live in Georgia. Please keep them in your prayers as well.

One Way

I came across this video clip of Oprah the other day and I wanted to post it for those that haven't seen it. I can't help but feel that it is an insult to Christian missionaries all over the world. If you listen to what she says, she seems to be saying that there is no need for anyone to hear about Jesus because there are many ways to get to heaven. Missionaries, like most Christians, have made the mistake of believing that the world needs to hear about Jesus, according to Oprah's thinking. This clip is not only wrong and insulting, but undermines efforts of Christian evangelism since it is translated and broadcast around the world, including here in Ukraine.

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have command you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20

These are children in an orphanage that had not heard about Jesus.

Voloshka Orphanage

Hearing about Jesus mattered to them!

Voloshka Orphanage

I'm just amazed that society tolerates such an incredibly influential person like Oprah who denies Christ. That's exactly what she has done with some of her Web class programs geared toward "seekers and students" as she calls them. Oprah not only insults the name of Jesus with her teachings and programs, but she also denies the Biblical truth of what He accomplished on the cross.

Here's a quote from John the Apostle:

"Who is the Liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist - he denies the Father and the Son." - 1 John 2:22

Here's another video clip that shows exactly what Oprah thinks about God and Jesus. I think it's pretty disturbing knowing how many people watch and follow Oprah.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:9-11