Monday, September 28, 2009

A Word of Thanks

Maxime with puppies in the village
Maxime in the village with puppies

We just wanted to say thank you to the people who have come forward to help Maxime. It means so much to us and to him that there are people out there that have never met him, yet still care about him. Thank you and God bless you.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Luncheon in Park Oleksandria with Olya

Picnic in Park Oleksandria
Olya and Halya unpacking the food as Joshua and Edna watch.

Yesterday our neighbor Olya knocked on our door and invited us to have a late lunch with her and her friend Halya in the park. She told us that they had waited for us because they knew we did school work with the boys in the morning. We had just finished the boys' school lessons so it was perfect timing. Dominic opted to stay home (his loss as Olya is famous with us for her delicious cooking). We knew by the smell of food making its way into our apartment that she had been cooking all morning. We quickly packed up a few things and headed for the park with her and her friend.

Park Oleksandria
Colors in the Park
Some color in the park

I'm not sure exactly how long we stayed in the park (it was sunset when we left), but we had a lot of fun listening to the two women's stories and watching all the different people go by. There were the joggers that Olya jokingly asked if she could jog with. There was the lady with the old dog named Julia (who by the way was a male, the dog not the lady). She was afraid he was going to choke on the bone we gave him. There was the man on the scooter who was singing the whole time as he gathered grass, probably for his cow. There was a group of tourists from Kyiv who really wanted our picnic spot, but we politely refused to leave. There was the little old lady collecting bottles from the trash who we put together a bag of food for. There was the man on the bicycle who was filling jugs of water at a nearby spring and generously offered us some as he explained that God gives living water (the most profound statement of the day). There was a little stray dog and his female companion. The poor little guy had such a bad under bite, that we couldn't stop laughing every time he would come up to us to beg for more food. Then there were the two police officers who rode up to us on horses. They were nice enough and let me take their picture.

Mounted Police in the Park
The police let us feed their horses some bread.

Sunset in Park Oleksandria
Olya, Edna, and Halya on the bank of the River Ros at sunset.

Sunset in Park Oleksandria
Sunset on the Ros.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Portrait of Distraction

Portrait of Distraction
Joshua trying to get through a homeschooling lesson.

Before coming back to Ukraine, Edna and I made the decision to keep the boys home from Ukrainian public school so that they could focus on homeschooling. We were worried that they were falling behind in things like English Language and Math. We were homeschooling before (just not as intensively), but having school twice a day was overwhelming for them.

We have been starting each weekday morning on a schedule that includes breakfast, devotions, and chores before their first lesson. Dominic is a good learner and needs minimal instruction, but Joshua needs constant supervision to keep him on task and focused. This is not to say he isn't learning, he's learning quickly, but Edna and I struggle through each lesson trying to minimize his distractions.

Our day looks something like this:

9:00 A.M. I start Joshua's math lesson.

9:15 A.M. We have already suffered through several distractions including, Joshua deciding to sing about something, Joshua stopping to turn ahead in his book, Joshua chasing after a fly, Joshua playing with his eraser, Joshua accidentally launching his pencil across the room narrowly missing my eye, and many other distractions of which we are far too familiar with.

10:30 A.M. Usually by this time we have made it through the lesson and math problems with minimal threats of discipline or comments about my mental stability. At this point Edna takes over while I help Dominic with his math. We usually bounce back and forth between the two of them, focusing on mainly on Joshua.

11:30 A.M. Hopefully by this time I'm cooking up a quick snack for the boys (and lunch for later) and we haven't had too many external distractions like Joshua's friend Yaroslav calling on the phone to see what Joshua is doing, Maxime ringing our door to see if Joshua is done with school (he goes to school in the afternoon), or a hunt for an escaped hamster because Joshua forgot to close the cage during his break.

2:00 P.M. All school work is completed by this time or earlier (Homework will be done later in the evening). By this time Edna and I are mentally and physically exhausted, but this is when we have a chance to get any shopping done,work around the house or plan for ministry. There are times when I expect to find Edna curled up in a fetal position under the kitchen table rocking back and forth repeating, "In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Thankfully it hasn't gotten to that point, but we could really use your prayers.

I'm not writing this to rant or complain, but mainly in response to a question someone once asked me. "So if church is on Sunday, what do you do during your weekdays since you don't really work or anything?"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Picnic on Hidden Pond

Picnic on Hidden Pond
Edna, Joshua, and Dominic next to the pond.

Today we decided to have a picnic as a family after a long busy week. We went to a place I call "Hidden Pond" because if you didn't know it was there, you'd walk right past it without seeing it through the thick vegetation. Since not very many people know it's there, it's a quiet place to go and enjoy God's creations.

Hidden Pond
Hidden Pond

It was nice to be together, eat some food, and simply relax among the changing colors. Hopefully we can take more of these excursions into the forest before the weather gets really cold. Sometimes we can become so involved with everything that is happening around us or the plans we've made, that we nearly forget to breathe. Even though our picnic didn't last long, it was a much needed break for all of us.

Beginning of Fall Colors
The beginning of Fall colors.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Funeral for Maxime's Father

Funeral of Maxime's Father
At the cemetery in the village

Yesterday was the funeral for Maxime's father, Andriy. It was one of the saddest funerals I have ever been to. It was hard to watch as a mother and father held their son, as a brother said goodbye to his brother, as a wife kissed her husband, and a son saw his father, all for the last time.

Funeral of Maxime's Father
Joshua led the procession with a photo of Andriy.

I'm just glad that we were able to be there for Maxime and his family. His grandmother, Luda, and his grandfather were very thankful that we were there and that I could take photos for them. Tanya from Pryluky was also able to be there for the funeral and I know Maxime was happy that someone had come all that way just to be there for him. Joshua and Dominic were the only ones Maxime's age at the funeral, so I'm sure it helped him to know they were there for him too.

Funeral of Maxime's Father
Tanya and Edna holding flower wreaths.

Thank you for all of your prayers. Maxime's grandmother, Luda, has said that Maxime and his mother will probably move in with them in the front house. They had previously lived in an attached section that had one bedroom and no indoor plumbing. Maxime's grandfather actually locked up the place where Maxime had been living and said that he didn't want anyone going back in there again. This is a blessing because that place was beyond any description I could give.

Funeral of Maxime's Father
Maxime and his mother, Vera

Now we are going to be working with Maxime's grandmother to make sure that Maxime is provided for. His grandparents are pensioners and his mother has no income so we are going to try and get the necessities that he needs. Maxime has no bedding or sheets to sleep on so this will be the first thing we will try to get for him. He is also going to need clothes, especially with winter approaching. Right now, Maxime doesn't even have a pair of socks to wear. We had to give him some of Joshua's clothes so that he would have something to wear for the funeral. If you'd like to help us purchase any of these things, please contact us through email (if you don't have it, you can click HERE and then click the email link under Contact).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Update on Maxime

Maxime and Joshua
Maxime and Joshua placing flowers with Maxime's father

Please continue to pray for Maxime and his mother. Today has been especially difficult for everyone as they prepared Andriy to be buried tomorrow. Vera, Maxime's mother, is in no condition to care for him so Maxime will be staying with us for now. She has been drinking heavily and fell down unconscious outside for several minutes this morning. An ambulance was called, but she refused to go to the hospital.

She may be moving in with her mother and Maxime doesn't know if he will move with her as well. Right now, he is unsure about what will happen to him. He is doing his best to stay strong and even helped Edna pick out some flowers that he and Joshua placed with his father. The family has asked me to photograph the funeral tomorrow so we will be going by bus to the village where Maxime's father will be buried.


Remembering Andriy
Remembering Andriy

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Please Pray for Maxime

Maxime, Lusya, and Kristina
Maxime, Lusya, and Kristina last week at the Children's Festival

Early this morning Maxime's father, Andriy, died of liver failure. He was thirty-six years old. Maxime has spent the whole day with us and is spending the night tonight, trying to keep from thinking about what happened. He went with us to church and did his best not to let anyone see him cry, but he's really struggling to deal with his emotions right now. He said the hardest part will be trying to go to sleep when all he can think about is his father.

Please keep Maxime in your prayers and also his mother Vera, who also came very close to dying this past year. This could be a turning point in both of their lives. Pray that God will use it for His glory and comfort them as He draws them near to Him.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Final Touches on the Playground Restoration Project

Playground Restoration Project
Children's Festival
Before and after of the old swings complete with new bearings and paint.

Yesterday, I put the final touches on our Playground Restoration Project by painting the new benches and the repaired rigid swings (you can see all the past posts about the playground by clicking HERE). The group from Pryluky made these last repairs and additions to the playground before the Children's Festival. We definitely couldn't have done it without them.

Children's Festival
A splash of color for the new benches

We've been planning this outreach for a long time now and I'm so happy to see everything done. The paint we put on this Spring hasn't held up against the summer sun and humidity as well as I would have liked, but it's still a huge improvement. The children, parents, and grandparents really enjoy the repairs and additions that were made and through this we have become closer with a lot of them. It has definitely opened up doors for sharing the Gospel. I'm excited to see how God will use all of this.

Playground Restoration Project
Children's Festival
Before and after of the suspended balance beam

While I was painting yesterday, several children came up to me and asked all sorts of questions. They asked things like, "What color will you paint that?", "How long will it take the paint to dry?", "What else are you going to build?", "Do the paint fumes bother you?", and so on. The question that took me by surprise came from a little boy. He said, "Why are you doing all this? Is it because you like children?" I said yes and kept painting, but I started thinking about his question.

Children's Festival
This bench had been completely destroyed by vandals at one point.

Why did I do all that work? There have been plenty of times when I was frustrated because fresh paint was ruined by kids throwing sand or ripping down "wet paint" signs or by people throwing litter all over the ground right after I had picked it all up. It can be discouraging when not everyone appreciates what you have done, but I didn't do the work to try and please everybody. So why did I do it?

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me." Matthew 18:3-5

I did it so that the children would have a safe place to play, that they might come and through outreaches like the Children's Festival come to know the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Children's Festival

Children's Festival
Maxime dressed for a fashion relay race.

Yesterday we held a Children's Festival on the playground outside of our apartment with the help of eleven people from Calvary Chapel Pryluky. We also cleaned up the playground, added four new benches, repaired the old swings, and added a suspended balance beam before the festival. I can't believe how much we accomplished in just one day. The festival was a huge success in that God's word was taught and the name of Jesus was made known as our Lord and Savior to about fifty kids (not counting about fifteen or so that came late or simply just watched the other kids participate). It doesn't get much better than that.

Children's Festival
Songs and prayer to gather the children.

The team had five stations with four rotating groups broken down by age. The theme was, "Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life". There were crafts, Bible Teaching, worship songs, activities, and face painting. The festival ended with songs, a prayer, and a water balloon toss. Words can't really describe how much God blessed our time with the children and with everyone from Pryluky, so I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

Children's Festival
Edna and Olya discussing the festival.

We were happy to see that several mothers and grandmothers thanked us for our work on the playground and for the festival. It was interesting to see how many people in the surrounding apartments were all watching and listening to the music from their balconies. A few people watched the festival from the benches on the playground, including our neighbor Olya (who also helped us out with the cooking). Olya and Natasha, the woman whose husband died last week (see post), said they both want to come to church with us next week. Praise God.

Children's Festival
Max and Dominic uncovering an ancient walkway and border.

Children's Festival
Max and Yana painting the street with John 14:6.

Children's Festival
Kolya and Max replacing the bearings on the old swings.

Children's Festival
Dasha and Dasha. "Jesus - the way, and the truth, and the life!"

Children's Festival
Max and Sasha securing a balance beam.

Children's Festival
Building new benches.

Children's Festival
Testing the new attraction.

Children's Festival
Sasha finishing the benches.

Children's Festival
"God loves you!"

Children's Festival
Tanya with her group on the new benches.

Children's Festival
Max teaching about salvation only through Jesus Christ.

Children's Festival
Natasha painting faces and hands.

Children's Festival
Dasha, Vika, and Tanya with happy faces, literally.

Children's Festival

Children's Festival
Maryna helping lead the kids in a song.

Children's Festival
Water balloon toss.

You can see the rest of the photos we took by clicking HERE.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Digging for Your Life

Bagging Potatoes
Harvesting Potatoes

Yesterday, Dominic and I went to the village of Kozhenyky to help harvest potatoes. We've done this before and it's our way of helping a family in the church that owns the home and land there. It's hard work, but we also have fun along the way and they feed us really well.

Lunch Break (red borshch and holubtsi)

They tell us that the village is dying. There are no young people there anymore. They've all moved away. As the older people in the village die, their homes are often just boarded up. We've heard that the village is down to just one cow now as cows are a lot of work to care for.

The road out of the village goes up the hill to the far right.

Pollen Collector
Collecting pollen.

Boy on Fire
Dominic burning the dead potato vegetation.

What Do You Do When Death is Stalking You
It appears that, unbeknownst to Dominic, he was being stalked by the grim reaper.

Looking around at how difficult life is there, I can understand how young people would want to move away. There is no running water or toilets and most people live off of the animals they raise and the crops they grow. Potatoes are of course the most important crop and the most labor intensive. They are also solely dependent on God's provision of rain for water.

Our Son Flower
Biggest sunflower ever?

Pumpkins and More
Pumpkins and more.

The potatoes that are harvested must last people until the next year. Nothing goes to waste. The potatoes are sorted and any that are damaged are fed to their animals. Potatoes can also be sold or traded. So as I looked around at other people digging neighboring plots of land, I realized that they were literally digging for their lives.

Long Walk Uphill
This woman had been in the field next to us collecting vegetables and some grass for the one remaining cow in the village. She was lugging a full load up the steep hill using an old baby carriage.