Sunday, November 18, 2007

..."and the envelope, please"

Ok, so maybe waiting for news on my blog is not exactly like waiting to hear the winners of - say - the Academy Awards, but many of you have been asking for a little "what's up?" info. So here it is. :)

God is good...all the time
I don't know when I'll learn that it's really only "faith" when I don't see what's ahead! ("So faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". Hebrews 11:1) So the last few months have been an awesome journey of faith! :)

After determining about two months ago that my time in Prague was through, the next question was "what (or where?) next"? :) Although I have many options and invitations for ministry there in Prague and in other countries, including the US, the pastors and elders at my sending church in CA encouraged me to take some time to simply wait on the Lord and hear His voice. When they asked me where I thought was the best place for me to do this, I was a little embarassed to say anyplace other than with them, since they have been so very supportive ever since they first sent me out as a missionary 9 years ago.

But honestly, the first place that came to mind was Ukraine! Thankfully, they agreed and said they had actually "figured as much". :) When I met with Pastor Alosha and some of the leaders of the church in Kyiv, thankfully they said they were glad to have me for as long as the Lord would direct! When I said that I didn't want to make the mistake of rushing in and committing to anything long term until I was sure of God's leading, Alosha encouraged me with the example that if he were to "leave home and go somewhere and then when it was time to leave there, how could it be a mistake to simply come home, if only for awhile?" :) It was great to hear that they, too, saw Kyiv as my "home away from home".

It's weird being so far from family and native culture, etc., and to truly miss them so much, but to be blessed with a place that feels so much like home to me, too.

So What's Next?
Recently in my transition, I had the privilige of hearing Pam Markey share at a discussion on Practical Mission Life at the Bible College in Vajta, Hungary. She reminded us that sometimes we get so caught up in the What and How of ministry that we forget the Why. She encouraged us to keep the goal of loving God, loving one another, and seeking to glorify God and make Him known paramount and let the Whys, Whats and Hows fall into place accordingly.

I heartily agree! This simple "ministry plan" (love God, love others) :) has been leading me for many years.., first to Ukraine, then to Prague and back to Ukraine and now - surprisingly - a very interesting "What" has fallen into place! Unbeknownst to me, John Chubik and his family arrived in Hungary at the College just a day after myself. John and I went to Bible School eons ago (literally!) and he and his family served in Kyiv, and then in Zaporizha, Ukraine. John and Karen are dear friends that I'm priviliged to know. John is going to be working on a book about Pastor George's life and when he heard that I would be in Ukraine for a time, asked if I would help with some of the research for the book! What a privilige! I am blessed to be helping the church in Kyiv gather the stories of those whom George's life and ministry touched over the years. (George Markey was our dear pastor in Kyiv that passed away nearly a year ago).

Keep Praying...
So that's the latest. :) "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain they that try to do anything not according to His plan". I don't want to labor in vain, so although I have lots of other thoughts and options for the future, I am simply putting them before the Lord to see what will come of them. So as always, I appreciate your prayers!

Monday, November 12, 2007

I have a new blog, along with this one... about that for getting to the point? :)

I have started a new blog just for my "writing thoughts"...meaning specifically articles I have written, poetry, etc. With all this time on my hands here in the Budapest airport (see that previous post here) it seemed like the time to do it, finally. :)

So check out It needs a lot of work, but I just wanted to get going on it. Danny, I may be asking you for graphic help since it seems like everyone else in the Ukraine missionary blogging world already has...I wanna jump on the bandwagon! :)

"I'm good enough, smart enough, and darn it people like me"

Ok....this is for Danny and Liese....Raise your hand if you know where that phrase that I titled this post is from? A few of you, ok. It is a quote from a regular feature on Saturday Night Live ages was from "Stuart Smalley's Daily Affirmations". :) It was a rare, usually clean, really funny skit poking fun at America's obsession with counseling, therapy and self-help groups. The host, Stuart Smalley, used to start the show by saying the phrase that I titled this blog. And then throughout the show he would sometimes start criticizing himself and then he would say "...but that's ok, because I'm good enough, smart enough, and darn it - people like me".

So this is the story...its a three- parter. Hang in there...I really think its worth it.

Quite a few years ago God did a really amazing thing in my life. I was reconciled with someone who had really greivously wronged me. I say I was reconciled because rather than me just forgiving them (which I had been doing for years) they actually repented and asked for my forgiveness. It was amazing and a statistical anomoly.

At a church New Year's Eve concert (Janie Collup Band, yeah!) I was telling someone the great news and they said "You need to share that with the whole church!" I said I would love to but there wasn't really an appropriate forum for that. The next day, New Year's Day, very uncharacteristically, our Pastor - Steve Carr - announced at the beginning of the service that instead of the sermon he had prepared he was just going to open the mike and let people share what God had done in their lives that past year. My friend whipped around and looked at me where I sat in the back row and I knew that I was supposed to tell what had happened.

When everyone had shared and they had asked a second time if there was anyone else, I knew it was my turn. I stood up and - even though I was sharing pretty generally without getting into details - I got very choked up and started to cry a little. I knew that would happen. And I said so...and after I said so, I thought "but that's ok". :) And as soon as I said that, I had to laugh, because I thought of Stuart Smalley's oft-said line and I quoted him. "I'm good enough, smart enough, and darn it - people like me". Everyone laughed, that was that. I thought.

A month or so later I am hanging around after Sunday night service talking to the worship leader (Folkrod) and asst. pastor (Bill) and a couple from the church (anonymous) and in the course of laughing and joking around I said that again. The wife looked at me oddly, looked at her husband quizzically, and then asked me "Why do you always say that?" I was caught off guard because I didn't think I "always" said that...but maybe quoting an often off-color show like SNL in church was too often enough!

I explained that it was a quote from SNL, and I supposed I should quit saying it. She looked relieved, looked at her husband and then back at me and said...and I'm not kidding here...she said "Oh! We just thought you were being arrogant!" I laughed and then was mortified! How many other people didn't get the joke and thought the same thing! (Ok, moral of the story here, don't get too loose joking in church!)

Ok...part forward a couple of years later. I am living in Ukraine and come home that first year to attend the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) convention in Anaheim, CA. At a private luncheon for my former workplace (Parable Christian Stores) Jennifer Knapp is invited to give an exclusive concert. It will be just her and two other acoustic musicians playing to a roomful of about 200 Christian bookstore owners...the most successful in the country at the time.

Before the concert I see her sitting in an adjoining room to the banquet hall and so I go and introduce myself and start talking to her. It was just her, the two musicians and her manager. They were great. She had performed at some festivals in Estonia and we were talking about the possibility of doing something in Ukraine. She was very nice.

In the course of the conversation I somehow mentioned SNL. She said "Oh! I can't even watch it anymore, it has gotten so bad". I agreed, but said worse than watching it was probably quoting it in church. She looked agahst and said "you didn't!". I had and I quickly told her the story. She laughed and then her manager told her it was time for her to start the show. I said my goodbyes and slipped in the back door to the banquet room as she went in the "stage" door.

Once in the hall I found a place next to the sound booth guys (they are always the most fun to hang out with at concerts, right, Danny?). Jennifer is sitting up on the stage warming up and just chatting with these bookstore owners that can really make or break her career by promoting her album. She is sharing her heart for why she does ministry and what not. She is speaking slowly and deliberately as she tunes her guitar. Then, in what I was learning, was her characteristic wry sense of humor, she says "yeah, because if it weren't for all that [her ministry philosophy she had just shared]... it would just be about me sitting up here looking pretty".

Funny, right? Only hardly anybody laughed! "Hey, I'm joking!" she said quickly and then more people laughed, but still not that many! Then she says "Oh, I know, someone in the back is elbowing their husband saying 'Oh! We just thought you were arrogant!' My joke! My story! Jennifer Knapp used my joke on stage! :) I turned and told the sound guy and he didn't believe me...then - whether he believed me or not - he got me again by saying "Oh you're just so arrogant!" :) Ooo! Zinged again! :) hahaha!

So there ya go...probably best not to even watch SNL these days...but if you do...definitely don't quote it in church. In blogs? Well, that's up to you. :)

"Vso Budet Horosho"

That's Ukraine's version of the surfer tag line of "it's all good". :) Literally it translates as "Everything will be good". It is a common phrase in Ukraine, sometimes so much so that it drives me crazy. You have a real, honest-to-goodness problem and someone tells you "no, vso budet horosho". "But, everything will be good". Aaaaagggghhh! Sometimes you just want someone to comiserate with you and say..."Man that stinks!" But then optimism is a very under-rated quality, and I am learning that - you know what - sooner or later, in this life or the next, "Vso budet horosho!" :)

I haven't blogged in a long time, and lots of things have happened, and I will try to go back and catch you up on all of those in time. Unfortunately, recently I left my purse in a taxi in Kyiv and in it my wonderful camera that made blogging so fun (along with my Bible and other things that I will miss), so these posts may be a little lacking in photos for awhile. :(

I was bummed that this happened, but glad that after all the thousands (millions?!?) of busses, trams, trains, mini-vans, subways and taxis that I have ridden in the past 9 years, that this is the FIRST time I have forgotten a wallet or purse or anything. Not bad, really. I had one mobile phone stolen years ago, one wallet pick-pocketed on the street almost as long ago, too, and one mobile phone fell from my purse also on the street...not bad for 10 years of constant public transport. You who live in the states and have your car or that of a friend's to usually ride in just don't realize how many opporutunities there are to lose or have things stolen when you are on public transport, to where that you are actually glad it doesn't happen more often!

Anyway, in light of that kind of cynical optimism, I have to tell you where I am right now. :) I am sitting in the Budapest airport at the Sbarro pizza place that, thankfully, is open around the clock. I say that because my flight from Kyiv (I was there for a long awaited wedding as I returned from the US) was delayed due to a snow storm, so much so that I missed the last train from Budapest to Vajta (where I was headed) and have to wait until the next morning to catch the next train at 7 am.

Now, there are options....I could go into Budapest and get a room at a hostel, or hotel. But I am a little short on cash right now because in my purse that was lost was also my ATM card. Fun, huh? :) Thanks to some friends in Kyiv, I was able to borrow some cash and have my dad send a check to their account in the states. Not too bad a deal, huh? So I don't want to waste money on a hotel when - hey - Sbarro is open all night, there is a table in the corner with an outlet, and most importantly - they have free wifi! :)

So I can catch up on blogging, emails, etc., not spend extra money, and have good reason to rest and relax once I get to the Bible School in Vajta. Life is interesting, huh?

Well, the next interesting point is that my bags didn't make it on the flight. :) Even though we waited on the tarmack nearly 2 hours (I stopped noticing after awhile) before we could take off, they decided there was too much snow to get to the plane with the second load of luggage so only half made it to Budapest with us. (Ya think that in the two hours we sat there they could have cleared the road to the plane for the luggage truck...whatever.) :}

BUT...this is a good thing! :) Now when I leave the airport in the city bus, get on the metro, go to the train stations, change trains before I get to Vajta (I'm guessing, that's how it usually is) I don't have to carry my big heavy bag! I only have my carry on luggage! They will deliver my bag to the Bible school. Sweet, huh? :) And the girl at the lost baggage counter knew about the school because her brother had gone there. Small world, huh? :)

OH! And I almost forgot! Evidently they had overbooked the flight out of Kyiv, but since I had pre-bought my ticket, but was near the last to check in and get my seat assignment (what a surprise!) they put me in first class! Ha! So I never realized that in first class you get a linen table cloth, china, crystal (well, stemware) and flatware (not plasticware) and warm rolls...nice. I guess that's why they keep the curtain closed so the riff-raff in economy don't see how you are stylin' and get jealous. heheh. :)

Anyway...that was plane was full, late, and lost my luggage and the result is I flew first class, have hours of free uniterupted internet time, and don't have to hassle with my big bag on the train but rather it will be delivered to the door at the Bible School...not bad. :) Makes me remember one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite pastors, George Markey..."If you want to take care of yourself, God will let you. But if you want to let God take care of you, He stands waiting and ready to do so". And another great quote from another great saint, my grandma Irene Denney... "God watches out for fools and little children". :) Thank God! :)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Prauge Visitors...

I have been really blessed that a lot of friends have already come to visit me since I moved to Prague. I haven't gotten around to getting pictures of all of my guests posted here , but here are the latest. Danny and Annaliese Foote from Kagarlyk, Ukraine came to visit and it was great!

[The Footes, Ruthann (my roomie) and Jason (pastor of CC Prague) having coffee in Prague.]
Danny is part of an elite group (in my opinion, ha!). When he was about 13 I was his Jr. High Sunday School teacher! It has been a blessing to see him grow up into a wise young man of God (Liese is no slouch, either!). :)

Danny, Jake Knotts, Paul Sisemore IV and Josh Tremeer were all in that class and for a time all served in Ukraine as missionaries during the time when I was there. (Jake is still there, check out his blog at

One time one of the boys' moms said to me that it wasn't fair that they (the kids' parents) had done all the hard work and now I got to enjoy all the fruit of that work instead of them since I saw the kids on more of a regular basis while living near them in Ukraine! had to agree, the parents had carried the real load, and I got to just sit back and enjoy the results! But I was glad that since I don't have my own kids I was able to enjoy these - just part of all the "kids" God has given me over the years.

Once in a missions conference I heard author and veteran missioanry Elizabeth Elliot say that "all women are called to bear children". And I have to say that my initial response was not positive! I was sitting there single and wondering "Great! Where does that leave me?!" But then she went on to say that if "you aren't bearing children physically, you can still be bearing children spiritually". She went on to say that God had designed women to reproduce, to nurture and to care for young...and that just because that wasn't happening in your life physically was no reason not to experience that joy or avoid that responsibility of "motherhood"...that there were plenty of people that at one time or another in their life need spiritually "birthing" (initially coming to faith) or "mothering" (encouraging to grow, to learn, to get up even when they fall and keep walking).

I have cooked a lot of meals, washed a lot of sheets, and made a lot of beds for these guys (and many others!) and although I know its nowhere near the work of being a "real" parent, I'm so blessed to have had the chance to do even the little I could. I don't know when they grew out of being my students to being the ones that so often I turn to for counsel, etc., but it has been great to see them grow up. To their biological parents, if you didn't know this already - they all are great "kids". You should be proud. Thanks for "loaning" them to me. :)

"And Now for Something Completely Different"...

I have tried a million times (ok, slight exaggeration there!) to download this here and it is just too big, so to check out the video on YouTube - click here:

This was just before I moved to Prague. My dear friend Anya came to visit me from Zaporizha (an overnight train from Kyiv) and we went downtown to have coffee.
At the Teatralno Metro Station this was what we I have seen many times before. But this time I caught in on film and just had to share it with you.
I don't know why this scene makes me so happy...just that they are having fun...without a lot of money, or hype, or (as my mother would say) "fal-de-ral". (Is that a real word?)
Hope it gives you a smile. If it was in black and white you might think it was 50 years ago, (except for the girl with the mobile phone that cuts in front of the camera near the end of the clip!), but it was just last March.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hey, I'm alive...

Hi everyone...sorry for the long blogging absence. We have been pretty busy here with an outreach team, a new church building, etc. and me keeping up on our team blog that I haven't had time to write here. Only tonight did I get a chance to check on many of my friend's blogs and was so encouraged and inspired that I had to write something....but I warn you, its been a long day and its late and its probably going to be a rambler...if you're not in the mood, "turn back now". :)

I have become convinced of some things lately and want to share them...sorry for being so self-indulgent... oh, and I KNOW these things, but I'm still working on implementing them...I am preaching to myself here as much as anyone...

1) GOD IS REAL, GOD IS BIG, GOD IS LOVE, and one way or another my focus should always be on Him
I am not a calvinist...there, I said it. BUT I do believe that God is in control. That He knows my steps, has full control of them, AND I can do nothing without Him...not even believe in Him, love Him or serve Him. So why, then "Oh foolish Christian...what God has begun in the spirit do I try to complete in the flesh"? (Galations 3:3, "caraphrase version"). Why do we stress? Why do we fret over plans? (I'm not saying, "why plan?" I'm saying why "fret" over plans). Why are we so severly disappointed at failure? Ours or others... Do we not really believe that God is control? Didn't he know what was going to happen anyway and so therefore is He - God Almighty - not able to take care of any of our "mistakes",etc... (that so often, I think in His economy are not even considered "mistakes" as much as "lessons") Why are we so disgusted at weakness in ourselves or others? Isn't God bigger than that? Isn't that just all part of needing a saviour? Why is that a surprise to us? If God is really God, why should I be shocked when man is man?

2) RELATIONSHIP IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT - with God and then with mankind
Jesus said "and this is eternal life that you might KNOW ME". "And by this all men will know that you are my disciples..that you have LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER". Not that you have a perfectly oiled smooth running program. Not that you have seamless presentation. Not that you all agree on everything and have only one opinion. Not that you NEVER stumble or fall. Not that you all look alike or goodness sakes -vote alike - but that in the midst of weakness, diversity, problems, growing, changing...that we LOVE EACH OTHER! "In this is all the law and the prophets are the Lord God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength and your neighbor as yourself". Not ACT like I love you, but really love you...not FEEL like I love you, but really love you...meaning accept you where you are, I focus on YOU not what you do, but YOU who are made in the image of God and who Christ died for...are you hungry? are you cold? are you sad? do you need a hug? You are loved. I am loved. We are so little and God is so big and that is ok. And I fall so short of maintaining the many, many, many wonderful relationships God has given me....but I keep going.

I have had, and still often have, unfortunately, an immature view of love. But over the years, from my amazing and long-suffering and deeply loving parents and my incredible, smart, talented siblings I am learning love. Love is not that I always understand you. Love is not that I always agree with you. Love is not that I even always LIKE you! :) Love is that I want the best for you. Love is that I support YOU, maybe not what you do, but YOU. Love is that the door to my heart is always open to you. Love sometimes means that the door to my home, my wallet, my whatever ISN'T open to you if that would not be best for you...if you are being self-destructive, hurtful to others, whatever...but my heart, it is always open. The most loving people are my friends and family who disagree with me on points but still welcome me in their hearts..names are needed here...Harvey and Ferne Denney, Matt and Kris Denney, Mark and Deborah Denney and their outstanding Christian, Nicholas, Ryan and Kyle; Janice Denney-Wood and Brent Wood and their amazing Caitlin, Michelle Knisley, Marianna and Jim Peipon and their clan, Tanya and Sergei Susidko and their little pirates, Katya Pilypuk, Janice Evans, Marilyn Gibbs, Jed Gourley and his outstanding family,Paul and Teri Sisemore...I'm sure there are so many more...these are the ones that come to mind at this late hour...don't feel left out! I maybe just have not put you to the test yet! ha! Or maybe I am delusionally convinced that you agree with me on everything! ha! :)

3) Ministry is honoring, worshipping and glorifying God and loving people
I haven't thought this one completely through (as opposed to those "scholarly diatribes" above! ha!), so bear with me...but this point works itself out in many ways...yes through organized religion sometimes, through "dis-organized" religion, through programs sometimes...but more often than not, in my opinion, simply through life! Do I live like God is really GOD ALMIGHTY WHO CREATED THE HEAVEN AND EARTH WITH THE WORD OF HIS MOUTH...or do I need to help Him out or everything is going to go to hell in a handbasket? Do I really walk in the Spirit in every aspect of what I do...yes, make plans, but be open to changing them...down to how I spend my time, my money, my affection, or is that all up to me? If I can honor, worship and glorify God and love people having a meal with them..go for it! If I can do that at my job, in a church service, GREAT! But if "form" and "routine" and "schedule" squeeze those things out - EVEN IF THAT IS PART OF THE CHURCH SERVICE - dump them in a second!

4) I am at once both the hugest failure in the world and also the greatest victor
I am a constant work in progress. I have weaknesses that could cause me to despair if I focus on them and not on God and his glory (as I have unfortunately done for many years). But these facts do not change the truth of God's nature and holiness. I live in the light and am not ashamed if my sins and weaknesses are revealed (although at first I might be, but not in such a way that leads me to live in constant concern over image, how I appear to others, whether all the ducks are in a row or not, etc.) because I regularly confess my faults to both God and to those around me...if a list of my sins were read to a crowd it would be nothing that those close to me were not already keenly aware of and probably be only half of what I have already seen in myself and confessed to brutally honest with yourself, with God and with others and there is no need to fear being "revealed" to others! What could anyone say about me that, yes, might initially smart, but that once that initial sting is over I would say "well, yes, I know that is something I struggle with...anyone who knows me knows this, too...sigh...well, yes, its still here and it is in God's hands". Surprise! I mess up! Surprise! I'm weak! Surprise! I've got a lot to learn and grow and always will this side of heaven...but guess what? It's not about me, its about God. And in Him I am more than a conqueror, as Scripture tells me. So I rejoice in my weaknesses, because when I am weak, He is strong.

5) When it is all said and done, no one ever said "I wish I spent more time at work"...
No matter what that work is...saving lives, saving souls, curing cancer, etc. "I am sorry I didn't write that letter". "I am sorry I didn't go to that wedding". "I regret missing that recital, that game, that presentation of my friend, my child, my neighbor", "I should have called that person", or even "I really needed to just sit and pray", "I wish I would have made the time to be still and listen to God's voice", "Why didn't I just sit and sing to God? read His Word?"...but "we didn't get that project done when we wanted it to"? "we didn't have that physical detail ready for this deadline"..."I didn't get that document finished"... "I missed that meeting or that event of which there would be ten million more in my lifetime"? Maybe I am being too simplistic here, and maybe next year I will have a different perspective on this, but for now this is where I am. And its ok that I don't always live this way...God is changing me...but it is vital that I understand this point in my core and that I aspire to live by it, or I will never come near it ever.

Ok...with this I will have either welcomed some of you even closer into my heart and my life, which is core to all that I have been saying here, or just the opposite! There may be those that will now be assured that I am certifiably crazy, lazy, heretical or all of the above...but whatever the reaction - you will know me. There is no mask, there is no image to uphold, this is where I am. I can't be with you all, I can't even keep up with all my correspondences, etc. like I would like, but I can be real with you. I can keep my heart open to you. I can be vulnerable to you and in this I hope you know that I love you all very dearly.

Ok...ranting done..Gold star for those of you that made it through this. :) G'night. :)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

This June in Prague...

This was painted on a wall in the little "village" where I live. There is about 3 blocks of shops, etc. here and it doesn't appear to be some sort of hotbed of political activity or anything. So I was a little surprised when I saw this. I'm not sure what it is connected to or supposed to mean (if anything) but naturally, as an American - what with the iconic image of Charlie Chaplin and the mention of war - I figured it was something directed at me, or should I say "US".
George W. was here this week, as I'm sure you all know. A friend of mine went to the protests to observe and said that she was upset. She reported that there was "only about 200 people" on hand (I'm not sure if that meant she expected more or less?) and that there was someone - he said he was a veteran from a recent US military conflict - that was severly criticizing the president, America, the military, etc. What upset her was not what he had to say, whether it was true or not, but was what another friend of mine would call the wide oversimplified "painting with a broom" that he was doing of some very complex subjects. (And forgive me, I realize that to some extent I am doing the same here).

But about this guy...he was upset. He was hurt. Maybe he even felt betrayed by his government. This is understandable. But to say that certain US entities are "the worst in the world"....??? Based on what? All of his only 24 years on this planet? His in-depth study of ALL the world's organizations? My friend and I agreed that it was easier to respect someone's point of view, even if we disagreed, when they took the time to state things fairly and - dare I say - even humbly.
Would he have said, "I realize I am young and have had no first hand contact with the...armies, prisons...governments...(fill in the blank to your choosing) of the vast majority of nations in the world, but nonetheless, based on what information is available to me, and my own first hand experience with the US ...."institution-of-choice"...I have come to the conclusion that they are the worst in the world"....THAT kind of statement would have earned my respect and caught my interest to hear more of what he had to say.
But that kind of calm reasoning doesn't make the news. I know. Even without my limited professional journalism experience, just the most surface perusal of today's headlines, I know that so often it is the screaming extremist (from whatever side, it doesn't matter) that sells papers. It is the extremist that gets people fired up, whether they are at the protest rally or in the church. I have been that extremist at times, I am sad to say. (And can still be? A work in progress...walking in grace...forgive me).
But you know what? That wasn't Jesus. He only got fired up (to my recollection, let me know if I'm forgetting) at the religious hypocrites that defamed God's name with their false religion that burdened the people and actually kept them from a real relationship with God. But the everyday person...the woman caught in adultery, the tax collector, the grieving sister, those broken and hurting and lacking faith...with those he spoke calmly, in love and with compassion.
A friend of mine has a great blog that spoke about the problem that Christians are known more, so often, for what they are AGAINST rather than for what they are all about or "for". He had another more recent post where a great preacher was railing against a teaching in the American church that horribly distorts the Gospel. Those are things to rail against! Those are things to be extreme about...religious hypocrisy and heresy. (check out those posts at Jake's blog).
But sinners? Broken people? I have been so blessed lately by various people being very kind and encouraging to me in the midst of correcting me...of helping me to see my weaknesses...of leading me in paths that maybe I am uncomfortable in but that I know are good for me, glorifying to God and ultimately I will be glad for. Those people are here on my team in Prague, on the pages of books I am reading, on the MP3s of sermons by my Pastor in CA that the church sends to me, and on the various blogs of dear friends of mine.
So, another rambling post by me...what else did ya expect? :) LOVE you all...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Pray for Ukraine

I am back in Prague - and glad to be - but will my heart always be in Kyiv? Right now it is. You may or may not have heard of the recent political upheaval going on in Ukraine. You can get some good information and insight through the BBC news site - (click here for just one story, but they - of course - have many on Ukraine - )and through this blog my friend tipped me to -

I just remember standing on the streets of Kyiv during the Orange Revolution and being so full of hope. We were out there day and night, snow, cold...whatever. We were helping to hand out food, Bibles, Christian books...people were kind to one another, talking to one another...the streets were filled with protests and the "tent-city" but it was because the people were filled with hope! They truly believed things could change and that THEY could really make a difference.

This video by Maria Burmaka makes me cry when I see it now and think of how we felt then and how things seem now. But then I am reminded "from where comes our hope" - "from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth".

This summer will be a Franklin Graham Crusade in Kyiv, people will be coming from throughout Ukraine to hear the message of hope proclaimed once more. Please pray for Ukraine! Pray that people would come to know the saving grace of God, but also that Christians would stand up and once again protest! Not politically, but spiritually! That they would stand up against apathy, complacency and compromise and be on their knees before God and ask Him to once again fill Ukraine's people with hope! But not hope in a leader, or a political solution, but hope in God and His mercy. That Christians, filled by the power of the Holy Spirit would walk in righteous in their everyday lives so that it would be a wave that grows and grows and grows and eventually envelopes the country in righteous and the blessings that follow. Not through lobbying, etc. but through love, grace, mercy and the power of God's spirit.

I pray that there would come a time that NEVER again would I hear from or about Ukrainians, in response to questions as to"little sins" that "oh our people are just that way"...."its just our mentality"..."our pastors haven't taken a stand from the pulpit on this so people just don't know better"....I am not condemning Ukriane...I love Ukraine...and I still believe she and her people are better than such compromising answers! But these are the things I have heard from believers in response to questions about "little sins"...those "little foxes that ruin the vineyard".

And this isn't just Ukraine...this is all of us....myself first in line. Do we really think that little compromises won't eventually affect everything around us? Why is the Church in America so often weak and appearing no different than the world we supposedly claim to have the answer for? Could it be that we, the people of God, have lost our sense of holiness? I don't mean "don't do this, don't do that.." but rather a sense that what we do affects the whole picture. That we ARE a Body, interconnected spiritually and physically and that weakness, sickness, etc. sooner or later spreads to the whole body and affects us all.

Ok...Danny Foote may not give this rant an A+, but what is happening in Ukraine just touched a nerve in me that made me think of the bigger picture...

Ukrainians, my dear beloved friends, watch the video and remember and cry out to God to once again fill your country with hope...hope in God and His redemption! I am with you in my heart and soul...

Friday, May 25, 2007

"Take me to the river.."

I just returned from Ukraine where I attended our national conference, where once a year all of our sister churches throughout the country get together for a 4 day retreat outside of Kyiv. The highlight for me is always the baptisms.

Just as a marriage ceremony doesn't make two people love each other, it merely celebrates their love and declares it to others; so baptism doesn't save but merely makes a proclamation of faith to both the seen and unseen world and celebrates the passing from death into life for those who are in Christ.
And like a wedding, these times are filled with joy, celebration, music and love! (The only thing missing is the food!)

Here Pastor Alosha Satenko baptizes his daughter Marguerita. :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Dumpster in Kyiv...

I haven't posted anything here in awhile, so although this is a weird subject, it's the only thing I knew I could get out without much thought. I just returned from a week in Ukraine (it was WONDERFUL...more on that later...with thought) and while I was there I had a funny trash incident. (I've actually had a lot of funny trash incidents in Ukraine, but that's another posting. :) Or for the sit-com, right Michelle? :)

After being a month in Prague I went back for the Calvary Chapel national conference and to gather up the rest of my things in Kyiv. (I could only bring so much with me in the car / on the train when I moved here).

But in a month you have to start buying can't wait a month for your can opener...for example. Also, now that I was actually out of Kyiv and had shed the tears, I realized that I didn't really need that half burned out candle with the wick broken off so you can't light it :) ...because although I had brought it with me when I first moved to Kyiv and as well as it still holding a great spicy, musky aroma it also held 8 years of memories of sitting by it's light (before the wick disinigrated) at holiday's with friends, during winter months to try and make a freezing flat more cozy, or in the morning hours as I read my Bible or prayed...that although it reminded me of all those things - it WASN'T all those things, but merely a touchpoint of those things. If I threw it away, I would still have the memories.

Fairly obvious for all of you, I'm sure, but for this confirmed pack rat, it was an epiphany. Long story short (if not already too late for that, ha!) I threw a BOAT LOAD of stuff out, gave even more away, and overall re-packed all my stuff to make it more compact and orderly for the eventual (God willing!) move here in the next month (I'm sure that's going to warrant a posting, too!) :)

ANYWAY...I'm throwing the last load in the dumpster and I see that this Babushka is going through the stuff I threw out earlier...only about 15 minutes before! In her hand she is holding a picture of me standing with some of my friends that used to work at the US Embassy in Kyiv, Peace Corp, other NGOs, etc. It is Christmas and we are at the US Ambassador's residence.

I just looked over and saw her holding the photo and said "Oh, that's my picture of my girlfriends and I. Please give it to me." She answered "Of course, with pleasure!"...handed it to me and I walked back to my waiting cab...said goodbye to my loyal friends that had brought me lunch and seen me off and rushed to the airport for my flight back to Prague.

I don't know why I thought this was post-worthy...just funny. Kind of surreal. :)

Here's something else that ended up in the dumpster once. :) This was actually just a joke as we were packing up to drive from Kyiv to Hungary for my initial move here. Spot didn't think it was quite so funny and meowed fairly pitifully while I took the picture. :)

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I have been priviliged to meet some of the most amazing people over the years. I count that as one of the biggest blessings in my life. Kind, smart, talented, educated, accomplished, interesting, thoughtful people... truly they leave me humbled and blessed that I know them.

Eunhyong and her husband Yong are two of those people and I will write more about both of them later, but today is about Eunhyong.
She has gone back to Korea to await the birth of their first child and Yong is still here persevering in torturous Czech langauge studies! (I start in a few weeks! yikes!)

I didn't know Eunhyong for much time, but I am so glad we met here in Prague. Before she left she had some of us over for a traditional Korean feast! It was incredible and there will be more on that later. But for now, here is a poem I wrote for Eunhyong. It is meant to be about three things: Their anxiously awaited baby, our friendship with Yong and Eunhyong, and God's love for their little family. Emily Dickinson I am not, but it was fun to have the inspiration of this sweet woman to motivate me to write a poem. I miss you, Eunhyong...your sweet smile and your laugh. :) Praying for you and the baby, and for Yong, while you are apart.

Cherry Blossom Petal
The palest pink
Barely there,
but - Oh so there!
Full and sure and glowing
overflowing with the bloom of spring.

And in this bloom
the seed of love -
by Heaven’s plan and Man’s desire –
waits quietly,
its beauty yet unfolding.

Hold fast – Oh Little One!Hold tight – you Tender Gift…
Hold to the Tree of Life.
Its root is deep.
Its soil rich and fertile.
She will not let you stumble.
He will not let you fall.

Winds will blow,
and seasons shift…
your time is yet to come.
Through it all,
that you may know –
as the petal to the bloom,
as the bloom to the tree –
your life in us
and ours in you
for all eternity

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

WHAT: ministry examined

As usual, "Preface Woman" that I am, this is actually a very long preamble to "WHAT" (as in what I am doing here in Prague!) which will come at the end of this posting. Then in my next postings I'll move on to WHO, WHEN, WHERE, and HOW... in some sort of coherent order :)

But for now, I had a few thoughts about "ministry" and WHAT the heck it is. :)

As I mentioned earlier, as far as "program" ministry, we only have a Monday night Bible study at this point. But that is not to say that we are not busy! :)

I remember a long time ago I spoke to a short-term missionary in Ukraine that said that she was just "so bored!" in Kyiv because there was no ministry to do! All of us misisonaries who were there were swamped! I knew right away that probably Kyiv wasn't the place she was called to. :) Why? Because she wasn't "good enough"? No way! But because when God has "called" you to a place....whether through circumstances beyond your control or those of your choosing based on what you perceive to be His leading...and whether that be your family, your classmates, your workmates, your neighbors or complete strangers and foreigners as we foreign missionaries experience....whatever the situation, when you are there you see needs all around you!

You see the student who seems to struggle just to get out of bed in the morning and you wonder what is going on at home...just as my dad saw some of his students during his years as a teacher. You see someone lying in their hospital bed without a single visitor, no family members, no church members, no co-workers, and you feel helpless and sad for this person...just as my mom saw many of her patients over the years. You see your co-workers function at work burdened down by the baggage at home. You see your neighbors wrestling to keep peace at home, or food on the table or....whatever. You see these things. You see people...and you feel something. Anger. Hurt. Pain. Loss. Frustration. Guilt. Responsibility. A desire to help.

***Side-tangent on feelings...
(Not all the feelings are good, not all are pleasant and not all are "right" my vocabulary that means factually lining up with the reality that I know to be true through the revelation revealed in Scripture. All feelings are "real" and are not to be denied. But not all feelings are true and therefore not to be necessarily followed or used as a basis for decision making. ) ***Back to our regularly scheduled programming. :)

In my opinion, when those feelings line up with the facts of Scripture and you do something...whether it be have compassion, pray, give a cup of cold water, baby-sit for someone, say a word kindly, go the extra mile...THAT is ministry. :) I absolutely LOVE that the word for ministry in Russian is taken from the root word of "to serve". So ministry is serving. :)

Serving up forgiveness instead of bitterness. Serving up grace and mercy instead of judgement and hate. Serving up generousity instead of stinginess and greed. Serving up patience instead of selfishness. These are the ministries I am interested in. These are the ministries I want to see in my life. And they are happening all around me. :) Many of my friends and acquaintences who have "day jobs" :) are involved in more ministry than those of us who have made the work of the Gospel our vocation. (I still say that parenting HAS to be the hardest ministry in the world!)

Yes, of course, there are unique callings and giftings....teaching the Bible, praying for people with the knowledge of God's heart and with the insight of the Holy Spirit, using the gifts of the Holy Spirit to encourage, heal, proclaim truth, correct, discern, etc...these are things usually unique to the Church, but definitely not necessarily exclusive to vocational ministers (such as myself).

"SO-o-o-o" are thinking "WHAT the heck are you doing? Wouldya' get on with it already, Cara?" :)

I am spending a LOT of time letting God do some pretty intense filing of rough edges off of me. :) These are coming about through a lot of prayer, fasting, worship, meditation on God's Word as well as human instruments in my life. It is all good. :) So this is ministry. Ministry to God.

I am spending a lot of time getting drinking tea, listening, talking and just getting to know the girls in our fellowship. :) And as I get to know them I see needs. Hurts. Lies from satan believed and the damage done in their lives. Lies of God's inability to heal, to protect, to defend. Lies of unworthiness to be loved. And God has blessed me to be able to pray with them, share TRUTH with them, see Him heal them. This is ministry.

I am spending a lot of time learning about my team and how God has made them. How can my gifts and skills bless them? Encourage them? Enable them to do what they have been called to do more fully? This takes time. Patience. Grace. Communication. They have given me all of these things. :) This is ministry. For all of us. And I think God is pleased. "Behold how good and pleasant it is when the brethren dwell together in unity". :)

As far as more conventional things...we had a "tea" with the girls recently. I think Martha would have been proud. See it all on our team blog at I just today taught a few English classes and when each class member went around the room to say about themselves...after the ladies had said about their jobs and families, my one male student said about his work then said "and I have no family anymore. My daughter is in London somewhere and I haven't talked to her for 5 years and my son is somewhere here in Prague and I don't know where." :( Please pray I might somehow encourage him. I might somehow show him God's ability to heal in even the most hopeless situations. We will start a girl's Bible study next week and I am looking forward to that! Please keep that in prayer, too!

Ok...enough of this epic blog, more soon...shorter....I promise. :) LOVE you all!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Still exploring Prague...

Still no internet at home, so this is a short one...just a picture from a park above the city that I walked to with some of the girls from the fellowship Sunday after church.

I'm on a blog-roll...

Hey everybody, check out (literally!) the new blog that I'm helping with for our team in Prague.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Prague at a glance...

I guess everyone knows how beautiful Prague is, so I have been innundated with requests for photos. So here are just a few...
**(check out a previous posting called "Bridges" and see the added photo there, too. No, I didn't take it. It is actually kind of a cheesy photo of a postcard, but you get the idea.) But these here are mine...

Monday, April 16, 2007

So what is the scoop? Part 1: WHO?

Ok, enquiring minds want to know what the heck is going on with me in Prague so here is the first in a short series of "factual" updates (as opposed to LOTS of philosophising and few facts, as I usually like to do).

My departure from Kyiv was a whirlwind, to say the least. And the trip here was...well...a trip. :} More on both of those later (complete with pictures...that is still a bit problematic due to no internet at home).

I could do a full posting on each of these following points (complete with photos!) and I probably will, but here's the scoop thus far...

WHO: I have a wonderful roomie, Noelle Swedlow, whom a lot of you Calvary-ites know from various spots around the globe. She served for three years in Hungary and was a student at the school there, too. She is from CA and is currently serving in Spain and the plan is that she is just here with us in Czech for a short time to fulfill visa requirements for Spain (to be out of the country). But we'll see! She is a huge blessing and I am so glad she is here right now.

Jason Carlyle is leading our little fellowship. (We just have a weeknight study right now). He helped start a fellowship in Hungary and was a student at the school there, too. He was a youth pastor in Idaho and is just a great guy. He has a very humble heart and a zeal to serve God and love people. He's been here since Sept. learning the language and culture.

Jon Atkins is also here temporarily, unfortunately. :( Jon is a CA transplant that now hails from Idaho, too. He is studying here at an international university and is the fodder for many great sociological and cultural conversations. He is a gifted worship leader and guitarist, so he will be greatly missed when he leaves in May to finish his studies in the states. Maybe I will learn guitar to fill in when he leaves? Pray about that! :)

Tomas (pronounced "Tomash") is our faithful translator/cultural instructor/friend. Tomas has been involved with the other church plant efforts over the years here and is a real asset to our little team. He is an English teacher in a local school and our translator for the Bible study. Pray for him, all you my translator friends, as YOU know more than anyone how much work is involved in being the translator for a new work!

So that's our little team! :) As for who is attending the study...this is getting long, so that's another post. WHO, Part II. :)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Springtime in Prague

Just a quick note to keep in touch...STILL so much to say and so many pictures to post...but STILL no internet at home so this will have to do for now. A beautiful little hidden courtyard here in the center of Prague.

Thursday, April 5, 2007


Prague is a city of bridges. There is the famous Charles Bridge seen in movies (I think Tom Cruise fell off it in MI 1 or something.) There are others, too (I haven’t learned their names yet).

Bridges are interesting, you know. They connect places (obviously). But as much as they connect they give a sense of disconnectedness, as well. Even though two places may be connected, thanks to a bridge, the very presence of the bridge is a constant reminder that those two places, although connected, are very much separate and not connected, not really… fully. Not one and the same essence, from the same whole.

Of course many analogies come to mind with the thought of bridges. I had intended to only write here about how it is so accurate a picture of how I feel right now. I am in Prague but my heart, my mind, my actions even, and so very much of my stuff still remains in Kyiv! (**And so my future blogs will probably be divided between what’s going on new here in Prague and my team and still remembering, thanking, celebrating, etc. everyone and all that was in Kyiv).

But so even if “it” (my heart, mind, etc.) is actually 100% here it acts as if it just got off the plane from not a European flight but a trans-Atlantic and is still suffering from severe jet lag! So that’s it. Emotional and intellectual jet lag. Groggy. Disoriented. Sleeping when I’m supposed to be alert and wide awake for things that I should probably just ignore and roll over and go back to sleep.

But I am here and it’s amazing. Prague is beautiful. I have been here before. So I already knew that. It is teeming with life and culture and things that captivate the timid but persistent little artist within me. I knew that, too. But so much more is my team and the oh-so gracious little treats, signs of God’s favor that He has given me since I got here. My team members are not just full - but overflowing! -with grace and tenderness. I did not know that. God’s grace is not just full – but overflowing, especially in face of my brokenness. I did not know that. I thought I did…but then I didn’t know just how deep my brokenness went. So then I didn’t know how deep and wide and amazing is His grace.

This is not Ukraine. And that is as it should be. And right and good…and yet how do you stand on one edge of the bridge and not want to run to the other side, to that which is familiar? It seems safe there. I know “all that” over there. And maybe, just maybe… well, ok, I won’t go back there, but maybe I can bring it all here? Or find something that looks a lot like it here? But that is the past. And this is now. I won’t burn the bridge, (although I can see the wisdom of those who burned the ships having reached the new world. It would maybe take the edge of the longing…or make it worse? I don’t know.)

In any case, I remember yet another bridge. One that I cross everyday, and yet one that was planned and built and crossed for me thousands of years ago. So often I feel like it is really two bridges….one from death into life…then stopping on the island of “this life here” until continuing onto “life eternal”. But maybe that’s the mistake? Maybe the more I realize that for me there really is only one bridge going now in one direction. Behind is spiritual death and a life without God or forward…stumbling, falling, learning, walking, running, falling again and on and on the process goes towards the final resting place of life eternal. A marathon not a 10 yard dash. I know this. But not really. I am still learning. I forget so easily. Lord help me.

Because I know that “yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will gives us later. For all creation”, not just me, “is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are”. Cuz ya know…I just don’t feel like this is me sometimes. Honestly. The one who puts her foot in her mouth. The one that so wants to love and be loved but is afraid sometimes and so puts up walls and barriers and hides in the cloaks of dysfunction and familiarity. God has shown me another Cara, and that’s not her. But, “against our will”, I – along with “everything – has been subjected to God’s curse.” And also against our will (or without our say-so) God made us able to be subject to release from that curse through Jesus. “Therefore all creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” We know it because we feel it. That’s why something silly and little cuts so deep. Yes, yes, its forgiven. And yes, yes, we aren’t even talking great tragedies or hardships here, in my case. But oh that’s not how it is supposed to be! To quote those great theologians of the 80’s “we are spirits in the material world” :) and this is not our home. “ And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory” (we’ve stepped on the bridge) “also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to his freedom. For if you already have something you don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t have yet, we must wait patiently and confidently.”

And that’s where I’m at…without something…sometimes without wisdom, without maturity, without self-control...without without without ….leaning into “patiently and confidently”. So I’m good on the “without” side of things. :) I’ve got that nailed. And God, he’s got the “patiently and confidently” side of things… “He is ever faithful, and He will not let me go”. :) And thankfully, to God be the glory….He’s got that side nailed….a long time ago.

Love you all…doing well (not good, as my brother corrected me…when it modifies a verb it is well, not good) :) just hitting that steep learning curve of cultural adjustment that I somehow had forgotten would happen! :) More pictures and specific details of the great stuff God is already doing will be here soon…

Friday, March 30, 2007

I'm all "Czech-ed" in....

Ok, that was pretty bad, I know. But you gotta figure that in the last few weeks ....what with packing, moving, saying goodbye to Kyiv and friends there, then driving non-stop to Hungary, then an overnight train to Prague (NOT in a sleeper car)...I'm a little spent so the jokes are a little on the thin side. :}

So I got here to Prague today, and with a few minor bumps in the road, everything is basically going great. Keep me in your prayers, please, and I will write more as soon as I get internet at my house - which should be on Monday.

Now I'm going to go home, unpack...and sleep! :)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

It's the little things...

Just a quick update to show you how much Kristin liked her bulletin board that the girls decorated. (See the previous post).

There are envelopes and what not on there where she can tuck away little notes or whatever. And there are "frames" for her to put pictures in. It has the words "dream, believe, imagine" on there, too, among other things. It really is cute. :) She was really happy.

We were able to put together some things to make Kristin's corner of the room special just for her. Years ago a friend had helped me find a handmade quilt at the second-hand bazaar here. That with a bright pink rug I had - but had never used - made it her purple and pink corner. Kristin was adopted by the Markey's when she was just a baby and is now 10. Kristin is one-of-a-kind and I was so happy that she likes her new room.
These last few postings may seem fairly banal, but as I am getting ready to leave behind people and things from the last 8 years I realize it really is all the little things that add up to a lot and that people are so much more important than programs and it is in showing love to one another that we really see and experience the love of God in this world.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Craft Day

As promised, here are just a few of the wonderful girls I have gotten to know in my 8 years in Kyiv. I want to write about what they have all meant to me through the years, but I just can't do it right now. Yesterday during church, as we started to sing some of the beautiful songs that we sing in Ukrainian, I started to cry so hard. SO many memories! It is going to take me a little bit to gather my thoughts about these wonderful sisters. (This is Zoya and I...we have a reputation for dancing on tables at birthday parties. :) It's a long story for another time, but not nearly as dodgy as it sounds.) :) the meantime, on Saturday I had some of the girls over for a "craft day" (translation: to get rid of all the JUNK that I have hoarded to do crafts before I move). Martha Stewart I am not. But, I HATE to throw anything away and love to come up with something creative by using things that would normally thrown away.

When I first moved here it was hard to find pretty cards and things. Not a life necessity, of course, but something that's nice to have if you can. So some of the girls and I got together to make cards. Since then we have done things like cover Pringles cans with pretty napkins to use as a pencil holder, decorate small boxes with pictures from magazines to use to hold spices in the kitchen or CDs or whatever...

This time most of the focus was on decorating a bulletin board for Kristen Markey. Kristen is the youngest daughter of George and Pam Markey. Pam and Kristen, along with her older brothers Aaron and Johnny fly in from America tomorrow and some of us in the church have been busily getting my old apartment ready for them all to live in. The girls (Anya, Ksusha, Zhenia and Oksana) decorated this bulletin board for Kristin just so she can have something pretty all of her own. (I think tomorrow I need to go back to the apt. and get a close-up picture to better show how pretty this turned out).

I'll have to have more on "The Girls" soon...although I don't know how I will ever share all that they mean to me....or even just a part of what they mean to me....we'll see...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

While the Rat's away...

Now, this is not to say that my dear friend Jake is a rat. BUT while he was away I did visit Anya and Maia in Chernigov and well...let's just say that the family affection for coffee looks sure to be carried on down the line...

And there were other little "mice-es"(or is that "meese"?) at play as well in Chernigov. Steven and Teresa from Moldova (formerly missionaries here in Ukraine in Nizhen and Priluki) surprised us all and showed up with their little guy. Looks like he's had TOO much coffee. :)

Conor was gone, too, so I guess Gavin wanted to show that he was listening to mom and obeying...see? He's "all
ears". (sorry for that.) :)
Emma, however, is looking a little bit like something's up.

So, this isn't everything that went on while the "Papa-rats" were away, but these were some of the highlights. :)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Boys

Well, here they are...or at least some of them. (My posting about "The Girls" will come soon). These are some of the pastors and leaders in our association of churches here in Ukraine. They met today from all over Ukraine and I "crashed" for a little bit to get some pictures.

These are the guys I have served with, grown with, struggled with, laughed with and most recently cried with for the past 8 years. Some have already come and gone, some very dear ones just weren't here for the picture. Bummer.

They represent ministries in about 14 different cities throughout Ukraine. I would say about half the guys in these pictures have stayed in my home with their wives at one time or another. Around 2/3 have eaten at LEAST one meal in my house if not MANY (for the Kyiv guys, for sure!). :)

I have known some of them since they first became Christians (our pastor Alosha - about 7 years ago!), and the transformations have been amazing! I have gone to their weddings (often helping to decorate and cater them!)...Slavik, Geoff, Vlad, Slavik (other one), Bogdon... I have seen their babies dedicated. We have celebrated birthdays, Christmas and New Years together. We have stood in the snow cheering, singing and praying during Ukraine's Orange Revolution. I have cried and prayed with them thru illnesses, handicapped children born, deaths and saddness. I remember their first sermons.

I have prayed for them, with them and had them pray for me.
We have laughed our heads off and cried our eyes out. I will miss them all greatly.

The Bible says that no one gives up mother or father, sister or brother that the Lord does not give him 100-fold over again. ("cara-phrase" translation of that verse!). I have amazing brothers that are smart, strong, wise and kind. My father is one of the kindest and most compassionate men I know. He seems to know so much about so many things and is ready to help anyone with anything. And over the years I have had amazing pastors, bosses and friends that filled my life with knowledge, beauty, joy and truth.

But you know what, I never in my life expected to receive all that and more from these men here. Here I have found fathers, brothers, friends - family. They don't replace my blood family, but they enlarge my family of the heart.

Although I know we may see each other again here and there, or maybe not, but I am keenly aware that this time will never be again. I came here to serve, but was so greatly served, so greatly loved, so greatly accepted...I am forever changed.

Is God real? Does the Gospel change people? Do the individual choices I make affect those around me? Yes, yes, and yes. These men, their families and all that I have been priviliged to share with them is testimony to God's love for us and His desire for us to live as family. Sigh..."How good and pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell in unity"...Amen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Kyiv Winter Memories

Two roads diverged in, well certainly not the "yellow" wood that Robert Frost described, but rather a very snowy wood that is on my way to church here in Kyiv. For the last few years (and the next 2 weeks!) this has been my path to church. First I walked from my apartment to the metro (10 minutes), rode the metro for 2 stops (10 minutes) got out and rode the escalator to change lines (5 minutes), rode the metro again for 6 stops (15 minutes) climb the stairs from the metro station to the street above and then a walk to church that included this field (15 minutes). And you say your church is too much of a hassle for you to get to? :)

This is Marilyn (American), Quin (Chinese), Bennet (Sudanese) and Misha (Ukrainian).

I always say that when we are all together I feel like we are "United Colors of Benetton" ad. :)

This was a few weeks ago, and now we are actually having very bright, crisp days that show the hopeful signs of spring. But when people think of Ukraine, they think of snow and I just couldn't leave the country without sharing some favorite shots.

This is the walk from my house to the metro. Pretty, huh?

But not everyone has to walk! Some folks just know how to work it, huh? :)

Monday, March 5, 2007

REALLY "the view from here"...

Welcome to the new blog. According to all my blogging friends (much more skilled at this than I) this is the site to be on. I do know that it is easier to post pictures here. And thanks to my wonderful brother and his wife, I have a fancy-shmancy new camera with which to download photos. (Truth be told, BOTH my brothers and their wives are wonderful). :)

So even though I have been here in Ukraine for 8 years, I'm only now - (as I'm leaving!) - posting photos to give you a better idea of life here. Oh well. Better late than never?

This is Olga Vladimir-ovna. Olga feeds all the stray cats, dogs, and sometimes the pigeons, too. She says that they are the "least of these" that the Bible is talking about when Jesus said "as you have done unto the least of these, you have done unto me".

Olga Vladimirovna is over 80 years old. She served for 8 months at the front during the "Great Patriotic War" (World War II). For her, the Soviet Union was a good place. She attended university for free, took vacations to the Black Sea for free....the state took care of everything. They could buy good quality meat at affordable prices, good clothes...and they knew everything about us - the United States. She can name our states, our capitals, our rivers, mountain ranges as well as our authors, movies and movie stars. I know all this because she has told me, many, many times. :) (I always figure that since I talk so much, the times that she catches me and I have to stand and listen to her is only just penance!)

One time when she and a friend of hers were recounting to me how good everything was under the Soviet Union (and I realize that for her things were better) I said - "yes, but isn't it true that people were imprisoned or killed just because they didn't agree with the state? Or because they were Christians?" They paused, looked at each other, and then said simply "No one that we knew".

She seems to be a kind lady. When we meet outside behind our building she always has a smile and calls me "Carochka". She always asks about my cat and tells the latest about "hers" (both the 3 she has living with her that she rescued from the street, and all the homeless ones). She catches me up on the latest news on her granddaughter in England, married to an Englishman. But sooner or later she always gets back to how awful things are now and how good they used to be. I realize she is old. I realize she has lived through a lot. But everytime her conversation gets back to this point I always think - "Oh Lord, don't let me hold on to the past so much! No matter how good I think it was". It makes you miss today.

Our chats (no matter if they are 45 minutes or 5 minutes) always seem to end on a down note with how horrible things are now. I'm sure I can't comprehend the disappointment and maybe anger she feels at seeing her proud country struggle with poverty, crime, etc. that she didn't know in her youth. Still, I can't help but see that the Babushki about her same age in our church seem to have such a different attitude. Yes, they are saddened by the changes, too. And yes, I have seen them cry, recalling the sadness in their lives. But they also have a hope for the future, not just in the life to come but here on earth, too. That's how I want to live, with hope and joy for today, regardless of what happened yesterday. I am glad that I have known Olga Vladimirovna and I will miss our backyard chats.