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.