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.