Monday, September 15, 2008

Why Ukrainian Language?

In the midst of trying to get all my pictures from Kyrgistan posted here I took a break and caught up on some of my friends' blogs. They all have wonderful blogs, but I have lately really enjoyed getting to know the Silva's better via their blog.

From time to time I have written here about the issue of languages here in Ukraine - namely Ukrainian or Russian. Greg has written a really great post about that issue here, and although I am a Russian speaker, I really respect and agree with what he has written. Check it out, I think you'll find it very interesting.

"We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto"**

Wow, Kyrgistan.

I just got back from a trip to Kyrgistan with a team from our church here in Kyiv, and I am still thinking about things from there!

(This is the Kyrgiz flag on a hillside and some yurts selling honey and other things on the road between Bishkek and Issyk-Kul, Kyrgistan).

Our team from Kyiv included friends who have grown very dear to me over the years. Most of the Bishkek team I knew from their time in Ukraine, too, so it was a really great visit connecting with old friends and getting to know others more. Here we are with some of the Bishkek team.

The Kyiv team came to help the Bishkek team with their first church conference. If you would like to know more about what God is doing there through these great folks click on any of these names to check out their blogs: the Billings’, the Doubs, Tracey Groves and Michelle Drewe

We had a great time and there is a lot to tell so I’ll try to get more pictures posted here to tell the whole story eventually. But our connection is slow for some reason so it took so long to get these loaded already that this is gonna be it for now!

**(But Toto will be in concert in Kyiv soon...just a random trivia fact for ya. Man, is Eastern Europe THE tour location for used-to-be groups, or what?)

Just a Reminder...

That i also blog at

There I post essays that I have either written for publication (or would like to have published!) or just for my own enjoyment. These are fiction and non-fiction. I don't post there as often as here, but feel free to check it out.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Welcome to the Faces of Bishkek, Kyrgistan

I love people's faces. I wish I could be one of those National Geographic photographers and go around just taking awesome close-ups with an amazingly huge telephoto lense camera.

Using the church camera on our recent trip to Kyrgistan was the closest I've gotten so far. :)

We went to help out with the church conference there and God did amazing things...and I will post about all that soon.

But first here are some of my favorite photos of people that I saw in Bishkek.

These aren't all of them, and yes, they are predominantly ethnic Kyrgiz, even though there are many ethnic Russians, etc living in Bishkek as well. But being somewhat of a wide-eyed tourist on this trip, these faces were most exotic and foreign to me and for one reason or another caught my eye.

I especially like old folks and kids, so here are some of my favorites.

This is Zheengiz (as far as I remember the pronounciation of his name), he became my buddy at the church there in Bishkek. Bummer I cut Jackie Chan's head off at the top of the poster. But I couldn't get Zheengiz to hold still for another photo shoot, so this is it!

I thought the people there were just beautiful.

I thought I saw a lot more women with children on the streets than in Kyiv. But maybe that is because of the smaller population (Kyrgistan has as many
citizens in the entire country as a recent estimate I heard for the greater Kyiv metropolitan area - 5 million!)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Growing Old in Bishkek :)

***I am posting this from Bishkek, Kyrgistan from a wi-fi location in the food court at a mall. I couldn’t at the house I’m staying at because the power is on scheduled black outs throughout the capital…what a contrast! Back in Kyiv tomorrow and will start posting all the cool photos that I was able to take with the church camera while here. But for now here is another epic-length Cara “anti-blog” post. J***

So I turned 45 in Bishkek, Kyrgistan just a few days ago. I am old.
:) Well. Ok, maybe not “old”. But I am definitely middle-aged. Whatever you call it, I am not young any more. (I am not whining. Just stating facts. I always say that since we don’t get YOUNGER every year, we need to embrace our age and feel good about it. And for the most part, I do! Because if getting older is something bad then every year it only gets worse, not better. So I am ok with this, it is just an interesting fact to consider the ramifications of from time to time).

So…I am not young. I have, if I am lucky, as many years ahead of me as behind me. But the next 45 years will probably not be able to be as productive, or active as the last 45 years….or will they? Time will tell. I do know that physically I don’t have what I used to. The first evening of our conference here I found myself sitting with the littlest ones in the nursery and I was quickly reminded that I am not young.

I saw 20-something missionary Katy sitting with three or four little ones crawling over her and she was a veritable three-ring circus for them. Laughing, tossing balloons, singing, bouncing them on her knees while they crawled and pulled and drooled all over her. I, on the other hand, sat on the bench nearby. I was like the “lifeguard” for this swirling pool of infant activity. “No one drowning? Ok. Great. Let me know if they do, otherwise I will just sit coolly behind my mirrored shades and work on my tan. Don’t bother me, ok? I'm doing MY job.” Well, no tan to work on in the far end of the upstairs “stolovaya” (cafeteria) of an old Soviet children’s camp where our conference was held, but you get the idea. At first I wasn’t exactly hands on. :}

But I used to be, really! :) I distinctly remember sitting with 6 crying little ones, two on each leg and one in each arm, singing as they cried. It was the nursery at Calvary Church in Grants Pass, OR and I must have been all of 17 or 18. It didn’t even occur to me to get their moms. I didn’t even doubt that I could calm these little screaming meemies. And believe it or not, after about two verses of “The Horse and Rider Thrown Into the Sea” (a little ditty about Moses and the Egyptian Army at the Red Sea) they had all stopped crying. From my memory (which can’t really be trusted when you get to be MY age, ha!) I often served in nursery, Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, etc. It wasn’t a big deal…then. Then I was full of energy. Then I was ready to play tiger on the floor, growling and searching for prey. Then I was ready to give an unprotected belly a good full-on, loud slobbery “foozberry”. Then was when I discovered my secret weapon for helping to distract a crying baby long enough for him/her to calm down. When all hands are full, there is always your tongue. My particularly wiggly tongue has been known to sufficiently distract even the most distraught little one. The trick is keeping it fully visible but out of reach from sticky little hands.

But this first night at our conference in Bishkek, I just didn’t have it in me. Or maybe I had just forgotten where it was stored. Sometimes when I am back in the states I forget where things are located….like shops and schools and the homes of good friends and family…even though they have been at the same addresses for years! I joke that “American addresses have been deleted to download Russian grammar”. And although it usually gets a good laugh, just ask my roommates Katya and Dasha all the grammar mistakes I continue to make on a regular basis and they might suggest that nothing much was gained in my forgetting where the Farmer’s Co-op is in my hometown! :} But back to nursery skills…after that first day I realized that I just didn’t have the energy to interact that I used to. Things were running fine on their own, so I was happy to sit and watch. But then I remembered that these little ankle-biters were people…and they really deserved some interaction, they didn’t care about my age or stamina.

So I sat on the floor. I bounced the balloons. I wiped snotty noses and guess what? The wiggly tongue still stops them in their tracks. (yeah, yeah, hold your wisecrack comments…I know this one is wide open, but ne nada, horosho?) It was fun. Really. Exhausting, but fun. Moms. Dads. You are my heroes once again. You always have been, but this was a reminder. My Mom and Dad… thank you again. In honor of my birthday (a little late, but what the hey) thank you for having me. Thank you for keeping me. Thank you for loving me. Still. And parents, teachers, Sunday School volunteers, etc. WAY TO GO! Thank you so much for all you do. So that was a good a reminder of all the effort that those that work with kids are called to do, but you know what else it made me think of? How often I can get that same “lifeguard in the tower” attitude in life and in my part I play in the church, and really this world.

I remember when I first came to Ukraine I would jump to do whatever I could. Even stuff I really wasn’t that good at or didn’t know what I was doing. But through different experiences I guess I got a little …hmm…what would be the word? Hesitant? Earlier in my missions experience, I just wanted to help. I was like the 18 year old me working in the nursery all those years ago…or better yet, like the kids in the nursery themselves! “Let me help! I wanna do it!” And you are SO sure that you CAN help! That what you have to offer is needed. And then over time you make mistakes…of course. Things don’t turn out like you thought. Someone can do it better than you (and believe me, someone can ALWAYS do it better than you, whether you realize it or not). It gets pointed out a few times and somehow after awhile the results, or maybe rather the estimation of others concerning those results, begin to seem more important than just the simple act of obedience in love for whatever the Lord calls me to from moment to moment.

People are not God, and God is not a Master who orders us to do things just so they can be crossed off a list and then is disappointed and critical when we don’t perform up to snuff. Although God desires to have Lordship in every area of our lives (and in that sense is our Master) and there is definitely something to be said for mastery in our service (that is another blog!)… God Himself has said that “…now no longer call me Master, but Husband…I will promise you to me forever in righteousness and mercy; …in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord..”* The things He asks us to do are to draw us closer to Him, for us to see His hand of help when we struggle, to experience His grace when we falter, and ultimately to bring joy to Him- the One we love and who first loved us - in the process and the desire that motivated the process even more so than the ultimate result.

I still remember a lop-sided, sloppy egg-shaped Easter cake my sister made for our parents (and if I remember right my brothers and I helped decorate). It was a scary jumble of cake and food coloring and LOTS of frosting to hold the whole mess together. It looked quite comical and maybe even a bit scary. (And I know I’m remembering at least that part correctly because we took pictures for posterity!) If you compared my sister’s cake with the photo in the cookbook, you could say she failed. But if you took into consideration the love and care with which she offered this gift, the smiles on my parents face AND the speed with which we nonetheless ate this sugary treat, you could only conclude that it was a roaring success! We all remember that cake (and even the colossal nightmare left in the kitchen) to this day with a smile.

So this conference I was in the nursery a lot, and once with the little older kids, too. I passed my time at the first Calvary Chapel Central Asia Conference “swimming in the deep end”…doing something that really isn’t my gift…something I haven’t done in a long time…something that many people can do better than me. And you know what? It was great! :) Hudson Taylor once said that “God’s work done God’s way never lacks God’s resources”. And I was reminded once again that when I step out into something a little uncomfortable, something that really isn’t my strongest area, but that where there is a need and I am available and willing to do with a willing heart, God does amazing things! I do not serve man, but God and over and over again I am reminded that although man looks on the outside – towards performance, skill, etc. – God looks on the inside, at our humble hearts that KNOW we are weak but who look to Him to be strong in us in the midst of whatever He calls us to.

Will I volunteer to lead up the children’s ministry? Probably not. But will I put my name on the list to help out when needed ? Yup! So whatever need God has opened your eyes to right now…could you be the one to help out for a time? Don’t be hesitant. Not because “the work” needs you, but because we need “the work”. :) We need to see God fill in where we lack. We need to stretch beyond our comfort zones and see that it really is true that “when we are weak He is strong”!

To keep our boundaries so tight that we only do those things that are comfortable, within our expertise and control cuts out the “God space” in our lives – the empty space where we can do nothing, but where God can do everything! So, dive in to the deep end and give it a try! “Come on in, the water’s fine!” :)

“I delight to your will, oh Lord”.

* (Yes, I know that in context this verse that I quoted from Hosea was said to the nation of Israel in a time of unfaithfulness to God. But I believe with the references in the NT about us being the "bride of Christ", etc. and countless verses as to the overall relationship God wants to have with us ["I speak a mystery concnerning marriage, of Christ and the Church", etc.] I don't think that this application is off the mark.)