Friday, September 4, 2009

English Club in Bishkek

English Club in Bishkek...I will miss you all!

There was a cafe right across the street from where our church met that wasn't open on Sundays, but whose owner agreed to open up for us for English Club. We didn't have to pay rent, just order pizza and drinks up to an agreed upon amount.

These folks were some of the high points of my time in Bishkek and I will really miss you! This isn't our whole group. We met on Fridays and Sundays and I pray I can see some of you guys again. Please write! :)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Kyrgyzstan Independence Day

August 31 is Independence Day for Kyrgyzstan.

18 years of Independence - Congratulations, Kyrgyzstan!

It was easy to comfortable being the "tourist" and taking photos today, since everyone was doing the same!

It's funny to me to see what a holiday day out in the city with the family looks like here, as compared to other countries. There were boxes of bannanas everywhere (and my personal favorite bannana/cotton candy/pinwheel cart that is in the far background of this photo and has been in another blog of mine from last year). Can you just hear it? "Ah, why not? It's a holiday! Let's buy a banana!"

I so love the children here. They are amazing. I suppose children everywhere are, but these have stolen my heart. These two girls were cutting loose to someone's karaoke performance,

while this other little princess was waiting her turn to take her picture in front of the Independence Day displays.

Next blog will be our church conference that we had in Issyk Kyul this past weekend. It was awesome!

Saturday, August 22, 2009 Kyiv, too

This is a cool graffiti shot I took in Kyiv right before I left for Bishkek this summer.

The walls have ears...

and eyes...and teeth!

The region I have been staying in here in Bishkek seems to sport some pretty talented graffiti artists.

These are on the canal walls near our apartment.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ala Archak

Even though Bishkek is usually unbearably hot in August, in just about 20 minutes by car you can be at the base of the mountains here that still have snow on their peaks. A bunch of us did just that recently. We went to Ala Archak to walk and enjoy "the nature". Unfortunately it was rainy and cold so fog covered the tops of the peaks. Still, it was beautiful and a nice break from the heat in the city.

"Guarantees the nature time"

I am definitely a word-nerd. My obsession with words is a force for good (when I work editing translated materials) or evil (in conversations with friends when I get all....controlling....and get hung up on specific words). But the best part about being a word-nerd living in a foreign country is reading all the English (on signs, products, etc.) that is translated text from another language (Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Kyrgiz, etc.). miso. I was looking for red miso. Soy bean paste (as far as I know) that is yummy, healthy, etc. and you can add to soups, stir-fry, etc. Tracy and I were on a reconnaissance mission at this place that can only be called a Chinese Home Depot Complex. It is 3 huge buildings filled with furniture, home repair and remodel supplies, AND (the best part) chinese "stuff"... plastic storage things (baskets, boxes, etc.) dishes, teapots, etc. It's like Pic - N - Save on steroids (for those of you that remember that store).

So apparantly miso is Japanese, so the sellers here weren't really sure what I wanted, but assued me that this packet was close enough. I was glad to discover that the label on the back was actually in English! Or so I thought. Here are some of the highlights of what I read (and tried to understand):

  • "This product fine ferments take the degreasing soybean as the main rawmaterial becomes, luster red brown sauce fragrance thick, sticks thicklymoderate, flavor tasty, the nutrition is rich, is the family commonly used regulator taste high quality goods."
  • But my favorite is from the "Edible method" information. "Operates the bag to be direct edible, or adds the meat, the egg, theseafood expolodes the system, also may serve as the cooking, the coldfood in sauce. Guarantees the nature time: 12 months. Production date: Sees the seal."

So, the English is "good so not", but the homemade Chinese and Kyrgyz food that these girls were selling in the building supply section was excellent! Aaaahhhh, the unexpected joys for a word-nerd abroad. :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

VBS, Bishkek style: The art of jimmy rigging :)

Summer = VBS (Vacation Bible School). :)

And if you've ever helped out with VBS anywhere in the world, you know it's a lot of work! It's especially a lot of work if it is in a foreign country and the location (church grounds or whatever) are not your own, but someplace where you rent.

But we had our fearless leader, Tracy, and so our first day went great!

(Here she is with the "framework" of our make-shift tent...just wait to see how it was transformed!)

It was not without a few hiccups (and not because it was cold! ha! Sorry, local joke), but I'm so amazed at how much fun the kids had and how well it all really went! And that's the point, right? For the kids to hear about Jesus and HAVE FUN! :)

So when the borrowed tent didn't have all the pieces, David just hung it over the "jungle gym".

The theme of camp is the Old Testament Tabernacle, looking at the areas of worship there and corresponding with Jesus' fullfillment of them in the New Testament.

So, with a few scarves and benches inside, some major "jimmy-rigging" outside, 'voila'! Not exactly the tapestries of the original tabernacle, but we liked it! :)

We had our Bible lessons, singing and memory verse lessons here in the tent.

So even if we didn't have the snazziest set-up, we thought it was pretty cool. :)

(This is our "over-head projector" for the words of the songs! Way to go, Nadia!) :)

We made papier mache "brazen lavers" that we will spray paint tomorrow and add our memory verses.

Then we "made" the altar for our "tabernacle" ...

(amazing what gold wrapping paper on an old washing machine box will do!)

Of course there were lots of relay races and games...

waterballoon tossing

and of course - SNACKS!

(David and Deborah cutting up watermellon!)

One big watermellon was devoured immediately and the water drank up quickly. Thankfully it wasn't as hot as it has been.

I doubt I'll be able to post photos every day, but just wanted to get some up of the first day to ask you all to be in prayer and thank you all for remembering us so far. Thanks!

Friday, July 17, 2009

"I am 'Aedjae' Hear Me Roar!" :)

In the center of Bishkek there is this great park filled with statues. Most are of traditional Kyrgizi images, like this woman here.

I don't know if she would be considered "Aedjae" or not, she looks a little young. :)

Here in Kyrgizstan "mature" women are called by the Kyrgizi word "Aedjae" (ayd-jayeh, I think!).

Sometimes it's just "Aedjae" and sometimes it is added after the name, like "Cara Aedjae". :)

In Ukraine I felt like women were called "devushka" - the Russian word for young lady (older than girl, younger than woman) for as long as possible! I was regularly called "devushka" in Kyiv, even though I knew I was quite past the actual age intended for that title. [Grandmas are called Babushka, and those in between called "Teute" ('toy-teh'), or "Auntie".]

This is Melanie (Markey) Billings, (a lovely "devushka" and wife of our pastor Paul), with one of our Babushkas.

But here I am actually happy to be called Aedjae! The reason is that it means that I NEVER stand for very long on the busses or marshrutkas (mini-vans crammed full of people used for public transport here)! It's great! ha! :) Sometimes middle-aged men will actually tell young men -who haven't already stood for me - to get up and give "Aedjae" a seat! ha! After standing squished like a sardine on the marshruthkas in Kyiv it is pure heaven to be able to almost always sit here.

So...bring on the "Aedjae"! :) We finally got unlimited internet service up and running here (THANK YOU, ZHENIA!!!). The usual internet services here charge by the downloads and are very expensive, so this is a huge blessing and means I will be able to make some more updates on my summer here in Bishkek. Thank you all for your love, prayers, and support.

(The mountains just outside of Bishkek, taken last Spring).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On the Road Again...

...or in the air again, I should say. So, Turkish Airlines is my new favorite airlines. Comfortable seats, good food, nice staff, AND discount flights thru May! :) And you gotta love the airport in Istanbul...Starbucks...need I say more? :)

The flight was just the icing on the cake of another really wonderful trip to Kyrgizstan. This shot shows the snow peaked mountains of Kazahkstan (I believe, I was just waking up).

I was there for just under two weeks to help with a marriage conference lead by Steve and Susie Carr from CCAG, and I will tell more about that soon, but first just Bishkek.

It's a city of 1 million, but compared to Kyiv (at a couple million more!) it seems like a small town to me. Plus the people just seem to be more open and helpful to strangers. This girl and her brother proudly showed me what the rains had brought out.

They laughed when I asked if they were going to eat them! (But hey, in a country that drinks horse milk, I was sort of serious!) When asked what they woud do with them, it seemed like that was sort of the silliest thing to ask. I mean, what else do you do when you see that all these guys have been washed up by the rain, but gather them in a pile, of course! :) Silly me. I actually remember doing the same with earthworms in Oregon. How soon we forget. :)

This shot may not seem like a big deal, but I was just caught by the fact that on the side of this Soviet era style building this was the only balcony that was painted (all the others were that dull grey) and it just so happened, that it was also the only spot that had any foliage around it! The other bare branches hadn't started to bud out after winter when I was there and this one bright blue balcony had all these beautiful blossoms around it. Nice. Ok, maybe stretching here a little, but it just made me think of the true principal that when we take the littlest step towards God He comes running to meet us, arms open wide. But whether you see that or nice, it is pretty, huh? :)

And this was just great. I don't know why I like all this Soviet art so much, but all I could think of when I saw it was leopard swimsuits and the Caveman swim team. :) Some of you will get that immediately. :) (This building doesn't even have a pool inside. It is an apartment building. So I'm not sure why the pool motif. Maybe the swim team lived there during soviet times? Who knows).

More about the rest of my trip soon.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Something to make you smile!

I've kind of gotten a little crazy about this video. I already posted it on my facebook page and my roommates and I have watched it a million times (well, ok, maybe not a million...but a lot!). But it is just so stinking cute! It makes me smile everytime I see it! Now how often in your day can you get something like that, that easy? So here you go, something to make you all smile while we are waiting for winter to end! (And no, all you Californians, Floridians and others DON'T write and tell me how warm it is for you there! ha!) :)

Oh, by the way, this little girl is singing in Romanian, and I hear that she is somewhat of a star there. I've been told that the song is something about a boy named "Dito" or "Dita" and how he left. I guess she is going to him. :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy *Day...

I really do live in Kyiv. Really. But still, my friends tease me, asking "now what is the name of that village you live in, again"? :) But truly, it's officially the Darnitsky Region of Kyiv. But even so, we love our little "village" here.

With only a 10 minute marshrutka ride (although typically a quite squished one) to the metro, we are also only about a 10 minute walk to our woods.

(These girls are really out on a limb! ha! Sorry, couldn't resist!)

How's this for "a table in the wilderness"?

After days of Dasha and I being stuck sick in bed with the flu, we both finally had no temperatures for a full day and so had to get out! (Seems the "migraines" I was having before, were migraines of a type, but were probably associated with me trying to fight off the flu the finally nailed me.)

(Hot coffee in a Starbuck's mug didn't hurt Dasha's recovery, either!)

Yeah, probably some might think that this is not the best idea the first day of feeling better, but believe me, it really made us all feel better!

We came home and ate the rest of the "deruni" (potato pancakes) that we had for breakfast with tea and had fun laughing at the photos we took. Good food, fresh air, and laughing the best medicine!

(Bummer, my photo edit program stuck so couldn't crop this shot of Katya and I better, oh well.)

(*with thanks and apologies to Robert Frost for the use and misuse of the title of his beloved poem in naming this post),

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Weak vs. Strong

...or "What does a Christian look like?"....or "What is the goal of the church?"....or...???? (or fill in the blank after you read this and listen to the link..)

Lately I have been being hit by migraines (about 4 in the past month since I returned from the states where I usually only have 3 or 4 a year!) and other undetermined weaknesses. (Too bad I don't live in the Victorian Era when I could have just said "I have a case of the vapors", and no one would have been so indelicate as to ask exactly what my symptoms were. Not that I would be able to be too specific, just incredible headaches, hurts to look at the light, and exhuasted. So there ya go). :)

So maybe my latest round of "the vapors" is why these words by Alistair Begg really touched me.

"Have you considered the possibility that your personal weaknesses and the weaknesses of your congregation may be the very key to your usefullness in the hand of God?

I'm not talking about sin now, but I'm talking our falterings. I'm talking our personalities, our sense of weakness and poverty of spirit and so on. We're tempted all of the time to make out that we're different from what we really are because if we can present a good front then maybe people will be impresssed with that and drawn to the message but the fact of the matter is we want them to be drawn to Christ.

And nothing exalts and magnifies Christ more than the awareness that came to the Apostle Paul - (despite all that he had known of the dramatic revelations of God) - "My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore more gladly will I glory in my weakness that Christ's power will rest upon me for when I am weak then I am strong".

(You can hear the whole sermon in context by clicking here)

Or maybe this issue seems particularly timely to me right now because I have been talking to some friends about (to roughly summarize it) "what should the church look like"? Within our church there are differences of opinion, but thankfully, not a whole lot. I am glad that there is great unity in our church for the most part. But everyone thinking the same way is not necessarily unity, sometimes it is apathy, or laziness...or ?

So its good and natural that every once in awhile people come along that think things should be different. And more often than not, others agree with them. In my opinion, the differences come down to how important those changes are considered (in light of work, family, and other pressures bearing down on people) or how those changes should come about.

I remember talking to one young guy who wanted to be a pastor. I asked what his goal for the church he wanted to pastor was. His answer was a "healthy church", with which I agreed. "But what does that look like, exactly"? His answer, I think, speaks to exactly what Begg is talking about. "Smooth functioning".

Honestly, when I heard that answer I laughed. Not to be cruel, or because it was particularly funny, in the basic sense of the word, but I think the literary discription of my laughter would have been "ruefully". Wouldn't we all like any relationship, organization, etc. to be smooth functioning! :)

But what has God described the church as? And for that matter, the Christian? The church as a Bride (hence relationship) and Christians (among other things) as needing "to become as little children in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven". To this young guy with aspirations towards the pastorate, I pointed out that a young child (think toddler) that would sit in the corner, not cry or make noise, not pull anything of the table, or fill his diaper or spit up at in-opportune times would - by most accounts - be a "smooth functioning" baby. But probably not a very healthy one!

A bride who never cried when emotional, never leaned on her groom when doubting, never felt fear and called out for protection would, I suppose, be to some a "smooth functioning" bride. But not very real.

Now, like Begg, I'm not justifying sin, or even justifying running from "growing up" and staying immature. I have had my own battles with fear, anger, self-centeredness that lead to depression at times, etc. that have in the past (and still today, I'm sure!) more than tried the patience of my family and friends. Thankfully, these past three years God has been in the process of teaching me a little more "smooth functioning" regarding fear and anger after having pulled out the root some time ago. But ya know what? That's just the start! Ha! :)

Some Jehovah's Witnesses came over the other night and, because I didn't invite them in the last time they came by, I decided this time to offer them a cup of tea and an hour to talk. One reocurring theme was that of perfection in the flesh through good works. Sad! I told them that I was sure that up till the day I leave this planet - through death or Christ's return - I was sure I was going to still be coming before God asking Him to continue to make me more like help me to overcome one weakness or another. If not, what good was the blood of Christ to cleanse me if I could just do it myself? And my ongoing need for the refining, that cleansing, of the outward doesn't depress me, it brings me peace.

Because I know I am a work in progress! I know that in my weaknesses He is strong! Recently a friend asked me to come out to her village (sorry, but compared to Kyiv it is a village! ha!) to teach at her women's study. She said the girls still talked about what I had spoke on when I was there last. I had to laugh! When I was there last I forgot my notes, my translator had a little bit of an attitude, I was feeling very beaten down spiritually, and I shared a message that was far from being "fresh" was something God had put on my heart years before and I had already shared it many times.

But ya know what? God spoke. His Word does not return void. He is faithful. And only if you know me really well would you know that I really do try to be organized. I really DID write notes. I THOUGHT I put them in my Bible, but didn't...and so on and so on. I am kind of like Anne of Green Gables who, (also like me) is explaining how, although she talks too much she really IS trying not to when, explaining that, she says "If you only knew all the things I WANTED to say, but DON'T"! Well, me too! :) I can only imagine the mess I would be if Christ HADN'T saved me! ha! :)

So... anyway, most of you that read this already know this stuff. But it never hurts to hear it again, right? And maybe someone that is thinking about these things it will encourage them. I am not the expert blogger...oh well. If you want to read some really good blogs, check out Michelle Knisley's...Greg and Edna Silva's....Marianna Peipon's ...these people know how to blog..timely newsworthy just regular posts (not bi-yearly like me, ha)! Really, check out all the blogs on my blogroll...gotta update it soon, though, haven't gotten everyone's on there.

Anyway...these are my thoughts. God bless.

Hey! I just re-edited this and found some outright heresy in my first draft that I published here...anyone catch it? haha! It was a mistake, really! ha! Drop me a comment if you did. It would be funny to see who are the careful readers!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"That was then - This is now..."

So, I love sunsets. :) But even something as basic as a sunset can seem completely different depending on the context. Hmmm...I guess a lot like words, or people, or faith, or..?? Maybe everything? It's not that it IS different, just it "looks" different depending on the background it is set against.

Recently when I was in the states I visited dear friends in one of my favorite places...California's Central Coast. There was a bit of an unusual heat wave for early January (80F the day these pictures were taken) and I had an few hours by myself (also unusual!) .

I went to Avila Beach and and walked along the sand. As cliche as it may sound; I watched children playing, dogs running in the surf (missed my old Jake!), just simply listened to the waves, watched the gulls, and even had enough beach to myself that I was able to sing a bit to God. I hadn't done any of that in so long it was really sweet.

It reminded me of a conversation years ago that I will never forget. A friend about my same age, we were both single (and still are) and we had a couple of friends that had the means (work, family connections, etc.) to travel to Hawaii rather cheaply. I suggested we all go and rent a house on the beach! It seemed like a great idea to me, since I had never been to Hawaii and I love to swim!

My friend's response was that "I will go to Hawaii when I go on my honeymoon". Now don't get me wrong. That is totally her right to feel that way. And maybe she would answer something different now.

But I remember thinking... "I don't want to wait to live!"

I would love to go to Hawaii for my honeymoon (well, no, actually I think somewhere in Europe like Prague or Vienna would be better..but I digress) :) ...but until (or if?!?) I do not want to wait to "sieze the day"! (I'm not saying my friend did either. She is an amazing person who lives a very full life...maybe just Hawaii was something she wanted to save.)

Nonetheless, for me it was one of those "crossroads" moments where I felt like God was asking me to stop, look around at the "context" of my life at the moment and recognize the beauty of what I had, despite maybe some less than desirable (by my agenda) circumstances.

And so...what does all this rambling have to do with sunsets? Well, here is the sunset I see from my the balcony window outside my bedroom in Kyiv. :)

Amazing, huh? :) Some sort of scary big ugly, very Auschwitz looking factory smoke stack in the distance...the bane of my commuter existence - a grimy yellow "taxi van" or "marshrutka" is at the bus stop below...but to me it is beautiful! I love that in this city of millions God has given me a view devoid of skycrapers! I love the "dacha's" out my window.

God's Word says "from the rising of the sun, til the going down of the same, may the name of the LORD be praised!" Why? Because things are as I would like them to be? Rarely. But let Him be praised because He is worthy to be praised. :)

And when I choose to praise Him I see that so often the view around me, or rather my ability to truly see the beauty surrounding me is simply an indication from out of which window of perspective I am looking...through the eyes of God's perspective, or with my limited and limiting agenda of how things should or could be.

So, this is kind of funny, because I didn't start out to write all this. Just wanted to show you my sunset pictures. :) But ya never know how things will turn out, huh? :)