Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vanya's list

One of the things I most admire about my son are his convictions. For William most things are black and white, very few grays. So he doesn't have trouble correcting people when he thinks they are out of line. And although at the moment his spiritual life is still at little touch and go, (He decided after he turned five that he does not know how to pray). Sometimes I get this little glimpses of hope, that maybe somehow  a spiritual legacy will be passed on. Last night William came to me and said, "Mom, there are all these people on our street that don't know God and are doing bad things. We need to make a sign so they can know what to do"
Here is the list, that he came up with in his  own words. It satrted out in English, then he decided he should switch it to Russian so people would understand, so five down has been translated from his Russian original. We posted it by the bus stop near our house. It may come across a little legalistic, but hey, he's five!
1. Don't cook food that will make people sick
2. Don't smoke
3. Don't drink beer
4. Don't say bad words
5. Don't be mean
6. Don't take things that aren't yours, but you want them to be yours, don't do that
7. Love God
8. And know God always, and know He is everywhere
9. Don't stick your tongue out at people


Borscht is one of the symbols of Ukraine. And although borscht is usually associated with beets, there are dozen of variations, including green borscht and borschts served cold. The Ukrainian Orthodox church as well as many of the protestant and evanglelical church here in Ukraine observe a 40 day fast before Christmas (celebrated January 7). The fast includes obsatining from meat, fats, and sweets. The following is a borscht apporiate for the Advental fast, you'll find its low cal. filled with vitamins and delicious. Give it a try! (Don't let the beets scare you)
1 boullion cube (chicken or beef)
4 medium potatoes- peeled and cubed
1 medium beet peeled and grated
1 large carrot peeled and grated
1 white onion diced
3 cups shredded cabbage
4 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
1 small can of tomato paste
1/2 cup of water
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried dill
2 cloves of garlic diced
Fill a large soup pot with 3/4 full with water, add boullion cube and bring to a boil, once water is boiling add potoatoes. In a large saucepan heat sunflower oil, add beets, carrots, onion, cabbage, tomato paste and water. Stir well, salt and cover. Allow to simmer for 15-20 mins, stirring occsasionaly. Add sauteed vegetables, salt, pepper, dill and garlic to the soup pot, turn on low heat, cover and all to simmer for 30-40 mins.
Borsht is traditionally served with chopped dill, parsley and a spoonful of sourcream on top. Serve with garlic bread to really bring out the flavor. Enjoy!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

So if  you're wondering how we celebrated Thanksgiving.. we didn't.  After years of trying to assimulate something similar to Thanksgiving, and always feeling a little disappointed at by evening, I decided a few years ago to stop celebrating.
 I had been a missionary for two months when I celebrated my first Thanksgiving in Ukraine. I was invited to a missionary's house, it's was sort of a friend of an aquantice thing, everyone there was married, homeschooling and living in sort a "little America", I felt totally disconnected from the group.
Then there were the years that I tried to do a tradtional Thanksgiving meal for my Ukrainian friends. Nobody really understoond dressing, weren't sure how to eat it with the sweet sauce, and in general it just wasn't the same.
Growing up Thanksgiving was a  big deal, all the extended family came got together. We had the traditional kids table and adults table, the whole day was spent grazing, watching football, playing games, napping and doing puzzles. Moat of us stayed the night, there were a lot of us and as kids we would sleep on the floor on stacks of blanket. For me Thanksgiving is about extended family. The fact that I'm far aways makes it hard. And it makes me homesick, which is something I don't experience much here.
So every year, I say "this year I'm not celebrating Thanksgiving" Don't get me wrong, I'm teaching my kids to be thankful, and our church has a holiday in September, where we thank God  for the blessing He has given us throughout the year. But I try to just forget about the last Thursday in Novemeber.

However, every year, before the sun as even risen on the New World, Ukrainians start calling me, texting me, congratulating me with Thanksgiving. About noon Andrey starts snooping around for the turkey, despite the fact that  I have already explained to him more than once "WE ARE NOT CELEBRATING THANKSGIVING!" But he will not be sustained. He loves to eat, and he loves holidays that are about eating, so about 2 pm he begins to make food suggestion, by 4 pm he starts offering to cook. This year, at about 9 pm local time, I told my kids the story of the first Thanksgiving and then we sat down to a meal of french fries and chocolate cake, compliments of Chef Andrey. It was nice, and somehow fesitive. And we had chance to verbalize everything we are thankful for, which turns out to be a lot,  especially considering that  A&M won yesterday !

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Above and beyond

We ask God to bless  us and our ministry. We pray that His will be done in our lives. We surrender ourselves to wherever, whenever, how ever, He may lead. And we step out in faith despite all of the Apostle Peter's warnings concerning trials and suffering. For me, last year was a year of trail and suffering. There are places on my heart, that only the Lord know about,( I got a beat a little bit in spiritual battle last year). It was painful, most of the wombs have healed, all that's left are scars, I can press on them, but they don't hurt anymore. Other wombs have been slower to heal, He is still treating them. When you wounded and bleeding, it hard to give thanks, or to have prespective. You know the theologically correct answers to your questions, but they don't seem to make your reality.
Anyway, today I see things more clearly than I did a year ago. I have bit more perspective on my past suffering. I'm even to the point of thanking Him for some of the trails. My Father has brought me to a new place in ministry that I never imagined. Actually I did imagine it many times, but never really believed it would be possible.

I wish you could sit in on one our ladies prayer groups, because I can't convey to you what's happening there. It's something beyond me and my comprehension. God is among us. God is at work in this small group. Today once again we had ladies coming and praying for their husbands's salvation,( although some of them haven't even made public professions of faith themselves).  Some of these ladies are dealing with incredible pain and betrayal by their husbands.  Many are dealing with problems I have never had to encounter. But they're in pain, and I know what pain is. They're so desparate that  they are holding on to God with all their might, they've decided to not let go until they get an answer. I've been there. It's different when you've been there, you pray differently.
 I don't know what the Lord has in store for this group. He is already taking us places we hadn't planned to go and giving us opprotunities we didn't even realize were there. Pray for us!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christmas plans

Several years ago the ladies in our church started an annual Women's Christmas party. To call it party really isn't doing it justice. It more like an event. In our small town of Irpin, it's THE EVENT of the season. Of course it started out small, but in the last two years we have had around 200 ladies in attendance. This is our biggest ladies evangelical event of the year. The rented auditorium will be decorated with candles and flowers that would make Martha Stewart envious. There will be a presentation of new recipes for the holiday table. Games, door prizes, a craft, siniging of carols and a message by our pastor. This year the theme of the event is     "Emmanuel-When God came near"
Our ladies committee is already in frantic prepartaion, there are decorations to decide upon, crafts to be cutout,  not to mention, 200 servings of seasame chicken and pineapple and pomegranate salad to be prepared. Besides that we can sometimes spend 2 hours, trying to decide on which invitation to use, the light pink or the mauve? In our attempt to make the night a success, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of what is really important.
In both the Ukrainian and Russian language the name for Christmas literally means "The Birth". Unfortunately, if you were to ask the average person passing down the street, they couldn't tell you the birth of whom. More than likely you would get secular answers like, "the birth of the New Year" or "the birth of winter, snow, etc". And out of the few that do know, even less know Him personally".
So our goal in all these decorations, and appetizers and prizes is to introduce the ladies of community to Jesus Christ, we hope that they will get more than just a good time out of the evening. We hope we won't lose our focus along the way. (By the way, we picked the peonie pink and silver inviations)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winds of Change

Last year, five years after the Orange Revolution, Viktor Yanukovich was elected president of the Ukraine.  Although, I can't say that former President Yushenko was a great president, (he proved to lack the leadership skills needed to run the country),  his presidency was nice for Americans. Yushenko's wife was at one time a US citizen, and while he presided requirements for Americans residing or visiting in Ukraine, were very relaxed.

 Ukraine's new president, President Yanukovich has never hidden the fact that his loyalities lie with Russia. And many felt that the enterance of Yanukovich as president would be the end of democracy in Ukraine. At the moment it's still too early to tell, but let me give you a few examples of what's happened here within just the past few weeks.

The last Saturday in October is election day. 2010 was an election year for local city council members and mayor. After the votes were counted in Irpen, (the city we live in), the only people that won spots on the the city council turned out to be members of the Party of Regions, (our president's political party). The man that received the most votes for mayor, did not recieve the position, instead it was given to a man representing the Party of Regions. A week later, President Yanukovich removed the elected mayor of Kiev, and replaced him with one of his appointees.

What does this mean for evangelical believers and specifically for missionaries in Ukraine? I don't know. I do know that in the last few years the doors have begun closing on evangelical mission work in in Russia. It is almost impossible for a missionary to enter Russia with a religious visa, missionaries usually have to go "incognito" as a language teacher or business man. Is this what lies ahead for Ukraine?

In the past 10 years of ministry here in Ukraine we have been blessed by the openness of the people and government. We had the opprotunity to share the Gospel pretty much everywhere.  Please pray that we will be good stewards of our time, using theses days of freedom ( that we still have) to their fullest.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday is Soccer Day!

Staurday is a big ministry day for Andrey. Every Saturday morning, November through January,  we have a tri-city soccer tournament going on. Sixteen teams compete, and although Andrey doesn't play every Saturday morning he tries to be at the gym getting to know the guys and cheering for other teams.
Then from 5pm-9pn we rent the same gym space for our men's soccer ministry. I have mentioned before, but for those of you who are newly aquainted with our ministry, I will explain it a bit.

Every Saturday evening,  from 5-7 men ages 27 and up can come play soccer at the local gym. If a guy has a group of friends he already plays with; they can all come as a team. If a guy doesn't have a team he plays with then Andrey finds a spot for him somewhere. The event begins with a small devotional by Andrey or one of our pastors or deacons followed by prayer. 60% of these men are non-believers, many of their wives have already accepted Christ, but this is the first contact these guys have with people from our local church. (It is very difficult to get a man to attend a church service, unless he already knows someone at the church.) This is one of our first step ministries.
Tonight after soccer, the men will be going to the sauna together. Sauna is big part of the culture here, especially for men. Some of our pastors and deacons will be going with them, to build more contact with these guys.
Even as I write this I know how funny it probably sounds. However, this really is ministry. In the past year and half almost 30 women have accepted Christ, theough the ministries of our local church. We are praying for the salvation of men, and we believe that through bonding with Christian men they will be more receiptive to the Gospel message.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tea, Coffee and the Gospel

Anyone who has visited Ukraine knows how important "tea time" is to the local culture. Actually tea time can be anytime, from morning to night and it has sort of become a psuedonym for fellowship. If you need to talk with someone, you have them over "for tea".Ifthere's nothing to do, you have tea.  Of course "tea" encompassses more than just a choice of ceylon or orange pekoe. When you have tea, it means cookies, pastries, jams, and lite sandwhiches. Tea time is an important part of our small groups, somehow around the cups of steaming liquid people loosen up. If you want to have good long conversation with someone, serve the tea extra hot, so that you will have plenty of time to talk while your tea is cooling off.

In September our church opened up a new ministry similiar to a Mother's Day Out program. The ministry  is held twice a week from 9 am -12 am.  Several families in our community, who are not involved in church, have enrolled their children in this program. But instead of the mother's dropping their kids off and rushing on to run errands, the majority of mothers stay around, peeking  into classroom windows  to make sure their babies aren't crying or causing too much trouble.

About a month ago, the director of this ministry approached me about beginning a "tea ministry" with these mothers. She asked if I could serve tea and sort of get to know the ladies that hang around. I was more than delighted, after all who wouldn't love the responsibility of sitting around sampling rasberries jellies and cream puffs. But the first attempts where harder than I expected. The first morning,  the mother's were timid about coming into the classroom and sitting down for tea. I knew there was only one solution: home baked goodies. I started brining my best and most "unusual" recipes (banana bread is an exoctic dish here). Of course the ladies wanted the reciepes and finally contact was made.

The woman are finally starting to open up, and relationships are being made. In our work here in Ukraine, this is what Andrey and I call  a first step ministry.  It's just getting aquainted with the people, making contact with them and for the most part we don't discuss spiritual topic. Right now most of our conversations are pretty superfical. I pray that eventually they will begin attending our evangelical events like our tri monthly women's meeting, family nights, holiday events, that's step two, and step three is to get them involved in a small group.

So as you prepare for bed on Thursday night, say a pray for this first step ministry, I will probably already be up (if your in the States your Thursday night is my Friday morning) making something like poppy seed muffins or chocolate chip cookies.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Birthdays in Ukraine

Andrey's Dad , Peter, turns 55 today.  At first glance, the traditional Ukrainian birthday isn't that different from a birthday in the States. You have friends and family gathered around food and a cake, with presents tucked somewhere in the background. (By the way, present are opened after all the guest leave so as not to offend anyone, if you don't like the gift) They sing Happy Birthday to the same tune, with Russian or Ukrainian lyrics, depending on your geographical location and political persuasion. But there's a twist, (and I don't mean vodka, that's a whole other story) In Ukraine the birthday boy or girl, is expected to treat everyone else. For example, if you go out to a resturant to celebrate your birthday with your friends, you will be picking up to tab for the dinner party. If you plan to celebrate your birthday with your Sunday school class, you birng the cake and icecream. Today Peter's co-workers will be giving him a birhtday present, and in return he will be providing lunch for the whole collective. Of course the upside is, if you have 10 friends you get 9 out 10 meals in a classy resturant for free!

This evening we will be celebrating at his parents house. Here's an idea of what a traditional Ukrainian Birthday dinner looks like. Potatoes, boiled then tossed in butter and dill. Small fried meat patties similiar to chicken friend steaks. Fried mushrooms with sour cream. Smoked salmon, pickled cucumbers  and tomatoes. An assortment of cheeses. Blacks breads and several salads bathed in sunflower oil or mayonaise.

Here is a traditional Ukrainian/Russian salad, that no birthday feast is complete without

Ukrainian Potato Salad
3 medium potatoes-boiled in skins, peeled and diced
1 large carrot-boiled in skin, peeled and diced
2 hard boiled eggs diced
3 oz bologna
1 small can english peas
1/4 white onion diced
1 cup mayonaise
salt and pepper taste
mix all ingredients together and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wesnesdays at Laura's

Wednesday is my aboslute favorite day. Wednesday morning we have our "power of a praying wife" group. There are so many things I love about this group, but perhaps the thing I love the best is our diversity. Of the 12 ladies in attendance today, we had a politician's wife, a drug addict's wife, 2 pastors' wives, a businessman's wife, the local drunk's wife, the wife a brick layer and a soccer player. We prayed today for our husband's reputation and his priorities. All of us are at different stages in our walk with Christ. Some of us have know Christ since childhood, other are babies in the faith, and three ladies still have not made a profession of faith. But all of us have come to the understanding that only the Holy Spirit can make our husbands into the men He wants them to be.
I am so inspired by so many of these ladies, but especially by Mila. She accepted Christ as her Savior three years ago, but her husband is addicted to drugs. In the past three since she has attended our church, she has kept her husbands addiction a secret. In September Mila started attending our prayer group. Fot the first time Mila shared about her husband's problem.
Even though I'm the one that started the prayer group, I have to admit sometimes my faith just isn't big enough. I kept thinking, "what if she gets discouraged when she doesn't see answers" Once again I underestimated God and his lovingkindness. The following week, her husband attend church for the first time in his life. Two weeks later they began attending one of our church's small groups. Last week her husband finally consented to enter a  Christian rehabilitation center.  Right now they are looking at moving to a small town in Western Ukraine to undergo rehab!

God doesn't always answer so quickly, but when He does, we are so blessed! Thank you Father for your faithfulness and kindness. Thank you for giving us the amazing instrument of prayer!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

realitive medicine

Kiev is over 1500 years old, the birthplace of the KyivRus civilization, it is also the home of 17 McDonald's. If you go to the smallest village in the farthest corner of Ukraine you can walk into a tiny shop and purchase a bottle of Coca-Cola and a Snickers. Everyone wears Nikes, Adidas, Levi's and washes their hair with  Pantene and Herbal Essence. Mary Kay just opened a huge factory on our side of Kiev and Avon's warehouse stands on the other inside. In other words, Ukraine has fallen victim to globalization.

Probably the only thing that has stayed immune to globalization is Ukrainian medicine. I love Ukrainian culture but there's one thing that hard for me to "deal with" -HEALTH CARE
It's not just the socailized aspect. although yes, long lines and apathetic doctors are annoying. It just that in general they have such a different approach to medicine. Not that it's bad or good, just different. And it's one thing when their applying leeches to your own back, but when they start working on you kid it's another.

Last week our pediatrician diagnosised William with bronchitis and early signs of pneumonia in his left lung. So every day a nurse comes to our house and hooks up a machine that looks like something from a 60's James Bond movie. Two metal discs about the size of  a quarter are wired to this machine. The disc are placed on wet rags, the wet rags placed in trash bags, the trash bags are placed on William, then the nurse wraps him up in a scarf. This machine sends electric shocks across William's chest and back. It obviously doesn't hurt, William lays calmly the whole 15 mins. without a complaint. And appartently it's working, his cough is getting better and it looks like we have kept the pneumonia at bay. It's just weird.

God has taught me a lot about trust through Ukrainian medicine.  Sometimes He ask me to do things that just seem wierd, but they work! I'm so glad that He has patience with me!

Monday, November 15, 2010

New beginnings

Okay, so this is the first time for us to try a blog. It has been a long time coming. But I hope that this help us stay better in touch with you and with what going on in Ukraine. There is so much going on and so much to share.