Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Getting Ready

We played with and investigated all our gifts. My main gift wasn't too mind-boggling, a linoleum.
Yep, on Christmas Day, my dear family helped me put down a linoleum! . . . we finished some seat covers that were part of another gift and then we found more fun things to do because the rest of the week, we planned to get ready for the guests, (about 30 of them), for the New Year's Party and retreat.

In the US, I had bought cheap cloth from Walmart to make new curtains, for both bathrooms and the room that is fixed up for recreation for visiting teenagers. The day after Christmas I made curtains. Dave worked on repairs at Katrina's. Seth painted. Allona and Vova kept the rest of life continuing by fixing lunch and doing other errands. At the end of the day, I scrubbed paint off my hands and we had Christmas rehearsal.

Today, I hope to cook ahead food for the busy times. Tomorrow is scheduled for a final cleaning time. And tomorrow, Dave is planning to drive the 300 miles to Kyiv to meet the Boyds, (from Hope International Missions) turn around and drive back home again. All of the activity in our home ends on next Wednesday/Thursday. We have tentative plans for Christmas carolling closer to and after the weekend. Next Sunday is our Christmas program. Hopefully I can share some of that with you. But until then, I had better get to work!!


Now, we've begun practicing our program. Last Sunday while some were practicing, others made a craft that Katrina had prepared before she left. Like the others she prepared, they really liked it and were prepared to take these paper ornaments home to hang on their tree. . . but we needed them for our bulletin board.

There are some children flannelgraph Bible stories in Russian now. There are a couple of thick books giving different Sunday School activities. . . but no visualized songs. So every time we introduce a new song we visualize it. Here is the first verse of "O Come All Ye Faithful" in Russian that we'll be singing in the Christmas program.

Because of the busy-ness of our week, once our gifts were all wrapped on Christmas Eve, we opened them, so that each person could have more fun enjoying them, BEFORE we started preparing the end of Christmas week for guests, a New Year's Party and a another mini retreat. Here we are reading the Christmas story, before we begin.

I'm thankful for God who reached down and placed His spotless, loving Son in this almost-trash-can of a world. God sent out a wondrous lighted and musical birth announcement in the form of the star and angels. He placed His Son in a poor family with a birth in a barn, smelling of cows, donkeys and goats. Jesus, in His social rank, wasn't "above" anyone. God left Jesus in this unfair world for angry hands to beat. God allowed scornful faces to mock and to spit on the Maker of the Universe. Jesus came to cry at Lazarus' tomb and to minister to the crowds. Sometimes He withdrew to a quiet place with or without His disciples, at the close of busy, busy days. He came to share all that we are and feel. I thank Him for that. He came to show us the way through. He came to bring hope, light and salvation. I'm more thankful than ever in my life for all that Jesus did.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Because the traffic jam took up so much time and we had a 6 hour drive home, we were just in the door long enough at Ramon's to use the modern facilities, have a very short conversation and be on our way. Anya, their oldest girl was home sick, having had a fever the last couple of days. Evelina put two chair cushions on the floor and all three were thoroughly enjoying them. Anya and Evelina were turning somersaults and little Sasha thought he should be there, too. The first picture is Anya coming out of a somersault, trying to hang onto her skirt in order to be more modest.

We did spend a short time at Allona and Vova's birth mom's house as well. Our heart breaks to go there because their mom was once a beautiful young woman. Now she looks as old as I do, although she is around 18 years younger. All her teeth are missing from the left side of her mouth. Often there are signs of fresh beating/fighting as there was this day.

For the sake of privacy and compassion we won't put all the sad pictures here. Here is Dennis, Allona and Vova's little brother, being goofy, wearing an adult's boots in hopes of going outside. And here is Dennis and Allona.

Side note, yes, Ukrainian boys do wear tights in the winter along with the girls to help keep their legs warmer.

We headed straight back to Nova Odessa after this visit, arrived at home at 9 pm. Dave and Seth went on to take Marina, (above)a sweet girl whose dream was to see Kyiv, out to her home in Ulyanivka, while I'm posting these blogs and Allona and Vova are going to bed.

Kyiv, City of . . . Traffic Jams

We arrived in Kyiv about 12:30 am Monday morning. We slept until 4 am, got up and took Katrina to the airport. We came back and slept another couple of hours and then began a more normal start to our day. We got breakfast and headed across Kyiv to go to Kenyazachee where Pastor Ramon and his family live.

We didn't get very far before we were stuck in another traffic jam. I don't think a person can expect to drive a vehicle in Kyiv, these days, between the hours of 6 am and 9 pm and not get caught in a traffic jam. Today's Kyiv has almost as many malls and stores as an American city. Throw in the bazaars and add multiplied apartment buildings and you have many major roads in Kyiv with this kind of scenery.

So what do you after you have sat a few minutes and are totally bored looking at dirty cars and trucks all around and smelling diesel fumes? WELL . . . here starts the foundation of a new blog!! I got out my camera and started snapping pictures.

I started watching to see what I could see. What was the cause of the jam, this time? What were other people doing?

At times people in Ukraine wait with more patience than I've ever seen. At times, when it comes to driving, often they don't want to wait for anything. Today's solution . . . drive your vehicle on the sidewalk!

Regular cars . . . at least they shouldn't break up the sidewalk too badly!

Small trucks . . . hm-m.

I missed a small bus going by.

This truck can't be called small!

There were those that went on anyway in spite of obstacles on the sidewalk. This is where steps lead under the road for a pedestrian crossing.

This guy was a little TOO big. He got tangled and pulled down, it appeared, one of the wires attached to this pole and had to back up and come back down into the stalled traffic.

"Look! look!" Dave called my attention to this one. A smaller car had been trying to ease its way off the curb and high-centered. Its front driver's side wheel spun in mid air.

And I missed a four-wheeler going down the sidewalk. Dave and I decided that that might have been the most appropriate vehicle for the occasion!!

Or you can be in a merging lane of traffic, see the snarl, make a U-turn on the ramp and head back to where you came from--going the wrong way. Or you can make a new road across the grass!

But what were others doing to pass the time? besides running on the sidewalk?

A lot of people were talking on their cell phones.

A few people were easing their nerves by taking a smoking break.

I saw one person reading a newspaper. We saw one woman pull out a list to check it. We saw a trucker watching a small TV. . . and I was taking pictures, hoping that I wouldn't make anyone too upset!

What was the cause? A couple of vehicles had broken down here and there. A truck had parked in the lane of traffic at the edge of the road. An hour and a half later, having gone about two miles, the traffic freed up, the children shouted for joy and we were on our way. This picture was taken through the dirty windshield.

Vova's Birthday

Today is Vova's birthday. Dave has been battling some kind of respiratory bug all week. Some of the time he has been spending in bed because of not feeling well. I've been doing school with Allona and Vova and translating and trying to get the Christmas program ready, it seemed like every minute.

So today we took another "lazy day" and went for a ride out into the country into two villages, Krivy Balka (Crooked Ravine) and Zilony (Green). We took three boys with us both for outreach and because they are Vova's friends. The boys have been drawing stylized flames with a passion recently. So we thought this gate was an especially fitting background for a picture.

Left to right are Dima Anastasiv, purposely hiding behind a tree, Dima Dunduk, Vova Drummond and Vinya Dunduk

The day started with an e-card from Charity with a "knock, knock" joke. For some reason we heard a lot more "knock, knock" jokes along the road. When we went to the post office we had a package from Bethany which held among other things a Christmas card from 2006 that went all over the US before it was forwarded to our children to be sent to us. It had made record time getting here, about 3 weeks, and still had the US postal service tape on it!

The fine snow fell off and on throughout the day. The temperatures were just above freezing. The highlight of the day for the children, was stopping for a snowball fight.

Katrina has declared her hatred of snow ever since landing in Ukraine, praying that she wouldn't see it before she left. The children on the other hand, have been praying FOR snow. Today was their day.

When they got out, Katrina sat in the van. "Now this is TOO much adventure, to get out in that snow, for me," she declared. She had hardly sat two minutes before she slid the door open. "I'm going to make my own ammunition over here, before they get back," she stooped down, hiding behind the van, to start making snowballs. But the others had noticed. She had hardly gotten out of the van, when a snowball came flying over the roof the vehicle.

The children had a lively time for a few minutes before we went on. And Katrina said she had to admit that even "snow had its positive moments!"

But we also saw men staggering and falling down drunk in the snow only to slowly get up and go again. In the middle of the fun, we were reminded of why we are here.

We came home to make Vova's birthday cake and meal. He requested dried fish, fried chicken and wafers slathered with carmelized sweetened condensed milk.

Tomorrow after services, we'll start our travels to take Katrina back to the airport. She's going home for deputation and then planning on returning to Ukraine for a two year term.

While we're around Kyiv, we'll visit Ramon. Allona and Vova want to stop in to see their biological brother, so we're planning to stop there for a few minutes as well and then head back home.

Getting Ready for Christmas

In America the parking lots are already crowded with bustling shoppers. Traffic jams are increased with the pre-holiday traffic. But we're not in the good ol' USA anymore.

Sometimes I think that we could almost be in a Scrooge's paradise when it comes to shopping. No Christmas lights--that wastes electricity to put them up this early. No shopping crowds--gifts are a minimum. Christmas decorations are visible only in the places trying to sell them. And occasionally you'll meet a clerk as grumpy as Scrooge himself!!

What we did find were Hanukkah lights . . . one pole resembling a Menorah and four cars parked with smaller Menorahs on top of them. What we do see in the stores are lots of little Cinderella-type dresses for small girls and costumes for children, men and women alike for the New Year's party.

Most of our friends in America are in the middle of getting ready for Christmas programs. . . if not already having them.

Uh-h-h, we're running behind the times. Christmas is celebrated either on the December 25th, more rarely and January 7th from the Orthodox calendar. Because most people celebrate it on the seventh, we prepare our program for then. AND because some of our content has to be translated . . . we're just getting started. Katrina wrote a play called "The Apprentice Magi."

I translated it orally while Tanya, who made top grades in school years ago, wrote it down properly. I'm typing it in and returning it for proof-reading. Then we add some poems, songs, lots of practice and prayer and we'll have a Christmas program.

Our house does look "Christmas-y". One day that I spent mainly translating, Allona, Vova and Seth decorated most of our house. Allona and Vova keep asking, "What are you getting for this person?! When will we open our presents? Can we do something more NOW?!" They had already bought most of their gifts before the beginning of December. This is Allona's bedroom door.

Happy and Sad

The last week or so has been a mixture of events.

A person got very offended, "You're just slandering me," was the accusation when we were actually trying to be kind and help.

We went to pick up a child to come for children's services and were told, "she's not here any more. Her father died and she has been sent to an orphanage." When we investigated, we found out that she is actually living with her sister. What her sister's plans are, no one knows. Her sister does not have a good reputation.

Two of our teenaged girls are appearing less and less in services.

But their good friend called us up in the middle of a busy day and asked us to pray for him right then and there.

Olya went to the offices to get the last steps done, to have her gas/heat turned on. The people in the office assured her that they would be there the very next day. A few days later they showed up and now her gas is on!!! Thank the Lord!

The forester where we went for youth camp last summer came to our house one day. "Is it all right if my children come to your children's services? We'd like them to have more Bible training as they grow up." The mother and the two oldest children walked two to three kilometers the first Sunday trying to find us. Since then we've been picking them up with the others. Meet Olya, Petya, and little Andrei. They're gathered around Allona for this picture. They missed one Sunday when we had to hurry and they weren't outside their home waiting. We've heard ever since about how much these children cried when they missed the service. All of them, even Petya and Andrei make a strong effort to learn every memory verse. Their grandmother said, "Olya likes this even more than she likes school." Thank God for outreach into the lives of precious children.

We made use of the ice cream freezer that was a Christmas present from last year. We found a recipe that we liked the ice cream disappeared as quickly as the small powderings of snow that we have had.

Bits of home in unexpected places are always especially pleasant. A phone call. A can of Dr. Pepper that a person sees only two or three times a year. Here's the picture. Katrina tells about it on her blogspot.